2012 Quantum Cabo 80 : The Review
In the beginning I'd like to apologise for the delay in posting this review. As you know I only write a review after fishing a reel extensively, and since I have been working on three reels simultaneously I was forced to divide my time and resources and therefore the tardiness.
This review is the second and final part of my answer to one of the most frequent questions I receive, which is "Quantum Cabo or Okuma V System". I reviewed Okuma's flagship spinner here, and today it's time for Quantum's top of the line. The new Cabo PTSD was released late 2012 in 40 and 50 sizes, followed early this year by the 60 and 80 models. The 40 and 50 share the same body but have different rotors and spools, likewise 60 and 80 share the same body with different rotors and spools. There are two major difference between the two size classes: the 40/50 reels have plastic rotors while the 60/80 have metal rotors, and the anti-reverse clutch in the 40/50 reels is of a different design to the clutch of the 60/80 reels. Other than that the differences between the two classes are minor and size related, such as fewer and smaller drag washers in 40/50 reels.
The Cabo 80 reviewed today is not a very big reel. It's roughly the size of Daiwa's 5000 and Shimano's 8000 reels. It weighed 710 grams (25oz) on my scale in one of those rare cases where the manufacturer's advertised weight is accurate, and it holds 280 metres of 0.37mm line (305 yards of 0.0145" thick line), which is considerably more than the Saltiga 5000. The reel comes with a long list of features, the most interesting of which are:
- Magnum carbon fiber and ceramic drag system
- New sealed magnum CSC drag
- New Hybrid ceramic bearings
We will discuss these later, but now for some shots
The reel is obviously inspired by Saltiga's futuristic lines, particularly the cuts in the rotor and ornamental insert where the handle goes into the left side of the body. To keep costs down there is no similar insert on the right side, which makes the reel look really weird when viewed from the back as seen in the last photo above. An unsymmetrical body could give a reel a sophisticated look, but in the Cabo's case it's plain corny. Of course looks is a subjective thing, but to my eyes the whole reel looks quite idiotic, as if someone has tried a little too hard.
What comes with it
There is only a warranty card, and a general manual for Quantum's spinning reels, not a special Cabo manual. So practically nothing comes with it, not even spool shims. That's pretty cheap!
Right out of the box the reel had an unacceptable amount of back play in the anti-reverse. Watch this video
That play remained exactly the same and didn't increase throughout the tests, still it's pretty annoying and makes the reel feel kinda like classic reels with a ratchet anti-reverse.
Spooling the reel up exposed another unpleasant surprise. The line did not lay correctly, leaving a funny gab on the very top of the spool as you can see in the photo above. There wasn't much that I could do about it since the spool hub has only one shim, and removing it means that the spool would rest on bare metal which is a big no no even when nothing spins against the hub. Still, for the sake of experimenting, I removed the shim and spooled the reel, but the gab then moved to the bottom of the spool.
The drag system is a big upgrade from the old Cabo reel. There are 5 carbon fibre washers in the top stack (red arrows), and one large washer on the bottom of the spool (blue arrow). The green arrow points the single ball bearing the spool spins on.
The other end of the spool spins on a synthetic washer (red arrow). I wouldn't have minded had there been no bearings at all in the spool. The drag is a friction generating system and installing bearings there is more of an aesthetic touch than a functional one. Anyhow, there is no ceramic whatsoever in the new Cabo's drag. The old Cabo had a single ceramic washer in the top stack to shield the drag knob from heat, but the new Cabo has zero ceramic in the drag system. The printing on the box says "Magnum carbon fiber and ceramic drag system", so this should have been removed had there been a design change. That aside, the drag performance is ridiculous! It starts smoothly and goes steadily and is very responsive to a fish's sudden bursts. The drag handled several Trevally up to ~12kg, Narrow Barred Spanish Mackerel up to ~25kg, and many Bonito and Amberjack without a hitch. No heat build up and whether it's on medium or high setting the drag performed with the same consistency and unbelievable responsiveness. Now I'm going to make a very bold statement, but I have no doubt that it's true. The drag of the new Cabo is the second best drag I have seen on a spinning reel in my life, surpassed only by the Stella's.
A close up on the drag clicker. Dependable design, and the clicker sound is clear and loud enough to be heard through the noise of a boat's motor.
The drag knob has a rubber seal (red arrow), and it does keep water out effectively.
Knob components are durable and reliable. #1 is the outer metal casing, #2 is the pressure disc, #3 is the rubber seal, #4 is the pressure spring, #5 is the bottom plate, and the red arrow points to the spring loaded knob clicker.
The spool hub and the single shim mentioned earlier, and there is no sealing on the bottom of the spool, therefore the "New sealed magnum CSC drag" claim is inaccurate. The drag is very well protected from the top and this should be sufficient enough for any boat fishing situation, yet that doesn't make it a sealed drag by any means. Still in the above photo, the Saltiga style rotor cuts show the blue pinion cover with the words "Sealed Anti-Reverse", again imitating the Saltiga whose pinion cover says "Mag-Sealed".
There is a seal (red arrow) beneath the rotor's nut. The main shaft has no seal though, so this nut seal is quite redundant.
The green arrow points to the pinion seal which prevents water from getting inside the reel from behind the rotor. Works fine. The reel has an automatic bail return, a useless feature that I believe should be confined to history books. The auto-bail of the Cabo is particularly annoying because the strike ramp (red X) extends across one fourth (1/4) of the flange's arc, which creates a much higher probability of hitting that ramp when attempting to open the bail which stops the bail short of full opening. This almost drove me crazy. When I jig I get into a rhythm; open - drop - close - yank, then I keep repeating that in a robotic manner. Whenever I opened the bail and the ramp got in the way I would be thrown off that rhythm, and in my frustration I started pushing the bail wire forcibly open whenever it happened in order to clear the way for the line to leave the spool. Thankfully the titanium bail wire was flexible enough not to deform when I did that, but it would be much better if the ramp was taken off before fishing the reel. Simply remove the retaining screw (red arrow in photo above) and get rid of that awfully stupid thing.
Actually the rotor doesn't have to come off in order to remove the bail trip ramp, it could be removed through the cut in the rotor with a flexible long screw driver and some manoeuvring, or with any tool that could be used to work the screw loose from the side.
Beneath the pinion cover there is an O ring seal (red arrow). The blue arrow points to the synthetic washer inside the pinion which functions as an economy version of the "floating shaft" feature. It helps to reduce friction between the shaft and pinion for smoother operation especially under load.
The anti-reverse clutch on the left, and the clutch sleeve is on the right. You can see the brake pins inside the clutch, each has a plastic V spring behind it. The clutch was heavily greased from the factory, but even after I cleaned it the back play persisted.
The clutch is made by Koyo, so they went for quality where it matters. The back play problem isn't in the clutch itself, but rather the sleeve is under-sized, so the brake pins travel longer before locking the sleeve still. I checked 2 other Cabo reels and they had the same back play, so the problem isn't an isolated one in my reel. Such a waste of a high quality clutch.
Moving to the body
The moulding of the frame lacks in precision in some areas. There are bumps and indentations causing slight mismatching between the frame and side cover. I'm talking about very slight flaws here, but as usual I point everything I find no matter how insignificant.
The handle attaches to the gear via a common double threaded shaft. There is no protection against water intrusion at the entry point.
Very interesting handle design indeed. The shape of the joint gives no mechanical advantages, but the stem is very strong and won't bend or break.
The joint is double secured and the screws stayed tight as they should.
Due to the number of parts making up the handle, salt does find hairline gaps to accumulate in. It's easily cleaned with a toothbrush, but one needs to remember to look there regularly. The parts composing the handle are all very well finished with a good choice of materials to avoid electrolytic corrosion. Overall a solid faultless design.
The knob is permanently bolted. Something I intensely dislike as it limits the ability to clean and lubricate properly.
The gearbox isn't as generic as one expects at this price point. Proprietary design aspects are easily picked at a glance. I also love the fact that the side cover could be taken off easily by removing 4 screws for quick service and lubrication. Usually the rotor of a spinning reel would have to come off in order to remove the side cover, but an increasing number of reels have been embracing this simple approach lately.
The bearings are advertised as being "hybrid ceramic". That usually means stainless steel races with ceramic balls.
Well, once I looked at the bearings I recognised them as regular all stainless steel bearings made by various Chinese manufacturers, but to be absolutely sure, I disassembled 3 different bearings completely. Yes, all stainless steel and there is no ceramic in any of them. Disassembling and reassembling a single bearing manually takes up to 1 hour, so I would not do all the 7 ball bearings in the reel. There could be a hybrid bearing somewhere, but I won't squint for 7 hours to find out. Bottom line is the specifications say "New Hybrid ceramic bearings", and this obviously isn't true.
The pinion is borne on a ball bearing on the clutch's end, but runs on a synthetic washer on the other end. With use the washer wears and sheds particles creating that black gummy mix with the grease. Not really a pressing problem but certainly not a design geared towards exceptional longevity.
The drive gear is cast zinc alloy. The drive gear of the old Cabo was brass alloy, but I wouldn't automatically deem it a downgrade since there are countless variables involved and not all brass or all zinc alloys are equal, and different manufacturing processes create parts of different properties. Judging by the wear the gear displays relative to the use I put it through, I'd say it has acceptable durability. On a durability scale of five where 5 is Stella and Saltiga gearing and 1 is the most basic low cost gearing, I'd give the new Cabo a solid 3. The same grade I'd give Okuma's V System gear.
The machined brass pinion also shows very acceptable wear rate correctly corresponding to that of the drive gear. The old Cabo had a stainless steel pinion, and I gave both the drive gear and pinion of the old Cabo a 4 on the durability scale when I tested it several years ago. So while the new gearing is good, the old gearing was better indeed. Of course there is no solid science behind this. This is just my own evaluation based on my observations and experience with different spinning reels over the years, so take it for what it's worth.
The oscillation block has a synthetic shoe (red X) on the bottom, and this reduces the friction as the block slides up and down the rail. When the reel is under heavy load the positive effect of this shoe could be felt in the form of smoother winding than other reels without this feature. High end reels have ball bearings there, but considering the price of the Cabo this is a great alternative design.
The oscillation mechanism is a simple smart design. #1 is the oscillation gear, #2 is the ball bearing the gear spins on, and #3 is a low friction disc that functions as a mount for the gear. This disc mount significantly reduces friction, and as a result there is no rubbing marks or finish damage on the rail beneath the gear (#4) as is often the case in reels with a locomotive oscillation system.
The bail arm finish easily picks colour from braid. Weird phenomena but it's kinda funny and gives the used reel some character!
The bail arm is secured via a bolt and a snap ring. Simple and strong method that is slowly gaining popularity among reel manufacturers.
There is no bail mechanism here. Just two powerful magnets (red arrows) that do the job of a regular spring, and I used it as a makeshift jig retainer since the hook sticks to the joint because of the magnet. Don't do that though because it's dangerous. I do it because I'm a dummy, or "slightly daft" as one of my ex's used to put it
Line roller assembly is straightforward and dependable. Two tiny ball bearings in there.
The spool lip has a concave shape. I didn't find this to have an effect on the casting distance. Overall the reel casts well, but that's mainly because of the line lay, spool diameter, and foot angle.
Finally, the reel is advertised as having 55lbs (25kg) of maximum drag. Seriously, who would believe such a figure? Even before I touched the reel I would have bet my house that it would not come anywhere close to that. Well, I'm sure glad I didn't bet though because the bloody thing can actually put out that figure and the structure does handle it well! This is one of the biggest surprises I've ever got from a reel in decades of fishing. There were no fish around that could pull 25kg of drag, so naturally I tested this on the ground systematically and methodically and in the most vulnerable positions of the spool and rotor, and the reel passed with flying colours. 25kg would snap the rotor of the equivalent size Saltiga 5000 like a twig, and it's 5lbs more than the maximum drag of the giant Penn Torque 9. What a feat!
There you have it, with all it's positives and negatives. I personally find the negatives to be things that I can live with. The back play in the clutch is annoying yet not debilitating, so is the line lay problem, and the asinine bail trip ramp could be removed. This is not a high end reel nor is made to serve for a decade, yet the expected service life of the Cabo is pretty much in line with its price by today's accepted standards. The positives are pretty unique and more than make up for the deficiencies. I already told you what I think of the drag's performance, the structural strength and maximum drag are owe inspiring to say the least, and the strategic placement of low friction washers between the shaft and pinion and on the oscillation block make the reel function with impressive smoothness when pulling a fish or playing a heavy jig. I was fishing the Cabo alongside a big prototype reel that I'm testing and the Stella, and the only thing that kept me from using the Cabo to target the same size of fish I caught on the other two reels was the line capacity which is still small compared to those very big reels. I have no doubt though that other than that the reel has what it takes to go after much larger fish. Would Quantum ever make a 100 or 130 size Cabo for $300? I don't think so. Had Quantum been an independent company they would have certainly done and created a very good poor man's Stella. But Quantum is owned by the same conglomerate which owns Zebco, Fin-Nor, and Van Staal, and naturally they would think about the well being of the collective entity and wouldn't produce a big Cabo that would compete with the upcoming Van Staal VM275. Of course that's just my personal analysis, and I hope I am proven wrong at some point in the feature because I'd love to see a bigger Cabo. This is one brilliant reel that I enjoyed fishing, and it will sure find its way to my top lists in the next scheduled update in July.
No reels were harmed in the making of this review, but sadly one Spangled Emperor was
I'm running a strict policy of catch and release, but hunger forced me to keep this little beauty for dinner. It received a proper burial in a tray of potatoes and olive oil, and with only one dead fish the Cabo remains my greenest reel so far
That's all for now. I intend to review the Stella some time this fall, then I'll pretty much be done for this year, unless of course something exceptional happens. I have also received an invitation from a friend to visit ICAST, and although there is less than 10% chance that I will go, keep your eyes on the news page just in case I do it at the last moment. If I do I will be posting photos and reports from the show.
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June, 16th, 2013