2008's Cast of Reels

This year's ICAST show offered a lot of new reels for bass fishermen, and some of them included special features that are, or may soon become, standard. Certainly this year produced more fast-retrieve models of baitcasters with 7:1 gearing than ever before. Daiwa introduced a 7:1 baitcaster years ago, but few truly realized then how versatile these reels can be; after all, you don't have to reel them fast, but just having that option can be mighty nice.

In spinning reels, the problem of bird nest tangles simply will not go away, but manufacturers now are starting to fight the problem differently. One solution appears to be wider spools, not longer ones, and not smaller — or larger — rod guides. U.S. Reel has done very well with its wide spool design, and this year Zebco tried it, as well. You can bet, with U.S. Reel's success, other companies are going to go in this direction in the years ahead.

Overall, there are some excellent new reels available. Here's a quick look at what you'll soon be seeing:

1. Abu Garcia

Last year's introduction of the Revo baitcaster was a resounding success for Abu Garcia, as well it should have been, and this year's Revo Premier will push the standard even higher. It's the lightest low profile aluminum reel on the market (6.3 ounces), and features a perfect 6.4:1 gear ratio, a Carbon Matrix Drag, magnetic spool braking and five stainless steel ball bearings. It'll hold 140 yards of 12-pound mono, which is more than enough.

Also new in baitcasting here is the Max Series, consisting of three low profilers with slightly different features, but all with 6.2:1 gearing. These are slightly larger than the Revo and suitable for all freshwater fishing. In the spinning department the Cardinal 700 LX Series includes five models for both freshwater and inshore saltwater action. All have 5.1:1 gearing, light aluminum bodies, seven ball bearings, Instant Anti-Reverse, plus an oversized line roller for better spooling. Also new is the Cardinal 600 ALB Series of five open face reels ranging in size to cover both freshwater and light saltwater. (www.abugarcia.com; 712-336-1520)

2. Ardent Reels

New to this Missouri-based reel company is the XS1000 baitcaster, which represents a redesign and refinement of last year's XS model. It's a lightweight, low profile reel on a magnesium frame with centrifugal brakes, 10 ball bearings and 6.3:1 gearing. Also new is the XS600 baitcaster, featuring a magnesium frame, 6.3:1 gear ratio and six ball bearing construction. These reels are made in America and carry an industry-best three-year warranty. For those wanting a spinning reel, look no further than Ardent's S400M open face reel, a medium action reel suitable for both freshwater and light saltwater. Features include four ball bearings, 5:1 gearing, titanium-coated line guide and the company's Strike Saver drag system. (www.ardentoutdoors.com; 660-395-9200)

3. Daiwa

Among the new reels here are the Megaforce MF100TSH, Exceler EXC100H and Strikeforce SF100H baitcasters, each featuring Daiwa's Twitchin' Bar, which, when depressed, retrieves up to 7 inches of line without moving your rod or reel handle. When fishing is really tough and bass don't want much lure action, this is how pros such as Ish Monroe and Mike Iaconelli work their jigs and worms. The Megaforce reel features 7.1:1 high speed gearing, five ball bearings and Magforce magnetic spool control. The Exceler has slightly slower 6.3:1 gearing with eight ball bearings and an aluminum frame, while the Strikeforce has six ball bearings, 6.3:1 gearing and a graphite frame. There are two new Steez reels (right and left handers) weighing just 5.6 ounces, along with two new low profile Team Daiwa Advantage-HSTA reels, each featuring 6.3:1 gearing and 10 ball bearing construction. For spin fishermen looking for something to use either in finesse or heavier techniques, the Team Daiwa Advantage A Series offers six new models that range from ultralight to extra-heavy actions. All have six ball bearings, 4.7:1 gearing and Daiwa's Digigear digital gear design for speed, power and durability. (www.daiwa.com; 562-802-9589)

4. Dam International

"Back to the future" is how this German manufacturer describes its Quick 1000 Series of four open face reels. All are meticulously constructed with nine ball bearings, either 4.8:1 or 4.1:1 gearing, a main brass gear and stainless steel pinion gear, and multidisc click drag, all housed in a lightweight aluminum body. The four Quick Retro spinning reels are similar to the Quick 100 reels but with five ball bearings. (www.daminternational.com; 909-923-2828)

5. Okuma

This year Okuma has redesigned the Avenger spinning reel, which two years ago won the ICAST Best of Show award for best reel/rod combo. They've lightened the body and streamlined it, and added Okuma's Elliptical Oscillation System that lays line down more evenly on the spool. There are six ball bearings, an oiled felt drag system and a heavy-duty brass pinion gear that helps when you have to reel in something heavy. Seven different Avenger models are offered, ranging from ultralight to extra-heavy. For baitcasters, the Virage and Tycir low profile reels deserve a close look. The Virage (available in either red/silver or blue/silver) features one ball bearing, six-pin spool braking and 6.2:1 gearing. The Tycir has three ball bearings, 6.2:1 gearing, a heavy-duty carbonite drag system and a graphite frame. (www.okuma fishing.com; 909-923-2828)

6. Pflueger

Among the new baitcasting reels at Pflueger is the low profile Patriarch Series, available in either 6.4:1 or a faster 7.1:1 gearing. Other features include 11 ball bearing construction for smoothness you can hardly believe, Pflueger's Ultimate Brake System that actually combines centrifugal and magnetic spool slow-down, titanium line guide (more smoothness there, too), carbon fiber drag system and a light aluminum frame. This reel was the author's runner-up choice for best reel at ICAST. The two-reel Asaro Series also makes its debut. This low profiler has eight ball bearings, a titanium line guide, centrifugal braking and thumb bar spool release. These are small reels —one holds 100 yards of 12-pound mono, the other 160 yards. If you're looking for a fast retrieve, consider the new Cetina, with its 7.1:1 gearing. This new low profile reel has 10 ball bearings and a centrifugal brake system, and holds 100 yards of 12-pound line. For spinning fans, the Pflueger Supreme XT Series represents the company's best. Four models are available for 4-, 6-, 8- and 10-pound line; they feature retrieve speeds of 6.2:1 in the three larger reels and 5.2:1 in the ultralight model, titanium line rollers, instant anti-reverse and an easily adjustable front drag. If you prefer a rear drag system, look at the new Trion Series; three light-line models offer seven ball bearing construction, titanium line roller bearing and 5.2:1 gearing. In spincast reels, the new Cetina has five ball bearings, instant anti-reverse and a quick-release spool, and comes filled with 10-pound line. Pflueger describes this reel as being developed for the serious spincast fisherman, and it fits the bill. (www.pfluegerfishing.com; 803-754-7000)

7. Pinnacle

The new Peak baitcasters should get a lot of attention this season, especially among those wanting a fast 7:1 retrieve speed (a 6.2:1 model also is offered). Other features include 10 ball bearing construction, centrifugal braking and a Teflon washer drag. There is also a new 7:1 high speed Pro Select baitcaster, with 10 ball bearings and combined magnetic/centrifugal braking. At ICAST, the new Vision Series of three low profile baitcasters, featuring 13, 11 and 9 ball bearing construction in the different models, probably gained the most attention. Each has solid 6.2:1 gearing and centrifugal braking, and will hold 120 yards of 12-pound mono. (www.pinnaclefishing.com; 803-794-8521)

8. Quantum

New here are the Code and Burst low profile baitcasters. Code offers eight ball bearings, an aluminum frame, Quantum's ACS cast control braking and a choice of 7:1 or 6.2:1 gearing. Burst offers six ball bearing construction and a composite frame, magnetic cast control, a titanium coated line guide, and like Code, a choice of two gear ratios. The new Tour Edition Spinning Series is the company's top of the line; there are four models in sizes 10, 20, 30 and 40, each with 12 ball bearings, a redesigned line management system and a titanium bail. These new Quantum reels have an aluminum body, performance-tuned gears and a ceramic drag system.

Quantum's 7:1 "Burner" reel, introduced several years ago, helped re-popularize high speed gearing, and this year the Accurist Series gets a new model with that same 7:1 ratio. Other features of this reel include five ball bearings, ACS cast control and an aluminum frame. (www.quantum fishing.com; 918-836-5581)

9. Shakespeare

The new Intrepid Series of front drag spinning reels highlights Shakespeare's reel offerings this year. The reels feature four ball bearing construction, instant anti-reverse and a titanium-coated line roller, and each comes with a spare graphite spool. The four reels are designed for lines testing between 4 and 12 pounds. In spincast reels, the Synergy Ultimate Series offers two reels with your choice of 6- or 10-pound line, three ball bearings, a free-floating multidisc drag and titanium pickup pins. (www.shakespeare-fishing.com; 803-754-7000)

10. Shimano

It's been a busy year at Shimano, with a lot of innovations to its extensive reel lineup. For example, the Stella open face spinning reels have been redesigned into the Stella FD Series, which incorporates improvements in castability and line management, and stronger gearing. Gears are now cold forged aluminum, with a hardened brass pinion gear. Shimano's new Propulsion Line Management System has changed the spool design to address better line wrapping as well as increased casting distance, and a new worm gear system also helps lay line down better on the spool. This was the author's best of show reel at ICAST. There are four Stella FD reels in the new series that can handle lines from 6- to 20-pound test. These same features have been included in the popular Stradic and Stradic MG series, as well. If you do a lot of bass fishing with "slack line" lures such as jigs and plastic worms, Shimano's new Core baitcaster should make the job easier. With magnesium frames, the two models offered are lighter, and feature either 6.2:1 or speedier 7:1 gearing and four ball bearing construction. The Core model 100MGFV, which features the fast gearing, is designed for pitching and flipping and also incorporates Shimano's Instagage II thumb bar, which allows you to engage the reel without turning the reel handle. (www.shimano.com; 949-951-5003)

11. U.S. Reel

The new SuperCaster 180 joins last year's successful 230 and 240 SuperCasters. If you're trying to skip a Senko under a dock or drop shot a finesse worm at 30 feet, this reel will handle the task. If you're in thick cover or after toothy critters in light salt, you can easily fish braid with the 180. Constructed of light aluminum, the SuperCaster includes four ball bearings and a stainless steel spool shaft, and comes with a spare spool for a quick line change on the water. If you're not familiar with these reels, their primary feature is a wide spool, not a longer one, that increases casting distance and reduces line twist. Because of this design, the author chose this as one of his top three reel choices at this year's ICAST. (www.usreel.com; 314-962-9500)

13. Zebco

Although the reel is named the Trout Seeker, it will work just fine on bass, too. This ultralight open face not only features three ball bearings, it has a larger-than-normal spool so that even with its 5.2:1 gearing, each turn of the handle brings in as much as 29 inches of line. That translates into fast, which is often what bass want. This spool design also means you can cast farther, too. If you're into ultralight and light tackle, this will be a fun reel to use. (www.zebco.com; 918-836-5581)


Best Overall:

Shimano's Stella FD spinning reels, which include more than three years of extensive study to help make the reels more user-friendly by addressing gear strength, line management and castability. Four models are offered.


Pflueger's Patriarch Series, particularly the 7.1:1 model that offers ultimate versatility in a baitcaster. It's ultra-smooth with 11 ball bearings and incorporates both centrifugal and magnetic brake controls.

Honorable Mention:

U.S. Reel's SuperCaster 180, another spinning reel with a wider spool design to improve casting distance and help eliminate line twist and other problems.

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