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Reel Review


Hybrid Powerhouses - 13 Fishing's Limited BOSS Series Baitcasters (continued)


Drag: Ever since 13 Fishing introduced their first reels they always put a priority on maximum drag pressure. Their Bulldog Drag systems make use of a variety of alloy and carbon washers to increase drag pressure while managing heat. The BOSS reels make use of the same titanium drag system that the previously introduced saltwater oriented Concept TXZ does, and delivered a massive 22.3lbs. of drag pressure in the lab under what we considered maximum settings, which is just over the 22lbs. rated specification. More than enough for any bass fishing application!


A look at the top side of the massive drag stack embedded within the gearing

More important than maximum drag pressure is that this particular drag system also felt smoother and more refined than previous generation 13 Fishing drags. The combination of titanium and carbon washers do a good job providing stopping pressure while efficiently managing performance robbing heat during extended runs. Even 5 plus pound bass could do little to tax the stopping power of these bulldogs.


Even the main brass gear is sandwiched between carbon washers to increase surface area and raw stopping power


The BOSS has the same ergonomics as most other 13 Fishing reels but is light and benefits from higher quality carbon components and ergonomic handles

Ergonomics: The BOSS reels feature the same basic form factor as the other Concept reels but are considerably lighter at 6.3oz. for the high speed reel, and 6.5oz. for the lower speed 6.6:1 reel. The difference maker between the two is the handle implementation. Both make use of a swept carbon fiber handle but the high speed reels have a smaller handle that is fitted with lighter carbon fiber sculpted knobs.


I found that these reels paired well with a variety of rods

If you like the ergonomics offered by the other Concept reels these reels will feel very similar, just lighter and more refined, with the use of the carbon materials, and I particularly liked the sculpted carbon fiber knobs which feel solid and natural in hand. The 6.6:1 reel’s power handle and knobs are basically a higher-end version of the design originally used on the saltwater oriented TXZ reel. The barrel knobs on the handle are coated with rubber and provide a solid grip in your fingertips, or when you wrap your hand around them, which felt natural to me when fishing deep diving cranks or big swimbaits. This power handle gives the lower speed reel a little more of an enthusiast look and feel, but does remind us of the aftermarket DRT Varial handles, which feature machined components and anodized color options.


Though most anglers will stick with the BOSS components it is good to know that the reels are fully Trick Shop compatible. This also does give anglers the option to dress up their reels a bit as the BOSS reels are pretty subtlety styled for a premium offering

The BOSS’s biggest ergonomic drawback is that adjusting the centrifugal cast control still requires anglers to open the non-handle side sideplate. The good news is that the “Beetle Wing” sideplates remain attached to the aluminum frame at all times so there is no chance of losing them in the adjustment process.


The ergonomics on the carbon fiber handle and sculpted knobs are excellent. The knobs may not be as grippy as EVA but they sure do look cool


The knobs are bearing supported for a smoother retrieve

Price and Applications: I found that over a season of use the BOSS reels continue to both cast and retrieve well, and have also maintained more of their initial out of the box smoothness than other 13 Fishing reels. The main gearing and drag have held up beautifully, and the CZBs have not required any additional oil to maintain their maximum casting distance. In terms of applications these reels are well suited for bass fishing but can easily tangle with larger species, and even pull double-duty for inshore fishing.


The high speed 8.1:1 reel was ideal for moving big topwaters, and the drag provides plenty of stopping power

Part of the allure of these reels is 13 Fishing’s hybrid approach to performance, and rather than focus solely on one type of technology the company’s designers drew upon the entire toolbox of components including the CZBs, Black Seal high spin bearings, carbon fiber materials, and brass gearing to deliver the performance and durability they targeted.


Both reels have a unique personality with the handle designs but only the 8.1:1 model is available in both right and left hand retrieve

The BOSS reels are a niche reel series, designed to showcase of what the company is capable of, rather than be a high volume series, like the more affordable Concept and Inception Series reels. The BOSS is the very definition of a flagship offering and the biggest challenge to these reels comes from the other competitors at this price band. Though the BOSS reels are good offerings in their own right there are a lot of other competing reels worthy of consideration at the $400 mark. Reels like the Daiwa Zillion TW HD ($399), Abu Garcia REVO MGX ($369), and the new Shimano Metanium MGL 150 ($419) all represent very strong competition to the BOSS.


The hybrid design is pretty seamless in the BOSS reels and the use of traditional bearings and CZBs delivers in both the casting and retrieve categories

Some of these competing baitcasters also possesses very advanced features, or employ more exotic materials in their frame construction, but none of them can claim the same hybrid bearing design of the BOSS. But is that enough? At this price band, probably not. But knowing the team at 13 Fishing they likely already have something in R&D with the goal of raising the performance and innovation bar.


I found the BOSS reels to be smooth and powerful and with souped up internals and an incredible drag these reels are designed to provide season after season of quality feel and performance


Ratings: (We've re-calibrated our ratings standard for 2008 and have included a key at the bottom of the following matrix as a guide):

13 Fishing Concept Z Baitcaster Reel Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Built to last the BOSS reels make use of high quality materials that held up well through the entire season. The quality of the gearing materials is a step up from other lower priced 13 Fishing reels 8.8
Performance Like other CZB reels the BOSS is a strong caster. It does still feel less refined than competing reels at this price point when it comes to casting but it does deliver both distance and control. The drag on this reel is an absolute beast 9
Price At $400 dollars the BOSS should be a major step up from other lower cost reels and while it does offer upgrades in multiple areas it also feels very similar. The use of carbon fiber components are a very nice touch but the competition at this price point is very strong 6.5
Features After a lot of initial skepticism the CZBs have proven to be a viable option and the fact that the BOSS leverages Black Seal bearings together with the CZBs provides anglers with a uniquely performing, and feeling, reel. Other key features we really like are the Bulldog titanium drag and carbon handle/knobs 8.5
Design (Ergonomics) The BOSS makes use of the Concept platform and the handle and knob options are very ergonomic. Weight is also decent on these reels, especially considering the brass gearing and massive drag. The biggest gripe is that the cast control on these reels are still not accessible via an external dial 8.5
Application The BOSS is built tough an can be used in both fresh and inshore environments. The company has done a lot to provide refinement and durability with use of sealed bearings and the CZBs. I found these reels best for power applications 9.0

Total Score

Ratings Key: 1 = terrible : 2 = poor : 3 = lacking : 4 = sub par : 5 = mediocre : 6 = fair : 7 = good : 8 = great : 9 = excellent : 10 = unbelievable!
For More Details of the updated rating system visit our explanation here


Pluses and Minuses:

                          Plus                                    Minus

+ Hybrid design that makes use of sealed bearings and CZBs together seamlessly - The price. The competition at the $400 dollar price point is fierce
+ Strong casting abilities. Centrifugal braking system is reliable - Doesn't stand out as much as it could from the rest of the 13 lineup
+ Smooth retrieve that holds up well over time - Adjusting cast control requires opening the non-handle side sideplate
+ The Bulldog Drag is extremely powerful - Lefty anglers only get the 8.1:1 gear ratio
+ Good overall weight for a reel with such a beefy brass gearing and drag  
+ BOSS garage carbon components look and feel high-end, and the reels are trick shop compatible for additional customization  


Conclusion: The BOSS Series baitcasters draw from the complete arsenal of technologies that 13 Fishing offers, and is worthy of a halo product. If you appreciate the unique performance and feel of the CZB technology, or the simply innovation of a hybrid bearing design, there isn’t anything else quite like these baitcasters on the market today. The BOSS reels are not only the smoothest baitcasters in the 13 Fishing portfolio but also the ones that can hold up to abuse the best with the implementation of the brass gearing and sealed bearings.


The BOSS is a great showcase for 13 Fishing's technologies, and when it comes to a hybrid design there isn't anything else on the market quite like them, but they also face fierce competition at the $400 price point

After putting the BOSS baitcasters through the wringer for a whole season I’ve only become more impressed with 13 Fishing’s willingness to take chances, and employ new designs and technologies, something that we are accustomed to seeing across the brand’s reel and rod lines. When it comes to the BOSS reels they feel immediately familiar, fit right into the 13 Fishing lineup, and have held up well over time.

Is the BOSS for you? How much you like the 13 Fishing brand, and especially the CZB performance/feel characteristics, will likely inform your decision. After a season of use I can say that I like the BOSS reels, and while they check off a lot of the boxes they also don’t necessarily stand out as much as they should from the rest of the 13 Fishing lineup, and also face very strong competition at this premium price point. Enthusiasts demand a lot from their reels, and at the $400 hundred dollar price point anglers shouldn’t just “like” these baitcasters, they should “love” them.


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