The 10 Best Baitrunner Reels

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This wiki has been updated 14 times since it was first published in March of 2019. These baitrunner reels differ from typical models in that they feature a secondary drag system anglers can engage via a knob near the bottom of the reel. This allows a fish to take the bait and run without noticing the tension produced by the primary drag. We've provided a number of worthwhile options that come in a variety of sizes, with many suitable for both fresh and saltwater. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Shimano Baitrunner D

2. Okuma Avenger

3. Shimano 800OC

Editor's Notes

July 29, 2020:

An array of factors led us to remove four items from the list. We slightly downgraded the Isafish Double — it’s a serviceable model at an affordable price, but it doesn’t offer the smooth drag and retrieval that some of the higher-quality reels do.

We added some details to the listing for the Daiwa Regal, indicating that the spool system was built specifically to prevent line backlash, which can cause clumping and twisting during a cast. Other factors that can lead to backlash include low-quality line, insufficient tension on the spool, an overfilled spool, and windy conditions.

Anglers who shoot for quantity over size may want to consider the Shimano ST 2500, which is lightweight but sturdy, making it a nice option for use with ultralight rods. On the other hand, those looking for a bit more power may like the Daiwa Black Widow better. It allows the user to cast for considerable distance, and its retrieval mechanism is quite efficient, pulling in 85 centimeters of line per crank. The Shimano 800OC is a dependable reel for saltwater fishing as well.

April 05, 2019:

As long as you go in with reasonable expectations, the Sougayilang 12 should provide some respectable bang for your buck. It’s not built with the highest quality components, the ball bearings are not fully sealed, and it won’t withstand years of saltwater use — but as one of the most affordable models available, it’s more than serviceable as a backup option or for occasionally targeting small to medium-sized fish.

While the three Shimano models share several attributes that contribute to their popularity (quality craftsmanship, durability in saltwater conditions, a line system that resists getting gnarled up, to name a few), the positive reports regarding the Shimano Baitrunner D and its smooth, easy-to-use drag system drove it to the top of the list. Even when used in heavy surf and strong winds on species like blue fish that are notorious fighters, it appears to perform consistently and admirably.

Some anglers may be in need of a big, sturdy reel that can handle large catfish, pike and carp, yet most heavy-duty models are too expensive to fit in their budget. In these cases, the Daiwa Regal is a solid option. Users report that its free spool drag system isn’t the smoothest in the world, but it provides the power and balance necessary to reel in trophy-sized fish.

Special Honors

Drennan Series 7 Specimen Based in the UK, Drennan does not sell angling gear directly to the public, but you can find their products at various retailers across the globe. This item is ideal for fishermen looking for a small-bodied reel, and it comes with a set of rubber line identification marker buttons and a spare spool.

Sakura Drag Checker This fishing tackle provider is based in Australia, but is willing to ship internationally for interested parties. Instead of making adjustments on the fly with a fish on the line, detail-oriented anglers using a baitunner reel can utilize this drag checker to ensure the line tension in both drag systems is set exactly to their liking, before even making a cast.

4. Daiwa Regal

5. Okuma Ceymar

6. Daiwa Black Widow

7. Shimano Thunnus

8. Shimano ST 2500

9. Isafish Double

10. KastKing Sharky

Sam Kraft
Last updated by Sam Kraft

In addition to his corporate career as a marketing and communications professional in Chicago, Sam runs a popular blog that focuses on the city’s flourishing craft beer and brewery scene. He received his degree in journalism from DePaul University (which spurred his interest in freelance writing) and has since spent years developing expertise in copywriting, digital marketing and public relations. A lifetime of fishing, hiking and camping trips has left him well-versed in just about any outdoors-related topic, and over several years spent working in the trades during his youth, he accumulated a wealth of knowledge about tools and machinery. He’s a travel junkie, a health and fitness enthusiast, and an avid biker.

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