Quantum Reliance : The Review
Hey fishos, those locked down and the ones roaming free
After a deluge of reviews and blog articles dedicated to Daiwa's and Shimano's numerous recent releases, it's time to catch up with what other brands have been cooking. Today we'll tackle a reel by Quantum, terrible pun intended, beginning with a quick look at Quantum's current place in the rapidly changing landscape of mainstream brands;
At the time of writing in fall 2021, we still have the big three actual manufacturers Shimano, Daiwa, and Okuma. There also remains a good number of small independent or family owned brands despite a few going out of business in recent years. But what used to be the two big conglomerates of brands are now gone, with the many brands they owned being picked up and consolidated by new owners. The fate of the two defunct conglomerates is a messy soup opera of sorts, so bear with me as I try to summarise it in as few words as I can;
In 2019 W.C. Bradley Co, then the owner of Zebco Brands (Zebco, Fin-Nor, Quantum, and Van Staal), sold Fin-Nor and Van Staal to PureFishing. PureFishing itself had just been sold a year earlier by its previous owner Newel Brands to the private equity firm Sycamore Partners. Van Staal and Fin-Nor therefore joined brands like Penn, Shakespeare, Mitchell, Abu-Garcia, and Hardy & Greys under the PureFishing umbrella now owned by Sycamore Partners. Meanwhile W.C. Bradley Co continued to hold onto Zebco Brands and its subsidiary Quantum for a little while, then in February 2021 it sold them to Rather Outdoors, previously known as Lew’s Holdings, who owns fishing related brands such as Fox, Strike King, and Lew's. Under the ownership of Rather Outdoors Zebco Brands became just Zebco, with Quantum becoming one of its sister brands instead of a subsidiary.
At this stage it's unclear what the future holds for Quantum. Nine months have passed since the company was sold, yet its website has not been updated and still lists W.C. Bradley and Zebco Holdings, which I find peculiar. I want there to be countless brands competing and innovating for the benefit of our sport, so fingers are crossed that the company will maintain its character and the way it does things. Would be such a shame if Quantum becomes just another name printed on generic shelf reels picked from Chinese contractors' catalogues. As it stands now, it seems that no changes have been made and Quantum appears to continue offering its existing models, both for freshwater and saltwater disciplines. Back to the Reliance, this series made its debut less than 2 years ago and immediately caught my attention. Quantum having previously given us such decent reels as the feature-packed Cabo PTSC, the very tough Cabo PTSD/PTSE, and the almost as tough but more affordable Boca PTSD/PTSE, I embarked on the journey to explore the Reliance with a lot of hope that it would be yet another competent spinner from that interesting brand. Now, 12 months on, I finally think that I know everything I need to know about it, and am ready to share my findings.
I bought my Reliance 85 once it was released late November 2020. It had been available since 2019 in sizes 30, 40, 55, and 65, but I waited until the entire series was completed at the end of 2020 with the addition of the 35, 45, and the biggest one, the 85. Sometimes I would test a series of reels despite some sizes remaining yet unreleased, but only when those missing sizes do not hold a significant place in the lineup nor have special qualities or features. In the case of the Reliance though the missing reels were a part of the backbone of the series, so I needed to wait patiently for their arrival.
Unusual packaging, with an envelope inserted into the flaps of the box.
That envelope houses the paperwork; a manual, parts diagram, some Quantum stickers for your car, and an interesting warranty program that sounds more extensive than the standard fare. This program started under the previous ownership, and I'm hopeful that it will continue at the same level of service quality under the new one.
Aesthetically, the reel has a distinct "form follows function" design, where every part is shaped to best do a job and with very little embellishments.
Even that body extension, which is only present in the 85 size, has an operational purpose that we'll discuss later on.
The rotor exemplifies that bare practicality principle. Pretty ordinarily shaped, with only a couple of shallow decorative curves in its centre.
There is though one exception to that form follows function concept, and it's a hard one to miss
This Daiwa-inspired body insert is that exception. A purely cosmetic addition that serves no other purpose than the cool factor, and all things considered I'd say it does deliver that coolness to a certain degree.
Overall the look of this reel has a definite "cleanliness" about it, which makes it appealing in its special way. Visuals are free of pretension or cheesy attempts to make it look dramatic, something that often backfires. The silver/black colour scheme is as safe a bet as it gets, while the rusty-orange colour of the accents is so unorthodox it injects some intrigue into the reel's otherwise plain looks. To analogise, the Reliance's appearance is not Monica Bellucci's in-your-face screaming gorgeousness, that would be Shimano's 21' Exsense. Nor is it Princess Diana's dignified classic beauty, that would be the 20' Saltiga. Instead the Reliance is that cashier at Publix who's kinda cute but has green hair. You think it wouldn't exactly hurt to stare at her face over dinner but wonder if the hair was activism for her life's cause of granting geese the right to vote or something similarly deranged. Anyhow...
Made in the People's Republic, where almost 30% of the world's stuff is made.
The Quantum Reliance is a series of full metal bodied reels spread across 4 size classes; tiny 30/35, small 40/45, mid-size 55/65, and the full-size 85. While the two tiny reels will likely be used for freshwater fishing almost exclusively, the design and features of the whole series are positively saltwater oriented. The MSRP of these reels ranges from $100 to $110 at the time of writing, but the street price is considerably less and they can be easily obtained for 20% less in normal times. The "normal times" qualifier is inserted here because right now, fall 2021, times are as abnormal as they get with supply chain bottlenecks and spiralling inflation limiting availability and/or hiking prices of goods in the most unpredictable ways.
That said, I recently spotted the weirdest phenomena
A single source seems to be unloading large numbers of these reels, mostly brand new without boxes or papers, at extraordinarily low prices. This image from an auction site captures the results of a search for "sold items'', meaning the listings that ended with an actual purchase. In it you can see that the 40 size sold for as low as $35, the 65 size for as low as $40, and pairs sold together would come down to that same price range when total price is divided by 2. Don't know what's up with that and if it indicates something about the model's or brand's future, nevertheless it happened and I found it bizarre enough to warrant a mention.
My 85 weighed 862 grams (30.4 oz) which is a tad heavier than the 850 grams (30 oz) printed on the reel's box and listed on some retailers' sites. Not the most terrible discrepancy yet not exactly tidy. Keep it factual Quantum. Speaking of wights, I'd like to thank you for all the condolence messages you sent following the kidnapping and possible murder of poor Katjia, which I informed you about in the Sedona FI's review. I gotta say I like the rapport you and I have developed over the years. I post the weirdest nonsense, you respond with the most perfect humour, which encourages me to delve even further into my lunacies! I digress though...
The thing that most piqued my interest about the Reliance was a big claim by the brand. Hear it from Quantum themselves;
(Video credit The Fisherman Magazine)
To quote the gentleman, "the biggest thing is it's fully-sealed". Back in 2019 when the Reliance was announced, the cheapest verifiably fully-sealed spinning reel from a mainstream brand was the 2014 Spheros SW, which is now discontinued but at that time was priced from $200 for the smallest to $260 for the biggest, meaning it started at twice the price of the Reliance and went up to about 2.4 times its price. Today the fully-sealed 2021 Spheros SW-A comes cheaper than its 2014 predecessor, still with prices ranging from $140 to $200 it's 40% to 80% more expensive than the Reliance. This means that if Quantum's claim proves true, the Reliance would be the cheapest fully-sealed reel available, and by a good price margin. I was quite eager to find out, and I'm sure many around the world were as well. This particular subject will be the main thread in this review, but for now let's take it from the top.
Upon unboxing the reel I spotted some quality control issues, the most glaring of which is this finish damage in the side cover.
A closeup. The reel should never have been allowed out of the factory with such a sizable defect.
Sadly it wasn't the only one. Three other spots of finish damage were clearly visible in the side cover around the handle's opening.
A closer look. This area is hidden behind the handle's hood when the handle is attached so it's not always visible, still I know that the damage is there and it bothers me even if I don't see it. My guess is that the side cover was dropped or slammed against a hard surface during manufacturing for it to suffer this severe damage in 4 separate locations. Needless to say, this reel is an actual production retail purchased one that arrived as it was boxed in the factory. Not a reel that was on display in a shop nor is it a "prototype that was sold by mistake" as the commonly told and profoundly absurd myth goes.
Nearby, one of the screws holding the ornamental body insert displays damage consistent with using a screwdriver that doesn't fit properly. Sorry about the lint, sometimes I place tissues around to get the camera to focus in macro shots.
Another screw has similar damage, although to a lesser degree.
I know this is becoming painful to read, but it's out of my control. The rotor has this finish imperfection.
Closer. This weird protrusion in the rotor's body is likely a casting issue since it was painted over. Meaning it was already there when the paint was applied.
Even worse, check this video
From the get go the rotor had a bit of back-play. If we rate rotor play on a 1 to 3 scale, where 1 is a felt internal thud with barely any visible play and 3 being the kind of play that sends an obvious slam up the rod while jigging, the play of Reliance's rotor would be a solid 2. Not the end of the world but certainly not negligible.
Well, a reel that sells for $100 would normally have looser quality control than a reel that sells for let's say double that amount. In other words, the people responsible for the final inspection of cheaper reels are usually instructed to pass pieces with bigger and more obvious imperfections than would be allowed for more costly reels. Still, the amount of issues my Reliance had certainly exceeds any acceptable standards, this reel should never have been allowed out of the door, and I'm highly disappointed that it did. I inspect tens of blank reels from Chinese OEM manufacturers each year, some of which sell wholesale for as low as $20, yet to the best of my recollection none has ever shown such sloppy quality control. The diversity of these issues and their expansion across different components of the Reliance is a strong indication that it's a general problem and not something that could be limited to only a few reels. Moving on...
The plastic drag knob is built sturdily, and its cross bar is high and wide providing a comfortable gripping surface for easy control. This might look like a simple thing that any reel can feature, but in reality it requires planning from the very beginning of the design phase in order to integrate a big bar on the knob without it interfering with the bail wire when opened while the spool is all the way up. You've seen me fault other reels for having little gripping surface and probably wondered why the makers wouldn't simply increase the height of the bar to fix it, and this is why. It would get in the way of the bail wire, requiring potential elongation of the wire which would increase weight and throw the rotor's balance out, cause the longer wire to creep closer to the rod and possibly hit your hand, or even bring the wire disruptively close to the handle. A knob that's comfortable and secure to grip is something that smart designers integrate into their work early on, and it's something that deserves acknowledgment here.
More goodness from the drag knob. Its main seal (red arrow) is nothing unusual, but the tiny O ring inside the knob definitely is (blue arrow). This little seal hugs the main-shaft to prevent any water that might have leaked into the knob from entering the spool and drag stack. Considering the price of the Reliance one can't expect an enclosed knob made of precisely fitting parts like knobs found in more expensive spinners, therefore water might indeed enter the knob from spaces such as the one between its top and bottom halves (yellow arrow), but any such water would be kept out of the drag stack by that tiny extra seal. Good job, and the "full-sealing" claim is panning out to be true from the beginning.
Another good bit; the drag well has a raised lip that should prevent small droplets of water from entering the well. Of course if water overcomes this lip then the main knob seal would be waiting for it inside the well. The lip therefore is a small initial hurdle for water, but by no means is it the principal protection.
The drag stack out, and at the bottom of the well sits a low-friction synthetic sleeve (red arrow) for the spool to turn on its hub quieter and with reduced wear. The braking system itself comprises 6 metal washers and 5 large carbon fibre ones. Did I mention that it works really REALLY well?
Having spent almost my entire adult life fishing and examining as many reels as I could get my hands on, I learned that it's not enough to drop a few carbon washers and expect the drag to function impeccably. There are countless other factors involved, including but not limited to brake washers' compressibility, weave pattern, thickness, surface porosity and ability to hold lube, metal washers' hardness, their alloy's thermal behaviour, the characteristics of the spring inside the drag knob, the construction and efficiency of the pressure tube and the consistency with which it applies and distributes load, etc. So, when I say that the drag of the Reliance works well I mean that it has a rare coming together of several of these factors, working in tandem to produce a drag performance that I have not before experienced in a reel costing this little. More on that ahead when I discuss how it did on the water.
The drag clicker is a solid design, operated by a coil spring for long term dependability. I'm a bit underwhelmed by the sound it emits though, since it's neither crisp nor loud. It doesn't click, ring, smack, buzz, or strike. Instead it just "ticks". If you try it in a tackle shop you might conclude that it's good enough, but when loaded with line that "ticking" sound becomes more muffled to a degree that borders on insufficiency. It's even worse when you're out and the sea is a bit rowdy. The drag sound of the Reliance is not completely useless, but it needed to be slightly louder.
The spool has a rubber strip to help secure braid when you tie it straight without mono backing. I maintain a healthy suspicion of tying braid directly to the spool because I've seen tragic cases of entire spool fillings slipping, therefore I still put mono backing on heavy duty reels that might come under intense strain. The Reliance though is no such reel, so I had no issues spooling it with braid straight, and that rubber ring did a good job holding onto it.
That was a lovely surprise; a dedicated seal beneath the spool. In most budget and many mid-range reels the bottom of the spool is protected against water by the virtue of the spool being pressed against the shims, but here they employed a special seal to keep water out even if the spool was under no pressure. Shows just how serious they are about their "full-sealing" ambition.
The seal wasn't just inserted and left in a manner that could potentially cause it to interfere with the bearing, rather it has its dedicated recess where it sits isolated from what's above it.
This is the single ball bearing the spool spins on, complete with its wire retainer to keep it perfectly aligned and in place.
A better look at that retainer. Neat little detail that one doesn't expect to see in a $100-$110 reel.
The spool shims sit beneath the bearing and the seal, and they're easily removed or added to tune the line lay pattern if needed. Well, except for the fact that no extra shims came with the reel. It's now pretty much an established standard that spinning reels come with a plastic bag containing extra shims, sometimes those shims are even of various thicknesses to give you maximum flexibility. Not with this reel though, leaving me scratching my head in utter confusion.
Thankfully I did not need to alter the shimming. My Reliance spooled braid like this out of the box. Good stuff, no complaints.
Going further down the main shaft reveals another step in the right direction to achieve full-sealing. The shaft is protected by a seal where it enters the body, and this seal has a balanced hold on the shaft where it's not tight to a degree that causes excessive resistance in the reel's action, nor loose to a point where it allows water to penetrate it.
Still in the above photo, a gummy mix of used grease and microscopic rubber fragments can be seen deposited both on the shaft and the centre of the seal. This reel was tested over about 11 months, so naturally it was cleaned and lubed many times. For this review though I intentionally left this area uncleaned after the last 4 trips, during which the Reliance had approximately 32 hours of active use give or take a few. I did that to illustrate to you the importance of periodic cleaning and greasing of the shaft where it enters the body, something I recommend in the "Reel Care" article yet many still neglect it. This procedure is important for all spinning reels, but more so for reels with a sealed shaft to protect the rubber seal and increase its service life. I recommend doing it every about 65 hours or about of actual use. I digress once more though, apologies.
The three screws holding the plastic seal housing have threadlocker (Loctite) applied for security (blue arrow), and instead of three round holes for these screws the housing has three wide cuts (red arrow). This allows the housing to line up with the screw holes across a wider range of rotor nut positions...
... that's because the back of this seal housing (blue arrow) functions as a retainer for the rotor nut as well (red arrow), keeping it from turning loose. This reel therefore doesn't require you to tighten the nut to a precise position in order for the housing/retainer to fit correctly. A nice touch that will surely be appreciated by those who service their own reels. The rotor nut itself is made of stainless steel for maximum strength. That does not mean that nuts made of brass or aluminum are bad. Each type has its place based on other considerations such as weight and cost, rotor material, pinion build, available amount of pinion threads, etc. I don't know why I keep veering into these side ramblings instead of sticking to the reel in hand. Once more my apologies. Point is, the stainless nut is a great choice for this reel and seeing it certainly inspires confidence.
The rotor nut sits on top of an O ring seal. The reel seems to continue its march towards the "fully-sealed" stamp without missing a beat. It is worthy of note that this budget reel has some silicone rubber seals (red coloured), which in certain places do a better job than the traditional NBR (black) ones. The industry has been shifting towards these silicone seals in the past few years for their desired properties such as higher UV ray resistance and better ability to maintain shape when compressed, meaning that when pressed between two metal surfaces they will continue to fill the gaps more efficiently and would not become permanently deformed (set) as quickly as NBR ones. Of course there are countless rubber formulations of all colours with various specifications and performance parameters, sometimes coloured purely for better visibility upon inspection, so don't automatically jump to conclusions when you see a certain hue. Consider this a bit of trivia related to a specific reel.
Another siliconerubber seal is found inside the metal cap protecting the unused handle opening. Its width and thickness guarantee that nothing is getting past it come hell or high water.
To get inside the gearbox, all one has to do is remove the 4 side cover screws. Always a welcome feature of great value since it allows easier and more frequent cleaning and lubing of the drivetrain, something that can only increase the reel's life and long term reliability. Please note that the screws are not all of the same length.
These side cover screws have Torx heads, always a good choice for their higher resistance to deformation over many cycles of unscrewing and tightening, and, of course, for general bad-ass'ery since Torx screws look swanky.
Each had a good amount of threadlocker from the factory (red arrow), but I'm not a fan of the serrated heads (blue arrow) since these serrations eat up the softer aluminum of the side cover. I need to find 4 Teflon washers to insert in between, which probably is never going to happen because I'm lazy and neglectful.
The gearbox is protected by a full perimeter seal.
Here is that same seal (red arrow) placed on the side cover to show how it swerves around the screw holes keeping them out of the sealed area, so that if water seeps in from these screw holes it would remain shut out of the gearbox. Nice attention to detail. The blue arrow points another measure against water intrusion, where three screws press the ball bearing down to keep the seal beneath it in constant alignment
This seal (red arrow), which sits inside a plastic cup (yellow arrow) that keeps the seal centred, both then rest against the bottom of the recess (blue arrow) followed by the ball bearing (green arrow). That bearing is itself sealed, but its sealing is redundant since the entire bearing is well protected by the aforementioned seal and cup duo.
A closer look at that duo. Separate...
... and together. Well made to very acceptable tolerances despite the low cost of the reel. Thank your lucky stars you weren't around when rubber parts were seldom of consistent dimensions and often had all sorts of excess material and weird protuberances. I used to take them out of new reels, get a sharp blade, then patiently "circumcise" each one before it's put back. But I digress yet again, except this time it's not as bad. Apparently I'm beginning to improve and gain control of my digressions, but here I am digressing from the digression which is a traumatic regression that erases all my anti-digression gains.
In order to remove the drive gear the main shaft needs to come out first, which might initially appear challenging since one of the two main shaft screws (red arrow) is obscured by the drive gear.
A closer look. With the shaft all the way back its second screw isn't accessible enough for a proper mating with the screwdriver.
The way to do it is to give the rotor a few spins until that second screw lines up perfectly with one of the holes in the gear plate giving you full access to its head. Don't try any other way or you might damage the screw's head, and even if you don't you'll not be able to screw it back with enough torque to properly secure it. Full control is a must with this vital screw.
With the drive gear out of the way the line lay mechanism can be fully appreciated. The oscillation block slides on a stainless steel bar (red arrow) for smoothness and reduced friction under load, its top end is secured with a plate (blue arrow) to control rattling, and as the thick main shaft goes back and forth it remains embedded into the rear portion of the frame (circled) for extra support and to relieve some stress off other oscillation components. To reiterate, this rear shaft support is only present in the full-size 85 model since it's expected to tackle tougher jobs than its smaller siblings.
The locomotive "engine" of the mechanism is a cast zinc gear, but it connects with the oscillation block via an embedded post made of stainless steel (red arrow) for a solid coupling with minimal galling.
This locomotive gear though is mounted directly on a post cast into the frame, without bushings or any measures to reduce friction between the zinc gear and the frame's aluminium alloy. A reminder that it is afterall a budget reel and that one should keep expectations in line with its $110 price tag. With regular service and lubing it should work well for years, but eventually wear will take its toll and inevitably some play will develop between these two parts.
The drive gear is so large I'd say it's probably among the top 5 or 6 largest gears in all reels made today. Manufactured by casting a zinc alloy, but with the added bonus of a surface coating to increase its smoothness and life span. Admirably, the gear's shaft isn't an integral tube of cast zinc as is the case in the vast majority of reels in this price bracket, rather it's a stainless steel tube (red arrow) pressed into the gear plate for a powerful threaded connection with the handle.
The drive gear's teeth. Yes, they're showing exhaustion and beginning to develop a slight concave surface, but all things considered, particularly the roughly 200 hours of operation time this reel clocked, the wear rate on display here is pretty decent for a spinner of this price. The only reason you haven't seen gears as worn as this before is that I usually review more expensive reels with higher grade components, but one should not lose perspective of the fact that the Reliance is an entry level reel from which no one should realistically expect extraordinary longevity or exceptional durability.
The machined brass pinion is showing mileage as well, but to a considerably lesser degree than the drive gear.
Thanks to its heavy gauge build.
The pinion is mounted on two bearings for greater stability (red and blue arrows), both bearings are also of the sealed type. Sandwiched between the bearings is the anti-reverse clutch (yellow arrow).
Here it is. This clutch fits into a correspondingly shaped well that's integral to the frame for optimal strength. The back-play of the rotor stems from the lack of pressure on the clutch, which allows it to play left and right within the well. I fixed it by dropping a thin washer beneath it so that the clutch unit is now locked in place at the extreme end of its anti-clockwise movement, and when the pinion spins freely clockwise the little internal friction isn't enough to overcome the friction between the unit and my washer. Should've been done at the factory, not left to the fisherman to tweak it.
A typical design with the brake cylinders activated by V shaped plastic limps (red arrow) moulded into the clutch's cage. This generic clutch is a very common part that's regularly found in ultra budget, budget, and even some mid-range reels. Doesn't last forever but when it begins to wane getting a replacement should be easy and cheap. Did what it's supposed to do, I encountered no issues and have no complaints.
This entire pinion/clutch/bearings club sandwich is retained by a plastic cover whose seal (red arrow) fits into a shallow channel around the bearing (green arrow). Now that we're close to the finish line and everything so far looks very well protected against water, it's only normal to get excited that a fully sealed $100-$110 reel might be about to become a reality...
The back of the bearing retainer has no seals, rubber or otherwise. Instead it has one half of a "maze" type water barrier in the form of three circular walls (blue arrow) which fit in between three corresponding ones (red arrows) in the back of the part that goes on top of it. In size 85 this top part is the carrier of the emergency stop lever (as seen here), and in smaller sizes, which don't have an emergency stop, the three corresponding walls are directly cast into the back of the rotor.
When assembled it looks something like this. The two sets of circular walls fit around each other without touching, leaving only small spaces between them. This creates a maze of narrow gaps that water has to navigate in order to reach the pinion assembly, but since the gaps are too small the surface tension of water prevents it from seeping through these gaps, effectively shutting water out under most conditions. This principle has existed in spinning reels for sometime, but Shimano tuned and popularised it in the past decade in various freshwater models.
Can this barrier be considered a "seal"? Well, let's do a little experiment; forget reels and anything you've read here and just completely clear your head.
What came to your mind when you read this word? Did you think of an object or a space that has some sort of a narrow passage to its surroundings? Or did you think of an enclosed space or object? It's a rhetorical question, because naturally you imagined something that's enclosed, and being enclosed is what makes anything remotely fit to being called "sealed". I'm trying to maintain sanity in this place and will not tolerate the global trend of redefining language and words to meet the desired narrative, so I have to state unambiguously that calling the Reliance "fully-sealed" is factually wrong. Any company is free to promote all the IPX nonsense and pseudo-scientific weasel words to the easily wooed masses of simpletons but this ain't happening on this site.
So, while not a seal, this barrier provides a great degree of protection without contact friction or wear, and it should do an excellent job in 95% of all fishing scenarios. Rain, splashes, heavy drenching, high velocity spray on a speeding boat, or a thorough rinsing under the tap are not going to be a problem for this reel, but I'd avoid any sort of full submersion because that barrier would suck water in if the rotor spins while water is present or if water pressure increases enough to overcome surface tension. To summarise this matter, the Reliance is not a fully-sealed reel, but it's the closest any reel has gotten to being fully-sealed without actually being that. This still has its value, and a good one I might add.
The other side of the lever carrier carries... well, a lever. That lever (green arrow) remains idle when the rotor turns in the correct direction. But if the anti-reverse clutch slips for any reason, such as cold weather, contamination, or excessive wear, and the rotor begins to spin backwards, the lever would activate and push the plastic pawl (yellow arrow) to engage the teeth at the back of the rotor (black arrow), stopping it from spinning backwards. This emergency mechanical anti-reverse system is present in size 85 only, also due to the assumption that the biggest reel will be assigned heavier duty work. If you've followed my work for any considerable amount of time you'd know that I don't care much for this plastic stop setup, and I've seen its limitations first hand. This is not a powerful system and would fail if it comes under any serious pressure. Anyhow, the purple arrow points an O ring seal that protects the connection between the carrier and the rotor, which would've completed the full-sealing of the reel had there been an actual seal in place of the maze barrier.
Still in the above photo, the red arrow points a stainless steel rod that slides down when the bail is opened for a cast, engaging a big piece of rubber on the frame (blue arrow) effectively jamming the rotor and preventing it from spinning while the bail is opened. This forms what's known as the rotor brake, the main purpose of which is to keep the rotor from turning involuntarily during a cast which could cause the bail to slam shut breaking the line and sending your lure flying to Antarctica where it would knock a poor penguin out only minutes after it had been brutally raped by another penguin. Yes, penguins are dirty little rapists. Google it. Anyhow, all sizes of the Reliance have this rotor brake system. Smaller Reliance reels have an auto bail closure, where the bail can be closed by turning the handle and spinning the rotor, therefore that brake system is crucial for those sizes. On the other hand size 85 has a manual bail closure where the bail can only be closed by hand, making the rotor brake in this full size reel a nice addition but not a particularly necessary one due to the reduced risk of involuntary bail closure in the middle of a cast.
The rusty-orange bail wire is thicker than usual, imparting a sense of relative novelty during use, and it's attached to the line roller housing via a cross pin. Not the cleanest or most modern look yet it's old school reliability. Have perhaps opened and slammed the bail a thousand times and the wire connection remains firm.
The bail opens really wide, clearing enough space for coils of line to fly freely, particularly the thicker mono/fluorocarbon leaders which - unlike braid - has a lot of springiness and love to go places.
Side view. This wide bail opening is another display of sound engineering with everything being accounted for from the get go. In many spinners, including some by the biggest brands, larger sized reels would suffer from small clearances between the open bail wire and the spool since the spools of those bigger reels have been widened while the bail opening distance remained the same. Don't know what will happen following Quantum's change of ownership but I hope that this engineering team will remain.
A typical bail mechanism; the blue arrow points what in size 85 is the rotor brake rod but in smaller sizes would be both a brake rod and an auto bail closure lever. Red arrow points the coil bail spring, and the yellow arrow picks the cover's screw which is also a Torx type to maintain the integrity of styling.
The spool lip has both a slant and an outwardly curvature. The slant, in one form or another, has now become a common feature in reels by several brands, and its effectiveness is well proven. But the curvature here serves no real purpose, and it only makes the top rim of the lip thinner and more susceptible to damage if knocked or hit against a solid body. Like all budget reels today the spool lip is not hardened, and scratched/dented lips remain a clear and present danger awaiting behind every rock to wreak havoc on the braid.
Notwithstanding, the spool design, line lay, and the slanted lip came into their own to make an excellent caster out of this Quantum, and casting is something that I did a lot with the Reliance as opposed to dropping since I mostly used this reel from shore with a only a few exceptions. Not to whine again about the pandemic and its effects on my activities since I've done nothing but that for the past 18 months, yet a fact remains that travelling was prohibitively difficult, and with many of my fishing connections decimated and familiar skippers either temporarily ceasing operations or even going out of business, I was forced to be very selective when deciding which reels I should bring along in the rare occasions I could go offshore. The Reliance remained largely landbased, only occasionally going for some light inshore jigging and bottom fishing.
In those few occasions when it went afloat the reel caught some decent Red Drums, Cobia, and in late winter some big Bluefish and Snook, both having first left an unusual trail of devastation on some expensive leaders with their teeth and sharp gill plates respectively. From the shore the Reliance landed a large number of Jack Crevalles, King Mackerels, and on the smaller side maybe a hundred or so Hardhead Catfish which despite their size can routinely put on a good fight. I tried my very best to catch sharks too but was not successful in hooking any this time. A quick note to state that all my fishing was strictly adhering to local laws and regulations, all permits were obtained, and fish caught during their closed season were hooked by accident and not specifically targeted.
This Quantum casts with remarkable ease and a lot of predictability, it has perceptibly higher pulling power than any current production reel in this price range, the drivetrain is fluid with very little mechanical noise allowing me to feel my soft plastics' every twitch when water was calm, but the real star of the show was unequivocally the drag. When I fish entry level reels I have a habit of setting my desired drag pressure then backing the knob off a quarter of a turn to account for any potential hesitancy at the beginning of a fight, particularly when the drag is still cold and its lubes haven't warmed up yet. As I gained familiarity with the Reliance I discovered that I did not need to do that with it, and whenever a fish went naughty on me the drag went off immediately with barely any detectable hesitancy or spikes. Another thing I loved was the drag's range. Not talking about rate of adjustment, rather do you know that moment when the spool is releasing line to the running fish then the fish slows down but does not stop while your spool comes to a halt? It's that fraction of a second when you wish the drag would just respond to the slowing-but-still-fighting-fish with a slower line release but it just has nothing in this range and the spool remains stopped. Often, but not always, in the following fraction of the second the line goes limp, and the loss could credibly be attributed to that tiny lack of drag responsiveness range. The Reliance was not like that, it had all the range I needed, and whenever I felt that line needed to be released it did just that.
One of the keys to this drag performance is what I might call the "overcharging" of the drag. Let me explain; cranking the drag knob of the Reliance produces too much braking force inside the drag unit itself, more force than the entirety of the reel's structure can realistically handle for any useful amount of time. Therefore that excess amount of drag can't be utilised in actual fishing or it could cause breakages or failures. What it's useful for though is that when you set the drag correctly to match size-appropriate fish you'd only be using 60 or 70% of the drag's maximum capability, which allows it to run "relaxed" if you know what I mean. A relaxed drag translates to less heat, less stickiness, and a wider range of smooth motion. Off the top of my head using no precise methodology, I would say that one has to go all the way up to the +$200 Cabo PTSE or the Saragosa SW-A to find a drag that outperforms the Reliance's.
The bail arm is a good example of what I've just discussed. Nicely designed to allow braid to slip safely on it, made of aluminium alloy with good resilient finish, yet if one goes crazy with the drag against a huge fish this bail arm would in all likelihood snap. That's not to fault the bail arm, it's decent enough for an entry level spinner that costs a hundred bucks. It's the drag unit that's overbuilt for the reel, not that other parts are lacking.
Another Torx screw. Posh stuff!
The line roller expectedly runs on bushings, since quality bearings with a waterproof support system would cost too much for a budget reel. As I've said many times before, all bets are off when it comes to rollers on bushings. There is no universal rule, and these could either work, be a "meah", or fail miserably depending on each individual model. The setup of Reliance does work. Components look used and abused after almost a year of fishing, yet the roller continues to run as freely as the day I bought it. Of course I've always followed the basic care procedures and rinsed the roller with freshwater after each day of fishing, something that benefits all reels even those with the most complex waterproof rollers. In any case, the Reliance's roller operates on two pairs of bushings, one pair is synthetic (red arrows), and the other is bronze (blue arrows).
The synthetic bushings are mounted on the bronze ones, then these bronze bushings are inserted from each side of the roller where their wide flanges (red arrows) almost fill the opening of the roller (blue arrow) leaving only a hairline space. This creates a virtually closed roller that can't be invaded by any sizable solid particles, yet it's free to spin smoothly on the protected internal synthetic bushings.
The grip is a hand-filling egg shaped one with a rubberised exterior, and typical of budget reels that grip is permanently bolted in place. A few drops of oil on that bolt though quickly penetrate deeper and keep the grip going nicely. Sizes 40 to 65 have egg shaped grips as well although with flattened sides, while the smallest 30 and 35 have small stick-type grips of the kind you hold with your fingers, not in your palm.
The shapely handle stem is a true one-piece, eliminating the hassle of a joint that could become loose or corrode. It's made of aluminium alloy with a very hard finish.
Reinforced around the bend.
To reduce weight, relatively little metal was left in this section. Ordinarily it should be fine since spinning reels are not supposed to be cranked against heavy resistance, so remember not to crank in the heat of the moment to avoid cracking this thinner section, and try as well not to drop the reel or you'd end up with the same result.
The threading on the handle's shaft extends across a good length for a tough connection, and its stainless alloy performed very well without creep or any describable distortion in the threads.
I'm a pragmatic man who keeps it realistic and knows how to manage expectations. For a hundred bucks I might accept uneven finish, but not extensive finish damage or mysterious blisters underneath the paint. For that little money I could maybe let slide a rotor back-play of the first degree, but certainly not of the second degree. And messed up screw heads? Nope, charge me $30 for the reel and then we can talk about forgiving this. The quality control is simply abysmal, and that rotor play is unacceptable. If Quantum continues existing as a real company that designs its own reels from the ground up, it would become the most prominent brand in the portfolio of one of the 5 major players on the market and it would be up to it to take on the competition. No "Zebco" or "Lew's" branded reel is going to go head to head with Shimano's or Daiwa's latest spinners, and if Quantum wants to carry on the legacy of its competitive reels it needs to up its game, pronto.
Setting aside these issues, which hopefully the management can resolve by screaming obscenities at a few people, the Reliance remains an intrinsically decent spinner with desirable traits that seldom come at this price point, and when they do it's almost never in the same reel. It's a full aluminium reel for those who prefer the rigidity of metal, has a screw-in handle, a rotor brake, a readily accessible gearbox for easy maintenance, decent winding power, and a gearing whose durability is marginally above average relative to similarly priced reels. It steps ahead of class though when it comes to the drag performance and the expansive water protection that's basically a heartbeat away from full-sealing. But first and foremost, the reel as a whole works reliably and puts fish in the cooler day in day out. Tens of reels come with long specifications sheets filled with bling and metal this and bearings that, but ultimately they end up failing or corroding due to low grade alloys and substandard components.
If they take care of the highlighted issues, the Reliance will become a credible contender ready to step in and fill an important gap. Namely giving fishermen on a tight budget access to certain traits that until now were only available in reels priced considerably higher than the hundred and ten dollars the Reliance sells for. That's of course if they accept the trade-offs and understand the reel's limitations as a basic spinner that's not going to deliver world class endurance. Thankfully it comes in a comprehensive size range, so whether an angler is chasing after small fish on the tiny 30 or trying to stop ones up to 50lb (~23kg) on the big 85, he'll likely find a Reliance that fits the job in the line-up. And who knows, maybe we'll get even more sizes and ratios at a future point. Never say never.
That's all for now. This is just one of a good number of reels that I've been testing this past year, and more reviews will be coming. I'll discuss Penn, Okuma, briefly return to Shimano and Daiwa, and maybe will make a quick stop in the non-mainstream realm where the weird and interesting always lurk. Over the holidays I'll also be publishing two or three light Blog articles, mostly inspired by questions and requests you've frequently sent me in the past several years. Keep watching the News page for the latest updates, and until we talk again go enjoy a good beer. I know I will...
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November, 25th, 2021