Important note: This article is now 18 months old, and the information in it is outdated. A new edition is coming early 2017, and in the mean time feel free to contact me with any questions.

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What reel; 2015 Edition




This article goes through the thought process I personally use when making a recommendation to a reader. With the volume of email I receive continuing to grow steadily, my reply time is now averaging 1-2 days, so this page might help you find an answer instantly instead of having to wait. Unlike my "Lists" which purely look at the reel itself and nothing else, this article takes into consideration other elements that affect one's decision to buy as you'll see reading through. I'll try to publish a similar article once a year to keep up with the changes on the market, and as always you are welcome to contact with any questions or thoughts if you don't find your answers here.

I pondered if I should categorise this article by price range, reel size, fishing technique, or reel type, then I decided that no matter which way I go there is going to be overlapping between categories and certain reels would appear more than once in different places. Therefore the sections you'll see here will not be actual categories in the strict definition, and I would advise you to read the whole thing not to miss a relevant bit about a reel that's mentioned in more than one place.

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Lower end, standard reels
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By "standard" I mean the general configuration of a spinning reel that is neither a long spool casting reel nor a free-lining type. These will have their own sections further down.

One misconception I always see is people thinking that when a reel is among the top 5 on my list of budget reels, it means that it's a high performance product. This is not the case. I choose the best available ones in this particular market slice, but ultimately all the reels remain low-end ones of the most basic nature built using the least costly materials. Thus one should always keep that in mind and have realistic expectations when they spend $60-$100 dollars on a reel.

Penn used to have some nice offerings in the $70-$90 range such as the Sargus and the better Battle, but they revamped the lineup to create what for all intents and purposes are the same reels but for more money. "Conflict" and "Battle 2" are examples of these reels which realistically offer nothing more than their discontinued cheaper predecessors. If somehow you can get a Conflict or a Battle 2 at a 25%-30% discount then that would be a fair deal, otherwise Fin-Nor's Lethal 40/60/80 are of the same quality as these Penn reels but for less money. The Penn Fierce remains a somehow good value if you are looking to spend even less and know the limitations of the felt drag washers in it. Nothing else Penn makes in this entry level is of value in my view. 

The above should cover all the "modern designed" reels worth considering in this lower end slice. There are no offerings from the likes of Okuma or Daiwa that I care for in this area. Moving away from modern designs, some older designs offer superior durability around the same prices, but at the expense of less braid friendliness and you'll have to settle for the ratchet type anti-reverse (not instant). These reels are Daiwa's Black Gold and SS Tournament, and Banax's SX reels. When you fish these older reels with braid, always make sure that the line roller still rotates freely and give it proper lubing during maintenance. The line roller on these reels could stop turning, and if this happens the braid will cut through it like a saw causing damage to both the reel and the braid itself.


Huh?? Well, the finished article turned out to be a solid bulk of text that could be tedious to read with just a couple of images, so I went back to break the text with more photos. Unlike the reviews, I'm not typing this while working on a reel in front of me, so I just collected random photos of absolute nonsense. This one is me smoking a Cuban cigar as I was typing on my computer. My American friends can't get this ultra-yummy stuff because of the embargo, so I'm kinda rubbing it in your face 

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Mid range, standard reels
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As with most other products, mid range is always the most populated, so bear with me as this one is going to extend a bit.

This time I'll begin with the older designs to get them out of the way. There are two very good reels in this category that I frequently recommend. The first is the Fin Nor Offshore, which was quite faulty when it first appeared, but improvements were made and eventually it became an excellent value. It's built for sheer strength with stainless steel drive and pinion gears, overbuilt frame, high capacity spool, and a very capable drag. On the down side it has the traditional ratchet anti-reverse (not instant), it's heavy, not smooth, and generally a clunky reel. It's recommended for those who want to move on to heavier fishing on a budget, while fully understanding that they must make concessions and accept the downsides. The Offshore is the strongest spinning reel available under $300. The biggest one retails for $170, but it can be bought new for around $145 if you look around.

The other excellent mid range reel of an older design is the newly re-introduced Penn Z series. Both the 704Z and 706Z are built to original specifications including the very durable brass and stainless steel worm gear drive, and I personally feel that the metallurgy of these new reels is better than that of the old ones. These reels are recommended for those generally targeting weaker saltwater fish such as bass, snook, and bluefish, and they should be fine for the most common freshwater applications except for specialised jobs and of course big game such as Catfish or Nile-Perch which needs a different breed of reels. Also due to their simplicity, the Z reels work well for surf fishing where the reel would be heavily drenched. Unlike more complex reels that survive this sort of thing by being fully sealed, the Penn Z would let water get inside but it's easily maintained in 2 minutes by removing side cover and and spraying everything with solvents/cleaners followed by lube. It also helps to pack the gearbox with grease so they won't need that routine after each trip. These reels should serve you for a long time when used within their limits, but they are not designed for strength or to tackle large or hard fighting fish. They do have the old ratchet type anti-reverse, but this time the ratchet engages drive gear, which is an even older design. This means no heavy loading or the gears would deform since the point of gear meshing bears the stress. Use them smart and they would last for decades.

Moving on to modern designs, but first, let's break the text


One of the best movies never made!

Okuma offers a few spinning reels that I personally believe are hyped to appear as heavy duty offshore reels, and that is not correct. Any Raw or Salina no matter what generation number found after the model's name is inherently the same as the VSystem I reviewed, only with better drag washers and fancy handles. That doesn't mean they are bad. They are alright reels that work, but they belong in the same class as the lower end Penns that I like from the previous category. Light to medium work from shore and pier, to medium inshore work at most.

The Azores is another reel that is even more hyped, and you've probably seen it being compared to the Saragosa SW. This is a bogus comparison since the Azores is no different to the previously mentioned Okumas. The "electrolysis stopping system" in the Azores is a classic case of an answer to a question no one asked. They use fancy words to describe a setup that prevents galvanic corrosion, but the important question is; how many Penns, Fin-Nors, Daiwas, or Shimanos have you seen corroded for the lack of a similar system? So while it's not a poor man's Saragosa, it's a nice entry level reel that belongs to the previous category as well. It's not very expensive though, so buy it if you personally think the ergonomics are worth the extra, but expect the performance and durability of the most basic reels.

Again, Daiwa fails to produce anything worthy in this category. I haven't seen a Daiwa reel in this market slice that isn't bettered by competition. I will particularly mention the "Saltist" since it's frequently suggested as a mid priced high speed popping reel. The Saltist is essentially a reel that is bad both in design and execution. The handle is attached to the reel by an annoying hexagonal shaft design instead of a proper screwed shaft, and that requires re-tightening every once in a while. The gearing is soft and the reels develop a grinding feel after some use, the line roller tends to fuse and stop rotating, and the anti-reverse has reliability issues. This reel has been hovering right on the borders of my "Black List", yet it stays out by only a hair. There is a different "Saltist Nero" that's being introduced in some markets, but I am still to test one so my previous words apply only to the regular Saltist.

It's safe to say that Shimano almost dominates this segment. The Stradic FJ is a brilliant reel that's smooth, has a nice drag, on the lighter side, and is built with quality internals. It's one of my most recommended reels for different fishing disciplines where the target fish is of a size that's appropriate to the reel's abilities, and it won't be drenched or submerged. The Stradic FJ will be discontinued soon.

We then have the Spheros SW, which is built stronger than the Stradic FJ, but in addition it's fully sealed. Actually this is the cheapest fully sealed reel available from a mainstream brand. It's heavy and has that new parallel foot which I've explained in recent reviews, but this doesn't take away from the excellent value it represents. The Saragosa SW is the big sister of the Spheros SW and is built almost identically, except that it has a more capable drag for those going after larger pelagics short of bluefin Tuna. It's also fully sealed. Speaking of that, I've heard from readers who were told by misinformed Shimano representatives that these reels aren't waterproof and that they never claimed that, and that only the Stella SW is waterproof. Well, here is a capture from Shimano's own 2015 catalogue just for kicks
 

The reels are waterproof indeed, something I tested and showed in the Spheros SW review where I explained how the sealing is similar to that of the Stella SW.

Earlier I said that Shimano "almost" dominates, because Fin-Nor and Quantum have been doing some efforts and are taking a good bite out of this market slice. The Fin-Nor Lethal 100 remains the best value reel out there for heavy inshore and "medium-heavy" offshore work, be it jigging or bottom fishing or even topwater if you can put the extra work to retrieve faster. Not sealed, lacks smoothness and noisy, but you can't beat it for the price.     

The discontinued Cabo PTSD 40-80 were very good reels, but the new Cabo PTSE 40-80 are even better with upgraded gearing. Other than the new pinion and drive gear, every part of the new Cabo PTSE 40-80 comes straight from the Cabo PTSD 40-80. These are good alternatives to smaller Saragosa SW if you don't need full sealing. Of course the smaller Cabo reels are not to be confused with the larger 100/120 Cabo PTSE which I fully reviewed earlier this year, which are of a considerably different design aimed at more strength and ability to handle more powerful fish. The 100/120 Cabos are the most powerful reels discussed so far, and when someone tells me he's after 100-150# class tuna on a budget, the Cabo 100/120 are the minimum I recommend.

The Van Staal VM150 is a good reel that I used to recommend for certain applications where full sealing and strength are needed, but I stopped doing this since the Spheros SW came out as it does everything the VM150 does, has a better drag, and costs less. The VM150 therefore is a good reel but there just isn't a good reason to buy it anymore.

Similarly, both Shimano Sustain FG and the Twin Power SW are reels that work, but there is absolutely no reason to buy them. The Sustain FG in fundamentally an overpriced Stradic FJ, and the new Twin Power SW is in reality a pimped Saragosa SW and not by any means a watered down Stella as many assume. Refer to the first paragraphs of the Cabo 120 review where I go into more detail on the Twin Power SW. The same thing is true for the Biomaster SW. The reel is flawless, but it offers nothing that the Spheros SW doesn't. The only good reason to buy a Biomaster SW is if you can buy it cheaper than a Spheros.

Important word on Shimano here. As you know there is a Japanese domestic market version of the Spheros SW that comes with a different slotted handle. I have received reports of issues with that handle, so I highly recommend sticking with the regular Spheros SW with the solid handle even if the Japanese version seemed attractive because of the low Yen.   

So to sum it up, in this mid-range region you will not need to look further than these; Stradic FJ, Spheros SW, Saragosa SW, Lethal 100, and Cabo PTSE.

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Free-lining reels
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These are the reels commonly known as "bait-runner" reels due to the popularity of Shimano's Baitrunner model, lending its name to the entire category.

This is going to be a simple one; the best one available by a clear margin is the Thunnus CI4 which comes with tougher gearing than other mainstream free-lining reels, in addition to a highly reliable mechanism and excellent build quality. The second best would be Shimano's Baitrunner D, but I really recommend spending the extra and going for the Thunnus CI4. You don't need to look beyond those two reels. There are others that work fine, but there isn't a compelling reason to buy any unless you were after certain ergonomics specific to another reel.


This is my famous lamb leg roast with potatoes. If you haven't tasted it then you haven't tasted a good roast! That might be a little over the top but I'm truly proud of it, and on one occasion I even had sex because of it when an old neighbour liked it so much and wanted to thanks me. Did any of your food ever do this? I use Australian lamb whose flavour I find to be distinct, and of course in the presentation phase it looks much elegant with the gravy becoming a part of the mashed potatoes on the side.

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Surf reels
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Almost any reel can be used on the surf, but some reels are more suited to this and require less to no precautions. It is highly dependent on how you fish your reel and how much contact with water and sand it gets.

As mentioned earlier, the two Penn Z reels are a good choice for harsh conditions of beach fishing because of the ease of rapid maintenance. In the world of fully sealed reels, the Spheros SW is a good choice if you need to occasionally dunk your reel but not for extended periods of time. It casts well and can be safely rinsed off sand and solid particles either in sea water or back home under the tap. The Saragosa SW has the same qualities, but you most likely wouldn't need a Saragosa for surf fishing unless you are catching large sharks and rays that need the enhanced drag.

Then there is the Torque, which has a slightly tighter sealing than the two Shimanos, and its build makes it much easier to clean if dropped in the sand. It also has an anodised finish that resists scratches and sand damage better than the Spheros/Saragosa. If your surf fishing is that hard on reels, then it's a good choice.

The Van Staal VM275 is also fully sealed (the VM150 is NOT), but there is no special traits that make it favourable to three reels mentioned above for this type of fishing.

We then have the Van Staal X reels which have recently replaced the well known surf Van Staal models. These are the tightest sealed reels available, and they can be fished for hours while fully underwater without an issue. They are also anodised and handle sand as well as the Torque if not better, so in a sense they are the ultimate surf reels. The new X series has a few small retouches, but the main advantage over the old VS surf reels is a better line lay stemming from an upgraded "S" curve traverse block. It's still a direct oscillation setup with one spool cycle per one handle turn, but the "hour glass" shape line lay of the old VS is no more there. This gives better line management, and slightly improved casting and line capacity. Their issue though is that the beefy sealing makes turning the handle harder and heavier than any other reel in the world. This reduces their versatility since this tightness would prove exhausting for boat fishing, unlike the two Shimanos and Torque which are great boat reels as well. If you want a dedicated surf reel on an unlimited budget, the VSX is the choice.

The ZeeBaas reels are sealed as well as the VSX, but there is no good reason to choose them since the VSX now have a similarly good line lay, which used to be an advantage for the ZB over the old VS. I also personally find VS reels to have a slight edge in build quality and consistency over the ZB.

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Long cast reels
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This one is pretty simple. Unlike other types of reels that are multi-purpose and need different evaluations for different uses, long cast reels are the most single-minded spinners out there. It doesn't matter if you're taking a part in a competition, fishing on a beach, jumping rocks on a shore, or trying to get your bait to the middle of a lake to get to that illusive Carp, the purpose of the reel remains only one thing which is to send your rig as far away from you as possible. As a general rule, long cast reels are the least durable of all spinning reels types. They are not built to last for long and they can't be as strong or have as much drag power as standard reels due to several elements, the most important of which is the extra length of the exposed part of the main shaft (more distance from force vector = greater bending moment).

On the very top of the pack there are Shimano Aero Technium XSB and XTB, and near the top there are the Aero Technium XTC, XSC, and the Daiwa Tournament Surf 45-QD. The Shimanos have a super slow oscillation stroke where the spool goes a full cycle up and down every 25 turns of the handle, while the Daiwa has a quicker stroke of one full spool cycle per 4 handle turns only. All these reels are built in either metal or plastic or a combination, have different features and ergonomics including a "bait-runner" spool in some Shimanos, etc. Choosing between them is based on your needs for particular features that suit your fishing since there is virtually no difference in quality between them all.

On the economy side Shimano Ultegra XTB and XSB stand out in build quality, and I rarely recommend any reels below that because their price is not prohibitive so there is no reason to go cheaper. The only exception to this is the Penn Spinfisher V LC (long cast), which I recommend in certain cases because it has the best protection against water intrusion among all long cast reels, including the expensive ones. It's not at all waterproof or fully sealed, but it remains better protected than other long cast reels. The reel is built to the same standard as the regular Spinfisher V reels, but while this falls short in the regular V reels it's adequate enough for the Spinfisher V LC since -as mentioned earlier- long cast reels have lower standards for strength and durability than regular spinners.        


The lovely Naomi Watts between two monsters who are about to fight in 2005's King Kong. One of my all time favourite films, because it takes you to another world that still looks realistic. 

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Non-mainstream reels
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A very important factor in purchasing decisions is the after-sales service and warranty. I always recommend reels from the mainstream companies to fishermen who live in major markets where these big brands have official representation to look after customers. The quality of service varies between these companies. PureFishing brands (Penn, Abu, Mitchell, etc.) and Zebco group (Fin-Nor, VS, Quantum, etc.) are top notch anywhere in the world, Shimano is great everywhere except in Europe, Daiwa's service generally isn't satisfactory except in rare instances, and I have not enough feedback on Okuma's service to form an opinion but I would imagine that they are doing a decent job. I seldom use customer service myself and only do so to buy parts, but the feedback I receive from fishermen paints a pretty clear picture about the performance of the after-sales service departments. With that said, any of these companies will still take care of your issues and stand behind their product even if some will make you pay for repairs when you shouldn't have paid, therefore my recommendation of mainstream reels if you have local representation.

For the readers in other places it's different. When I talk to fishermen in places such as the Middle East, certain locations in Latin America, some countries in South East Asia, etc, I include other brands as well since no company big or small has service centres in these countries and it's all the same. The non-mainstream reels I came to like so far are three; Omoto Severo, Teben Sea, and Tica Talisman. The Severo is a Taiwanese reel that's a virtual copy of the Accurate TwinSpin and is built extremely well, but it's usually sold at a premium price so I recommend it on very limited basis. The Teben Sea is also a virtual copy of the 2008 Stella that's a great value for the money, but not at all easy to find retail. The Talisman is a brilliant reel that has pretty original features and fishermen have used it to catch some impressive fish over the past few years. When it first came out it had superb stainless steel gearing, then they changed the gearing materials which was disappointing to me, although the new gearing is still of a pretty good quality and I can't fault it. Changes in major parts are more common than you think, and often times they go unnoticed for some time. Many don't know that Shimano silently replaced the drive gear of the flagship freshwater Stella 2010 shortly after release.

Anyway, if you are in a market where there is no representation for mainstream companies and you find any of these three reels at a competitive price, consider it a candid as you proceed with the decision making.

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High end, standard reels  
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These represent the highest standard in spinning reels, an exclusive club of reels that have all the quality a company can produce, but at a price. There are currently six reels in this category; Penn Torque, Daiwa Catalina/Isla, Shimano Stella SW (except 30K), Saltiga Expedition, Accurate TwinSpin (SR12 to SR50), and 2015 Saltiga/Dogfight. I will take a detour here to speak about the 2015 Saltiga/Dogfight reels since these where the subject of about 20% of all the enquiries I received so far this year. 

The 2015 Saltiga is pure and simple an upgrade of the 2010 Saltiga to very close to the Expedition's specifications, but not identical to it. They took the 2010 Saltiga, upgraded the pinion, removed the rubber seals at the handle's connection to the body and instead put self contained magnetic-sealed ball bearings, removed the rubber seals from the line roller and replaced the two tiny ball bearings inside it with a single magnetic-sealed ball bearing, and the stainless steel bumper at the end of the frame received draining holes. All these upgrades in the new Saltiga are identical to what's found on the 2014 Expedition.

Then comes what I consider the only tangible difference. The drag knob of the new Saltiga/Dogfight has the latest spring as in the Expedition, but externally the knob is of a "standard" build similar to the knob of the 2010 Saltiga. That is a stamped metal pressure disc that's in contact with the drag washers, inserted into a plastic outer casing. The Expedition if you remember comes with Daiwa's custom shop radiation knob, which is made entirely of machined of aluminium and stainless-steel linked to optimise heat transfer, along with a bridge-type metal finger bar for an even better heat dissipation. Radiation knobs are sold by Daiwa's custom shop and they are not cheap, therefore Daiwa made sure that the Expedition would maintain the flagship status with the inclusion of that costly part that's not included in the 2015 Saltiga/Dogfight.

That said, the standard knob of the new Saltiga is not something to look down on. It served the previous flagship 2010 Saltiga perfectly, and I have received zero reports of issues with that drag knob for the whole 5 years the previous Saltiga was in production. My test 2015 Saltiga reel was a borrowed dealer sample 6500H, and the reel performed flawlessly from top to bottom on a wide variety of fish from about 4 kg (8.8 lb) Mackerel to Groupers in the ~70 KG (~154 lb) class. Having used that standard knob for years on the previous Saltiga and now on the new one, I would say that it would perform just as well as the radiation knob of the Expedition in 99% of all the fishing you will do. Only when going after fish that is extremely big for the reel's size that would fight long and hard would the radiation knob make a difference and spare you the pouring of water on the spool to cool it down as a fight rages for too long. Example of such hard fighting fish would be cow tuna. Large GT aren't anywhere near that since they do powerful runs towards coral or structures only for a short time after hookup then lose steam. In other words there is zero difference in performance between new Saltiga with the standard knob and the Expedition with the radiation knob unless you're doing some truly extreme fishing.

Then comes the ATD (Automatic Tournament Drag) thing which Daiwa put into the 2015 reels. I've been looking at some of the most hilarious claims made about this ATD for months, and did my best to dispel that rubbish whenever a reader asked me about it. They said it does some sort of auto-strike, adjusts itself magically to the amount of line pulled out, and similar misinformation including claims such as this


Nope, the drag washers are the exact same ones as in the 2010 Saltiga and Expedition, only in this ATD they replaced the drag grease with a proprietary lube containing slippery solid additives. Without going into a load of redundant technical details, that new lube creates momentary slippage in the drag washers when the spool starts to rotate, then in a fraction of a second the fibres of the washers achieve full contact with the drag discs and function normally at the pre-set drag pressure. The theory is that when the spool begins to move there would be a spike in drag as the line pulls against the added static inertia of the stationary spool, which could supposedly cause the line to break, therefore this momentary slippage and the drop in drag force protects the line from that phenomena when a fish stops then runs again. Of course by the time the full drag engages, the spool would have already been mobile so there is no added static inertia.

The theory is indeed correct, except that in a fishing reel it's only relevant when fishing very small reels with fine lines. Actually the principal is not new. The German designers at DAM (Deutsch Anglerate Manufacturer) came up with it more than two decades ago, and for the 1994 Quick Royal series they utilised the force of solid magnets hidden in the spool for that first fraction of a second, then the physical washers would pick up and produce the continued resistance


This is the spool of the DAM Royal which had that system, and the magnets are seen in red. DAM quite rightly used this only in these very light spinning reels, as did Daiwa itself when it first came up with its own version. Surprise! The ATD is not new in Daiwa reels, they came up with it some time ago, and used it in some light reels such as the "Ignis Type-R" where it was called "UTD Finesse Tune Drag". Not the same washers as the Saltiga's, but the same principal with the same proprietary lube. Changing its name to "ATD" and using it in the heavy duty Saltiga and Dogfight is a completely redundant move aimed at having a new shiny feature to promote the reels. You will NEVER be able to feel that effect in any size of the Saltiga 4500 and up, and in the two smaller 3500 and 4000 sizes you would barely feel it (if at all) if you do ultra light work with them at light drag settings.

To clear up that mumbo jumbo, the ATD in the Saltiga/Dogfight will perform just like the drag of the Expedition, so don't let it confuse you. When it's time to do a maintenance and lube the drag, you don't need to source that new lube and can instead use Daiwa's 555 grease which is used in the UTD drag. Also I don't want you to jump to any conclusion that the ATD would somehow disrupt the function of the drag. I repeat again that you will not feel the slightest difference between the ATD and the Expedition's drag. Think of it as a dormant feature that you wouldn't use or even feel, just like a pencil sharpener that's installed in a hidden spot in the boot of your car. It's there, it does no harm, but it will never be used. It's a stupid example, but it just fits that useless ATD feature. It's worth noting that in certain markets the new Saltiga is sold without any reference to the ATD, and with the text "ATD Automatic Drag System" NOT present on the drag knob. In these reels the paperwork will only mention the normal UTD, which goes to show that the ATD is nothing but a marketing gimmick.   

Other differences in the new Saltiga/Dogfight is the addition of a little extension in the main shaft just above the threads of the main shaft, and this extension fits into a housing inside the knob to supposedly stabilise the knob. This is not found in the Expedition by the way. Again, not a difference in the world and has no use other than during promotion when they hand someone a reel without a spool, and tell them to tilt the knob from one side to another and feel the near absence of movement. Utter and total rubbish!

The 2015 Saltiga differs to the 2015 Dogfight cosmetically as well. In addition to the obvious colour scheme, the Saltiga has plainer looking side plates in the body, different sculpting of the handle joint, and the spool has no carbon ornaments. The Dogfight though follows the styling of the 2014 Expedition with the star shaped side plates, handle joint shape, and the carbon ornamentation in the spool. Also the Dogfight now come in 8000 size and in two gear ratios high and low. A departure from the tradition of Dogfight being only a high speed reel as in the two previous Saltiga generations.

Naturally I wouldn't be reviewing the new Saltiga since it's an Expedition minus the radiation knob, therefore I played with a loaner sample to get my impressions instead of buying a retail reel as I do when I'm doing a full review. If you need to know about the new Saltiga/Dogfight, just read the review of the 2014 Expedition and factor in the differences I've listed above.

Lastly, I've also been asked about the low price and why it's considerably cheaper than the 2010 model, and the answer is as simple as this graph


This graph shows the drop in the value of the Japanese Yen from fall 2010 when the previous Saltiga was priced and released, to spring 2015 when the new reel was priced and released. It's a historical drop by all means, and Daiwa has decided to play fair when they priced it for export markets. The price of new Saltiga in Japanese Yen inside Japan though has actually increased by 2000 Yen for each size over the 2010 Saltiga.   

Now let's get back to where we were before this detour; the 5 high end reels. The Stella SW is still heavy, overly tight, needlessly complicated mechanically, has more plastic than ever, and built to lower standards of fit and finish than I find acceptable for a reel that costs that much. Still it remains extremely powerful, as reliable as any reel in existence, has a terrific drag, and if a fish can be caught on a spinning reel the Stella SW will land it successfully. This only applies to sizes up to 20K. The 30K is not as good in my book.

The Torque is a lovely hybrid reel that would take the harsh abuse of surf fishing with frequent dunkings and sand assaults, and would also function quite well for offshore boat fishing if you don't mind the gear ratios that are on the fast side but not full fledged high speed. It has an excellent drag, a tough finish, the price is good, and it has a very simple construction which makes self-service an easy task. It's not as capable as the Japanese reels, so it wouldn't be my first choice for extreme tasks. Nevertheless I rate it up there with Van Staal surf reels when it comes to longevity, which is something neither Stella or Saltiga can claim. I made that projection when I first reviewed the Torque years ago, and I keep coming across heavily used Torques that are still tight and running strong without anything other than normal cleaning and lubing. If you do both wet and dry fishing and want a versatile reel, if your thing is easy service, or if you are looking for something that will be passed down to your children just like the classic tanks of the past, the Torque is an excellent choice.

The Catalina/Isla used to offer the smoothness and refinement of Daiwa's top reel for a good discount, but with the low pricing of the new Saltiga the Isla has become completely redundant and is being discontinued, while the Catalina is now only a good deal if bought from Japan to get considerable savings. Otherwise I'd certainly recommend adding little money and buying the new Saltiga instead.

The Expedition is an absolute paragon, and continues to be the best spinning reel ever made in my opinion. Without repeating myself, have a look at its own review and see how it's superior to competition in every aspect imaginable, except of course the abnormal longevity of the likes of the Torque and VS. Choosing between an Expedition and the new Saltiga/Dogfight is up to how someone feels personally. Operationally they are identical for most sorts of fishing as I explained earlier, so the Saltiga/Dogfight should be the natural choice except for someone who wants the pride of ownership of the best available who would then go for the Expedition. Each of these reels has 4 magnetic-seals, which requires particular care when cleaning. In this article about reel care I explained how you should avoid getting solvents and lubes in contact with mag-sealed areas, and while that was just one location in the old Saltiga and the Catalina/Isla, it's now 4 locations in the Expedition, 2015 Saltiga, and Dogfight. Therefore more care is needed during cleaning, and only freshwater should be used to clean these areas (the line roller being the most critical).

Also, since Daiwa doesn't make its original magnetic fluid available for sale, full reel service must be done only by Daiwa's official service centres. Any active spinning reel would need full service every about 1 to 2 years based on the amount of use, and even if you decide to skip that, the magnetic fluid breaks down and needs replacement every about 5 years. So having access to an official Daiwa service centre is a must before buying any mag-sealed reel, and you must also make sure your particular reel is accepted by them for service. For example the Expedition is not officially sold in the US, so you need to check and double check that Daiwa US would agree to service it for you before you buy one. Until the magnetic fluid becomes available to public, you will need access to Daiwa's service centres. You can't service mag-sealed reels yourself, don't use magnetic fluid from another source, and for heavens' sake don't replace the fluid with grease or let anyone do that!! I've seen it happen to my absolute horror to reels that people gave to the local tackle shop or unqualified places, and the technicians there would just shove some grease where the magnetic fluid goes. That special fluid is constantly suspended in the magnetic field to form a waterproof barrier, but grease doesn't respond to magnets therefore it will split once the handle is turned leaving the gearbox open to moisture and water.

To sum it up, Daiwa's high end line up is the ultimate heavy/extreme duty reels, but only buy one if your local Daiwa will service it. If this is not possible, then go for the Stella SW, which still needs a very competent service person, but it doesn't need anything other than regular oil and grease for full service. Also do not use mag-sealed reels for wet surf fishing because sand and solid particles in the water aren't good for the mag-seals. The reels are waterproof and can be fully submerged in clean saltwater and freshwater, but not in beach's water that's saturated with sand.

Finally the TwinSpin reels, size 12 and up. These reels were buggy when they first appeared 10 years ago, but over the years Accurate has done a good job ironing the kinks out and now they work flawlessly. That said, they are heavy, not as smooth as other high end reels, gearing isn't as efficient, and the drag is great but the drags of the other reels are simply better. There is no good reason to buy one now. I excluded the SR6 size because I'm yet to test one so I have no opinion of it, and honestly I have no use for that tiny size so it might take a good while until I get around to doing it. I like its external lines though, and wish Accurate would upgrade all the line to look similar, and also get rid of that quick spool changing thing because it's useless and adds weight and cost needlessly.

Let's break the text.


This is a Holland and Holland "Royal" double rifle, with some outstanding engravings. It's made in London, England, with a lot of hand finishing and fitting, and it can be tailor made to your own dimensions so it points where you look. Depending on the artist you choose to engraves it, cost is anywhere from $180,000 to more than $500,000. If any of my readers is a billionaire who likes to make people happy, you now know what I want 

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Supplementation
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The main body of this article is now over, and the following are some of my thoughts about a few subjects. As always anything I say is only my personal views and it should be treated as such.


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Reel and rod matching
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This is one thing that people take way too far. They think of reel and rod matching (or balancing) as some sort of a strict exact science, which generates unwarranted anxiety to people about to buy a rod for their new reel or a reel for their new rod. They needlessly get worried that they might not buy the "exact match" and would have wasted their money. Pairing a rod to a reel is a much simpler process, with only some general compatibility rules to follow; a spinning reel doesn't go on an overhead rod (duh!), the first eyelet should be of dimensions that correspond to the reel's size for better casting performance, and the rod's seat should be able to securely grip the reel's foot. Other than that there are no soild rules, and the choice of a rod or a reel beyond that is based on many subjective variables. For reels it about proper gear ratio for the particular fishing technique, weight that you'd personally be comfortable with, needed drag, line capacity, etc. Similarly the rod should correspond to the fishing technique, length that gives you best control and leverage, action that suits both the average size of your target fish and your own physique, etc. In plain words, to have a brilliant combo you should be thinking about the target fish and fishing technique more than you think about the other half of the combo.

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Sealing
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There is a tendency to treat the matter of sealing or waterproofing as a black and white issue, where a reel is either unsealed so it's only good for dry fishing, or it's sealed therefore you can treat it as a submarine. This is not the right, and sealing is far from a black and white matter. Think of sealing or waterproofing as a spectrum or a relative term, not an absolute one. Sealed reels are not all equal, and their waterproof performance depends on what sort of water, how deep, for how long, and under what conditions. Find out how sealed your reel actually is and what type of sealing it has, and use it in a suitable manner. 

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Good reel bad reel
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It goes like this; someone says that he's looking into a certain reel and asks if it's good or not, and people start volunteering their own experiences and saying things such as "I used mine last season and it worked great". This sort of advice should only be treated as one bit of input, but not the whole picture. In order to figure out how good a reel is, it needs to be systematically tested and methodically pushed to its limits over a period of time, then accurately and objectively evaluated. Simply because a reel is still working after someone used it for a season isn't enough. How did they use it? Did they fish it anywhere near the advertised maximum capabilities? What conditions was it fished under? Were all the features of the reel tested? The answer to each of these needs to be a resounding "yes" in order for the feedback to have enough weight to make you decide to part with your money. So when you ask about a reel, don't hear a couple of opinions and feel good. Ask more people, hear about the details of usage, and compare what you heard to your particular needs and see if you're happy going forward.

Continuing on the same thought, seeing a reel photographed next to a big fish doesn't mean that you should run out and buy it. Almost any reel can land very big fish in the right hands, within the boundaries the reason of course. For example I landed a 40kg (88lb) eel on a $20 full plastic generic name reel in 2006. Does that make it a big game reel? You need to understand the limits and capabilities of a reel properly. If X reel can land XX fish repeatedly without issues, it might also be able to land XXX fish once or twice or a few times, but going after that XXX fish with frequency would take its toll on the reel, which would either fail suddenly or wear out and require maintenance downtime that disrupts your season. Spend your time getting feedback from multiple sources, know what to ask about and what to look for, and you will be in a much better position to decide if the reel is good for your job or not.

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Discontinued reels
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Buying a discontinued reel is tricky. They usually come at a highly discounted price which makes them irresistible, but you might end up losing money on the long term if you don't study the situation well. You need to know when was the reel discontinued, find out about the availability of service and parts for that reel, then weigh it all against the discounted price and see if it's worth it or not. For example 2001 Saltiga Z reel and its spawns of Dogfights and Expeditions are some of the most asked about reels when it comes to discontinued models. That whole family went out of production in 2010, which is enough time to almost drain the stock of remaining parts, and these reels are considerably different in construction than the newer generations, meaning that parts from newer models won't fit. This would make me strongly advise against buying one, unless the price was ridiculously low in the range of $200-$250 for an unused reel. But when someone asks me about buying a 2010 Saltiga now, I would not be objecting because it has just been discontinued so parts and service should be available for a few years, and even more, the newer generations share a large amount of parts with that 2010 reel, so several years from now parts should still be available since they are still being made for the newer generations. These are just a couple of scenarios, and of course you need to figure out the situation for each discontinued reel you're eyeing, and weigh it all against the cost then make a decision.

Last photo


This is me landing a rainbow trout. Found it while looking in some messy folders, and thought to post it to dispel the myth that I only fish saltwater. Actually I do all sorts of fishing, but I write about saltwater fishing because about 95% of people who read me are saltwater fishos. If you have questions about freshwater spinning reels just contact me.

This is all. Be safe on the water, be kind to people, and tight lines!

Cheers.

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Alan Hawk
June, 26th, 2015


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