Choosing A Carp Reel

Now that you’ve chosen a carp rod, what reel should you buy to go with it?

In carp fishing, there are two types, a Big Pit or Freespool reel.

You need to chose a reel that compliments your rod because you want to get the balance and feel as perfect a possible.

A freespool reel (also called a baitrunner) has a lever you can engage (the clutch) which allows the carp to freely take line. This can be adjusted to increases or decrease the resistance which is perfect for a free running setup or where there is a need to lock everything up tightly because you’re fishing near weeds or snagy areas.

A perfect reel designed for carp angling.


Shimano Baitrunner


On the other hand, you’ve the Big Pit reels.

These are powerful and allow the angler to cast long distances with relative ease. When winding in, the retrieval rate is faster. So if you’re playing a fish far out from the bank or battling amongst weeds, the cranking power of a big pit reel can be helpful for landing carp.


Wychwood Riot Big Pit Reel


Do the Reel Specifications matter?

Yes, and below we explain each reel feature and why you need to know this.

Line Capacity

When you see this number on a reel, it means how much line the spool on the reel holds.

Some models will offer varying sizes, for example the Daiwa Black Widow reel has 3 sizes – 5000, 5500 and 5000LD, each holding more line than the previous.

The average line capacity for a standard baitrunner is around 200-250 metres, whereas a Big Pit reel will hold double that!


Carp Spool

Crank Power/Gear Ratio

Each turn of the reel pulls in line, and ‘cranking power’ is exactly that.

The cranking power of a baitrunner is around 70 to 90cm per turn, Big Pits (due to the size) will give you much more.

An easier way to determine cranking power is gear ratio.

For example, the Daiwa Windcast Z has a gear ratio of 4:9:1 which means for every full turn of the handle, it pulls in 4.9 times of line.

The bigger them first two numbers means the more line you can pull in and less reeling to do!

You should look at gear ratio when choosing a Spod Reel – which requires a lot of winding in at speed!

Gear Ratios Explained

Ball Bearings

The number of ball bearings a reel has means how smooth it will feel when reeling in.

The higher the number, the smoother you’ll find it!

Normally, carp reels will have between 5 and 7 ball bearings.


Most carp reels will either carry a single or double handle, and which one you choose is a personal preference really.A double handle can provide better balance and you may find it easier.

If you’ve the luxury of handling a reel personally, try them out and get a feel for the length and grip – if it reels right, you know you’ve made the right choice!


Carp Reel Handles

Reel Size

We’ve explained that Big Pit reels are bigger than Baitrunners, but when choosing a carp reel, there will be different sizes available to you.

There isn’t ‘one size as standard’ , instead manufacturers use numbers to define sizes (some use larger numbers in the thousands, others small numbers starting with 0).

Reel sizes for carp fishing (these are not set in stone, just a guide) are usually 5000, 6000 and 8000 or 060, 070 and 080.

These hold more line than a standard coarse fishing reel, offer more power and are more robust – all perfectly suited for carp angling.

Big pit reels are generally 10000 or 12000.

Hopefully this helps out when gauging what size to purchase!