The 2011 installment of ICAST, the fishing tackle trade show where all manufacturers pull back the curtains on 2012’s new products, was especially interesting on the reel front. This category saw more innovation this year than the past 10 years of reel advancement added together.
The main trend was making baitcasters lighter and tougher, and Quantum and Abu Garcia led the charge in these categories. As for developing new ways to increase castability and distance, Daiwa’s new offering impressed the masses. But, judge for yourself: Here’s the cream of the ICAST reel crop this year.
For those who want maybe the lightest full-featured baitcaster ever, the Revo MGX might be the ticket; it floats into your sweaty palm at just 5.4 ounces, thanks to a one-piece magnesium alloy frame and carbon fiber sideplates. This is a downsized reel that will be used for finesse baits, and the adjustable centrifugal drag dial will be a big benefit in situations where you’re casting a little shaky head or similar lightweight lure. This is a smaller reel than most of us have been fishing, but how often do you use that extra line capacity anyway? The MGX holds 115 yards of 12-pound mono or 110 yards of 30-pound braid. The reel has higher gear ratios than you might be used to in standard-sized reels because of the smaller spool. The 7.1:1 version retrieves at a rate comparable to the Revo 28IPT, which has a 6.4:1 gearing, and the 7.9:1 model matches the Revo 31IPT, which has 7.1:1 gearing. The line guide is titanium-coated to ensure longevity with braid. The price is $349.95.
The Abu Garcia Revo Premier line introduced two new sizes at ICAST. The reels offer a slow-oscillation design the company says does an exceptional job at keeping braid under control. The PRM 40, the new size of most interest to bassers, will hold 180 yards of 12-pound-test mono or 210 yards of 14-pound-test braid. Weight is 9.0 ounces, gearing 5.8:1, which retrieves 33 inches per crank. The sealed carbon matrix drag system should be more durable and dependable than felt-washer systems, and with 11 bearings, the PRM 40 is an extremely smooth reel. It’s priced at $249.95.
Daiwa’s T3 baitcasters were among the most eye-catching at this year’s show because of their unique “T-Wing” line guide. Line flows freely through the open part of the line guide on the cast, cutting friction and increasing distance, but when the reel is put in gear, the “hood” pops down and forces the line into the lower part of the T so that it winds back on the spool properly. The top-of-the-line, nine-bearing models go for an eye-watering $429.95 because of a high-tech frame and covers that make them lighter and stronger, but for $249.95 you can buy the T3 Ballistic models, which have the same T-Wing technology in a slightly heavier reel. The T3BLS100H size holds 120 yards of 14-pound-test mono, weighs 7.8 ounces, and is available in 6.3:1 or 7.1:1 gearing. The T3 line also includes the Magforce 3-D anti-backlash system, with automatically adjusted braking as well as a switch allowing overall strength of the magnetic field to be adjusted to three levels for quick switching.
In spinning gear, the new Ballistic line features what Daiwa calls an “air-rotor” design — a ventilated spool along with a hollow stainless steel bail gives this reel an incredibly smooth, light feel. The drag is waterproof — no slipping if your reel gets dunked or rained on. The 2500-size holds 170 yards of 8-pound-test mono, weighs 8.6 ounces and goes for $199.95.
Lew’s Tournament Pro Speed Spool is already earning high marks with tournament anglers and it wins the brand's ball-bearing race with 11 — count ’em! The aluminum frame reel is remarkably smooth and exceptionally light, just 6.7 ounces, and the brand new TP1S model has a greater line capacity to hold 150 yards of 12 lb. test. The line guide is titanium coated, and the reel has both magnetic and centrifugal spool control, adjustable via dial on the sideplate. With the newest addition, available models include 5.4:1, 6.4:1 and 7.1:1 gearing, as well as a left-hand option, priced at $199.99.
For $50 less you can own the Tournament Grade model that has 10 ball bearings and most of the other features of the Tournament Pro reel but is slightly heavier at 8.3 ounces. The Laser MG baitcaster line includes magnetic cast control models starting at $79.99 for an eight-ball-bearing reel with titanium line guide. The classic Lew’s low profile is evident in the series, as are the traditional paddle-style cranking knobs.
The company’s Tournament LFS Speed Spin spinning reels start at $89.99, including 10 ball bearings and a carbon fiber body and rotor. The weight of the TSS2000 model is 9 ounces for a reel that holds 210 yards of 8-pound-test mono. Gearing is 4.2:1, giving more power than most.
Among many interesting reels that provided a first hands-on at ICAST was the Quantum EXO line, as in exoskeleton — the property of insect shells that makes them so tough and yet so light. Quantum has trimmed away everything possible in the frames and covers of these reels, paring their PT baitcasting models down to a scant 5.9 ounces by ventilating even the crank handle. The reel frame is aluminum alloy in all load-bearing areas, which the company says makes it 38 percent stronger than a comparable frame in magnesium and six times stronger than graphite. Interior covers are made of composite, but because they’re protected by the strong exterior frame, they are ultrathin and ultralight. The 100-size reel, which carries the powerful gears of the 150 series Quantum line, holds 145 yards of 12-pound mono or 185 yards of 30-pound braid, and comes in gear ratios of 7.3:1 (retrieving a notable 31 inches per crank), 6.6:1 and 5.3:1 for crankbaiters. Price is around $249. Quantum is also offering a similar ventilated-frame technology in its EXO spinning reels, in which the 25-size (line capacity: 160 yards of 20-pound braid) weighs a scant 6.9 ounces. The 30-size, which spools 220 yards of 20-pound braid and retrieves 31 inches per crank, weighs 7.1 ounces. These reels start at about $199.
Shimano’s top-end Chronarch E series baitcaster offers a new 6.5:1 version retrieving 27 inches of line per crank; it should be a good compromise between a deep-cranking reel and a “burner” to rip lipless lures through cover. The reels weigh 7.6 ounces and hold 155 yards of 10-pound-test mono or 120 yards of 50-pound braid. Also available are 7.1:1 and 5.5 gearing models, a slight increase in ratio from similar D models last year. The price is $199.99.
The popular Curado line, now designated the “G” series, also gets the slight increase in gear ratio, with models that retrieve 7.1:1, 6.5:1 and 5.5:1. Like the Chronarch, the weight is 7.6 ounces for the 200-series, which holds 155 yards of 10-pound-test mono or 120 yards of 50-pound braid. A larger 300 series holds 190 yards of 14-pound-test mono. The price on the 200 series is — surprise — a bit lower this year at $159.95.
In spinning reels, the Stradic line has a new double-bearing supported pinion gear that the company says will eliminate pinion gear twist and rotor flex common with many light spinning reels under heavy load. The 2500-series holds 140 yards of 8-pound-test mono and takes in 34 inches per turn thanks to 6.0:1 gears. Weight is 7.4 ounces, price $179.99.