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John Wilson 4000 Baitmaster

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John Wilson 4000 Baitmaster

by Ken Franklin​

When I started trying, albeit unsuccessfully to catch Barbel I used normal fixed spool reels without the baitrunner facility. One of them was an ancient Mitchell 300a borrowed from my Pike fishing tackle. They performed well enough but on the odd occasion I had a barbel bite I did not like the impact of the ferocity of the bite upon my rod because there was no give apart from the stretch in the line. I just didn't want a Barbel to pull it in, ever. So I looked around for baitrunners. I've still got a pair of Daiwa 4050's from about 12 years ago so my first thought was a Daiwa. I have an Okuma which works well but I wanted something new. In the end I picked the John Wilson 4000 (pictured albeit well used, on the right).


The reel specs are: 3 ball and 1 roller bearing, large line roller, gear ratio of 5.14:1, 1 spare spool, line capacity 250yds of 12lb mono. The reel came on to the market in 2004 at £40, but soon dropped to £30. I bought the 4000 in preference to the 3000 and 5000. It just seemed right for Barbelling, without going for a more expensive reel, like one of the Shimanos. I rejected the Shimano because in my experience although they could be the best reel out, many anglers still end up buying new ones every few years. They often want the newer model, so if you are going to do that then spending £50-£60 a pair every few years is more economical for me.

My first impression of the reel is that it looks pretty much like every other non-Shimano or Daiwa reel. After all most of the reel bodies run off the same production line and receive maker specific detailing afterwards. In comparison to the low-end Okuma reels I found the Wilson reel to appear sturdier and less plastic. One season on, both reels remain as sturdy. The handle and spindle remain nice and tight after a full season's use. The front drag remains as sensitive and adjustable as when I purchased the reels. The green paint has worn very well.


My only criticism of the reel is merely a niggle I often have when engaging the bait running facility. When I cast out I have the anti-reverse off. Once the bait has settled it goes on. Then I want to have the line running parallel to the rod, so I aim to make sure it is. I do this because I want to eliminate any angle apart from where the line goes around the bail arm roller. However, occasionally the bait running facility will not engage. I guess this is something related to the internal alignment of the reel. Therefore, to correct this I have to turn the anti-reverse off again turn the handle until the bait running facility engages and then turn the anti-reverse back on. Perhaps other reels do this too, but I find it annoying.

Apart from their function to allow a running fish to take line the Wilson reel has come up trumps for me in another unusual way. I had an incident involving a mink and a duck this season. The mink was on the prowl near me and it swam up into a group of ducks. They reacted by flying off in all directions. As this happened about 6 feet from me I was shocked too. What happened next made me glad of the bait running facility. One of the ducks in it's blind panic shot through my line and took it about 6 feet from the end of my rod in the middle of flight. The bait runner engaged and line peeled out for about 25 yards, at which point the duck freed itself. I wound the line in and retackled the rod, in case the shock on the line had weakened it. Now if I'd been using a normal reel I may have lost my rod, it could have snapped the tip or the line, or it could have severely injured/killed the duck. This same facility has also been great in floodwater fishing. Somehow on the Taff, people think it is fun to chuck logs, traffic cones and the like in. On the odd occasion when the river is really flowing these objects foul your line. The bait running facility saves you losing a rod. In my experience the speed of the object can beat your response time in grabbing the rod, so the baitrunner pays dividends. Although this is a general comment about all baitrunners.

The reels are good for starting out or as a work horse tool. I have caught Barbel, Chub, Carp, Bream, Grayling and Pike on them this season. They are great for the rocky banks I often end up fishing. Then I don't worry about any damage, which I would if using an expensive Shimano. The current on-line price is between £25-30

Ken (kenjiblaster25) Franklin
April 2006
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