SA Bass - - Contents - >> De­wald Viljoen*

“The Reel Deal” It is said that a crafts­man is only as good as his tools or that a poor crafts­man will al­ways blame his tools, and while I not in a po­si­tion to con­firm or deny the truth be­hind these state­ments I can, with cer­tainty say, tools make the job eas­ier! – De­wald Viljoen

It is said that a crafts­man is only as good as his tools or that a poor crafts­man will al­ways blame his tools, and while I not in a po­si­tion to con­firm or deny the truth be­hind these state­ments I can, with cer­tainty say, tools make the job eas­ier!

In our ar­se­nal of tools as an­glers there are few things that an­glers fight about as pas­sion­ately as their fish­ing reels. The ups and downs of ev­ery brand and model are dis­cussed in de­tail on Face­book pages and in­ter­net fo­rums to the point of death, and yet, in my ex­pe­ri­ence most an­glers un­der­stand the work­ings of their hi-tech fishfind­ers bet­ter than that of their fish­ing reels! So I took it upon my­self this month to clar­ify a few things re­gard­ing fish­ing reels, and since this is a bass mag­a­zine I want dis­cuss some points sur­round­ing bait­cast­ers.

The first point I like to ad­dress con­cerns gear ra­tios. To ex­plain gear ra­tios in lay­man’s terms, think of the gear­box on your car. The lower gears (first and sec­ond) give you torque and power for pulling away and pulling your boat out the water, etc. Mid range gears (third and fourth) are for gen­eral driv­ing, over tak­ing and it is prob­a­bly where your car will spend most of its time work­ing. High gears (fifth and sixth) is for high speed cruis­ing and is great for cov­er­ing dis­tance.

To ap­ply this to fish­ing reels let’s start with the low gear ra­tios. Since ev­ery brand is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent I will stick in a gen­eral spec­trum to sim­plify,

5:1 – These low ra­tios are for the hard work. This is the ra­tio you want to use for drag around crankbaits and for any ap­pli­ca­tion where brute power is re­quired, such as ex­treme cover, or ex­treme sized fish. This is the strong­est and most durable gear ra­tios.

6:1 – The mid range ra­tios are the best ra­tios for gen­eral fish­ing pur­poses and even though their pop­u­lar­ity has waned a lit­tle in re­cent years it is the best ra­tio for an­glers who want to get away with as few set­ups as pos­si­ble. A 6:1 ra­tio will have ap­prox­i­mately 20% shorter life­span than a 5:1 un­der nor­mal use.

7:1 and up – The high range ra­tios are for sce­nar­ios where con­tact with the lure or a high work rate is re­quired. Ap­pli­ca­tions like jerk­baits and short range pitch­ing suites these high ra­tio reels per­fectly. Heavy crank bait­ing and reg­u­larly fight­ing over­sized fish will wear high ra­tio gears out very quickly and you will only get around half the life­span of a 5:1 out of them.

The next thing that most an­glers pay lit­tle at­ten­tion to the drag sys­tems on their reels. The pur­pose of a drag sys­tem is to slip! On a bass reel the drag is not so much to pre­vent line breaks or to tire out the fish, as it is to pro­tect the me­chan­ics of your reel. A locked down drag will put enor­mous strain on the con­tact ar­eas of the gears in your reel, ev­ery time you fight a fish. It is bet­ter to put your thumb on the spool if you want to stop a fish or break a snag than to lock down the drag. This is some­thing to be es­pe­cially wary of when fish­ing with high break­ing strain braids. Most man­u­fac­tur­ers’ max­i­mum line rec­om­men­da­tions and max­i­mum drag fig­ures are within a few pounds of each other for this very rea­son. I see more cat­a­strophic reel fail­ures be­cause of locked down drags than of all other rea­sons com­bined.

Fi­nally the re­la­tion­ship be­tween bear­ings, dura­bil­ity and cast­ing per­for­mance. First off, any mod­ern bait­caster should have at least five bear­ings in­clud­ing the anti re­verse bear­ing. Three of these should sup­port the main spool shaft and pin­ion gear. The fourth should be at the base of the drive shaft. This is pretty much stan­dard on ev­ery ma­jor brand and you need not worry about it if you are buy­ing a well known brand. If it is an un­known brand check the reel di­a­gram in the box for bear­ing place­ments. If there is no di­a­gram, don’t bother buy­ing it! When it comes to bear­ings and cast­ing per­for­mance there are a lot of myths out there. The real­ity is this: just up­grad­ing the bear­ings in your reel is un­likely to im­prove the per­for­mance of a good reel. In an en­try level reel it might up­grade the per­for­mance but is it worth the money to put an ex­pen­sive bear­ing in a low qual­ity frame? When you Google “world record cast­ing” you will find sev­eral in­ter­views and dis­cus­sions around cast­ing dis­tance. What is in­ter­est­ing is that many of these spe­cial­ists rec­om­mend a good reel, but most of them will tell you that the right rod and good tech­nique are far more im­por­tant than the reel. It will be worth your while to rig your reel on ev­ery rod you own and com­pare cast­ing per­for­mance that way to get max­i­mum ef­fi­ciency out of ev­ery setup you own.

In a fu­ture ar­ti­cle we will dis­cuss how to get max­i­mum dis­tance out of dif­fer­ent reels and baits and how to spool and set up your reels for dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios. Un­til then, watch out for that over wind!

Some ba­sic parts of a bait­cast­ing reel

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