Freewheel reels are part of carp fishing, like boilies or feeding, but they do not only cut a good figure with the popular trunks. They are also practical for bottom fishing and allow a quick stop and entry into the fight without having to adjust the brake. This can cost valuable time and fish. Freewheel reels allow you to switch between two brake settings with a simple lever. The freewheel setting is designed so that a fish can simply take line from the reel while the rod is in the stand. With a simple change of the freewheel lever you are immediately in the normal brake setting. I also find this simply comfortable and don’t want to miss the reels anymore, even if they are heavier than a spinning reel for example. This article should give you an overview which freewheel reels are currently recommended. In english free spool reels are usually called Baitrunner, Baitfeeder or Freespool reel.
Characteristics and function of freewheel reels
Below is a detailed overview. But first of all there is a short summary for all who want to go straight to the reels click here. This will take you directly to the text.
A freewheel reel can be changed from the normal brake setting, which works like any other fishing reel, to a freewheel setting simply by using the lever at the rear of the reel. The lever for this is usually located at the rear. Basically the freewheel function is not intended for drilling, but to make it easier to release line when the reel is closed. The strength of the freewheel can usually be adjusted separately with an adjusting wheel or knob at the rear of the reel.
It is important that the freewheel is well adjustable and very light and therefore gives line without much resistance. If you are fishing in the river, you may have to adjust the freewheel harder so that the current alone cannot pull line from the reel.
The freewheel is switched off automatically by turning the reel crank or of course by turning the lever manually. There are freewheel reels with normal head brake and with rear brake. The rollers with head brake are becoming more and more popular, because they are stronger and less sensitive than rear brakes.
Freewheel reels are carp reels
In principle all freewheel reels on the German market are suitable as carp reels. However, the larger sizes and models from Penn are sometimes more likely to be catfish reels, while smaller models below reel size 4000 are often designed for smaller pike-perch and pike-perch fish. Carps can be very strong in the fight and can destroy smaller reels,
For carp reels it is very important that the freewheel can be finely adjusted and that there is enough line on the reel. If you are casting from a distance with your boat, you should consider long distance casting reels like the Big Baitrunner LC.
Target fish and reel sizes
As already mentioned, freewheel reels are not only for carp fishing, but also work very well for catfish sitting or bottom fishing for tench, bream, eel and pike-perch. Even with method-feeders and the classic feed basket fishing it is impossible to imagine fishing without reels This reel size is suitable for these fish species (guideline for orientation)
- Size 2000-3000 are ideal for tench, bream and medium bottom fishing
- Size 4000-6000 a good size for carp and pike depending on the model (slammer) you can also think about catfish
- Size 8000+ Big fish reels for catfish or simply because you want a bigger spool/line for carp fishing
The advantage of free spool reels
- When the rod is in the rod stand or rod pod, the fish can be pulled off freely
- Simple change from free wheel to normal brake
- Optimal interaction with bite indicators and the line always remains taut
- The freewheel is easily adjustable for every situation
The disadvantage of freewheeling rollers
The disadvantages of the rollers should not go unmentioned here. Basically the freewheel is a sensitive mechanism and especially with cheap models it likes to spin or gives up the ghost early. Furthermore a freewheel always offers some resistance, which can lead to mistrust when fish bite. Unfortunately, even there the expensive models are usually better equipped than the cheap ones. I don’t want to badmouth cheap models, because I have or had some no-name models myself and they work better or worse. From experience, no role of the 30-40€ class has made more than 2-3 months with me. Only the discount roles were partly usable.
The next disadvantage is the weight of the rolls. Usually the extra function makes the rolls heavier, moreover free rollers are mostly built for stability. But that usually doesn’t matter, because when you sit down you only have the rod and reel in your hand for casting and drilling anyway.
The interaction with the bite indicator
Freewheel reels are made for electronic bite indicators, because they keep the line under tension. For example the famous Überaschungsei hanger or simply a cork with a hook is already sufficient. Swingers and hangers on metal chains have proven to be very useful for carp fishing.
The alternative to the free spool reel
There are several ways to get along without a free spool reel. My insider tip are multi rollers, as long as you know how to throw with them. In principle, multi reels and baitcasters also have a freewheel in the casting mode and it is finer than the one of normal freewheel reels. Another possibility is to simply open the normal reel brake of a stationary reel. The disadvantage of this is that if you forget to turn the brake off before you start casting you will have a wig and often the fish is gone.
Cost of a freewheel reel
There are three manufacturers who have a reputation for making good freewheel reels. These are Shimano, Daiwa and Okuma. Okuma has the reputation of producing unrivalled good reels, especially in the lower price segment, while Daiwa and Shimano have very good reels in the middle and upper price segment. Other companies such as DAM, Quantum and Fox also have good reels and Browning also wants to be mentioned, as the brand specialises in bottom fishing and method feeders.
At least 50-70€ costs a usable free reel that can be fished for many years. My oldest model is also over 10 years old has been fished every year and will hopefully last for years to come.
I also have cheaper no name models with the following exciting features after a few months of fishing
- The freewheel suddenly works only in the wrong lever setting
- The freewheel is not as soft as it was at the beginning
- All moving parts have a fast clearance
- The freewheel doesn’t stop automatically when cranking
This is trouble I just want to spare everyone at the beginning the reel was running tip top and was very smooth. If you have a tip for a cheap and suitable freewheel reel, I would be happy to hear your comments. >
Cheap freewheel reels
Cheap reels that are interesting in terms of price and performance there are some on the market. For years Okuma has been making good rollers that last a long time and whose freewheel functions perfectly.
Okuma Longbow XT
The Okuma Longbow XT should be mentioned first, it is mentioned in almost every fishing forum when it comes to recommending a cheap free spool reel and not for nothing. The reel was designed for durability and is very popular with many anglers. Very pleasing is also the included spare spool and 6kg brake power is not bad for the 640` (so 4000` size). It is available in different sizes and is already cranking quite well. I personally like the front brake very much and the black design is also more beautiful than the predecessor. Cost around 50€ in my opinion fair and the absolute recommendation for the price-performance rolls! For the pure carp I would still go for the 55` size.
I have now tested the reel extensively even in salt water: Link to the test >>
Shimano DL series
The Shimano DL free reel series is a little better. The newest is the FB / RB version, the roller is available in the sizes 2500, 4000, 6000 and 10000. My criticism regarding line laying and smoothness has changed a lot and the new version is really good. The reel costs about 70€ more than the last mentioned ones.
Okuma Aventa AB
The free spool reel for big carp and also the occasional catfish seat. The Okuma Aventa is also extremely powerful and has a full 15kg maximum braking power. You don’t really need this when carp fishing, but rather when catfish fishing. Nevertheless a few extra kilos of brake power are never wrong and give you a safe feeling. The line setting is 405m/0.35 and this even though the spool is not extra long. Great is also the included spare spool made of aluminium.
Mid-range freewheel reel
DAM Quick SLS 5000 FD
The reel is compactly built and has a very large spool which allows long casts. It does not have a freewheel but the brake can be adjusted from open to tight with one hand movement. Besides carp fishing the new Quick Reel is also designed for heavy bottom fishing. Thanks to the huge spool, the line holder has enough room on the reel for 400m/0,35` line according to the manufacturer. The rubber lips, which should prevent the line from getting under the spool, are also special.
One of the best freewheel reels and a classic par excellence is the Shimano US Baitrunner in the D version. This reel is a continuous runner that has been one of the best freewheel reels for years. It is extremely robust and the
freewheel system is one of the most solid on the market. I know some anglers who have had this reel or its predecessors for many years and are extremely satisfied with it. If you want to commit to a reel for a long time and the weight is not so important, then I recommend this reel.
An alternative to the US Baitrunner is the Baitrunner OC (Oceanic), which was developed for fishing barramundi in salt and brackish water in Australia. Therefore the reel is fully saltwater capable, as the Oceanic in its name indicates, and also extremely robustly built. In terms of smoothness, it is in no way inferior to the US Baitrunner D, but the reel is also very similar in price. Just like the Baitrunner D, the OC has a maintenance screw that can be easily removed to drain oil into the gearbox. I like both reels very much, but as I am also fishing regularly at the sea the Baitrunner OC is the more interesting reel for me. Here you can find my test of the reel >>
One step higher is the Thunnus, which is quite difficult to get here and which was developed for saltwater fishing for bigger predators. Since I have never held the reel in my hand I can’t say anything about it.
The Shimano X-Aero reel is a very modern and light freewheel reel. The line laying is top and gives a nice winding pattern. It is also very smooth running. It is available in two versions, one with front brake (FA) and one with rear brake (RA). As already mentioned, this is a matter of taste and depends on personal preferences and habits. I like the role very much. According to various sources the reel is probably especially popular for feed basket fishing and method feeder fishing. Of course in the smaller sizes 2500 and 4000.
Long distance casting Freewheel and carp reels
Often enough, carp fishing depends on casting distance – also for surf or sea anglers are happy about every meter. These reels with especially large spools and good casting characteristics are in demand. With these reels you can fish where your colleagues cannot. Especially where the use of feed boats or inflatable boats is prohibited, as is so often the case, these reels give you an extra advantage.
Big Baitrunner LC
One of the top reels in this category comes from Shimano: the Shimano Big Baitrunner LC is a reel with an oversized spool. Due to the enormous size the reel is of course a bit heavier than the smaller models, but the reel is also simply sturdily built and intended as a long-term workhorse. The reel is only available with front brake and has no maintenance opening because it doesn’t need one. The castor runs with graphene as lubricant and is therefore quite smooth. Therefore the reel is almost maintenance free!
Daiwa also has a very nice looking long distance casting reel, which is not a freewheel reel, but nevertheless often recommended and casts very far thanks to its huge spool. The Windcast Z is a well known fish and is top satisfied. The reel costs a good 200€ and is not cheap, but of course it is also suitable for big fish.
Freewheel reels for catfish
This reel is very stable, because if you are looking for a freewheel reel for one of the biggest freshwater fishes the reel must be able to handle a little bit. The reel axle must be reinforced and the brake power must also be right. Fin nor, Shimano and Penn offer reels that can take on these rustic fish. Of course it depends on the water which strength and reel size is needed. For casting you need a large spool with a good line holder, especially if the distance between the reel and the fishing spot is large.
When it comes to fishing reels, the first thing that comes to mind is Penn, and the Penn Liveliner is a great reel that can handle any catfish. At the latest in the largest size of 760l 350m of a 0,40` line will fit on the reel. That is enough for the tensioning and for big catfish.
Fin Nor has the Sportfisher Bait Teaser for about 150€ in the program. The manufacturer has specialized in solid equipment for sea fishing and the reel is designed for power with its reinforced parts. By the way, Fin Nor is not a northern European manufacturer, but the brand comes from the USA.
Alternatively, any reel of the same size (8000+) mentioned above can also be used for catfish.