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February 15, 2011

Back to Spool

Spinning-reel spools combine old and new technologies

Chris Littau, manager of product and technology strategy for Zebco (, manufacturer of Fin-Nor and Quantum), explains that engineering a spinning reel's line stack is an intricate process. "Modifying one element - spool, oscillation or stroke length - affects the other two," he says. "We have an advantage because we developed most of our current product with that in mind. We phased out the Fin-Nor Ahab - a strong, reliable reel - because it was too complicated to update its older design to properly handle new techniques and the use of braid."

Graphite, Aluminum or Both?
We've all heard that graphite spools can crack or flex under high drag pressures. The truth in this common wisdom might depend on the line you use and how you fill a reel.

"It can be easy to break low-quality graphite spools with monofilament if you wind it on too tightly," Littau says. "Once the mono absorbs moisture and swells, it exerts tremendous pressure and can damage a spool with drag settings of just 1 or 2 pounds. I've even seen an inferior aluminum spool blow out in these circumstances. It would normally take an unrealistic amount of line tension for braid to cause such a problem."

Bretza advises loading reels ­manually. "All the cracked spools I've seen were caused by line-winding machines. If you spool up properly and set the drag correctly, this should never happen while fighting a fish," he says. "It takes a lot of pressure to crack a graphite spool and at that point, something is going to give: the rod, the spool or some other part of the reel."

Available on Trio spinning reels, Okuma's Crossover spool brings us the best of both worlds by employing aluminum where needed for strength and rigidity, and using composite where possible to reduce weight. "For the main body of the spool, we use a polymer material called Nylon66, which contains additional fiber for maximum durability," Bretza says. "Graphite spools tend to flex where the shaft goes through the center of the spool. Okuma wanted to ensure critical alignment of the shaft and drag washers, and avoid any potential for flexing, so we designed the Aluminum Drag Chamber. This aluminum cage holds the drag washers and screws into the top of the spool, so the washers are housed in a strong chamber and run on the same smooth surfaces found in an all-aluminum spool. The ADC also allows for precision alignment because the spool shaft runs through aluminum, not graphite."

Lip Service
Since rough spots on the spool lip snag line and rob casting distance, some manufacturers take steps to fortify this part of the reel. Shimano ( offers some models, such as the Sustain FE, with a titanium-coated lip to guard against scratches.

Penn goes a step further. Instead of coating spool lips, which the company feels can lead to failure and separation of metals, Penn makes the entire lip on its high-end spinners of Eternal Alloy. This extremely corrosion-­resistant material rates six times harder than aluminum.

Like a spool psychologist, the WaveSpin's ( distinct, sawtooth-shaped lip keeps things from getting too loopy: It prevents pesky coils from dumping off the reel and fouling up casts.

Ever wonder if ported spools really make a difference in reel weight?

"Aluminum weighs only about 2.7 grams per cubic centimeter," Littau says. "A 5-millimeter hole - which is large for a spinning reel - in a spool that's 1.5 millimeters thick saves only about .8 grams, if my quick math is correct. But hey, every little bit counts!"