There was a time when £150 didn’t buy you too much in terms of a decent big pit reel, writes tackle editor Marc Coulson.
But as with carp rods, everything is getting better and better in the lower price ranges. I’m pleasantly surprised at what 150 quid can buy you these days.
Or, more to the point, multiply that by three, as is usually the case for us carp anglers, and you’re still looking at having enough change from £500 to spool them all with top-quality line.
In fact, one of the reels on this page carries a ‘buy two, get one free’ offer, which I find astounding.
Some pretty average reels sit in an even lower price bracket and, as we know, there are some marvellous examples of engineering at the very top end of the market.
Here, however, in the sub-£150 range, is where you’ll find the best of both worlds.
Initially, big pit reels were designed to carry huge amounts of line for long-range work.
However, filling one from top to bottom can be a costly exercise, so it’s worth balancing out your need for having such a large amount of line on your reel against the cost of the line itself.
You don’t need to load 600 yards of 15lb line if you’re only ever going to be casting 100 yards max, for example.
Ever wondered what that strange ratio printed on the box of most reels is? It’ll look something like 4.3:1, or thereabouts, and it means that for every turn of the handle, the rotor makes (in this case) 4.3 revolutions.
The higher the ratio, the more line you retrieve quickly and the easier it is to wind in after a big cast.
Most reels state this figure, and it’s worth making a note of.
CLUTCH VS FREESPOOL
Many modern reels rely on a quick drag instead of a freespool facility (remember, it’s only a ‘Baitrunner’ if it’s on a Shimano).
This makes it extremely simple to switch from free-running to locked up, often with less than a turn of the drag knob.
The drawback is that your clutch is not so micro-adjustable when playing a carp, but most people wouldn’t be bothered by that.
WEIGHT AND FEEL
Okay, the weight of a reel is obvious, but the ‘feel’ of it is something that’s difficult to actually quantify.
It can be recognised immediately when you pick one up. I actually prefer my reels to be a little weighty and to feel robust.
This balances with my 12ft 6ins rods, but if you use ultra-light 12ft rods, you may prefer something a little lighter in the reel department too.
In the upper echelons of the big-pit reel market, spare spools can cost upwards of £100 each. Yes, each!
It’s worth checking to see if you get a spare spool with your prospective new purchase and, if not, how much they cost individually (provided they are even available).
7 OF THE BEST BIG PIT REELS UNDER £150
DAIWA WINDCAST QDA | BUY NOW for £110 at Chapmans Angling
This is a shining example of trickle-down technology, with greats looks and feel, super-smooth clutch, QD spool and Daiwa seal of assurance.
The High Impact Line Clip is perfect for cushioning long casts, while the hollow Air Bail bailarm is light but super strong.
In terms of the clutch, the QD drag system offers instant and full control of the freespool facility.
All these features make this a truly spectacular reel, which you can pick up from most shops for between £100 and £120.
SHIMANO ULTEGRA 14000 XTD | BUY NOW for £114.99 at Chapmans Angling
At full price it’s a great reel, but as most shops seem to sell the Ultegra for at least £20 less, it’s unbelievably good!
It’s packed with features, has a spare spool and spool fillers, a super slow oscillation for superb line lay, and great looks and build quality.
Something very special.
PENN AFFINITY 2 BLACK 8000 | BUY NOW from £117 at Chapmans Angling
Penn, best known for its sea reels, makes spectacularly good carp reels too.
A real powerhouse, the Affinity 2 casts superbly, with an impressive retrieve and super-smooth clutch.
This 8000 model also features the Live Liner freespool system. It looks the part too.
MITCHELL AVOCAST 7000 BE | BUY NOW for £89.99 at Chapmans Angling
Three big-pit reels for just under £180… how good is that three-for-two deal?
The Avocast has been around a while and stands the test of time, not only selling on price but on its great looks and performance.
Oh, the handles fold too, for all you proper carpy boys and girls.
OKUMA CB-60 CUSTOM BLACK | BUY NOW for £59.99 at Chapmans Angling
Quite the looker and excellent value, this retro-looking reel has a matt-black body, minimal graphics and balanced wooden handle – all in all a very sexy package.
The clutch is spectacular, and its compact body will appeal to all but the biggest-pit anglers.
TF GEAR DL BLACK EDITION | BUY NOW for £79.99 at Chapmans Angling
Lacking quite the quality spec of the Daiwa and Shimano reels, this one costs less than 80quid. Sounds good? Well, buy three of these and you pay only £199.
Yeah, that got your attention didn’t it? And if they’re good enough for Dave Lane, I’m sure they’ll do most of us just fine.
FOX EOS 12000 | BUY NOW From £99.99 at Chapmans Angling
In the shadow of its bigger cousins the FX11 and FX13, the EOS boasts great line lay, solid build and long casting performance.
Although not as refined as the FXs, this is a lot of reel for not a lot of money.
It also boasts an excellent retrieve rate so it can double as a great spod or marker reel.