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CARPology Reviews

30 years of the Shimano baitrunner

The world’s first free-spool reel is celebrating 30 years at the top

When Shimano unveiled the Baitrunner in 1987, the UK’s carp anglers responded with thousands of orders in the first 30 days of it going on general sale. The reel was like nothing the world had ever seen. It paired an offbeat design with new technologies to make everything from the take to playing more effective. Almost overnight anglers went from using backwind (“churners”) to having a preset clutch system that disengaged the moment you turned the handle. It was revolutionary.

And these early models were the breeding ground for many of the technologies we all take for granted today. Aero Wrap in conjunction with Twin Oscillator (now known as 2 Speed Oscillation) was introduced back in 1990 and resulted in the best line lay available. Dynabalance and the iconic Double Handles were introduced in 1993. Hypergear in 2000, Anti-Rust Shield Bearings (S A-RB) in 2003 and AR-C Spools in 2010.

The original Baitrunner (a trademark owned by Shimano – hence why everyone has to use the term ‘Free-Spool’) looked similar to the Baitrunner B of today, and initially there were three models in the range. Over the thirty years that have followed, Shimano have gone on to release close to 150 different models – each one slightly better and more fine-tuned each year.

Introductions such as the Big Baitrunner Longcast in 2000 and the compact and pocket-friendly ST’s in 2009 prove just how versatile the Baitrunner system can be, and to date there are eight models in the range which cover every angling discipline.

If it doesn’t say Baitrunner, it’s not the ‘reel’ thing!

The Double Handle Baitrunner Aero GT – a reel which smashed all previous sales records

The current range

Each of the eight models in the current Baitrunner range have been specifically designed with a purpose in mind.

Baitrunner X-Aero is the latest addition to the family and these reels feature the classic compact body but are fitted with spools that are 30% larger in circumference. This vastly improves casting distance and drag performance. Five models are available (2500-10000) with the 8000 and 10000 models featuring single handles, creating greater winding power.

The classic XT is as high-class internally as it is externally. 2-Speed Oscillation provides excellent Aero Wrap II line lay and the hybrid aluminum body provides a lightweight but strong outer shell. There are three models available in the range: 6000, 8000 and 10000.

The new Baitrunner DL incorporates many of the features and technologies found on a reel twice its price. The popular mid-priced Baitrunner not only benefits from an array of top quality components but some seriously stunning updated cosmetics. Four models are available, two front drag (2500 and 4000) and two rear drag (6000 and 10000).

2013 saw the launch of the Big Baitrunner Ci4 XTA-A Longcast – a real that featured all of Shimano’s finest tech

The ST offers Shimano Baitrunner reliability at an affordable price. The ST benefits from Shimano features developed for other reels meaning it is still packed with top features such as AR-C spools, Varispeed Oscillation and Power Roller. The ST is available in the same classic Baitrunner sizes as the new DL.

Baitrunner Longcast bridged the gap between small compact Baitrunners and supersized big pit reels. Powerful, workhorse reels full of the best Shimano technical innovations, these reels offer the effortless Baitrunner technology to a casting reel capable of tackling the biggest of waters and the toughest of fish. Medium and Large versions are available in both standard and with Ci4+ technology.

And finally, with the Ci4+ technology, this now really takes the Longcast reels to a new level, providing massive weight savings and outstanding casting performance. Considering they are the only Baitrunner’s featuring Shimano’s X-Ship Gearing, it is easy to see why these reels have won so many awards.

So: thirty years of the Shimano Baitrunner. Wow. Of course over those three decades there have some more successful models than others – and we guess anyone over the age of 30 will have owned a set of the original Aero 3500 or Double Handle 5010 – but this current collection of reels is completely off the scale when it comes to tech and performance. The team at Shimano should be knighted for Services To Reels. We salute you, Shimano.

Shimano’s Baitrunners of today: compact, exceptionally well made, functional and will last a lifetime