Baitrunner Dual Drag Switch

Do You Need a Baitrunner Reel for Carp Fishing?

A common question most newcomers to carp angling have. I myself wondered why there were special carp fishing reels called “Baitrunners” when I first started to target carp. Baitrunner reels do serve a specific purpose in the arsenal of gear that dedicated carp anglers deploy in their daily sessions on the bank.

Are Baitrunner Reels Necessary for Carp Fishing?

No, although they are not necessary for carp fishing they are excellent when paired with bite alarms and bank sticks. The main feature that makes them stand out is that they have a “dual drag” system, which is perfect for carp anglers. I will outline “Why” in greater detail below.

Baitrunner Reels for Carp Fishing
Shimano ST 10000 RB Baitrunner Reels

The first few years that I targeted carp I simply used my old salmon fishing rod and reel combo. I would set it up and simply set the single drag system as loose as it would go. This allowed the line to play freely when there was a take, I would then simply tighten the drag down during the first few seconds of the fight.

There are also many other types of carp fishing reels such as Quick Drag, Big Pit, Spod and Marker, etc. Baitrunners are simply one of the easier and more versatile carp fishing reels to use. If you’re looking for your first carp fishing reel be sure to read this other article on What to Look for in a Carp Fishing Reel.

How Does a Baitrunner Reel Work?

A baitrunner reel is simply a reel with two different drag settings. They are sometimes referred to as bite-n-run, bait feeders or free spool reels, depending on which company manufactures them.

Baitrunner reels have two drag settings, this allows anglers to set one loose so the line can free spool once a fish is hooked and a second drag set tighter to fight the fish when the angler picks up the rod.

This can save time during those crucial first few seconds of the fight. A simple quarter-turn of the reel handle will engage the fighting drag, which can be set prior to the fish being hooked.

Baitrunner Engaged
Bait Runner Engaged
Baitrunner Disengaged
Bait Runner Disengaged

With my old salmon reel, I would sometimes lose fish when grabbing the rod and fumbling to crank the drag down. The slack that was in the line during these first few seconds was often enough for the carp to spit the hook resulting in many lost fish and quite a bit of frustration.

Rod Pod and Baitrunner Setup
Rod Pod and Bite Alarm Setup

You can use baitrunner reels with the free spool drag engaged by laying them on the ground and listening for the drag to click over for indication. (This can be dangerous and may result in you losing your entire setup to a big fish.) The preferred method is to set your rods on banksticks or a rod pod equipped with bite alarms. This will ensure your equipment is securely in place in the event of a powerful take.

For newcomers to carp fishing setups, some of the terminology and equipment can be confusing. To understand the setup better, check out this article on What are Banksticks to clarify things further.

Carp Fishing Bolt Rig
Simple Hair Rig and Bolt Rig Setup for Carp Fishing

One other integral aspect of a carp fishing setup using baitrunner reels is the Bolt Rig. The mechanics of this rig allow for the fish to hook itself when it picks up your bait. Once the fish is hooked and spooks itself, it then “Bolts” and pulls the swivel from your weight thus free spooling line from your reel as it goes.

Baitrunner Dual Drag Switch
Baitrunner Reel Drag Switch and Tension Adjustment

As illustrated in the above image, you can clearly see the drag tension adjustment nob located at the rear of the reel. It is split into two separate pieces. This allows for both drags to be set to different tensions quickly and efficiently.

Baitrunner Reel Makes and Models

There are many different manufacturers of baitrunner type reels known as “free spool reels”. Each manufacturer names its reels differently. These types of reels can vary quite differently in price. The main difference between all of them is their size.

Your choice of baitrunner reel will depend mostly on the size of fish you plan on catching and secondly your price range. I myself have a lot of experience using the Shimano ST 10000 RB Baitrunners, they have held up to many fish over the years and excel at fighting fish up to 25 lbs. Whenever I do catch fish in the 25 – 35 lb range I notice that there is a lot of strain on this specific model. If you plan on targeting locations with bigger fish I would recommend buying a larger model.

Shimano Baitrunner Reels

There are many levels of baitrunner reels from Shimano. I will briefly cover the best three models for carp fishing specifically:

Baitrunner Image
  • Baitrunner ST RB – Even though Shimano manufactures lineups that are smaller, the 10000 RB is the smallest of this series that I would use to target carp.
  • Baitrunner X-Aero RA – The second tier of carp fishing baitrunners from Shimano, these provide the same features as the previously listed lineup but are of higher quality and aid in casting distance and accuracy.
  • Medium and Big Baitrunner XTB – These are the largest and most durable of the baitrunner lineup from Shimano. If you plan on catching 30 lb plus fish these are the reels for you. They have larger handles and spools for longer battles that will really take the strain off of the inner components. They also have a drag system on the front and rear instead of two adjustment knobs on the rear.

Three quality series from one of the biggest in the industry, you definitely won’t be disappointed with any of these options.


Daiwa has three main levels of free spool reels. Their lineup is named the Bite N’ Run Series instead of Baitrunner.

  • Emcast BR – The smallest and most lightweight of the series is the Emcast, these reels boast a drag switch much similar to the Shimano Baitrunners but have a drag system with adjustment knobs set up on the front and rear of the reel.
  • Regal BRI – The Regal lineup is more powerful than the Emcast with a larger max drag setting. Slightly bigger and still high quality.
  • Opus Plus – The most powerful of the Daiwa Bite N’ Run Series of reels, if you’re after big fish this is the series for you.

Overall the Daiwa Reels are very similar in look and style, they differ mostly in size and strength.


Okuma has a wide range of Bait Feeder style reels for carp fishing. They are quality products at a very reasonable price point. I’m not going to list all of them but just the one that I would pick for targeting carp.

  • Longbow XT Baitfeeder Spinning Reel – This reel is right in the middle of the range. It will provide quality and long life but also won’t break the bank. An important factor for carp anglers worldwide as in most areas you’re able to use 3 rods at once. If you end up going high end it can get quite pricey!

Feel free to check out the websites of the companies listed above for further information and models in their line ups of free spool reels for carp fishing.

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