* Important note: Following this review, Omoto fixed the issue with the bail wire, and the reel now comes in a nicer box with a better quality reel bag.
Omoto Severo 5000H : The Review
I wanted my first review of 2010 to be of the Penn Torque as promised, but all of you know that the release has been delayed a few times, and if released now I will need at least two more months to test and review it. So for now we will examine something else.
The reel in review today is the Omoto Severo spinning reel. I have the 5000H, which is the biggest they make. This reel is supposed to compete with the "super spinners", which are a category of reels created to be the flagship of a manufacturer, and made specifically to tackle fish that 15 years ago no one would dare to go after with anything less than a big game multiplier. There are only three reels that I consider "super spinners" in the world today: Daiwa's Saltiga Z, Shimano's Stella, and Accurate's Twinspin.
It's not surprising that these super reels are very expensive, making them out of reach for most fishermen. So, over the years several brands tried to have a go at that category aiming to offer spinners that are supposed to give similar performance at a lower price for those who can't afford the super spinners, or those who have them but want cheaper backups. Unfortunately no one succeeded. I had a go at several of these products, and none came close to the performance or reliability of the real thing. These were mostly generic branded Chinese rubbish, but some were known brand names too. Examples of better known reels that never made it are Fin Nor Offshore, Banax Kingpin, and Okuma V Alpha with its infamous 78lb of drag The reel reviewed today is Omoto's attempt to being the first successful low cost alternative for the big three.
Pricewise, it's quite complicated. Omoto America's site lists them at $700 a piece, but in reality outlets will offer them at a much lower price even without anyone asking. Most were happy to sell it for $500, and with some haggling the reel in my hands was bought for a little over 4 bills. We will get to the price analysis later on, but now for some photos of the reel.
The reel is virtually a carbon copy of Accurate's Twinspin, with a different spool/drag design. But the Twinspin itself is a hybrid copy of Saltiga's gearbox and Ryobi Metaroyal Safari's spool release system, Accurate only adding a drag washer on each side of the spool which by itself is not even an original concept. Also Daiwa and Shimano have been borrowing and copying each other for years, so I would not bother much with who copied whom and will judge the reel in hand on its own merits.
My previous experience with Omoto left me feeling disgusted, for the lack of a more accurate word. Their reels came in a generic box that said "Trolling Reels" with a sticker carrying Omoto's name stuck somewhere on it, but that was not what annoyed me. What did it was a line printed on these boxes that said "Design by Japan [sic] Made in Taiwan". To me this translates to "We are ashamed of our origin, but you are too poor to buy Japanese gear anyhow, so here is a mention of Japan to make you feel better". This is even worse than Okuma's "Japanese oiled felt drag" line. Does it mean that the drag was sent to Japan to be oiled there, or that the felt washers come from Japan? And why would that make me more inclined to buy a reel? Anyhow, back to the Severo...
That's more like it. Be proud of who you are and don't give me that "a lost Japanese tourist knocked on our door while we were designing the reel" crap. Oh, in case you were wondering why the box of my black reel says "Gold", it's because the shop sent the reel in a standard shipping box, and when they were contacted for the original box, which they apparently had thrown away, they sent one that belongs to a different reel
Still the same generic "trolling reels" box, but that is no problem as long as they are saving money and therefore I save money too.
It comes with a parts diagram, a crappy pouch, and a sealed plain tube of a mysterious substance. I will keep it sealed to build up tension, then one day when I feel like rewarding myself, I am going to invite friends and family then open that tube on camera and post the video on that 'My Face' thing.
The reel reviewed is the high gear ratio model. It says 6.1:1, which is dead accurate. Not accurate though is the publicised weight. It actually weighs a massive 33.28 oz without line. This is more than the Stella SW 18K (29.62), the Saltiga GT (28.24), and the Twinspin (32.61). That's in the realm of the hefty old Stella FA.
Speaking of inaccuracies, need to mention here that the advertised drag rating of 44lb (20KG) is totally out of range for this reel. The reel can handle high stress no problem. I held the spool and dead-lifted an 18 kilos (40lb) dumbbell, and the bending in the bail arm and rotor arm was less than that of a Saltiga under the same load. But that's with me stopping the spool from rotating. The actual maximum drag of this reel I measured at 16.4KG (36.2lb), and that was when I went mad on the knob I seriously feared I was going to break something, and the line release when everything was so stressed was jerky and totally useless for actual fishing. I would say that the maximum practical drag for this reel is around 14KG (31lb).
I used the reel on three outings so far. I usually test reels more than that before I review them, but I needed to post this as soon as possible for reasons I will explain later. I wanted to test it on the surf first for a proper SOL review, but the no flights to or from Europe led to the cancellation of my plans, therefore I managed to fish it offshore only It caught medium sized Amberjacks, Dorado, a Yellowfin, and although this is not the right reel for bottom fishing I had to wreck bait groupers to be able to see the drag at work. The drag on the Severo gets a thumb up. Feels like a Dogfight with upgraded Carbontech washers. It starts up with no jerking, and keeps going smoothly. There is some heat build up that you can feel under the knob following a good run, but nothing extreme or unusual for an upper stack drag. The knob is fully metal anyway and a meltdown there is not a risk. The braking force increases rapidly from zero to max with just one full turn of the knob. Some people like that, some don't. I am only mentioning it so you'd know.
Back from the third outing getting ready dissection, I found a good use for the holes in the stem
Ok, I was just being foolish in the above photo. You should never do that or you would damage the finish
Speaking of the finish
Out of the box the reel had that finish defect. There are no scratch or rubbing marks in or around it, so it is certainly a problem during the finishing process.
Let me explain quickly how the drag works
The red arrow points to the drag knob used to increases or decrease the pressure as usual. The blue arrow points the small independent nut that you unscrew to remove the spool keeping the drag pressure exactly as it is. Well, I don't know about you, but I have never been in a position where I needed to change the spool while keeping the drag setting. Actually in most cases when someone changes the spool they are doing it to use a different line, and logically the drag should be adjusted according to the new line and how full the spool is etc. So unless there is a point of such a feature that I am not aware of, this is completely redundant and only adds to the weight and complexity of a reel. It also makes an extra spool more expensive because the spool will need to come with its hub, clicker gear, and the whole isolated pressure mechanism.
The red arrow points an extra O ring that does not play a part, and the blue arrow points the main seal of the drag which is pretty effective as long as the silver nut is securely screwed in.
Removing the seal exposes the screws to gain access to the internals of the knob. I needed to look inside to see if they sealed the space around that centre silver nut.
Yes, they did! The red arrow points the round O ring that mates with the silver nut on the lower surface (marked by an X). In that same photo, #1 is the knob clicker, and #2 is the hole where it fits.
Looking inside the spool
Removing the drag knob exposes the pressure mechanism, and I found metal shavings from the machining there (red arrows).
The drag components: #1 is the upper drag ball bearing. This blue ring you see between the races is a seal. These are sealed bearings which are water tight, unlike the regular metal shields that only protect against foreign particles and keep the grease safe. #2 are the carbon fibre drag washers. Very similar to chrbontech these ones. #3 is the upper pressure nut activated by the knob, and marked X is the spool hub and you can see the second spool bearing on it. The white washer marked by the X doubles as water protection and a spool shim. Funny enough, the reel does not come with extra shims to change spool's height and accordingly adjust line lay for different diameters of line. I know this reel is about cutting corners to reduce the cost, but that was extremely cheap of them
Before we leave the spool...
The clicker is clean and loud, and is screwed down securely. No pressed-on retainers or similar cheap setups found in other reels.
The red arrow in the above photo points one of the most important features of this reel: The floating shaft. This was invented by Shimano for the Stella in mid 90s, and soon was copied by others. It's found on Saltiga and Twinspin.
For those who don't know what that means, in a nut shell it's a friction reducing mechanism that I personally consider essential in any reel used to catch big fish. Traditionally, the shaft goes through the pinion and is in full contact with it all the time. It's fine when you spin it at the shop, but when the reel is loaded, a friction is generated between the shaft and the inside of the pinion resulting in a loss in efficiency and wear in both the shaft and the pinion. But have a look at this
The floating shaft system uses a thick nut (#1), and in it fits a small ball bearing (#2), then a cover (#4) keeps that bearing in place. The shaft goes through the bearing and this way the rotation of the pinion is totally isolated from the shaft. Part #3 is a synthetic washer that goes around the shaft to reduce the friction from the up/down sliding movement.
The backside of the nut
The arrow in the above photo points the rubber O ring that keeps water from entering from underneath the nut.
Removing the rotor exposes the pinion and another sealed ball bearing can be seen (red arrow). There are no other seals for the pinion. This system is not water proof because water could get in from around the bearing if submerged for some time, but I consider this to be "water resistant".
This reel has another very good feature. The side cover could be removed without having to remove the rotor. This is an advantage over the Japanese reels where you have to take off the rotor first.
Many of the screws, including the ones holding the side cover, are Torx type. Get the right driver and don't try to wedge in other types of drivers not to damage the head. The red arrow in the above photo points to the blue loctite on the screw, something found on nearly every other screw in this reel.
The side cover off
The red X in the above photo points the rubber seal that encircles the entire housing.
The above photo shows one of the drive gear ball bearings (#1). The bearing is sealed, and there is an extra seal (#2) that fits underneath it for added water proofing. The other side has the exact same setup, and I need to mention that the bearings fit tightly in the recesses which shows commendable precision. #3 is smears of grease that someone took the time to apply to protect the metal, again quite an impressive effort.
Removing the frontal cup that houses the pinion exposes the anti-reverse clutch. The red arrow points the plastic V springs that keep the cylinders in contact with the sleeve. This creates a heavier feel to the rotation, but as in all spring type clutches it has virtually no back play and less chances of slippage.
Where that cup meets the body, there is another waterproof rubber seal.
The drivetrain taken out and cleaned off grease
#1 is the drive gear, #2 the pinion, #3 main shaft, #4 the gear that activates the oscillation gear, and #5 is the oscillation gear itself.
The drive gear is made of stainless steel. Heavy and strong, and there are no weight reducing drillings or other stunts that sometimes go bad.
Closeup showing the quality machining and the heavy gauge teeth. The red arrows point a thinner area in the drive shaft that makes it possible to lower the gear closer to the centreline of the pinion without hitting the shaft. The closer the drive gear is to that centreline, the more efficient the power transmission is.
The pinion. One piece stainless steel, and the red arrow points the integrated anti-reverse sleeve on it. Some will claim that this feature eliminates play and similar, but this is rubbish. It's a shortcut for simplicity and cost effectiveness and nothing else. It could be a drawback on the long run because when parts wear out you will have to replace the pinion in addition to the clutch because the integral sleeve on the pinion would have worn. The Japanese make an independent sleeve for a reason.
The pinion rests on a ball bearing on the other end too. The bearing is sealed which is redundant for a bearing that sits in the middle of the gear box. Not such a big deal, but it would have been better if a regular bearing was used because sealed ones has a slight drag to them because of the seal and should only be used in areas where there is contact with the outer world. Speaking of bearings, the reel has 14 of them, placed in the exact same places as the 14 bearings of the Saltiga and the 14 of the Twinspin.
Oscillation gear and the ball bearing that it runs on. It's made of aluminium similar to the Saltiga and the TS, and I was disappointed when I caught the first glimpse of it because I thought it uses an aluminium stud to work the aluminium oscillation cam, which is a sure way to get rapid wear. But a closer look reveals a sleeve on the stud (pointed by the red arrow) to keep wear to a minimum and make the action smoother. Top marks here.
Above is a closeup of the back of the oscillation cam. #1 & #2 are the upper and lower bearings that it runs on. #1 is more important because when the reel is loaded and the spool/shaft are under twisting forces, the cam will roll on that bearing smoothly up and down instead of rubbing against reel's body if there was no bearing.
The machined one piece body. Machining a body is neither easy nor cheap, and it creates a piece that is lighter in weight than a cast piece of similar strength. That means that if they wanted to cast a body of the same strength, it will have to be thicker and heavier.
Simple and fool proof. When the bail is opened the hinged guide (X) moves along the marked path to keep the spring in the same line as the guide rod (Z) at all times. This lessens the possibility of a failure considerably over regular design where the spring bends.
Staying with the bail. Well, I am sure that the reel was tested thoroughly before production, but a problem was missed by the field testers. Maybe because they concentrated on catching fish and did not have enough understanding of the functionality of a spinning reel and how its parts relate to one another. For example, a defect that manifests itself lets say once every 200 casts could still be missed even if the tester made 300 casts, because if he blinks and misses it on the 200th cast, he would not get another shot at it and a problematic reel would enter production.
I took the reel out of the box, opened the bail and closed it, then directly felt that something looked wrong. I then gave it a few spins until the spool was at its highest position, opened the bail, and BANG! The bail hit the top of the drag knob and would not open.
The bail wire is too short it won't clear the knob if opened when the spool is at the top position!! This probelm is complicated further by the fact that the reel does not have a mechanism to brake the rotor during a cast. It's true that the bail closes manually only and there is no risk of premature closure, but the thing is, if you open the bail when the spool is near its highest position then cast, the rotor could spin a little taking the spool to its highest position, then when you try to close the bail it will hit the knob and won't close. If that happens once your popper hits the water and gets taken by a hungry GT or if a snapper takes your jig as it drops, you would not have enough time to figure out how to clear the way for the bail and you could lose the fish along with a nice lure and yards of braid. I wanted to make sure I did not get a bad lemon, so I located someone who has one and told him what to do, and he found the same problem. Of course I examined the bail wire to make sure it was not bent or deformed, and it was fine. Just a few millimetres short.
In the above photos the screw that holds the bail arm has metal shavings at the bottom of its head that were left during its manufacture.
The line roller components. A sensitive area because of its exposure to more salt than any other part of the reel, and the bearings work tens of time more than any other bearing. Think about it: When the pinion bearing makes 6 rotations, the line roller bearings would have made more than 100 rotations because they rotate once with every about half inch of line retrieved depending on the circumference of the line roller. In the photo #1 are the two shielded bearings inside the roller, #2 are seals that go on both sides of the roller, and are supposed to fit perfectly in the recess pointed by the red arrow to seal the bearings. Well, they are slightly over sized and don't fit in the recesses. This does not impede the function of the roller, but this way they are quite useless and the roller is not protected against elements. This is copied from the Saltiga too, but if you go to my review of it you will see how the seals fit perfectly into the recesses. Still in the above photo, #3 is the massive bail arm. Nothing that swims in the sea can break this arm.
Closeup of the cutouts in the stem. They left a thin bridge in the middle with three ornate drillings. That design looks very nice and is structurally safe.
The joint of the handle is secured by a torx screw. I wanted to make sure it would not get loose, so I tightened the handle then loosened it many times, and yanked it repeatedly while retrieving line, but the screw stayed where it should be thanks to tight tolerance and generous amounts of loctite used on it
The internals of the handle's knob. #1 & #2 are the two bearings it rotates on.
The reel is quite interesting. I like that Omoto, mainly OEM manufacturers of parts for other brands, are trying to stand on their own feet. Daiwa was once an OEM maker of parts too before they started making their own branded reels. I also would not dismiss its country of origin as some have done. The people in Taiwan are Chinese in origin, but that does not mean they make products of a similar quality to China's. The problem in China is the entire cheap culture of manufacturing and quality of the individuals' workmanship. Taiwan is a western style democracy where factory workers are union members who live well and don't work in sweatshops or fear an accidental pregnancy because of a "one child" policy. So while I would not rate Taiwanese manufacturing quality up there with Japanese or German ones, I would rate it way above Chinese and put it in the same league as Korean quality.
The reel is designed for pure strength, and that it achieves, no doubt. For one of my dry land tests I tightened the handle, then tried to over torque it to see if the threads would fail. It felt solid and would not give, so I increased the amount of torque until I reached a point where I was outright trying with all my strength to break it off, but I failed. That was on the left side where the threads are thicker. I know I can break it on the right side where the threaded part is thinner, but I did not do it because it was just an extreme test for the left side and in no fishing situation such a load is going to be applied on the handle.
I am a realistic person. For the < $450 paid for this reel I did not expect a Stella. I knew that corners must be cut here and there to be able to offer a reel at this price, and in all honesty I liked what they did. In other similar efforts corners were cut where it hurt the functionality and reliability of the reel, and they were so inherent in the design fixing them would mean designing a new reel. But Omoto cut corners where it does not affect the reel. We have a shiny spot on the finish here and some metal shavings there, but for the price that is perfectly fine with me. The serious issues should be rectified easily as I will explain in my advice to Omoto at the end of the review.
Of course I had no problem buying one because I service and fix my own reels. But for others to start buying them without worries, an effective network of service and parts should exist. Omoto America's site lists several service points, but it remains to be seen if these centres would be able to offer quick and efficient services. That is something neither me or anyone else could predict at this point.
As for the price, I hope it could be brought significantly down from the MSRP of $700. I don't know of anyone who would not fork the extra $135 and buy a Saltiga or the extra $240 and buy the biggest Stella. At $700 the reel is not viable. If for less than $450 Omoto was making a profit and the middle man was too, then why not sell it at this price? Maybe in the future if they proved to be good enough the price could go up to maybe $500 so that they can subsidise more service centres and R&D. But anything more than that is going to bring the price too close to other reels that have a track record and a certain prestige people would hardly feel inclined to buy a Severo. I hope they do reduce the price, and hope that would not mean that we will begin to see screws getting loose for the lack of loctite or handle threads failing because the type of steel used has changed.
Finally, I'm not going to apologize for being brutal in analysing every drawback of the reel. This is me and that's what I do and what I will keep doing. I seriously like the potential of the reel and think it's the closest anyone has ever come to making true alternative to the super spinners for those who can't afford them or charter boats that need cost effective workhorses. But there are serious issues that should be rectified before I could feel confident recommending the Severo to my friends, or maybe even get another one in a different ratio for myself.
* A longer bail wire.
* Either use smaller line roller seals that fit correctly, or get rid of the seals and use sealed bearings in there.
Important but not vital
* Include spare spool shims with the reel and print a quick guide on the back of the parts diagram explaining how to add and remove them.
Not important but might help
* Replace the smaller sealed bearing of the pinion with a regular one if that was going to save a few pence.
I hope everyone has enjoyed this and hopefully next time it will be the Torque. I have a target of doing it then the new Saltiga for a total of three reviews this year, that's if the later was released no later than the beginning of December.
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May, 8th, 2010