Game & Fish sent our gear experts into the briny marshes of Louisiana where the crew tested the latest bass gear against the largest and hardest-fighting redfish in North America.
Last week, we revealed what our testers chose for the Game & Fish Editor’s Choice award for best overall spinning reel and rod.
Here's a look at the Great Buy award winners:
G&F Great Buy: Best Value Spinning Reel
Cadence is a relatively new company that manufactures feature-rich rods and reels at value-pricing. The CS10, at $119.99, has a stylized magnesium frame and a dramatically skeletonized, carbon composite rotor. Both are designed to trim weight.
With eleven bearings, the CS10 turns true on a machined aluminum pinion gear and main shaft. We liked the CNC machined, all-aluminum spool. It promises years of trouble-free service over some other manufacturers' molded or cast spools. Additionally, the spool securely accommodates both braid and clear lines (mono or fluorocarbon), and that adds to the reel’s overall versatility.
Attention-to-design detail is seen in an intricately machined handle spindle and carbon fiber arm, which carries an EVA knob. Multiple carbon fiber discs manage drag duties without any hiccups.
We envision the CS10 as a great reel for beginners shopping for a generalist spinning reel, one that will handle a variety of techniques well.
Hits: The reel is rugged and capable of withstanding plenty of rough-and-tumble use.
Misses: The bail is a bit clumsy and loud.
G&F Great Buy: Best Value Spinning Rod
Dobyns Colt Series
Gary Dobyns is an accomplished professional bass fishermen who builds some of the best high-end rods on the market. His Colt Series now offers cost-conscious fishermen the chance to own a Dobyns quality rod, at a very reasonable retail.
The 7-footer we tested featured a medium-light power with a fast action. The rod is technique specific (as are all in the series), designed for dart heads, drop shots, shaky heads, tubes and gitzit-style baits. However, any finesse bait will benefit from being saddled to this Colt.
The rod is rated for 6- to 12-pound test and 1/8- to 1/2-ounce baits. We found the rod’s sweet spot in the 1/4- to 3/8-ounce range, as 1/2-ounce baits overloaded the blank a bit on the cast. The 12 3/4-inch EVA split-grip is sized well for manipulating finesse baits, without jamming into your forearm while painting the bottom with these infinitely small offerings.
Hits: A great action well-suited for a variety of finesse techniques.
Misses: Some felt the hook keeper is oddly placed.
How we tested
The Game & Fish tackle test utilized a comprehensive 10-criterion matrix to evaluate each rod and reel. Our test team is comprised of salty veterans of the fishing industry, professional guides and editors.
Scores were tallied after each day on the water; once we crunched the numbers (and after some heated debates), winners in each gear category were named.
The Editor’s Choice award goes to the best all-around gear, and the Great Buy award goes to those products in each category that performed the best and provided the greatest value.
The Final Scores
MEET THE TEAM
- Captain Jamie Harris: Considered a master of Florida’s Mosquito Lagoon and has been fishing for more than 40 years.
- Captain Joe DiMarco: Spends more than 220 days a year fishing and guiding fishermen to reds, bass and sea trout.
- Captain Cody Obiol: A fishing guide out of Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras, Louisiana. He has been at it full-time for more than nine years.
- Todd Ceisner: Editor of the bass-tournament site, BassFan.com. He is considered a major gearhead. He's been fishing for 20 years.
- Dr. Todd Kuhn: Game & Fish state editor who holds a Ph.D. in environmental engineering. He has been fishing in excess of 50 years.
- John Geiger: Game & Fish editor in chief and former gear editor for the magazine and web site. He's been fishing for 30 years.
Please, No More Exposed Threads!
Why is it that a few rod manufacturers insist on subjecting us bass fishermen to exposed reel seat threads? These threads seem to be the only thing you feel while working a bait.
During the test, there were several great rods, whose only downfall was the exposed threads. Most rod manufacturers have solved this problem, with creative foregrips that cover the threads.
For those manufacturers who haven’t, we implore you — “please, no more exposed threads!”
Along those same lines, hook holders are great, however, manufacturers need to spend some time considering where to place them on the rod. An ill-placed hook keeper can be distracting when placed where your fingers or hand are in constant contact with it. Plus, sometimes when you cast, a poorly placed hook-keep can snag the line mid-cast. This means you'll make a super long cast, but your lure won't be attached to your line anymore. Grrr.
Abu Garcia's Ike reel has a drop-shot keeper on the actual reel (below). That's innovative.— John Geiger, Editor In Chief
Columbia Sportswear has a shirt that is full of technology, like a built-in neck gaiter and tiny titanium sun deflectors. John Geiger and Brent Brauner of Columbia tell the story behind the very cool fishing hoodie.
Be a Fishing Machine
There are a lot of new cooling technologies out there, but we know for sure Columbia Sportswear has something to brag about. When we did our tests, temperatures soared and could have hobbled our efforts to test a huge number of rods and reels, but we stayed cool. Brent Brauner of Columbia told me all about the features in their Terminal Deflector Zero shirt, but what stands out are two technologies:
1) Omni-Shade Sun Deflector. They inserted small dots made of titanium dioxide, similar to zinc oxide (the stuff lifeguards put on their noses). Both substances reflect the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, but the titanium is less sticky, that’s for sure.
2) Omni-Freeze Zero. When you look at the inside of the shirt, you see small rings. They are actually super absorbent areas that are sweat-activated to hold moisture. It pulls it away from the skin, where it cools and then when your skin touches it again, it feels cool to touch.
It used to be that a shirt was just a shirt, but it’s actually a good thing that they now have so much technology. Yet you don’t feel like a cyborg or robot; you feel like a fishing machine. — JG
So, where do you begin when it comes to matching a rod to a reel? To get you in the ballpark, try matching line weights. Both rods and reels come with line ratings, a range of line weights they are best suited for. Match these line weights for the best performance.
You’ll next want to balance the combo. Balancing is simply matching a reel to a rod so it feels right or balances in hand. A good general rule of thumb is this: if you settle on a lightweight rod, you’ll need an equally light reel.
Syncing a light rod to a heavy reel throws off the balance and makes for an awkward combo. And by all means, mate the rod and reel in the store to get a sense of the feel prior to purchasing the pair. By balancing a combo, you’ll fish baits much more effectively and reduce arm fatigue. —TK