Tackle geeks have climbed high rungs of reel optimization for decades. Their basic game remains the same today: super-tune fishing reels by adding premium components and applying best cleaning and maintenance practices. But better materials and technology have elevated expectations of what fishing reels can be made to do.
Russ Lane, who has earned six appearances in the Bassmaster Classic, took his habitual tackle tinkering to high-tech heights several seasons back. Lane today replaces standard reel parts with premium components that extend reel life and enable spools to spin at dazzling RPMs.
What’s the fisherman’s takeaway after these reel transformations? The clearest advantages are longer casting distances, better control, heightened casting accuracy, and improved feel and sensitivity. Some premium reel components—strikingly colorful multi-textured reel knobs and anodized star drags and cast control caps, for example—can practically turn reels into showpieces, too.
“Fishermen can’t believe what custom components can add to a reel’s capability,” said Noah Arroyo, owner of Off the Hook Reels. “And some fishermen are just as attracted to the unique colors and finishes you can bring to a reel and the rich look of premium parts.”
Consider replacing standard reel parts with these upgrades:
• Ceramic Bearings – Ceramic bearings or ceramic hybrid bearings (the latter feature ceramic balls in a stainless steel or plastic cage) can elevate reel performance dramatically. Ceramic bearings can range up to 60 percent lighter than stainless steel bearings. They generate less heat and lower vibration levels, too, reducing friction as the spool revolves. Spool RPMs may climb dramatically, extending casting distance and improving accuracy by reducing the effort required to execute a cast. They also possess five times the life expectancy of stainless steel bearings. The one downside is that they produce a very audible hum, a turn-off to some anglers. HawgTech promotes its ABEC-7 hybrid bearings in nylon cages as allowing “a more free spinning bearing that also runs quieter.”
• Carbon Fiber Reel Handles – Lightweight carbon fiber reel arms are the most common reel upgrade. The difference in weight and sensitivity from conventional reel handles is discernible. They also give a sleek, skeletal look to the reel.
• Winn Reel Knobs – Reel knobs made from Winn’s patented WinnDry polymer deliver the same all-weather “tacky” feel and security that Winn grips bring to fishing rods. “The Winn knobs available from HawgTech are so good, your grip never slips even when hands are wet or coated with fish slime,” says Arroyo. Two of Lew’s Best of Show awards at ICAST 2016 featured fishing reels with Winn reel knobs. HawgTech offers these knobs in several bold colors.
• Anodized Aluminum Star Drags, Cast Control Caps – Colorful anodized aluminum can give a reel an “auto show” glow. You can go with matching or complementary color options for star drag controls, cast control caps and related parts.
Of course, flashy parts alone won’t optimize reel performance. Make sure the internal workings of your reel are flawlessly cleaned and lubricated, too.
“You have to optimize everything when you super-tune. Polish and clean the ends, shafts, and pinion gears,” said Arroyo. “When you do and then add your ceramic bearings and premium parts, you really end up with a great piece of machinery.”