In yesterday’s post, Paul explained some of the things to think (or ask) about when making a reel purchase. Today, I’ll mention a few specific reels that we like here at Sweetwater Fly Shop. As with our post about specific rods to consider, this represents just a sampling of the quality reels that are on the market. But it should at least give you an idea of what’s out there, what you’re likely to pay, and the like. I should mention that all of the reels I’ll talk about today have disk drags. Click and pawl drags are pretty specialized for smaller fish on smaller creeks or lakes. We’re assuming here that you’re looking for a more versatile reel that can be used for a variety of fishing situations.
First off, what do you get by paying more? Less weight, for one. As with rods, more expensive reels tend to be lighter. That’s going to be particularly important if the gift recipient has a light (more expensive) rod. A reel should balance well with the rod that it’ll be used on. Think of the rod as a lever with the grip hand as the fulcrum. It’s going to take less weight at the reel end to balance out the weight of a light rod. Ok, enough physics. You’re also going to tend to get a more complex drag system, and a sealed drag as well. That doesn’t always translate into a better drag, but it sometimes does. A better drag tends to be smoother, with less start-up inertia. To put it another way, it’s less likely to “grab,” potentially breaking the leader when there’s a big fish pulling on the other end. Finally, there’s aesthetics. More expensive reels tend to look fancier, and less purely functional. If beauty is one of your considerations, you’re likely to pay a bit more. By the way, the prices quoted below, except for saltwater reels, are for the reel model sized to hold a 5-weight line.
Most reels sold today are large arbor reels. Which is to say that the spool around which the line is wound is bigger (wider) than on a small arbor reel. That allows faster line retrieval and helps prevent the line from “setting up” in loops. The primary downside is that a large arbor reel doesn’t hold as much backing. Some purists prefer small arbor reels, but such reels are relatively hard to find and in general the advantages of a large arbor reel outweigh the disadvantages.
What’s the bottom end of the price range? I’d say it’s right around $100, if you want to give a reel that’s unlikely to cause the recipient any difficulties in the near future. You might find a perfectly good reel for less than that, but it’s going to be hit or miss.
What can you get for around $100? A perfectly decent reel, especially for trout fishing. It’s likely to be cast, rather than machined. One such reel that we like a ton is Lamson’s new Liquid ($99.95), which can be outfitted with a colored “sleeve” ($9.95) for extra color “pop.” Extra bonus – the drag components are made in the U.S., though the rest of the reel is imported. Lamson also brought out the Remix last year, which has a machined frame and a cast spool, a great cost/performance compromise. If you’re looking for a budget saltwater reel, the cast Redington Behemoth (109.95-129.95) has been getting good reviews, though we haven’t tried it ourselves.
Spend a bit more, and you’re likely to get a fully machined reel and one that is a bit more pleasing to the eye. The Redington Rise (179.95) is a workhorse that graces many of our rental rods. And it comes in 3 different colors, if your recipient might want to make a statement. The newly revamped Lamson Guru II (209.95) lightens and improves what was already a great reel.
We’re getting up to the premium reels, a gift that would
thrill a more experienced angler. High on our list is the Ross Evolution LT ($299), a very light and stylish reel with a bomber drag. Want a little edgier look? The Nautilus FWX ($275) is another reel that we’re high on. It, too, is extremely light and has a very smooth sealed drag with very little start-up inertia. Want to give your angler a truly “lust-after” reel? The Ross F1 ($530) and Hatch Finatic ($450) are both machining masterpieces that boost the latest and greatest in drag design and that look pretty sweet as well. They also both come in larger sizes that make them great saltwater reels.