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ICAST: Rise of the New Reel Makers

A group of new reel manufacturers have sprung up in response to the overwhelming demand by consumers for new gear.

ICAST: Rise of the New Reel Makers

Several new fishing-reel makers have entered the market to go up against many long-time established manufacturers. (Photo by Scott Bernarde)

Recently, demand for fishing-related gear has skyrocketed as more people have been cooped-up at home. Many anxious individuals and families have turned to the outdoors to escape and shake off the stresses of daily life. In response to the new demand, rod and reel manufacturers are working overtime to keep up with fishermen's desire for new and notable equipment.

With so much demand for new fishing gear being generated, established manufacturers of ancillary fishing products have stepped up by adding reels to their product lines. Here are some of the best new reels from companies that have entered the reel game.

TOADFISH

Toadfish Carbon-Elite
Toadfish Carbon-Elite spinning reel.

Toadfish is a company with an eclectic lineup of fishing-related products, such as fish-cleaning boards, filet knives, braided lines, spatulas and neck gators. Toadfish has now dipped its toes into the spinning reel category with the introduction of the Toadfish Carbon-Elite.

As the Carbon-Elite name implies, Toadfish has incorporated a generous amount of carbon in the build. At a mass weight of 7 ounces, and a gear ratio of 5.2:1 (approx. 24-inches of line recovery per turn), the Toadfish spinning reel is perfectly suited for finesse applications. The 11-pound maximum drag offers smooth payout for most freshwater applications. The reel carries a payload of 210 yards of 8-pound-test line (braid), and 180/10 and 165/15. The Toadfish Carbon-Elite has a 7+1 sealed stainless steel bearing design and a manually activated anti-reverse system. The reel fishes both right- and left-handed and retails for $159.


The Toadfish company prides itself in giving back to the environment by creating eco-friendly products. It is specifically involved in the replanting and replenishment of saltwater oyster habitats around the country through its Put ‘Em Back program. That corporate environmental consciousness will make you feel good, knowing a portion of your purchase is invested into restoring our waterways. Info: toadfish.com


DENALI

Denali has been making a great lineup of rods for years now and has developed a devoted following of avid anglers. This year, Denali has stepped into the reel arena with the introduction of the Fission series of spinning reels. The new spinning reels are available in two models: the flagship Denali Fission Pro ($99.99) and the Denali Fission ($69.99).

Both new spinners promise performance at very, very reasonable retails. The Fission Pro is available in 2000 and 3000 sizes (both priced at $99.99). The Pro has an all-aluminum body fitted with graphite side plates. Both the 2000 and 3000 are 6.2:1 gear ratio and are convertible for either right- or left-handed retrieve.

Both have a 7+1 bearing build with the 2000 weighing 7.9 ounces and the 3000 weighing 8.1 ounces. Both reels have impressive payloads, with the 20000 carrying 6/230, 8/185 and 10/160 yards of line. The 3000 holds 6/305, 8/250 and 10/205. A machined handle and spool, and a 14.3-pound maximum drag round-out the two Pro models.

Denali Fission
Denali Fission Pro and Fission spinning reels

The Fission ($69.99) is much the same as the Pro model, with the biggest difference being its graphite body. The Fission comes in both 2000 or 3000 sizes, each with a 6.2:1 gear ratio. Both reels have 7+1 bearing builds. The 2000 can accommodate 7/320, 8/235 and 10/180 yards of line. Both reels are convertible from right to left-handed retrieve and have 14.3 pounds of maximum drag. Info: denalirods.com




ARK

The engineers at ARK make some of the finest fishing rods around. ARK's attention to detail and quality control is second to none, as are its top-shelf components. For 2022, ARK has jumped in the baitcasting reel game in big way with the introduction of three new models. The three models, the Gravity 3, 5 and 7, will be available to consumers October 31, 2022. From what I saw at ICAST 2022, the new models are well worth the wait.

ARK Gravity baitcasters
ARK Gravity series of baitcasting reels.

Louie Zhang is lead engineer at ARK and has designed an innovative casting control system for the new roster of reels. His design is so unique, he received a United States patent protecting it.

The ARK casting system utilizes an adaptive magnetic braking system that has a total of 60 settings (20 on each of the 3 dial positions) giving an angler the ability to fine tune the reel for varying bait profiles and weights. This covers everything from ultra-finesse to heavy flipping and pitching presentations (available on the Gravity 5 and 7 models).

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Other innovations include a "floating cast spool," that is, a spool shaft that extends through the spool. When in cast mode (the cast bar depressed and ready to cast), the reel disengages the spool from the main gears, allowing for greatly reduced friction resulting in better cast distances (available on the Gravity 7).

A unique cone shaped line guide also reduces casting and winding friction for silky operation. Oversized brass gears are standard in ARK reels and offers beefy performance no matter the load. During manufacture, the gears are run through multiple CNC passes, micro-smoothing and polishing the articulation surfaces for flawless meshing. It is this attention to manufacturing detail that makes the ARK reels worthy of a look by serious anglers.

The ARK Gravity 3 retails for $129.99 and has a magnetic brake system (not the Gravity system), brass gearing and an aluminum frame. It is available in 5.4:1, 6.4:1, 7.1:1 and 8.1:1 gear ratios. It weighs 7 ounces, has a 100-yard, 12-pound-test-line capacity with a 100mm EVA handle.

The ARK Gravity 5 retails for $179.99, and is equipped with the Gravity Control Brake System, reinforced brass gearing, cone shaped line guide, all-aluminum frame and carbon side plates with line size indicator. It has a 95mm TPE handle and 100-yard payload (12-pound test). It weighs 7.1 ounces and is available in 5.4:1, 6.4:1, 7.1;1 and 8.1:1.

The ARK Gravity 7 is the flagship baitcasting reel and retails for $239.99. It features the Gravity Control Brake System, reinforced brass gearing, cone shape line guide, hyper smooth transmission, feather light spool, aluminum alloy frame, floating cast spool, C3 force drag and carbon side plates. The Gravity 7 is available in 5.4:1, 6.4:1, 7.1:1 and 8.1:1 gear ratios. It weighs 7 ounces and has an incredibly ergonomically pleasing 100mm TPE handle. The long handle adds to the reel's ability to generate cranking power when buttoned to a big, frisky fish. Like the Gravity 5, the 7 holds 100 yards of 12-pound-test-line and comes either right- or left-handed. Info: arkrods.com

FIRST YEAR JITTERS

For those of you who may shy away from "new" products, that is, first-year models, we have good news. Last year, Gary Dobyns, maker of the fine line of Dobyns rods entered the reel market. Dobyns offered his Maverick branded spinning and baitcasting reels to the public. Both were entered into our annual Game & Fish Tackle Test.

The Maverick baitcasting reel, as well as the Maverick spinning reels, were offered at a $99.99 MSRP. After exhaustive on-the-water testing over four days, the Dobyns Maverick spinning reel earned our "Great Buy" award. The Great Buy award is given to the reels offering the best bang for the buck.

The moral of the story is this: If you’re tentative about buying a new reel from a new reel manufacturer, don’t be. Advances in design engineering and manufacturing have all but eliminated glaring errors traditionally found in first year products.

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