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First Tests and a Look Inside the 13 Fishing Concept Z - Zero Ball Bearing Baitcaster (continued)


While the CZBs are definitely the showstopper within the new Concept Z reel the drag on this reel is definitely worth noting as well. The appropriately named “Bulldog Drag” system makes use of a thick stack of alternating steel and carbon washers sandwiched with the Japanese Hamai cut gearing to maximize surface area to generate a whopping 22lbs. of drag pressure. Which is more than enough for the complete gamut of freshwater and inshore applications.


That is a ton of drag washers! The Bulldog Drag loads them in for maximum surface area and pressure

Though the Concept Z is the launch platform for the new CZB design and technology we are guessing that the company will be extending the use of these polymer bearings for more inshore or saltwater oriented, and maybe even higher capacity models. The benefits to corrosion resistance just makes too much sense for the technology not to be leveraged in applications where harsh environmental elements play such a large role in performance-loss over time.


The entire reel is treated for resistance from saltwater and the elements, and as an added benefit there are no metal bearings to corrode

13 Fishing, the company that brought anglers the Trick Shop, is never one to leave out the owners of their existing products, and is also planning on offering various kits that are designed to upgrade existing Origin, Inception, and Concept baitcasters for $50-$100 dollars, depending on the kit and configuration. For those anglers that just want to dip their toe into the new technology the company will also be offering single CZB upgrades for spool bearings, side/palm cover bearings, line guide, and handle knob replacements for $11.00 each.

Change is hard, especially when it requires reassessing things that we are used to, which is exactly the case with the very design and execution of the Concept Z.

As our first impressions in the lab fully showed, this is a reel that you have to experience to understand, and the minute that you make those first few casts it is like a light bulb goes off, the Concept Z not only casts well, it casts great, and delivers a unique and silent start up that only becomes even more eerie as you proceed to crank down and experience the smooth and silent winding operation. The introduction of the Concept Z forces us to rethink everything that we know about bearings and baitcaster performance. For example even in our initial tests we learned that this baitcaster setup is different on this reel as we required lower cast control and braking settings than we would normally, even from a similar Concept Series reel, simply because of the consistency of the polymer CZB material which makes casts more predictable and controllable.


The bright orange color is called "tequila Sunrise" and is as bold as the new CZB design inside

I think the biggest question most anglers will have is just how well the Concept Z and CZB bearings will hold up over time.

In the short time I have had with the Concept Z it has maintained performance and feel. I asked Matt about maintenance and whether additional lubrication on the CZBs was necessary over time. The company has done extensive testing, even outfitting guides that fish the reels in harsh environments every single day, and through these tests have experienced virtually no wear and no need for additional lubrication. Through the next few months we will be doing the same to our test reel and seeing just how well it holds up to abuse.


CZBs are even utilized within the handle knobs

13 Fishing has been hard at work on this project, and some anglers may have even noticed that the color on the CZBs has changed from the green ones we saw at ICAST to orange on the production reel are looking at today. The polymer material was improved over the last six months since ICAST and 13 Fishing has been quietly enhancing and refining the Concept Z all the way up until production three weeks ago. This how seriously they take product development.


The production CZB bearings have not just changed color they have been improved since we saw them this past ICAST

Early adopters will likely quickly jump on board the bearing-less train, but 13 Fishing makes it possible for a wide audience to experience the new Concept Z with an aggressive price point of only $199 dollars.

Not being afraid to take chances is in 13 Fishing’s DNA, and something we wish more manufacturers would embrace, as the entire industry would be better for it. Making these exciting technologies and products actually affordable to anglers is equally important, and something that 13 Fishing continues to make a priority.

In the short span of a week the Concept Z has already changed the way that I look at bearing and baitcaster design, and as we begin our long term tests for a full blown review I’m eager to see just how well the reel not only performs across the entire spectrum, but especially how well the concept zero bearings stand up to the real world abuse. What a “Concept” this new ball bearing-less reel is. This could be game changer.


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