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October 14, 2013

Fishing with Electric Reels

Electrify Your Kites and Teasers to Improve Your Efficiency

Work smarter, not harder. It’s a phrase that always pops up when talking about workplace productivity. So why can’t we apply that same mantra to offshore trolling and kite-fishing?

Kite and teaser reels receive little fanfare among even the most ardent weekend warriors. Yes, they are fishing reels that don’t actually catch fish. And yep, the manual ones are a real pain to reel over and over.

Yet many tournament-boat captains swear by the electric-style models. And they often prove their worth with victories or memorable catches.

In 2012, Capt. Quinton Dieterle and his crew aboard Get Lit released 36 sailfish, a new one-day record for the Silver Sailfish Derby out of West Palm Beach, Florida.

“We were flying two kites, with three baits each, from Kristal kite reels, rigged with 50-pound Spectra,” says Dieterle, a Miami tournament captain. 

In total, 46 boats released 1,174 sailfish in three days of fishing — a majority of whom, I bet, were using electric kite reels. So who’s working smarter?

Wired Up

Constantly deploying and retrieving kites, teasers, and dredges off the stern is exhausting.

“If you hand-crank a manual kite reel 30 times in one day,” says Capt. Harry Vernon III, of Capt. Harry’s Fishing Supply ( in Miami, “you’d say, ‘I’m done with this. I’m done kite-fishing.’ That’s why we always recommend the electric models at the shop — it’s worth the extra cost.”

That’s where a little power comes into play.

Most electric kite and teaser reels plug into your boat’s 12-volt power system. Some kite reels are also available at higher voltage, such as the XL 601 from Kristal Reels (12 or 24 volts, $649).

“Most kite reels draw low amps,” says Vernon, “so you’ll have no problem using a stand-alone battery during the day.” (The accompanying chart compares normal usage for various reels.)

Fishermen knowledgeable about boat wiring can hook a reel directly to a dedicated, deep-cycle battery stowed in a console or compartment. Make sure to include an in-line fuse or circuit breaker per the manufacturer’s recommendation as a safeguard, and use solid connections to the power source via ring terminals or marine receptacles. Wiring schematics are available on some of the reel ­manufacturers’ websites.

For a more portable package, ­electric-reel makers, such as Elec‑Tra‑Mate, offer battery cases that include a handle, 15- or 30-amp marine receptacle, and a weatherproof cover.