2013 8-Weight Challenge: What's the Best Saltwater Fly Reel

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by tridentfly, Mar 7, 2013.

  1. WFFers,

    Trident Fly Fishing just completed our first annual 8-Weight Challenge. We pitted 17 of the best fly reels in the industry against each other in a head-to-head battle to answer the question: What is the best 8-weight fly reel?

    It's been a few weeks of hard work to put together - we hope you enjoy it. Tight Lines.

    8-Weight Challenge

    fly_angler85 and jimmydub like this.
  2. Wonder how billy pates, makos, seamasters, fin nors, etc would compare? Really dont care :D
  3. That was an interesting read, thanks for doing all of that testing. Two suggestions for future iterations:

    1. Include Nautilus reels. They are awesome and widely available. I'd imagine the NV landing right near the top of your shootout.

    2. Add a category for "Quality, fit, finish". I know when I shop for a reel, this is always the tie-breaker. Lots of reels have similar specifications, but how well those engineering specs are executed is key for me. I've been burned too many times buying a reel that looked good on paper, but then failed to impress in terms of fit, finish and other quality dimensions.
  4. I've said this before, and on other forums over the years, as well to clients and friends alike. While there are smoother drag systems out there, and reels with tighter tolerances, a draw bar cork drag is the only way to go for the salt, and there is a reason that you see such an inordinate percentage of Abel and Tibor reels in the salt.

    Sealed drags, if something goes awry, you're basically boned and that's the end of your day. Roller clutches, one-way bearings, etc... A gear and pawl clutch is merely mechanical, and if I flip a pawl or anything goes wrong with my Abel or Tibor, I can fix it, on the water. Both Abel and Tibor also have proven track records, and combined account for the vast majority of every saltwater fly fishing record out there. Go to any lodge in the Bahamas, Mexico, Belize, Los Roques, you name it... and you will see the proof.

    I think Hatch reels are great. Have owned everything from Ross to ATH to Saricione to several old Charltons. When I go for a week to some remote saltwater environ, I only pack Abels and my beloved Tibor Everglades. That's it. Zero issues, proven results, and on the water dependability. Start-up inertia is the most overblown of all aspects of drag. You're fishing 12-16lb test for most bonefishing, and heavier for almost everything else, you're not about to pop anything due to start up stick. It's ridiculous, repeatable, consistent drag is far more important, as is constant drag engagement. I've blown the clutch assembly on a Waterworks on a permit, seen numerous destroyed Orvis reels over the years, and once saw a guy have 3 different Ross reels blow up fishing for sailfish and marlin. While these examples are merely anecdotal, and obviously, these companies make quality products and have done so for many years (though many of Orvis's older models were rebadged reels from Ross and Lamson and others) I still will take the reliability and simple design of my reels anyday. You've spent your hard earned money and time and travel away from home, the only thing I want to do to my reel is rinse it every day.

    Islander reels use the same basic design as well and should be included too, though I'm not as keen on them for appearance sake.

    One man's opinion is all!


    Dave Evans, ribka and chief like this.
  5. Thanks Lugan - Nautilus will definitely be in the next round. We thought about adding another category for quality, as you suggested, but ultimately, we rolled it into the "look and feel" category because we didn't want to attribute too many points to something that we couldn't test directly.
  6. Sounds like you need to talk to Dan, what he posted made very good sense!

  7. @Dan - thanks for your input, you make some great points!

    I agree with you about the simplicity of reels (and talk about it in the post), and the Tibor Everglades performed very well.

    In order to perform on water repairs, you still need to have the parts handy, which you could also do with Hatch (granted, a spring is a lot less expensive than a drag to carry around). The benefit of sealed drags (provided that they are truly sealed) is that the chance of something going awry is greatly reduced since they aren't exposed to any elements, whereas a cork drag could be exposed to sand, bad/lazy/no maintenance, etc.

    Certainly, time has proven that Abel's and Tibor's are fantastic reels (again, we like them too!), but I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss innovation.

    RE: Start-up inertia - you're also generally correct here. However, the reason that it doesn't lead to more popped tippets is because anglers are simply turning down the overall drag strength. The worst reels in this test could EASILY create 4-5 lbs of inertia when a bonefish takes off. It's like buying a Ferrari and putting a governor on it to limit your speed to 60 mph.
    formerguide likes this.
  8. So many issues with this test it's not even funny. There are at least 4 BRANDS that were omitted. No points for materials or how they are anodized, how the spool is attached (which impacts how much it wobbles), placement of porting which allows line and backing to dry out (extending the life of your line and backing).

    Not even SAGE would put the 1880 over an everglades in any test other than price.

    How can you have an 8 weight challenge that clearly favors sealed drags without including Charltons or MAKO reels that have the best sealed carbon fiber drags ever made? The aluminum would melt on a MAKO or Charlton before the drag would fail.

    I will give you credit for the scientific nature of the test and standardizing it for the parameters you set. Moreover, I would feel comfortable fishing with any of the top reels in the test in almost any situation you'd use an 8 weight in. The test just doesn't include a couple major parameters and brands.
  9. there may be a reason why Tibor Reels hold 173 IGFA saltwater records-You think??
  10. Don't you expose the sealed drags on many reels if you change spools on the water?
  11. So the shootout was not perfect. It didn't include every single reel ever made. Big frigging deal. Obviously they put quite a bit of time and effort into the comparisons. If you think they did a lousy job then by all means go ahead and get your hands on every 8 weight reel ever produced and feel free to post up your results so I can criticize your efforts.
    Porter likes this.
  12. If a professional shop is going to post a comparison of products, they should be able to generate a professional comparison. Like it or not, the criticism posted here will make their shop better at what they do. I have posted dozens of product reviews for several of the shops that I've worked for. A few of the reviews that I posted in the past were not very strong and, believe me, I heard about it. The feedback I got from sub-par reviews made me better.

    Don't confuse the criticisms posted here with hostility.
  13. Yes, most reels will expose the "sealed" drag to water when changing the spool. Not all reels advertising a sealed drag are truly water tight. There are a few that are air tight out there, but those are not the norm.
  14. Nowhere did I accuse anyone of hostility. I simply don't see the point of being so critical. All gear reviews are mostly subjective to begin with, so there is no way they can please everyone. I for one appreciate any of these efforts by the shops, even if they are not perfect.
    bennysbuddy, tridentfly and Porter like this.
  15. And here we go again. Yet another EXCELLENT thread (at least intially) bogged down by a simple misunderstanding stemming from a choice of language and phrasing that invariably leads to an exchange between two members that detracts from the quality of the original post.

    So, in the interest of quelling this detraction and re-focusing on the topic of conversation that we're ALL CLEARLY INTERESTED IN, let's clear the air:

    Matt: Yes, some reels were missing from the comparison. Tridentfly and his team were probably limited to the number of reels they could include. That's reasonable and expected. Regardless of this (minor) shortcoming, the comparison across the board of so many different reels is incredibly ambitious, and the results are valuable to someone like me who is looking for their first saltwater reel.

    Nick: Matt's (constructive) criticisms have some merit, and should help strengthen future tests.

    If anyone has a comment on THIS post, please just PM me about it. Now, let's get back to discussing saltwater reels, drags, and the tests.
  16. When I feel that I need advice from a moderator I will PM one and ask for it. Thanks anyway.
  17. Reel reviews.......what a drag ;)
    Trident, thanks for the info.
    tridentfly likes this.
  18. Oh I see what you did there! ;)

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