First Tests and
a Look Inside the 13 Fishing Concept Z - Zero Ball Bearing Baitcaster
Introduction: The Concept Z is finally here, the ball bearing-less
reel that was the talk of the show this past ICAST where 13 Fishing unveiled
prototypes. The Concept Z is the first high-performance casting reel to be
manufactured without any ball bearings and instead makes use of an advanced
polymer technology to create their Concept Zero Bearings (CZB) to build a reel
that is designed to fish quite unlike any other. The new Concept Z reels are
just starting to ship and we got our hands on one for a quick round of tests and
a first look under the frame.
Finally the eagerly anticipated
Concept Z has arrived in our lab, time to see what this ball bearing-less reel
is all about
Seriously, no Ball Bearings? 13 Fishing
didn’t just want to innovate they wanted to create a whole new class of reel
with their newest baitcaster. There have been bearing-less reel designs in the
past but none that could really be called “high-performance,” and when it comes
to improving casting and retrieve the historical go-to performance upgrade for
reel manufacturers has been to simply utilize better bearings, and typically
ones that better resist the elements in an effort maintain performance over
challenges the very notion that a high performance baitcaster requires a single
ball bearing with the introduction of the Concept Z.
The company worked closely with a US manufacturer to craft the new proprietary
Concept Zero Bearings, and the material used in these hi-tech plain bearings can
be described as a space-age polymer. The CZBs have no moving parts and are
designed to maintain smooth performance over time with no performance loss due
to debris, corrosion, or environmental wear. Sounds too good to be true? Like
many other anglers we were skeptical and eager to see just how the Concept Z
would perform in the lab and field.
The Concept Z features the
recognizable profile of the existing Concept reels but it is what is inside that
makes this reel so unique
Freespool doesn’t equal Casting Performance: We received a Concept Z from
Matt Baldwin, 13 Fishing’s Director of Reel Product Development, a week ago and
I couldn’t wait to get the baitcaster into the lab where we tested freespool,
drag pressure, and took our first look inside the reel. Our first tests included
backing off the centrifugal brakes and seeing what the freespool was like left
me scratching my head. The freespool on the Concept Z is barely there at all,
and showed one of the least amount of rotations of any reel we have ever tested.
Not a good sign I thought to myself, but after spooling the reel up and making a
few casts the Concept Z absolutely blew my mind.
Under the beetle wing rapid access
sideplate is the centrifugal braking system
The Concept Z not only casts an extremely long distance but spool startup is
also very quick. How could a reel that freespooled so poorly deliver some of the
most effortless casts that I have ever experienced? The CZBs feel completely
unlike traditional ball bearing based reels, and casts are not only long but
particularly consistent. Short pitches, even with unweighted plastics, were
accurate and consistent.
Casting with the
Concept Z is effortless and all it takes is one cast to demonstrate that
freespool doesn’t necessarily equal casting performance. 13 Fishing has the
potential with this reel to lay waste to an ideology that goes back decades,
that you need ball bearings to deliver a long and controllable cast, and that
you can gauge how well a reel will cast by flicking the spool with your finger.
On the spool we get our first look
at a production Concept Zero Bearing (CZB)
I also managed to catch a few fish with the Concept Z over the last week and the
retrieve is equally impressive. The winding power and precision is remarkably
good on the reel, and because the CZB is essentially a solid polymer bushing
there is no give in the moving parts, making the alignment during rotation
superb. Like with casting all it takes is catching one fish to start to
appreciate the fluid and silent retrieve, and just how different this reel is in
Inside we find the familiar
Japanese Hamai cut gearing
Next Section: Change is hard...