The spool release cap is easy enough to use when new, but after a couple of seasons of fishing, dirt and grit have made unscrewing it tougher. Our hats go off to Bauer for making a difference and giving back to the resource we all enjoy. The included reel case is more like a cloth sack with little protection from drops, but for the money we’re not going to complain. Like the Cimarron II reels, one flick of the wrist will send the Animas spinning (and retrieving line like crazy). Drag Knob: Easy to turn, but can come off, Drag Detents: No detents and drag knob isn’t stiff enough; you can knock the drag setting off accidentally, Handle: sweet wooden handle – could be longer with a bit more swell at the end, Kind of heavy for size, but feels durable, Cool Cork Drag system, intricate parts, very well made, #29 (tie) Aspen 350 LA $250 – reel, $120 x/spool, Here’s another reel that we thought would finish higher. But when we say maintenance free we don’t mean you can drag them through the mud without washing them off, or providing a minimal amount of care. Finally, the completely revamped composite drag system on the new Animas delivers fish stopping power like never before. Retrieval Sound: Nice metallic click and pawl sound on retrieve, Outgoing drag sound: Similar metallic but deeper sound going out, Spin: Almost none (.5 – .85 revs)? Ross reels are lighter, stronger, larger, and more functional than others in the industry. The Evolution LT comes in three standard colors: black, mist gray, and green. We’ve even heard of Abel reels getting run over at high speed with a flats skiff and all the prop did was barely dent the frame and the reel’s foot. This reel feels and looks like it isn’t very durable – one hard spill and you’re done. That being said, we feel a few things could be done to make the Finatic even better. The best reel in our comparison, the Galvan Torque, gave us a range of 2.25 revolutions! Galvan is using polymer/Rulon bushings that require no maintenance and no lubrication. It also has a nice stop on the bottom with .14lbs. We did note a small amount in reels like the Tibor Signature and the Abel Super 4N, both of which use older style cork disc drags. This is never easy to fix, even in the shop, much less on the stream. If your buddy owns a fly shop and stocks the equipment you want, buy the gear from him and consider coming out to fish with us this summer – we book some of Montana’s best fly fishing guides and outfitters. The drag system is housed in an expertly ported lightweight frame. The Hardy Ultralite reels are machined in South Korea from the high-grade aircraft 6061 aluminum. We set the drag pressure to .25 pounds on our Bouz Drag Checker. #1 Galvan Torque (T-5) $360.00 – reel, $170 x/spool. Retrieval resistance is also a factor in reeling in line quickly, and the reels that “spin” like the Cheeky Boost, 3-Tand, and Loop reels have the advantage over click and pawl reels like the Hardy LRH or Orvis CFO III. Loop reels are machined in South Korea from the finest aircraft aluminum available. If you want a fast rate of retrieval go with the Speedster. Craftsmanship is a 10, as is start up inertia and ease of spool removal. We’ve found if something can go wrong in the field it will. The idea is to set your drag lightly enough so that if you hook a hot fish that burns out on 6X, you don’t get broken off on that first run. Still, this may be a good thing for balancing heavier, longer fiberglass and bamboo rods. Weighing 4.1 ounces fully loaded, the Sage Click is clearly one of the very lightest reels in the shootout, second only to the Ross Colorado LT. At 2.785 inches, the Sage Click also has one of the largest arbors in the shootout, second only to the massive Loop Evotec G4 LW 5/8. With a max drag of .2 pounds, the Click’s main job is to keep the line from free spooling, and the angler is going to be responsible for adding extra pressure during the fight. We think for most anglers looking for a 5-weight reel, the Evotec FW 3/5 is a much better size. You can also add a further personal touch to your Tibor Signature by choosing one of Tibor’s exclusive engraved game fish designs or your own personal logo at an extra cost. Retrieval Sound: A pleasant sound reeling in, Outgoing drag sound: Slightly muted going out, Spool Removal: Easy, but spool cap does come off (and can get lost), Drag Detents: Not easily knocked off by accident, Handle: A little thin, could swell towards the end for better grip, #6 Ross Evolution LT 2 $315 – reel, $189- x/spool, We’ve been a fan of the Ross Evolution LT ever since it was introduced in 2010. 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