tcf Buyers’ Guide
It wasn’t that long ago that a freespool reel was the tool of the specimen carp angler, and due to the cost only an elite band could afford what was seen as a specialist reel.
Thankfully for today’s general coarse angler, more of these reels are being produced, and although they are not all built to the exacting standards of the premium freespool reels, they are of a high quality and affordable to most.
These days freespool reels are used by coarse anglers of all disciplines on venues ranging from enormous gravel pits to commercial fisheries and rivers to catch a wide range of specimen fish. But what should you look for in a reel to suit your particular needs?
Size matters when choosing a reel; if you intend to cast long distances you need a tool that will hold enough line and of the right strength if you are to reach your chosen mark.
The number of spare spools that come with the package may also be a factor in selecting the right reel. If you fish a wide variety of venues a versatile reel featuring spools that carry different lines may be an important factor in your choice; if that’s the case you will need to know whether you can obtain spare spools.
The drag system of the reel is very important, too. Most freespool reels come fitted with a rear drag adjustment to maximise the free spin feature and a front drag set-up to help tension the spool’s drag when playing a fish. However, some reels have both drag setting knobs located at the rear. But whatever system the reel has, the sensitivity of its drag along with the ease with which the freespool option can be disengaged are issues you should take into account when playing a fish.
Handles are another factor that may dictate your selection, as some anglers prefer a single or double version, while weight could also sway any decision you make. All in all, there are myriad issues that need to be addressed before you make your purchase.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A FREESPOOL REEL
1 Is it the correct size for your needs?
2 How much does it weigh?
3 How many spools do you get?
4 Can you easily buy spare spools?
5 How quickly does the freespool disengage?

tcf The Test
We requested freespool reels with an RRP under £75 from a number of suppliers and received a dozen with prices ranging from £24.99 to £59.99.
Before taking the reels out in the field, each was weighed and the deepest spool loaded with 10lb Wychwood MAXimiser line. You may see two different coloured lines, but be assured it’s the same one.
Once loaded we looked at the line lay of each reel – an important issue when casting. If the lay is poor it can impede the line on the cast and cause you to land short of your chosen mark or, in extreme cases, result in a break.
Our chosen venue for this test is Drayton Reservoir near our Daventry offices. It’s an ideal water to test these reels as there’s plenty of room and loads of fish – so with luck the reels will see plenty of action.
As there are so many reels on test we fished two rods at a time, each with a Method rig set-up, as it would make it easy to break down and set up after each part of the test. To ensure we cast to the same spot every time, the distance was marked on the bank.
During the session each of the reels was tested for ease of casting and the line lay was monitored to check whether any bedding-in of line had occurred while retrieving or playing a fish. The ease of each reel’s drag adjustment was also noted when playing a fish.

MAP
CFS 50 FREESPIN

RRP: £39.99
Weight: 548g
Ball bearings: Nine plus one
Gear ratio: 5.1:1
Handle: Twin, ambidextrous
Supplied spools: Three (deep)
Spool drag: Front
Freespool tension: Rear
Freespool disengagement: 3/8 turn of handle
Spare spools available: Yes (£9.99 each)
Extras: None

tcf verdict
Steve says: Although the reel has been designed for the commercial fishery scene, it’s a bit on the heavy side and more suited to a specialist angler’s needs. The filled spool gave a level line lay and there was no sign of bedding in after playing fish or retrieving the rig.

Steve’s favourite

LEEDA
CARP MATCH FREESPOOL

RRP: £24.99
Weight: 402g
Ball bearings: Five plus one
Gear ratio: 5.5:1
Handle: Single, ambidextrous
Supplied spools: Three (one deep, two shallow)
Spool drag: Front
Freespool tension: Rear
Freespool disengagement: 1/4 turn of handle
Spare spools available: No
Extras: None

tcf verdict
This was the one reel of the 12 on test that fitted the bill when it came to finding a good tool for the match angler. It’s the perfect reel for coping with that unexpected lump when fishing the feeder of the Method on commercial waters. It’s the smallest reel in the group, but Steve had no problems casting to his 40 yard target and the line lay stayed constant both on the retrieve and when playing fish.

 

WYCHWOOD
ROUGE 50 FREESPIN

RRP: £29.99
Weight: 528g
Ball bearings: Five plus one
Gear ratio: 5.1:1
Handle: Single, ambidextrous
Supplied spools: Two (deep)
Spool drag: Front
Freespool tension: Rear
Freespool disengagement: 1/4 turn of handle
Spare spools available: Yes (£4.99 each)
Extras: None

tcf verdict
This is more of a stillwater specimen stillwater tool as it’s on the heavy side and not one you’d want to use with a light rod. The line lay is pretty level and when casting the flow of line off the spool is silky; further, there was no sign the line bedding in on the retrieve of when playing fish. The freespool drag nob at the back of the reel is a little on the small side in our view.

DAIWA
REGALPLUS 4000BRi

RRP: £59.99
Weight: 472g
Ball bearings: Six
Gear ratio: 4.9:1
Handle: Single, ambidextrous
Supplied spools: Two (deep)
Spool drag: Front
Freespool tension: Rear
Freespool disengagement: 1/8 turn of handle
Spare spools available: Yes (£13 each)
Extras: None

tcf verdict
Although it’s advertised as a carp fishing reel this is another all rounder that would handle commercial fishery tactics and big fish methods on rivers and stillwaters. The line lay is great and we had no problems on the cast, the retrieve or when playing and landing fish, and there was no sign of any bedding in after the session. This reel would be an ideal choice for the predator angler.

SHIMANO
BAITRUNNER AERO 5000 RE

RRP: £59.99
Weight: 450g
Ball bearings: One plus one
Gear ratio: 4.5:1
Handle: Single, ambidextrous
Supplied spools: Two (deep)
Spool drag: Front
Freespool tension: Rear
Freespool disengagement: 1/4 turn of handle
Spare spools available: Yes (£5 each)
Extras: None

tcf verdict
Casting smooth and unihibited. The line lay, although sloping in towards the front of the spool, is tidy and there’s no sign of bedding in on the retrieve or after playing fish.

Gareth’s Choice

PROLOGIC
XLINT 50

RRP: £59.99
Weight: 472g
Ball bearings: Seven plus one
Gear ratio: 5.1:1
Handle: Single or twin option, ambidextrous
Supplied spools: Two (deep)
Spool drag: Front
Freespool tension: Rear
Freespool disengagement: 1/8 turn of handle
Spare spools available: No
Extras: Five-year warranty

tcf verdict
This reel fits well into the match or specialist market and it’s well worth a second look if you’re looking for a good all round freespool reel. The line lay was a little uneven, but nothing that caused a preblem and there was no bedding in.

SHAKESPEARE
HURRICANE GT 145 FREESPOOL

RRP: £30
Weight: 443g
Ball bearings: Three
Gear ratio: 5.4:1
Handle: Single, ambidextrous
Supplied spools: Two (deep)
Spool drag: Front
Freespool tension: Rear
Freespool disengagement: 1/4 turn of handle
Spare spools available: No
Extras: None

tcf verdict
The reel is nicely balanced and has a smooth action on the retrieve. It handled our 40-yard casts without a hitch and the line lay was fine, with no bedding in while playing fish to 9lb. Disengagement of the freespool mechanism was rapid and provided almost instant contact with the fish. The reel’s size gears it more towards specialist use.

OKUMA
EPIX PRO EPB 50

RRP: £29.99
Weight: 499g
Ball bearings: Nine plus one
Gear ratio: 4.5:1
Handle: Single or twin option, ambidextrous
Supplied spools: Three (deep)
Spool drag: Front
Freespool tension: Rear
Freespool disengagement: 1/4 turn of handle
Spare spools available: No
Extras: Five-year warranty

tcf verdict
This reel would not look out of place in use by a specialist on the river, but we feel it’s more geared towards specimen carp tactics if you’re not planning to cast ridiculous distances. The line lay is perfect.

MASTERLINE
JOHN WILSON BAITMASTER

RRP: £39.95
Weight: 461g
Ball bearings: Three
Gear ratio: 5.14:1
Handle: Single, ambidextrous
Supplied spools: Two (deep)
Spool drag: Front
Freespool tension: Rear
Freespool disengagement: 1/4 turn of handle
Spare spools available: No
Extras: None

tcf verdict
John Wilson would not put his name to any old piece of tackle, so as you would expect this reel does all that’s asked of it. It’s a well balanced tool that fits into the big river scene for barbel and chub, and is just the job if fishing The Method. No bedding in. Level line lay.

DRAGON CARP DIRECT
BARBUS BS500
RRP: £49.99
Weight: 535g
Ball bearings: Six
Gear ratio: 5.2:1
Handle: Single, ambidextrous
Supplied spools: Four (deep)
Spool drag: Front
Freespool tension: Rear
Freespool disengagement: 1/4 turn of handle
Spare spools available: No
Extras: Supplied spare spools come pre-loaded with line

tcf verdict
Another reel that’s more suited to the specialist than the match angler. It’s a little on the heavy side, and the line lay when playing fish is fine. The reel bonus of this reel is that it comes with three spool already loaded with line.

LINEAEFFE
B-KING 50 FREE SPOOL

RRP: £49.95
Weight: 457g
Ball bearings: Nine plus one
Gear ratio: 5.1:1
Handle: Single, ambidextrous
Supplied spools: Two (deep)
Spool drag: Front
Freespool tension: Rear
Freespool disengagement: 1/8th turn of handle
Spare spools available: No
Extras: None

tcf verdict
A well balanced reel that allows a smooth cast. Because of its size we recommend using it for specialist fishing. There’s no sign of any bedding in and the line lay remains good. The freespool disengaged almost instantly, meaning we could put the brakes on fish very quickly. On the negative side, we found the handle a tad uncomfortable.

BADGER
ULTRACAST FREERUNNER 3060

RRP: £24.99
Weight: 453g
Ball bearings: Three
Gear ratio: 5.14:1
Handle: Single, ambidextrous
Supplied spools: Two (deep)
Spool drag: Front
Freespool tension: Rear
Freespool disengagement: 1/4 turn of handle
Spare spools available: NoExtras: None

tcf verdict
Definitely one for the angler targeting specimen carp, and the line lay remained godo throughout the test with no sign of bedding in. For its price the reel is certianly worth a look for the novice big fish angler on a budget.

 

Conclusion
Technology has come a long way since the early days when a Shimano Baitrunner was THE reel to have if big carp were the quarry. Other than the Shimano Aero 5000RE, all the reels had a front drag for the spool and a rear drag adjustment for the freespool mechanism, the senstivity of which was not an issue on any, as all were set to the required friction level with little effort.

Steve and Gareth landed plenty of angry Drayton carp up to 9lb for the test.

What really impressed us was that none of the reels came up short on the line lay front. Each one maintained a reasonable level and none suffered any bedding in despite having to cope with hard fighting carp to 9lb.

We were a little disappointed that there were not more reels like the Leeda Carp Match freespool, which we feel is the ideal tool for carp bagging on commercials. And although some are identified as carp reels, many of those would not look out of place in the specialist angler’s collection.

The disengagement of the freespool on all the reels was quick and needed little effort to set, but there was a 50:50 choice as to how the facility could be switched on; you either pused the switch down or pulled it up. For ease of use we preferred the push down version once the rod was placed on the rest.

All the reels we tested come with at least one, if not two spare spools, but of the 12 the Barbus BS500 has to be the best value for money; you get a specialist reel that includes three spare spools, each already fully loaded with specimen line; and is a bargain at a penny under £50.

Steve’s favourite reel was the Leeda Carp Match, but it was a close call as Gareth liked the John Wilson Baitmaster and we both rated the B-King 50 freespool high up the list, as it could be used for barbel fishing.


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