Daiwa BG Spawns
In 2016 I wrote an article to help you decipher Daiwa's high end offerings, since instead of a single top model they released a bunch of models that were confusingly similar, with even regional variants within the same model. Now, motivated by your frequent messages enquiring about a different group of reels, I find myself needing to write another "disambiguation" article this time focused on a lower segment of Daiwa's spinning offerings. You might think that you already know what's in this article, but just read it because I promise that you don't. Actually Daiwa itself doesn't know as you'll soon discover.
Four years ago the BG was released, and I simply can't say enough good things about the genius of this spinner. For little money they gave us a metal framed reel, in almost every size imaginable from tiny 1500 to full size 8000, highly resistant anodised finish, genuine NMB bearings, top tier clutch, and sizes 4500 and up have a backup anti-reverse. The groundbreaking feature though was the gear design, where they went for a colossal cast zinc gear with huge teeth, delivering much more strength and durability than its low-cost construction usually yields in competing reels. In 2016 when I first fished and reviewed the BG I made some bold predictions, years on I can say that my expectations have been met with a proven track record, and that it remains one of the greatest values for money around even after they increased its price by roughly 10% due to its immense commercial success.
Following the BG, Daiwa released numerous models built on its platform with some retouches done here and there. Some of these reels are supposed to be a step up, some a step down, but they remain essentially a BG at the core. These reels are too many, and they came in such quick succession I couldn't casually call them "spin-offs" or even "offspring", rather the only word I found proper to describe them was "spawns"!
These reels bring this image to my mind; the big ass mother spider spawning countless little ones in the 1997 "Blood" game, which I'm now replaying for the first time in 23 years. You see, it was a DOS game that wouldn't work on new operating systems, so for many years I waited in frustration until they finally remastered it as "Blood: Fresh Supply" last year. YAY!! But I digress... In this article I'll try to list and identify these spawns, tell you the main retouches done to each, and with that information you can decide if you'd want one of them or would rather stick to the BG. I touched quickly on some of them in the past, today though I'll go into more detail and include the ones that weren't released back then. A few important things to keep on mind as you begin reading:
- While I'll be more detailed, it's not the sort of ultimate detail you find in individual reviews, because had I gone that route this would easily have taken me a year to write and taken you a week to read considering the large number of reels involved. If you have specific questions on minute details of one of them, get in touch.
- As you'll soon see, these spawns are highly modular, sharing the main platform as well as having high percentages of interchangeable parts up to more than 90% in some cases. This means that at any point different variants of the same model could appear, each having different specifications or components. A well known example of that sort of thing is the 2015 Saltiga which in some markets were sold with ATD drag washers and inscribed as such, while in some other markets the same model was sold with UTD drag and different markings. If in the future I come across other variations of listed models I'll update this article as they come out.
- Finally, some of these spawns are sold in certain geographical regions only, therefore there is a good chance you'd have no local access to some of them.
The first spawn is also called the Daiwa BG, but this is the JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) version. This doesn't mean it's made in Japan as I sometimes hear, rather it means that it's the model sold locally in Japan. It's essentially the same reel as the export (international market) model BG, except for the handle and how it's attached to the drive gear; the export BG has a handle that screws into the drive gear, while this JDM BG version has the hexagonal shaft type handle that you push through then tighten a nut at the opposite side of the frame to keep it in place.
This is how a typical hexagon shaft setup looks, and certainly at one point or another you must've used a reel that has it. With very rare exceptions, it's generally considered inferior to screw-in handle attachment for a few reasons; sometimes with use the nut becomes loose and you need to re-tighten it. The handle opening at the opposite side is often not protected against water intrusion since the retaining nut is usually external. If the handle is not periodically removed and cleaned the shaft might become stuck inside the gear because of salty deposits. That's in addition to complex engineering issues concerning strength and gear offset which I won't discuss here.
Daiwa now has neat little icons for everything, and in some markets they call this handle system "Pin Through Handle"
And in other markets they call it "Slide-in Handle", a name that I find kinda eerie for some reason. I'll just stick to calling it the hexagon shaft.
A sure way to tell the two BG versions apart is looking at the side opposite to the handle. In the export reel you get a fixed screw-in cap that's slightly pointy, while in the JDM version you get a distinctly shaped nut that's wider and flatter to allow a better grip for tightening. That nut of course spins when you turn the handle in the JDM version. You can also tell by the hood of the handle itself, but the difference is more subtle and less noticeable. A distinct feature of the hexagon shaft handle is that it can collapse, an advantage for easy transportation, but of course one can't always count on this for immediate visual identification in case the handle was in the ready position.
If you're ordering online and can't see the handle nut, it might be helpful to know that the JDM BG is only available in sizes 3500 to 5000 (at the time of writing), some of the JDM reels come in a slower 4.9:1 gear ratio which is not available in export BG, and the higher ratio JDM reels have an "H" next to the size number. That "H" is printed clearly in a large font on the box.
My Take- This JDM spawn is cheaper than the export BG and can easily be found on ebay from overseas sellers. If you really really want a slightly slower gear ratio and can live with the hexagon shaft handle, then I guess getting one of these JDM reels is not a bad idea. Otherwise, it would be better if you stick with the export reels. The money saved isn't that much on an already cheap reel, plus you never know if your local Daiwa service centre would honour the warranty of a reel bought from abroad. Also if you need to buy a part related to the different handle to gear attachment system, you won't be able to get it from your local Daiwa. Here are all the facts, your call. Moving on to the second spawn..
This is the "BG Air-Bail". To create it they started with a standard export BG, more or less replaced the golden highlights with bronze-coloured ones, exchanged the hard plastic T shaped handle grip for an EVA round one, then replaced the original bail wire with one that is more streamlined where it connects to the line roller. For years you've asked me why I call it "streamlined" instead of "Air-Bail" as Daiwa advertises it, and I replied that I personally consider it misleading advertisement to call a certain version of it "Air-Bail". Let me explain. Daiwa originally introduced the Air-Bail about 20 years ago, and it looked like this
A hollow stainless steel tube that was truly one piece from end to end. Those of you who have experience in manufacturing would know how complex it is to create such a hollow piece, therefore it was natural that Daiwa reserved it for their top reels only. Later on they wanted to milk the name, so they created a cheaper clone of it for lesser reels
This is it. Instead of a single piece, this one was actually two pieces joined near the line roller. Need to quickly mention that until a few years ago this two piece wire was also used in high end reels sizes 4000 and smaller, because the cost of making it as a single piece on that small scale was impractical. Anyway, Daiwa called this two piece wire in lesser reels "Air-Bail" as well, which I rejected and instead described it as a wire that has a more streamlined connection. Absurdly enough, Daiwa has recently decided to officially transfer the original name "Air-Bail" to this lesser two piece design, giving it this icon
Then they created a completely new name and new icon for the original one piece bail wire
They now call it "Air-Bail 1" in a reference to it being a true one piece unit. This new naming is being rolled out in some regions right now and will undoubtedly soon reach everywhere. How ridiculous is that? Instead of coming up with a new name for the second design, they just give that second design the original name then create a new name for the original design. Maybe we'll wake up tomorrow to find that they transferred the new name "Air-Bail 1" to a third wire design and named the original one "Air-Bail-1-For-Real-We-Promise-Seriously-Cross-Our-Hearts-And-Hope-To-Die-We-Won't-Change-It-Again-Well-Maybe-Just-One-More-Time-But-That-Will-Be-It-Double-Promise". What's stopping them when they have already done this absurdity?
Anyhow, this "BG Air-Bail" has the lesser two piece design, hence my description of it as a streamlined wire.
My Take- This "BG Air-Bail" is generally sold for more than the BG. The streamlined bail wire is not worth anything to me, since it's not as tough or as refined as the first tier single piece wire, and in actual use it's not different to the basic wire design in the BG. This leaves us with the round EVA grip as the only meaningful difference. This one is up to your own subjective personal preference. I can't call it good or bad because I'm someone who just doesn't perceive much difference between various grip shapes while fishing, and for the life of me I don't get why the industry calls the round grip a "power grip" when it doesn't universally guarantee any mechanical advantage. The gripping power is dependent on what fits your palm size, hold style, whether you wear gloves or not, preferred firmness of material, etc. I personally generate more power with perfectly solid T grips, but that's me and you might like a different shape/firmness combination. Compare the price of this "BG Air-Bail" to the price of the BG in your local market, then figure out if the different grip is worth the price difference to you.
The Eliminator. This is meant to be a step below the BG, and it's priced cheaper accordingly. Prior to production this reel experimented with various sets of options, but ultimately the final production reel was considerably stripped down. The most notable differences between the Eliminator and the export BG are as follows; the Eliminator has a hexagon shaft handle attachment. It has 5 ball bearings instead of 6, the missing one being the spool's ball bearing. The drag knob of the Eliminator doesn't have the protective rubber seal. And the drag washers of the Eliminator are surface-treated felt instead of the carbon fibre washers of the BG.
You need to be aware that there are some incorrect specifications out there, such as this example from Daiwa USA's official site, which at the time of writing states that the Eliminator has a "cut Digigear". The gear is in reality the same cast zinc one found in the BG, not a cut one. These errors are all innocent mistakes stemming from copying/pasting the definition of the original "Digigear" before Daiwa milked the name as well by creating lesser grades of gearing bearing the same label. You're probably familiar with my pet-peeve about these asinine marketing terms that half the time mean nothing at all, and the other half they mean everything and anything. Almost every brand does it to a degree, but Daiwa in my opinion is the worst abuser of them all.
More bad information that you need to be careful of, Daiwa's Australian site currently lists "Air-Bail" as a feature of the Eliminator. This is not true by any definition of that term, unless they've just adopted a new set of definitions in which "Air-Bail" means "It is what we say it is and you need to shut up if you don't want to leave in an ambulance". The bail wire of the Eliminator is the basic thin solid wire found on 99.99% of all spinning reels ever made.
My Take- This reel is truly stripped down. The missing bearing in the spool doesn't affect the reel's operation and won't make any real difference, but that's about it. All other downgrades are consequential to various degrees, especially the drag knob and the drag washers. The missing knob seal largely turns the Eliminator into a dry reel that's too risky to use in wet conditions or even where it might get lightly sprayed with saltwater. Actually one even has to be careful washing it after use because you still don't want to flood the drag components with tap water. And while the felt washers in this reel are surface treated to increase their resilience, they are still felt which doesn't handle heat very well. You never know when a good old fish would come and put some hurt on these washers, especially in larger sizes. Felt should do alright in the light duty sizes up to 4000, but larger Eliminators would greatly benefit from an upgrade to carbon fibre washers. Is this reel worth it? Well, it's only roughly 20% cheaper than an export BG, so it's not worth it in my book. Had it been 50% cheaper I might have recommended it with a few caveats, but not for a lousy 20% savings.
Then we have the "BG Nero", which is NOT the "BG Saltist Nero". Please don't get them confused. To arrive at the "BG Nero", imagine taking an export BG, giving it an all-black colour scheme, downgrading the handle attachment to the hexagon shaft, removing the ball bearing in the spool, and there you have it. The rest remains as it is.
Again you need to be aware of some inaccurate data being circulated. The official Daiwa France site mistakenly states that the "BG Nero" has a ball bearing in the spool, which is incorrect. I chose to capture the English version of Daiwa France's site so you can read it, but the mistake is found in French as well
Here it is, same claim found in Daiwa France's catalogue in its original language. And no, I don't speak French and don't begin messaging me in that language. I did study it in school but never learned a thing because I was always distracted by the heavenly legs of my teacher who liked to wear those embroidered knee-length dresses, and pretty much spent the entirety of French classes staring and daydreaming while everyone around me were busy yelling "avis vooous" or "jay achutee un chivale" and similar weird noises. If you know a Madame Batteux who's a retired French language teacher, give her my best and tell her that her perfect calves were the reason I failed French, not that I was "slightly retarded" as she assured my mum when she came to discuss my abysmal report. But I digress.... The wrong specifications of this reel are not limited to the spool bearing, but if you look at the previous image in English you'll see that the text states the reel has an "ATD drag" but then further down the description changes to "UTD drag". Didn't I tell you at the beginning that Daiwa itself has no clue what's in these spawns?
My Take- I tried to find the price difference between the "BG Nero" and the export BG in markets where both reels are sold, but the difference is not consistent and varies from a region to another. The "BG Nero" is always cheaper than the export BG, but not by much. You therefore need to do some homework and figure out how much each reel would cost delivered to your door, and when you have the final amount you'd save ask yourself if it's enough for you to live with the more frequent care the hexagon shaft requires. Of course if the "BG Nero" is not sold locally then you probably should just get the export BG and not bother. Ordering the "BG Nero" from another country is likely to end up costing you more than the BG after you add shipping and potential customs' duties. Anyhow, you now have the facts and know the actual differences between both reels, you take it from here.
The "GS9 II". Not hard to see were the name came from and the connection to the BG
The original Black Gold (BG) became the new "BG", and similarly the original Gold Silver 9 (GS9) became the new "GS9 II". Call it a legitimate homage or a cheesy cashing on the name, it is where it comes from anyway. Just like the original GS9 came in a single size, the new "GS9 II" comes in one size as well, at least for now. The difference is that the old GS9 came in the full size 9 (equivalent to the old BG 90), while the new "GS9 II" comes in mid size (equivalent to the new BG 5000). The new "GS9 II" has a hexagon shaft handle, felt drag washers, and no bearing in the spool, therefore at first glance it seems identical to the Eliminator 5000, but in reality it is not. Its unique feature is that it comes in a 4.9:1 gear ratio, using the drive train found in the JDM BG 4500. So they virtually took a JDM BG 4500 body, put a 5000 size spool on it, then inserted felt drag washers in this spool.
Has Daiwa managed to confuse the living daylight out of you yet? What if I tell you that you still haven't seen the really confusing part, and that this spawn reel seems to have spawned another reel itself?
End of November someone who works for a retailer in mainland Europe forwarded this to me, saying they've just received the picture with a set of specifications that indicates it has a ball bearing in the spool. Same size and 4.9:1 ratio though. If you look carefully at the picture you'd see that the spool says "GS-9" instead of "GS9 II". This one I have not yet seen in real life and have no clue what it is. Has the new "GS9 II" already spawned an even newer "GS-9"? Why? Is it the same reel being re-released but after removing the "II" and inserting a dash "-" between the GS and the 9 in its name? Also why? Are the different specifications real or another mistake? I shall continue to monitor it and if the mystery ever clears up I'll come back and clarify things.
My Take- Assuming that the "GS9 II" is the one that will stick, which remains an assumption for now, you need to ask yourself just how much do you need a 5000 sized reel with the 4.9:1 ratio? Is your fishing technique that specific that you can't make do with the 5.7:1 standard BG 5000? If you really want this ratio/size combination, then get the "GS9 II", but I recommend that you swap the felt washers with carbon fibre ones so you'd be covered across a wider range of situations.
This is the "BG Mag-Sealed", which is an export BG in a black colour scheme with red highlights, in addition to three alterations; the first, as the model's name implies, is a mag-seal plate inserted around the pinion. The second is this...
.... rubber seals at the handle's openings to keep water out. This picture shows the style of the seal found on smaller sizes up to 4000, and will later show you the style of the seal on larger sizes. The third alteration is harder to spot...
... a subtle change from previous spawns is a tweaked spool seating setup, where the spool of this "BG Mag-Sealed" sits on a tubular hub and the drag washer stack is topped with this distinct corrugated-wall washer. This setup resembles ones found in higher grade reels, but it changes nothing in how the drag actually works in the "BG Mag-Sealed" and it still performs just like the drag of the BG, outputting the same maximum pressure. The drag knob of the "BG Mag-Sealed" is accordingly different in order to work with this corrugated washer in the manner explained in the following diagram
Due to the nature of that corrugated washer the drag knob seal had to be relocated and placed higher, and its new position gives it the ability to repel water at an earlier point than in the BG and the previous spawns. On the left side of the diagram the seal sits right on top of the drag stack as in the BG and the previous spawns (except the Eliminator which has no seal), while on the right side the seal is located at the very top of the spool's well as is the case in this "BG Mag-Sealed". Generally speaking, the optimum location for the drag seal is a complex issue that's not as simplistic as it appears, something I won't dive into here not to deviate from the subject on hand. In this particular case though the knob seal's relocation works with the handle seal and mag-seal towards making the "BG Mag-Sealed" more resistant to water than previous spawns.
Other than these alterations, everything else matches the export BG. I needed to reiterate this because, yet again, there are wrong information about it everywhere including in some official Daiwa literature
For example Daiwa's French catalogue states that it has 7+1 bearings. The "+1" is that corny thing everyone does where they count the anti-reverse clutch as a "bearing" when in reality it doesn't work like a bearing or "bear" anything, but regardless the number 7 is still wrong. The reel has 6 actual ball bearings just like the BG, so it should be either 6 or, if they want to add the clutch, 6+1. That 7+1 thing is pure fiction.
The English version of Daiwa Germany's catalogue though gets it right, because, well, because it's zee Germanz and they usually get things right. Maybe with the exception of that thing where at pedestrian crossings they look left and right then run across while the light is still red, leaving me standing there alone like a fool waiting for the green. I heard all the rumours about zee Germanz never doing that sort of thing, but I swear on my mother's grave that's what I witnessed in Frankfurt this summer time after time after time, and they couldn't have all been tourists! But I digress again...
My Take (on the reel not the jaywalkers)- I had nothing against any of the previous spawns and my opinions were largely centred around their value, but now that we've entered the "mag-seal" universe you can expect me to have serious reservations. If you're new to this site, here is my stance on mag-sealed reels in a nutshell; Daiwa would not sell the ferrofluid that fills these magnetic seals, which leaves you with no option but to send the reels to an official Daiwa service centre if the mag-seal needed care, if the fluid reaches the end of its service life of about 4-5 years, or even if the mag-seal itself is fine but you need to remove it in order to reach other parts of the reel beneath it. One might consider tolerating this for the high-end fully sealed saltwater Daiwas, but there is absolutely no good reason to subject oneself to this torture for lesser reels that aren't fully sealed, even when they have some added water protection as is the case with this "BG Mag-Sealed". Additionally, the presence of the mag-seal pumps the price up, which eats away the main attraction of the BG platform; VALUE. Skip it, and for the money look into the competing offerings from other brands.
The Saltist received extra blue highlights to resemble the older generation Saltist reels. Cosmetics aside, it has the streamlined bail wire, a mag-seal around the pinion, and the line roller is mag-sealed too in the following manner; the line roller of sizes 4500 and up has one self-contained mag-sealed ball bearing, while the line roller of the smaller sizes has two standard ball bearings with a magnet disc inserted at each side of the roller keeping ferrofluid suspended in the magnetic field. These magnet discs are employed in smaller sizes because self-contained mag-sealed bearings can't be made on this small scale. There are no other mag-seals in this reel.
Also has the seals at the handle's openings, and this picture shows the slightly different style of seal found on larger reels 4500 and up. The Saltist has the altered spool seating with the corrugated top washer and the higher positioned knob seal exactly as found in the "BG Mag-Sealed".
My Take- As stated earlier, the two piece streamlined bail wire is not really an upgrade so just ignore it. The improved protection of the line roller is definitely a good thing, but now that the reel has more mag-seals you're chained even tighter to Daiwa's service centres, unable to do even a routine line roller service yourself. Thankfully though one doesn't have to linger much on these details, because one look at the price tag is a definitive deal breaker in my opinion. The reel costs on average slightly more than the 2014 Shimano Spheros SW, a reel that is fully sealed, outperforms the Saltist in every aspect imaginable, and servicing it doesn't require a magic potion that's hidden inside the anus of a fire-spitting dragon roaming the farthest corner of Skull Island. Grease works fine in that Shimano. If you need a smaller size than what's available in the genuine 2014 Spheros SW series, then get a Daiwa Tatula LT instead of the Saltist. A beautiful piece of machinery that's head and shoulders above the Saltist in my view.
The "Saltist Nero", which is not to be confused with the "BG Nero" discussed earlier. This "Saltist Nero" is in essence an all-black version of the "BG Mag-Sealed" but with the streamlined bail wire found on the Saltist. This means that it has only one mag-seal around the pinion, has the altered spool seating with higher located drag knob seal, the rubber seal at the handle opening. This reel's build could be tricky to remember. Once you hear "Saltist Nero" it's natural that you'd think it's exactly the Saltist except in black, but you need to pause and remember that it doesn't have the mag-sealed ball bearing line roller found in the Saltist.
My Take- It's pretty straight forward at this point. Nice water resistance features, yet a mag-seal equals service headache and the price is close enough to the prices of better reels from other brands.
The "Saltist LTD", which is the prettiest of the bunch. No surprise here since it's made to loosely look like one of the most beautiful reels Daiwa ever created; the 2014 Expedition, which has recently been discontinued.
Not exactly the same, but close enough to attract the attention of other fishermen and probably initiate a conversation or two. I hate everyone and think people are gross so that's a big ewww for me, but maybe that's something you'd enjoy. The "Saltist LTD" has identical features to the Saltist, except that its handle has a metal ball grip that runs on ball bearings. To recap quickly, this means that the "Saltist LTD" has a mag-sealed ball bearing line roller, a mag-seal around the pinion, a streamlined bail wire, the altered spool seating with higher drag seal, and the protective seal at the handle's opening. Notably, the "Saltist LTD" differs from all previous spawns in that it has a painted finish instead of an anodised finish. Normally painted finish is less resistant than anodised finish, but it's a trade off to obtain that attractive blue finish.
My Take- Just look at the price. I don't think I need to say anything more.
These are all the spawns available. Note that there are currently a few more models that might look as if they should have been included here, but these are ones that I deemed to have been fundamentally altered in ways that make them not belong in this group. It's a fine line here and there are no firm rules, but I just used my senses to decide when a model becomes its own reel instead of just another spawn. A good example of a reel that's not a BG spawn despite looking like one would be a recent release that bears the longest and silliest name I've ever seen;
The "BG RR LT ARK", where "ARK" is for Aluminium Round Knob, "LT" stands for Light and Tough which is marketing nonsense, and the RR probably has something to do with the colour scheme so it perhaps stands for "Ridiculous Red" or "Repulsive Red" or something similar. I mean who would buy a red reel unless they wanted to look like a pimp who took a break from beating up his working girls and went fishing? I digress though... The "BG RR LT ARK" has a body build that highly resembles that of the BG and some of its spawns, but the spool is such a radically different design it makes the reel a separate model instead of a BG spin-off.
Back to the spawns, the main purpose of this article is to highlight the common platform of these reels and explain that despite having different features the operational capabilities of all spawns are pretty much equal. A disturbing trend I've seen over the past 4 years is how the trashy magazine-style "reviews" give the impression that by moving up the price ladder of these spawns you can tackle bigger and harder fighting fish, which is rubbish. Some spawns could handle a little more wetness than the BG would, but none is capable of landing a fish that the BG couldn't land.
Here is a little bonus, the "BG GG 5000", which is a genuine BG spawn not to be confused with the red "BG RR LT ARK" discussed earlier. A reader forwarded me this photo of the reel as spotted in a Japanese show, and it appears to be a full custom job with various aftermarket parts and accessories. I kept it out of the main body of this article since it's not a mass produced reel nor comes from Daiwa, but wanted to throw it in as a nice note to wrap this up on. Customisers are now taking a fancy to the BG, which only affirms what I've already known; the release of the BG in 2016 wasn't only a pivotal moment that steered the industry towards a new formula for the quality to money equation, but it also ushered the first act in the making of a classic that's sure to leave a lasting imprint long after it's gone. I'd go as far as to call the BG "the Mitchell 300 of our times".
Can't believe I've reached the end of this one, which was surprisingly harder to put together than I initially thought. Maybe because it involves a good number of reels most of which happen to be confusingly similar. That's it for now. And I'm saying "for now" because at the rate BG keeps spawning new models there is a good chance 74 new models would have come out just in the time it took me to upload this page! Come back and look every once a while to see if more reels have been added, and tight lines smelly bunch.
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February, 19th, 2020