We hope you love the products we recommend. Just so you know, OnTrack Fishing may earn an affiliate commission from the links on this page, at no extra cost to you.
When it comes to the evolution of reels, it is hard to look past the baitrunner.
The first one of these was introduced by Shimano in the late 1980s.
That product, the Aero Baitrunner, led the way with freespool functionality and is still an iconic piece of equipment today.
That being said, there have been improvements and several other manufacturers have helped push freespooling reels forward since.
In fact, ‘baitrunner’ has become a synonym for any reel that has a freespool function, demonstrating the influence of that original innovation.
However, it should be noted that Shimano has trademarked the term ‘baitrunner’, so other producers cannot use it for their branding.
Therefore, if you are in the market for a baitrunner reel, you should know that they may be branded as freespools, live liners, bait feeders and bite-n-run reels.
Of course, like with all equipment, not all freespool reels are created equally. Some are less sturdy or have less functionality than others.
That is the reason why we have compiled a list of some of our top baitrunner spinning reels below.
What are the best baitrunner reels on the market?
We know some of you just can’t wait to get on the water, so below is a quick list of some of the best baitrunner reels on the market. There is a little something for everyone here…
Last update on 2022-05-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Now, feel free to go get your gear and get on the water, but if you have a little more time, we have run through each recommended item in the below article.
We have even taken it upon ourselves to answer some of your questions relating to baitrunner reels…
1. Shimano Baitrunner 8000OC Saltwater Fishing Reel
We could not begin our list with anything other than the brand that launched the baitrunner revolution.
That’s not the only reason this reel made our list: Shimano reels are a class above many other reels on the market.
Their gear is solid, reliable and lasts a lot longer than some of their competitors’ products. This particular reel has several features that make it stand out.
For instance, it has shields on both sides of the bearings, which reduce the possibility of salt or sand damaging the bearing’s position.
There is also a dyna-balance feature, which is an innovative piece of tech which reduces the chances of wobble during the retrieve.
If you are looking for longer casts, then this could be the one. It has a propulsion line management system, which also helps prevent both wind knots and backlashes.
Although it’s not the cheapest baitrunner, with its features and durability, it will last you for many years if properly cared for.
- Durable innovative design offers protection from the elements.
- Innovative anti-wobble technology ensures smooth retrieval.
- Solid for long casting, with knot and backlash prevention in place.
- Doesn’t suit everyone’s budget
2. PENN Fierce III Live Liner Free Spool Fishing Reel
This is an excellent fishing reel, combining a beautiful durable body, with a smooth, adjustable drag system.
The live liner mode allows you to adjust the tension, giving you that extra advantage during the fight.
Its carbon fibre drag washers ensure that this reel can handle even the fiercest tussles on the water.
This is a particular favourite for beginners, as it is easy to adjust the tension using the live liner and the drag can be engaged with just the turn of the handle.
It also has excellent spool capacities, particularly for braid.
With all in mind, and at an entry level price point, we are not sure what more you could ask for.
- Relatively easy to use.
- Excellent durability.
- Different sizes available.
- Lacks some of the features of its more expensive competitors.
3. Yoshikawa Carp Fishing Reel Baitfeeder Sea Spinning Reel
If you have a limited amount of cash in the kitty, then this could be the option for you.
It is a spinning reel with both front drag and rear drag, so it truly is a baitrunner in every respect but name.
Considering how well it is made, it should last a long time.
It also has all the functionality you will need to get the job done. It is also completely budget friendly, at a price point that most people can afford.
In contrast to similar-priced reels, this one has a decent freespool mode that is ideal for battling the big fish. After all, that is what this article is all about, right?
It also comes with an aluminum spool, which is sturdier than many of the plastic alternatives.
- Made out of durable materials and comes in different sizes to suit most.
- Its baitfeeder is surprisingly good.
- Dual drag system is easy to use.
- Body bends when winding.
- Lacks extra features of more expensive counterparts.
4. PENN Spinfisher VI Long Cast Fishing Reel
This beautiful reel is a real asset to PENN’s catalogue of freespoolers.
It is known for its durability, due to its metal body and the excellent water resistance of its components.
PENN’s CNC gear technology allows for you to fish with beautiful levels of smoothness Not only that, but the price is reasonable too.
As one of the reviews on PENN’s website reads, the clicker on this reel is a step ahead of the others, particularly if you are after the big fish.
That review reads: “Everyone knows plastic clickers will eventually get shredded when big game fish goes on prolonged runs.
(This reel) has a metal clicker and has a loud metallic “Ting-ting-ting” sound which its very audible and helpful when targeting trophy fish during windy conditions or on a boat while the motor is running.”
It’s an ideal reel if you are long casting and it also looks really nice too.
- Features special sealing which make it more water resistant than the average reel.
- Full metal body offers durability and protection to the gear system.
- Gear technology is excellent for bringing in bigger fish.
- Not as beginner friendly as some of the other reels.
5. Okuma Avenger ABF B Series Baitfeeder
This is a more budget-friendly option than the other reels on the list, but if you are looking for an introduction to baitrunner reels, then this could be the one for you.
Its oiled felt drag system is smoother than you would expect and it offers good line control in the retrieve. Made using the highest quality materials the Avenger is tested for reliability and quality.
This is one the the reasons this baitrunner is used by professionals worldwide.
Made with stainless steel, aluminum, and graphite, it is also relatively durable for this price point.
- Surprisingly smooth.
- Good line control.
- Not as durable as more expensive options.
- Works well as an introduction to baitrunners, but not ideal for more experienced.
What are baitrunner reels used for?
Baitrunner reels allow a fish to hook themselves to a line and swim away, all while the spool is released. The extra clutch function allows the spool to run freely as the fish takes to the bait.
Then, with the simple crank of the handle or switch, you can start the process of bringing that fish out of the water.
The beauty of this is that it initially allows you to feed your bait, without the bother of having to play around with drag.
If everything is set right, these reels help you avoid spooking the fish and give you a better chance of hooking it when you engage the retrieve gear.
Baitrunner reels are also great if you are fishing with more than one rod, as you don’t have to worry about your equipment being pulled into the water.
You would be shocked at how often this is an issue.
With this piece of gear, there is a simple click as the spool is fed out into the water and this allows the fish to move with your bait.
You will be alerted within a few seconds and you can start bringing that catch out of the water.
“If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles,”Doug Larson.
Initially, when Shimano released their first baitrunner reel, freshwater fishermen took to it like a… well, like a fish to water. Many reports indicate that carp fishermen were the first to really adapt to this gear.
That’s not to say that saltwater fishermen haven’t been taking advantage of this technology ever since.
If you are surf casting, or fishing from the shore, this is an option that can work for you too. If you enjoy ‘bait-n-wait’, setting up several reels at one time, these are ideal.
As previously said, other styles of reels could be pulled into the water, but this is less likely to happen with these.
Basically, it’s a type of reel that suits most types of fishing, even coarse.
That being said, as we will get into in one of the below sections, you may not need to engage all of the functionality in these reels while float fishing.
Carp, bluefish, jewfish and snappers are amongst the most common fish caught by freespool reels, but they are used for much, much more.
How do you use and cast a baitrunner reel?
There is a huge range of baitrunners out there and the one you choose should depend on what type of fishing you are doing.
However, if you are looking for a quick guide on how to cast this type of reel, then take a look below…
- Ensure that you have the right rod for the reel you are using.
- Generally speaking, heavy line works better for baitrunners.
- Set the proper drag and tension.
- When holding your rod, it should be near your waist. Your thumb should lay on the bottom of the spool. The bait should hang at around 8 inches below the tip of the rod.
- Push the button to engage the freespool functionality, while putting your thumb on the spool to prevent it from unwinding unnecessarily.
- Pull the rod back to the point, then bring it through quickly, pointing its tip at your target.
- As it comes forward, release your thumb off the spool.
- Place your thumb back on the spool as the bait hits the water. You want to avoid over-winding.
- Reel once or twice to engage the anti-reverse and start fishing.
While using a baitrunner in the water, you disengage the gearing on the reel, allowing the fish to take the bait.
Then, with the turn of a switch or handle, the reel will pop back into gear.When a fish takes interest, your best bet is to give it a few seconds to run, then pop it back and set the hook.
This gives the fish a chance to have the bait fully in their mouths.
Timing is everything. Doing it too early could see the bait not connect and doing so too quickly could cause the bait to rip through.
It is a delicate process and like with most things related to fishing, it is something you will learn and perfect in time.
What is the difference between a baitrunner and a spinning reel?
Traditional spinning reels have a single drag system, whereas baitrunners have two drag systems.
Baitrunners allow for the spool shaft to rotate under a secondary drag system, which is located at the bottom of the reel. That is why baitrunner’s secondary drag is appropriately known as the ‘rear drag’.
Most baitrunners re-engage the fight drag when you turn the handle. The secondary drag allows for the fish to take the bait and move with it without figuring out there is something awry.
On the fishing resource, StripersOnline, one reviewer detailed why he preferred to use baitrunners.
“Baitrunners are great reels to wait and bait. I use them all the time for chunk fishing in the surf. Love that sound of the secondary drag scream when a nice fish takes the bait yet doesn’t feel the tension of the primary drag. Click off the baitrunner switch which is pre-set to your liking and set the hook.”
If that hasn’t made you want to get on the water with one of these reels, then we are not sure what will.
Can you use a baitrunner reel for float fishing?
There really is no reason why you cannot use a baitrunner while float fishing, however you probably shouldn’t use the freespool facility. By engaging this feature, you may miss the bite.
There are several baitrunner reels that offer brilliant features for all types of fishing. Of course, if you are a complete beginner who is float fishing, then you may be better off starting off with a more beginner style reel.
For instance, some of Shimano’s reels work well for coarse fishing, being durable and strong enough to help you bring in the big guys.
Shimano changed the game back in 1987, with their introduction of baitrunner reels. It truly was a moment of innovation and introduced a new way to do things for the fishing masses.
These are reels that give you an added option on the water, but can also be the ideal option when fishing from shore.
Of course, there are more beginner friendly options when it comes to reels. You have to have the right rod, a heavier spool and understand the mechanics.
However, getting used to a freespool reel isn’t as daunting as it first seems and for many, once they do get accustomed, they never turn back.
They provide you with a dual drag system which gives you an advantage on the water and allows you to play around with the retrieve more so than traditional reels.
Quite simply, this will draw the fish out, which in turn, allows you to catch the fish.
Hopefully this guide has given you some insight into the type of reel you are looking for. Our list of five is just a taste of what is on the market.
Only you know what the right option for you is, so find a good reel and get out there and enjoy the fishing.
Bring back a big one!