Midrange spinning reels, represented by 12-pound tackle, offer a versatile option for anglers who target species ranging from salmon to stripers to snook. The tremendous selection of reels in this category contains models that fit any budget. Best of all, the trickle-down effect has brought features like corrosion-resistant bearings and premium drag materials - once only available in high-dollar items - to lower-priced reels.
Frame and Fortune
Aluminum frames rank as an important factor in the you-get-what-you-pay-for department when comparing spinning reels, so consider the cost a long-term investment. "A growing trend sees inshore anglers switching to braided line, which definitely puts a tremendous strain on tackle," says John Bretza, director of product development for Okuma. "Braid's high breaking strength and lack of stretch punish reels with every hook-set and head shake. Aluminum-bodied spinning reels have the strength and rigidity to withstand the stress that anglers and fish can put on this type of tackle, and they'll last for many years."
Okuma calls its Trio a "crossover" reel that delivers the best of both worlds. The design merges a one-piece, stamped-aluminum reel stem with graphite side plates and rotor housing, providing strength where needed and weight savings where possible. "The Trio has two side plates; most reels have only one," Bretza says. "The aluminum reel stem bears the brunt of the stress, maintains precision gear alignment and reduces strain on side plates."
Along with frame construction, differences among spinning reels at higher and lower price points usually include the number and type of ball bearings, line-lay systems and drive-train materials.
"Machined parts and tight tolerances contribute to better reels, giving a more solid feel and stronger resistance against torque on larger fish," says Daiwa rep Trent Rogers. "High-quality bearings also affect prices. Daiwa's CRBB bearings are expensive, but we use them in saltwater reels because they're corrosion resistant and sealed to prevent water, salt or sand from entering."
"The bail wire's role has become increasingly important since the arrival of braided line," says Jeremy Sweet, reel product manager for Shimano. "Smaller diameters make it easy for line to sneak into tiny crevices, while higher breaking strengths and zero stretch put more stress on the line roller."
Shimano's high-end reels rely on a one-piece bail wire that delivers a seamless transition to the roller, so thin-diameter lines find nowhere to snag. Also, the one-piece bail has no hinge point that could flex under tension.
Daiwa's Air Bail consists of tubular stainless steel, which is lighter and stronger than solid-wire bails. To increase the longevity of any spinning reel, Rogers recommends closing bails manually rather than cranking the handle to trip the mechanism. "Repeatedly slamming the bail on retrieve can weaken it and eventually break parts," he says.
Years ago Daiwa introduced Twistbuster, a specially shaped line roller that reduces the line twist inherent to spinning reels. Since then, other manufacturers have followed suit. "Older reels had stationary line rollers. If line has to work harder to pass over the roller, it generates friction that creates twist and harms the line," Bretza says. "A ball bearing under the line roller allows it to turn freely with minimal friction on the line, which helps reduce twist while cranking in line and when a fish pulls drag."
The spool directly affects a reel's casting performance. Since line passes over the spool lip during casts, some manufacturers enhance smoothness by coating the lip with titanium or other hard alloys.
Penn reinforces the Conquer's Superline Spool with a slick lip made of - not simply coated with - Eternal Alloy. This proprietary metal promises much greater hardness than steel or titanium, so it resists nicks and helps line flow smoothly off the spool. Consisting of forged, machined and anodized aluminum, the Superline Spool wears a rubber gasket around the arbor. The nonslip material gives anglers confidence to tie braided line directly to the spool with no mono backing.
The carefully engineered spool-lip taper on Shimano's Propulsion System allows line to leave the reel in smaller loops that don't slap the lip or the rod's stripper guide. Reduced friction results in longer casts with less chance of wind knots.