If you’ve got a £50 budget for new carp reel, then your choice has never been greater.
Where once your choice was limited to just Shimano, Daiwa or a handful of smaller brands beneath those big two, now most tackle companies have a range of reels.
While this competition has helped drive down prices, the quality and accessibility of Far-East manufacturing has also been a key factor.
Now a sub-£50 reel needn’t be seen as a risky purchase. Buy wisely and you can expect it to perform and last.
What to look for
In the same way that engine size alone doesn’t mark a car fast, simply having more ball bearings doesn’t make a reel smooth or well made, so don’t get drawn into thinking that more equals better.
Quality of bearings is key, so use your own judgement on smoothness and function by picking up the reels at a shop or show.
Think about how you will use a reel’s line capacity.
A shallow spool might sound restrictive but will loading up a deep spool with hundreds of metres of line be a waste of time and money if you only fish small venues?
A well-designed shallow spool can also help with casting.
Reels at this end of the market can be heavy for their size. But if your rods and reels are sitting on buzzer bars for 95 per cent of the time then is this a huge disadvantage?
If you intend to use one of these reels for stalking or floater fishing then weight becomes a much bigger consideration.
Daiwa Black Widow BR
Available for: c£40
This is currently the cheapest reel in the whole Daiwa carp range, but it’s still a quality offering available for well below its £65 RRP.
It shares a silhouette with the more expensive Emcast BR – though the Black Widow has a shinier finish – and still has recognisable Daiwa features such as AirBail, Twistbuster and the BR freespool mechanism.
A top performer and well built, we love this real at this price. We’d prefer a more understated appearance, but that’s a minor gripe.
The 5000 model weighs 473g, has three internal ball bearings and a stated line capacity of 310m of 14lb line.
Sonik VaderX FS
Available for: c£35
Sonik’s reels have impressed all who’ve fished with them in recent years, with the VaderX range signifying incredible value for money. Like its big-pit sibling, this reel packs a lot of features for this price bracket.
Complete with two machined aluminium spools, this lightweight reel has five internal ball bearings and one in the line roller.
Its stainless-steel main shaft offers rigidity and longevity, while the oversized freespool lever and sleek aluminium handle give it visual personality.
Its possibly the best looker on test and currently available for an absolute steal. The 5000 model weighs 437g.
Shimano Baitrunner ST 10000 RB
Available for: c£40
A freespool shootout isn’t complete without a genuine Baitrunner. Like Hoover and Tannoy, Shimano’s Baitrunner brand has become a byword for this whole sector of the market.
The ST 10000 RB is classic Baitrunner fare, with a distinctive double-handle grip and sleek body.
In all honesty, its looks are fairly bland, but the reel is beautifully balanced and the drag clicks with precision.
It’s a safe pair of hands that’ll last you for years, rather than a showstopper crammed with features. It has a single internal bearing, holds 250m of 0.40mm line and weighs 555g.
TF Gear DL Black Edition Speedrunner
Available for: c£40
Another twin-handle reel, this TFG offering bears Dave Lane’s initials and is full of features.
It has a very fast retrieve rate for a reel of this size and decent looks, though the rear freespool lever can be a touch tricky to grasp.
In stark contrast, the front-drag knob is the most ergonomic on test – you can get control of it with ease and its adjustments are nice and notchy.
It has four internal bearings, can hold 375yds of 14lb line and weighs 520g.
Rogue FS reel
Available for: £27.99
Representing incredible value for money, the two Rogue FS reels (available in 6500 and 7500 sizes) are hybrid big-pit/freespool monsters.
With looks dominated by a big, wide spool, these reels have modern styling and appear more expensive than they are. The body is made from a graphite compound and the handle is die-cast aluminium.
The oversized plastic knob doesn’t look great but it’s easy to grab on to and begin winding, even in gloves. The freespool lever on the rear is similarly easy to use.
The Rogue FS has five internal bearings and can take 290m of 0.40mm line.
Mitchell Avocet FS Black Edition 6500
Available for: c£25
Amazingly, our cheapest reel on test is just £25 and is a perfectly capable performer.
Pre-loaded with 12lb line it is the ideal introduction to the freespool world.
With Mitchell’s name on it, you know it’s got pedigree and, for the price, it’s a remarkable little bit of kit.
The spool is aluminium, it has a multi-disc drag system, a retrieve rate of 87cm per handle turn and two internal bearings.
At 486g it’s neither worryingly light and flimsy nor cumbersome and unrefined. You won’t be casting to the moon with the Avocet, but it’ll certainly keep pace with your progression through the carp world.