Feb 11

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).

Dec 10

The World of Bonefishing Reels

If you have, oh, $24,000 or $25,000 and some free time, I’d like you to spend a few months testing reels. Sound good?  Great.  Here’s what I’m looking for. The world of gear is… well… full… it is full of makers and brands and marketing hype and really, really short on objective comparisons.  If you were to take all the bonefish-ready reels out there right now, I count 69, the price-tag would come to $23,264 (before taxes).  There are reels under $50 and there are reels over $800 and the only thing you have to guide you in purchasing is name-recognition and brand reputation… which, in my mind comes down to marketing.  What kind of performance do you actually get from the $800 reel?  What kind of risk are you running with that $150 reel?

I wish Consumer Reports would pick this up and run with it, but I doubt that will happen.  I wish Fly Fishing in Salt Waters or Fly Fisherman would do this, but that’s equally unlikely.

Here are some tests to put these reels through…

Durability –

  • Drops – That 3 foot drop off a table would be good to see tested.
  • Sand – How does it work if you drop it in the sand, just for a second.
  • Salt – Well… there is a lot out there and it is generally bad for gear.
  • Big game pulls – If the thing breaks on a 10 pound bone… that would be good to know ahead of time.
  • Heat – Sitting in the sun… heating up… might be bad for some reels, I’d guess.

Performance –

  • Smoothness of the drag – speaks for itself, really.
  • start-up inertia – this gets talked about a lot… I’m not sure how that is measured though.

I want to see this done.  I do wonder if gear makers would actually want their gear tested in some kind of objective way.  What if the $200 reel and the $700 reel are identical in terms of performance and durability?  Maybe the gap is huge.  Maybe it would be really clear.  Maybe the winners would be clear and the cork vs. carbon fiber debate could be settled.  Of course, Middle East peace could break out too.

Field testing is just never going to do it.  A week or a month or a season with a reel doesn’t really tell you anything because you have no real comparison… what you did in that week or month or year didn’t happen to the other 68… you didn’t put them through the same things.

So… if you find an extra, oh, $25K sitting around… let me know.