Saltwater Reel Testing – It is ON!

Have you ever wondered how the different reels really stack up?

Sure, I’ve read field testing reports, but that is a very uneven way to really test reels.  Even if you had a great day of fishing, how much of a workout did the reel really get?

What happens when you get the reel wet or drop it in the sand?  Will it still handle the big pulls after you drop it off the table after your 7th Kalik?  All reels work great on the first pull.  How about the 100th?

Well… I figure I’m going to find out and I’m going to tell you all how it goes.

I’ve begun soliciting reels to undergo a battery of tests, all off the water, and I’m going to create a page for those tests and their results.

I’m still working out the kinks, but the initial response from reel makers has been really good.  So far I have positive responses from Sage, Redington (they pulled out, which is a bummer), Orvis, Nautilus, Able, Allen, Tibor, Okuma and Loop (add Ross to the mix) with a flood of other emails and phone calls in to just about every reel maker I could think of with a saltwater reel suitable for an 8 wt. (Hatch Reels became the first to decline today… bummer)

I have zero qualification to be doing this.  I’m just curious and I have this blog as a platform so I’m going for it.

None of the reels will be kept by yours truly, sad to say. I imagined it would be easier to get folks to send me reels if they didn’t know I was just trying to score free gear it didn’t look like I was just trying to score a free gear.

I’m putting the finishing touches on exactly how I’m going to carry these tests out so when the first one gets here I’ll be ready to roll.  I put together the set-up for doing the mechanical pulls and this is the first trial run with my newly acquired Lamson Lightspeed 4 (which is really mine).  I think this is going to work.

In the immortal words of Eric Cantona… “Watch this space”

My wife was quick to point out that not only am I not keeping any of the reels… I won’t be making any money by doing all of this work and I’ll get to foot the shipping to send all the gear back.  Such is life.  I’m still excited

Yeah… I’m going to enjoy this…

I should note, for the reel makers – mechanical pulls with the drill will be done in the range you might expect from a big bone or big Jack… 100-200 feet at a time (I won’t run the drag for 10 minutes straight or anything like that).

Tags: , , , , ,


  1. The only way to truly perform reel tests is out on the salt chuck. So, go fishing!!!!!

  2. Awesome! Now you just need to spill beer on it, drop it in the sand and step on it.

  3. The bonefish of Andros South would provide better field research.

  4. True, but none of those reels will make the trip to Andros. I’ve promised no personal use. Figure most of these guys don’t know me, so, made it more likely to get the reels.

  5. What is on the sharp end of the line? A motor vehicle? If the reel seizes up you will have some wood and glass splinters everywhere! I have a Orvis Vortec IV reel -I don’t suppose you will try out discontinued models? What is the end point of your test? Line breakage, spool seizing, smoking bearings? LOL I like the idea of a bench test though…

  6. Bjorn, have you ever seen the “motorcycle fly reel test” on the net? I can’t really recommend it as one of the procedures that you should include in your testing!!

  7. A drill is at the other end… that seems the best way to get the most pulls. If the reel seizes, I imagine the running line will break… but maybe I should have used 20 pound… hope that doesn’t void the warranty! The point is to see if I can put the reels through a battery of tests and have them come out the other side. Does an expensive reel actually perform better than a cheap one? How many pulls does it take for something to go wrong? At the end I envision three grades… Perfect Pass (no issues), Pass (nearly no problems) and Fail. This is going to be fun. Tibor is in now too.

  8. Great idea. What are you going to set the drags at? It might be difficult to get them all at the same setting.

  9. Hatch is the first to decline.

  10. If I get a scale (which I don’t have) I could set the drags at specific pounds, but right now I’m just doing 50% 75% and so on… that will vary the actual amount of drag, but I’m hoping not by too much. I need to get a scale.

  11. Okay, so your testing a lot of different things. How about the way they set drag. Some reels are good, but lack fine/sensible drag adjustments, it is either thight to closed or very easy/soft.

    And don’t forget the reel on the car roof that drops of at the first turn on the road.
    And if you submerse it in salt water, cleanse them like average and see how they perform after a couple of months. Corrosion takes time.

    Nice testing and good luck!

  12. Great idea. I can’t wait to see the results. How much pull does the drill really have and how fast is it pulling line off the reel? Is it really comparable to the bursts of speed from a big bonefish?

  13. The drill will be able to do it, I’m pretty sure. I got it to 11 mph with a half-dead battery and not on the highest setting. The way the drill works I won’t get consistent pulls, since every pull after the first on a full battery will be a little bit less than the one before it. I think I’m going to be able to get pretty close to 25 for the initial pull though. We’ll see. It’s a grand experiment.

  14. I am new to the site…I am hooked! Reading this reel testing… I am reminded that we (flyfishers) are as much interested in the “stuff” as the fishing. Fishing more Yes of course… The stuff… colors, materials,performance gives us things to do at night and bad weather to entertain ourselves. The things you think about when you are out to dinner with your mother-in-law. If you have been doing this for a while I am sure you have many boxes of stuff…fly tying materials, various lines, rods, reels, hats…etc …and the huge pile of fly’s you have tied but were not perfect, but you could not throw them out… After you have this huge mass of stuff… you tell yourself that it is your collection… your wife is trying to sign you up for a episode of Hoarders on TV… Reel testing with a drill… Great! I am looking for my drill with the variable speed now and will be ready … I have quite a few reels to test… I am looking forward to the test results.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *