Reviews

Five Reels to Consider for 2008

Posted on February 12, 2008

Five Reels to Consider for 2008 (Guest Review)
by Bill Schultz

It’s finally feeling like spring here in Wisconsin. It has been a long winter with most of the state breaking snowfall records. I can’t wait to get on open water for some nice smallies.

Hopefully having this review article up earlier will give you information you can use as you look at new reels to add to your arsenal. As I’ve noted in past reviews, I am careful with my equipment, so these reels are used, but not abused. However, all four of the spinning reels in this article took some major dunkings. The spinning reels were used exclusively during 100 hours of fishing on 25 days and helped me catch over 1,500 smallies from Aug. 18 to Oct. 25. I feel this gives me plenty of ammunition to write this article.

As always, these are just my opinions. You may or may not agree. I try to give you information you can use in your decision-making process. I’m sure some of you have read my other reviews and wondered about things you experienced that I did not. Remember everyone treats their equipment differently and sometimes, even a good reel can have a problem. A good review simply means the reviewer liked the reel. I’m picking reels to review that I think I will like and reels you will like and might want to consider for your smallie fishing.

I hope you enjoy the article and can take some useful information from it.

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Abu Garcia Cardinal 701LX – $109.99

I wrote about the Abu Garcia Cardinal 801 and 802 in my last review and was looking forward to giving a good test to the “new” Cardinal 701LX. This is going to sound a lot like my review of the Cardinal 801 because I couldn’t tell any difference between the two reel series. On paper the 801 has nine HPCR (High Performance Corrosion Resistant) stainless steel bearings compared with seven in the 701LX, and the 701 LX is $20 less at $109.99.

The size of the 701LX is just right for the type of river fishing I do. It has a compact size, is very light at 8.1 ounces and handles 110 yards of 6-pound test diameter line. As with the 801 I spooled the 701LX with 6-pound Silver Thread Excalibur and fished it on a St. Croix 6’6” light-action Legend Elite, along with a medium-light 6’6” Premier and 7’ Legend Elite. As noted in my opening, I fished the reel on numerous days, catching a ton of smallies, and it took a few dunkings with absolutely no problems, and is as smooth as when it came out of the box. I mostly fished it using the Rebel Teeny-Wee Crawfish and some swimming a 5” Kalin Lunker Grub on a jig.

I primarily backreel with bigger fish, but for purposes of this review relied on the drag more than usual. It’s very smooth and even throughout the settings. The backreel switch is on the bottom of the reel, but still easy to locate and isn’t too small. The grip knob on the handle is comfortable with a soft feel, and as I’ve noted in the past, I love the thread-on handle. This makes it so easy to break the reel down for storage. The tubular bail is compact and has the light feel I really like. Daiwa first introduced this type of bail with its AirBail. The gear ratio is a little slower than I like at 5.1:1, but fine for the lures I use this size reel with.

In the 801/802 review last year, I noted that I’d fished with and written about a few Abu Garcia spinning reels and felt the 800 series was the first Abu Garcia spinning reel to fall into the “higher-end” classification. The 701LX can be included in that statement. I like it enough that I bought the 702LX, which is perfect for those of you who like a reel that handles more line. You jump to 9.6 ounces and it’s rated for 185 yards of 6-pound diameter line. Color is a personal preference, but I do like the light gray of the 701LX. It looks like Abu Garcia has another winner in its spinning reel line-up with the Cardinal 701LX. www.abu-garcia.com

Features:
• Overbuilt for added strength
• Stainless Steel Main shaft and all SS hardware for saltwater corrosion resistance
• All aluminum construction, including body, body cover, rotor, rotor arm lever and handle arm
• Waterproof Carbon Matrix Drag – patented sealed and dual bushing supported
• 7 High Performance Corrosion Resistant (HPCR) stainless steel bearings
• Stainless steel components
• Pound test/yards rating – 4/140, 6/110, 8/80
• Line recovery per handle turn – 24” (701LX) and 27” (702LX)

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Team Daiwa Advantage-A 2000 – $139.95

I’ve had the pleasure of spending quite a few hours with the Team Daiwa TD Sol and Tierra. I’m still using both reels and they continue to perform great. The Advantage-A has a very similar feel and from a price standpoint falls between the $199.95 Sol and $114.95 Tierra at $139.95.

Overall the 2000 series of Daiwa reels is my favorite size because it handles all three line diameters I use. It’s rated for 135 yards of 6-pound diameter line, 110 yards of 8-pound and both 4 and 10- pound just fine. I would classify this reel as perfect for light and medium-light duty, and it only weighs 8.7 ounces. It also works great at the medium level, which I’ve done many times with 2000 series. If you want more line capacity you can jump to the 9.6 ounce 2500 series that’s rated for 170 yards of 8-pound diameter line.

I fished this reel on St. Croix medium-light 6’6” and 7’ Legend Elites and also fished a few days with it on an Avid 6’6” medium. I spooled it with Power Pro 20/6 as well as 6-pound Excalibur, but primarily used the Power Pro. Much of what I used this reel for was swimming a Kalin 5” Lunker Grub on a jig. Interestingly, my longest smallie (21.5”) came in 2006 testing the TD Sol and my heaviest Milwaukee River smallie (4 pounds) came on the Advantage-A.

The author hoists a 4-lb Milwaukee River smallie, caught using the Advantage-A.

Not that it matters in performance, but I think this is one of the best looking reels I’ve seen, with its medium gray color and dark red accents. The 9.2 ounce weight is great and as with both the TD Sol and Tierra, I “love” the compact Air Bail. Having the “large” anti-reverse switch on the back of the reel makes it easy to locate when you want to backreel with a big smallie. I prefer a little faster gear ratio than the 4.7:1 for getting that lure back after it leaves the strike zone, but these have been such great reels to fish that I don’t really think about the gear ratio while using them. The drag is very smooth and tightens evenly as the drag knob is turned. The grip knob is noticeably comfortable.

This is another super reel from Daiwa that you river smallie “enthusiasts” should love. As noted earlier I gave this reel a few very substantial dunkings and it’s also as smooth today as the day it came out of the box. Certainly the washable design with the sealed and waterproof drag has something to do with this. Last year I noted it was hard to tell the difference between the Tierra and the TD Sol. For those of you who have drooled over the TD Sol, you may want to consider the Advantage-A.

Features:
• Six ball bearing system including two CRBB corrosion resistant bearings and roller bearing
• Lightweight, rugged computer die-cast aluminum alloy body & cover
• ABS Machined Aluminum Spool
• Digigear digital gear design for speed, power and durability
• Washable design with sealed, waterproof drag
• Air Bail tubular stainless bail, strong yet light
• Lifetime Bail Spring
• Titanium-Nitride ball bearing line roller
• Twist Buster II line twist reduction
• Infinite Anti-Reverse
• Free spare ABS aluminum spool
• Pound-test/yards rating – 6/135, 8/110, 10/90
• Line recovery per handle turn – 24” (2000) and 28” (2500)

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Daiwa Regal XiA 2000 – $49.95

Until a few years ago, the Regal was a staple in the Daiwa line-up. Well, it’s back for 2008 in a new version that retails for only $49.95. After fishing this reel quite a few hours and dunking it a few times, I like it.

I fished this reel on St. Croix medium-light and medium 6’6” and 7’ Premiers, Avids and Legend Elites. I’ve always liked when a company provides two of the “same” spools for a reel. Daiwa has done this with the Regal XiA, including a second ABS aluminum spool, which is unusual at this price point. I spooled one with 14/6 Fireline Crystal and the other with 6-pound Excalibur, although I primarily used the Fireline. I used the Regal for the Booyah Pond Magic Buzzbaits I’ve begun to have great success with, the Kalin grub on a jig and YUM Dingers.

The Regal XiA is very smooth and has a little faster 5.3:1 gear ratio, which I like. It’s not quite as light as I like, but by no means heavy at 10.2 ounces. The handle isn’t the screw on type, but a one-touch folding style, which I also appreciate for easy storage. The grip knob on the handle has a good feel, but not as soft as I like. At the bargain price it doesn’t have the Air Bail, but the light wire bail is very compact and has a good feel. The ant-reverse switch is on the bottom of the reel, but big enough to find quickly. The drag is super smooth and adjusts evenly.

I put plenty of hours on this reel, dunked it a few times and can tell you that at $49.95 this is a solid reel. www.daiwa.com.

Features:
• Ten ball bearings, plus roller bearing
• Digigear digital gear system
• Infinite Anti-Reverse
• Twistbuster line twist reduction
• Chrome-plated one-touch folding handle
• Free spare ABS aluminum spool
• Pound-test/yards rating – 6/135, 8/110, 10/90
• Line recovery per handle turn – 28”

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Shimano Saros 1000 – $129.99

Like many of you, I’ve spent hundreds of hours wading smallie rivers and have only taken a complete dunking a few times. And, I might add, it doesn’t make me happy. Last fall on the Milwaukee River as I was winding up a nice three hour wade, I stumbled over a boulder in the clear water, lost my balance and went completely under in about 3 feet of water. The Saros on a St. Croix Legend Elite ended up staring at me from the river bed. My new Motorola Razr wasn’t in a plastic bag and was ruined. Fortunately my nice Canon camera “was” in a bag. I picked up the rod and reel, which were no worse for the dunking. The reel showed no signs of binding that day or the next day when I was back on the river. Some on this site have commented about this with other Shimano reels. You can take solace that I didn’t experience it with this reel that took a few more dunkings over the two months of fishing.

The Saros takes over the price point the Stradic was at. Having fished many hours with the last two versions of the Stradic 1000, I like the Saros better and think you may feel the same way. Along with the Saros, the redesigned Stradic, Sustain and Stella all have the “new” Paladin Gear Durability Enhancement and Propulsion Line Management System. Relying on its industry-leading cold-forging manufacturing capabilities, Shimano’s Paladin Gear Durability Enhancement uses a special cold-forged aluminum drive gear and a hardened brass pinion gear. This process makes gears with less metal for reduced weight, while still being stronger and more durable than even an all stainless steel drivetrain.

The most obvious component of Propulsion Line Management System is the spool lip designed to prevent backlashes and wind knots from forming. Line also flows off the spool in smaller loops meaning less line slap on the stripper guide, which when combined with the long stroke spool design, provides longer casting distance due to less friction. The Propulsion System also includes the SR-Concept one-piece bail wire to reduce friction and tangles, a twist-reducing Power Roller III line roller, a bail trip mechanism that easily trips the bail by turning the handle, and the S-Arm Cam to keep the line in contact with the line roller during slack line fishing. The beveled spool lip design certainly makes sense for longer casts and performed great for me. Also, I spooled the reel to the point where the lip angles forward, which is what Shimano recommends.

I used 6-pound Excalibur on the Saros 1000 with 6-pound Excalibur and fished it on a 6’6” light action Legend Elite and both 6’6” and 7’ medium-light Legend Elites. I primarily used these set-ups with the Rebel Teeny Wee-Crawfish, but also the Mepps Aglia Streamer and swimming the grub on a jig. Like past 100o series reels it’s rated for 110 yards of 6-pound diameter line. The Saros 1000 is incredibly light at 7.1 ounces and has a fairly speedy 5.6:1 gear ration. Out of the box I noticed the handle is shorter than past 1000 models. It measures about 3/8th of an inch shorter than similar sized reels. I like the look and how it functions. If you have the Bass Pro Shops 2008 Master Fishing Catalog, you can see the different Shimano spinning reel handles on the Handle Chart.

The backreel switch has been moved from the back of the reel on the last Stradic model to under the reel, like the Symetre. And, like the Symetre, it’s large enough to find quickly. The handle knob on the Saros is comfortable as you would expect from Shimano. The drag is also typical of the Shimano reels I’ve fished. It’s very good, but most of the adjustment comes when the drag knob is tightened almost all the way with adjustments coming in small increments at the end of the tightening process. A nice change is the screw on handle, which you’ll also find on the redesigned Stradic.

In an excellent review on the “new” Stradic 1000 that Brian Quisenberry posted September 7, 2007 on the Smallie Board, he used the word “trippy” to describe the bail on his new Stradic. On all the Stradics I’ve used and now on the Saros, the bail is slightly “trippy”. This means it’s somewhat light to the tough and on a rare occasion may close during a “very” hard cast. I’ve never thought this was a problem because it happens infrequently.

As noted earlier I prefer this reel over the last version of the Stradic and was totally impressed with it during many hours on the water. For those of you considering the new Stradic, you should be sure to take a look at the Saros, which is $30 less. I liked it so much I bought another 1000 and a 2500. The 2500 adds line capacity for certain fishing situations, has a 6:1 gear ration and only weighs 9.9 ounces. I think you’re going to be as impressed with the Saros as I was. www.fish.shimano.com.

Features:
• Paladin Gear Durability Enhancement
• Propulsion Line Management System
• Aluminum frame and spool
• Shielded A-RB bearings
• Fluidrive II
• Dyna-Balance
• Super-Stopper II
• Machined Aluminum handle
• Aluminum Spare spool
• Maintenance port
• Repairable Clicker
• Pound-test/yards – 2/270, 4/140, 6/110, 8/80 (educated guess)
• Line recovery per handle return – 28” (1000) and 34” (2500)

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Abu Garcia Pro Max Baitcaster – $79.99

During the past six years I’ve had the pleasure of fishing with and writing reviews on a few Abu Garcia baitcast reels. This has included a couple of low-profile models and a couple of the round models. All of these reels were priced between $100 and $160. For 2008 Abu Garcia has introduce their MAX series of low-profile reels. These include the $79.99 Pro Max, $59.99 Silver Max and $49.99 Black Max. The difference in each is the number of bearings. The Pro Max has seven ball bearings plus one roller bearing. The Silver Max has six plus one and the Black Max has five plus one.

I wanted to see how this “value” reel compared to others I’ve fished. I did not have a chance to fish the Pro Max as much as the spinning reels, but did put a dozen hours on it over three days of fishing last fall on Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin. I spooled it with 12-pound Exalibur and used it on both a 6’6” and 7’ medium St. Croix Legend Tournament rods.

The Pro Max and all the MAX reels weigh a light 7.9 ounces. The reel was very easy to set-up for the types of lures I was using, which included spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, some jerkbaits and I even used it a little with tubes. I fish spinning gear more, so am always happy when I find a reel that casts easily without being too touchy with backlashes. During the three days I only had one backlash and that came at the end of the third day and was while casting pretty much into the wind. This was more my fault than the reels.

I didn’t catch a bunch of fish, but among the fish I did catch were a five pound northern and 4 pound largemouth. The drag worked great as I purposely backed off on it to see how smooth it was on the two larger fish. The MagTrax Brake System is very easy to operate with one dial that allowed me to tune my casting for a variety of situations. The grip paddles, like all the Abu Garcia reels, are very comfortable. Abu Garcia does a nice job with fit and finish and the gold color makes for a good looking reel.

The reel wasn’t put through any torture tests, but during the hours I fished with it the performance was very pleasant and I’m looking forward to using it more this season. www.abu-garcia.com.

Features:
• Seven ball bearings and one roller bearing
• Precision machined Duragear brass gears
• Power Disk Drag System
• MagTrax Brake System – Swedish Engineered
• Wiffle spool
• Cam lock
• ADS spool
• Anti-distortion spool
• 7.9 ounces & 6.2:1 gear ratio
• Pound-test/yards rating – 12/160
• Line recovery per handle return – 28.3 inches

I hope you enjoyed the article and can use the information I shared with you. As always feel free to email or message me with any questions you might have. And, remember, these are just my opinions.

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Copyright © 2008 Bill Schultz
Published on River Smallies.com with permission.

Bill Schultz lives in Wisconsin and is a member of the St. Croix Pro Staff and sponsored by a variety of other companies. He is a popular sports show speaker and contributing writer for this site, various outdoor magazines.

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