Daiwa Free Swimmer BR Review


Spinning reels with dual drag systems have been around since the late 1980s; the secondary drag system allows fish to take the bait and run before setting the hook, making them perfect for straylining. Daiwa NZ has just released its Free Swimmer BR (Bite’N’Run), mixing this well-proven style of reel with some cool new-age tech.

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While I cut my fishing teeth lobbing cut baits down big berley trails, I must confess my contemporary fishing preferences lean towards lure or livebait fishing. But change is as good as a holiday, so when I was handed the Daiwa Free Swimmer BR, I gladly accepted the challenge. My first impression of the Free Swimmer was that it felt solidly built for a spinning reel retailing at $299.

Keen anglers quickly learn that spin reels with flimsy mechanisms simply don’t last very long, but the Free Swimmer features a lot of sturdy componentry that you would find in reels with higher prices. The price point is comparable with the more well-established brands in the bite and-run arena, but the Daiwa has the benefit of a more modern design.

Created in a collaboration between Daiwa USA, Daiwa Australia, Daiwa NZ and Japanese engineers, the Free Swimmer BR has been five years in the making. The Bite’N’Run drag tension is set by adjusting the dial on the bottom of the reel, and it features a good drag range to suit your style of fishing or target species. The Free Swimmer has a carbon composite frame with rubber seals to help keep that nasty salt away from the internal mechanisms.

Along with 5/1 bearings, a range of proven Daiwa features are incorporated into the reel, including Air Rotor, ATD Drag, and Tough Digigear. With a decent spool capacity (300m of PE 5 for the 10000 model; 300m of PE 4 for the 8000 model) and a solid 10kg of drag, this would also make a good all-rounder set for occasional or beginner anglers. It could capably handle bottom fishing, slow-jigging, livebaiting, casting, and of course straylining.

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Note that I don’t believe in the concept of ‘all-rounder’ fishing sets, but if I had to choose one it would probably be a spin reel with dual drag in this size bracket! One of the only downsides to dual drag reels is that there are more parts to maintain. Our test reels were matched with the Daiwa VIP 8705-BW 7’ 15-40lb E-Glass rod.

The VIP name speaks for itself, with the fiberglass rods having a reputation for tip sensitivity in conjunction with serious grunt. Having missed my initial chance to test the Free Swimmer with Fishing News Managing Director Grant Blair in the Coromandel, a boat review on the new Legacy L35 with skipper George Bourke provided an ideal opportunity. Although the conditions were miserable (to say the least!), the beauty of straylining is that you can tuck up out of the wind, and we found a nice reefy nook in about 12m of water with a good current flowing past. With the berley deployed, it didn’t take long to pique some interest from the residents.

For the soft pilchard baits, we found that light tension on the Bite’N’Run drag was best. However, with the hardier jack mackerel, we wound the tension up slightly – ensuring we knew when a solid fish had properly taken the bait. The Bite’N’Run drag is simple to disengage with a small turn on the reel handle and it did not falter on any strikes (although we certainly missed out due to human error once or twice)

It was a very fun session; so fun, in fact, we almost forgot about the wind (gusting 35 knots) and the rain! Our test Free Swimmers were perfect for the job and were nicely complemented by the VIP rods. The sets were easy to cast, ergonomic to handle, and sensitive on the bite.

Most importantly, they proved themselves adept at pulling nice snapper out from the gnarly terrain. We eventually discovered that still-twitching jack mackerel were the key to unlocking some moocher action, and there was only one hard luck story courtesy of yours truly (the fish bit through the trace rather than busting me off… honestly).

With the Free Swimmer BR, I think Daiwa has thrown a serious contender into the ring to match, or even better, the more established offerings from other brands.


December 2022 - Nick Jones
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

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