Time to Spool Them Up and String Them Out... Which Reel Is Best (part two)?
Superline: We conducted a few other tests between reels while they were spooled with the Sniper, but before getting into those results, we felt it best to continue on the discussion of casting and pitching. One last category of line remained, so I emptied each reel of line one more time and respooled with some superline. For these tests, we turned to a refreshed version of an old favorite. During ICAST 2017, Berkley unveiled a new, eight (8) carrier version of their popular Fireline and won a Best of Show award. I've been fishing this line since February 2018, and so far, so good, so I chose to continue my journey with this line by using it as our shootout's superline. Each reel was refilled with twenty pound (20lb) Berkley Fireline Ultra 8 in smoke.
Doesn't this line look stealthy?
Standard Casting: First off, while I really did choose to use Mizu Blue Super Natural because it matches well with our site's colors, Berkley's smoke colored Fireline really compliments each of these reels incredibly well. Texture wise, where most of today's newer braids are all soft, and really easy to handle, Fireline Ultra 8 is old school with a kind of waxy finish and strangely stiff texture. Despite that stiffness, the line casts well and fishes perfectly fine - at least that had been my experience up to the point of spooling it on each of these four reels.
It's Berkley's Fireline Ultra 8 in smoke.
That impression really didn't changed a little during this shootout. I'm not so sure I like this line on casting reels. All four reels performed more or less the same casting with the wind, across the wind, and into the wind with the Spro Bronzeye Shad. However, when I switched to the lower weight Baby Super Nato, I had an overrun on the Revo4 STX I was unable to recover. I probably should have adjusted the brakes before making a cast. I was mindful to take it easy with the other three reels with the lower weight and in this case, the Tatula SV TW and Chronarch MGL tied. Winner : Tatula SV TW ties Chronarch MGL
We have another draw in casting.
Pitching: Before making the switch to the lower weight Baby Super Nato, I made some pitches with the half ounce Bronzeye Shad. Both the Concept Z and Revo4 STX performed better than with nylon monofilament in pitching tests, but again both the Tatula SV TW and Chronarch MGL outpaced the first two reels. A little back and forth between the Tatula SV TW and the Chronarch MGL and this time, I couldn't decide which one performed better. Winner : Chronarch MGL ties Tatula SV TW
But the Tatula SV TW and Chronarch MGL tie for best in pitching with superline.
Power: Backing up a bit to when we had fluorocarbon spooled onto each reel, I also clipped on an L.O.U.S. not necessarily to test each reels' casting ability with a nearly two ounce lure, but more to see if there were any differences in how well each reel could pull such a bait through the water. Our Legend Elite EC70MFs are only rated to five eighths of an ounce (5/8oz) in lure weight, so I had to be very cautious. The lure to assist us with this test was, of course, another Editor's Choice Award winner, Strike King's 10XD deep diving crank.
Leveraging our Strike King 10XDs to help test each reel's power.
Retrieve Ratio Matters: I only had three 10XDs on me during these tests, so we had to switch around a little bit. Nonetheless, initial impressions were very easy to formulate. The reel that had most difficulty pulling this bait through the water was the Concept Z followed by the Tatula SV TW. The Revo4 STX performed very well, but the Chronarch MGL was even better. But then I thought about it a little more and realized the Tatula SV TW's main gear was a pretty good size, so there shouldn't have been that much difference between it and the Revo4 STX. It finally dawned on me that the Tatula SV TW I was using had an 8.1:1 retrieve ratio.
Does it come down to ergonomics? Least favorite was the Tatula SV TW.
So I tried again with the Tatula SV TW only this time, I slowed my retrieve and noted the effort required to turn the handle at a slower speed. Then I tried again with the other three reels. The Concept Z still had the most difficulty, but the Tatula SV TW was much closer to the Revo4 STX in terms of initial startup effort. The Chronarch MGL was still easiest. Shimano doesn't stamp the retrieve ratio anywhere on this reel, so I had to pull out my phone and look up the review to see which version of the Chronarch I had: 6.2:1, no wonder it felt the easiest. Both the Revo4 STX and Concept Z reels I was fishing had 7.3:1 retrieves.
The Concept Z was better.
Unfortunately, no definitive conclusion can really be made with regards to power here because we weren't comparing apples to apples retrieve ratios. This factor really does matter as does, apparently, the size of that main gear. Matched with the same retrieve ratio I can say that the Revo4 STX had more power than the Concept Z which correlates to the relative sizes of their main gears. Intuition tells me the Tatula SV TW, Chronarch MGL, and Revo4 STX would likely be very close, but these shootouts aren't conducted on intuition. Winner : Inconclusive
The Revo4 STX sat a hair lower in the reel seat than the others.
Ergonomics: We touched loosely upon ergonomics in part one of our shootout. The Chronarch MGL scored preliminary points for the most comfortable knobs, but what about everything else? The difference in overall weight is only 0.8 ounces between all four reels with the Chronarch MGL and Concept Z coming out on top.
But the Chronarch MGL felt best overall in my hands.
Mounted on identical rods, each reel's height feels nearly the same while palming. The Revo4 STX has a slight edge here. The Tatula SV TW is definitely the widest - especially at the front of the reel, while the Chronarch MGL has the most comfortable contour along the non-handle sideplate. Fished side by side, one after the other, the Chronarch MGL is most comfortable in my hand followed closely by the Revo4 STX, but really, ergonomics are so personal, how fair is it to let this category decide our winner?
But really, we didn't go through all that trouble and all that fishing line to have it come down to ergonomics?
Conclusion: Our goal really, at the onset of this shootout was to compare the performance characteristics of each reel and base our decision on that, so let's tally up the score and see if ergonomics even comes into play.
13 Fishing's Concept Z with polymer bearings is a tech with which to be reckoned.
13 Fishing's Concept Z: This really is a solid reel and its strengths lie in general application techniques where line capacity matters. This reel held its own in casting comparisons and I think only suffered when compared to the other three reels because of that deep spool and correlating higher start up inertia. If you don't need that much line capacity in your reel, the strategy here would be to visit 13 Fishing's Trick Shop and swap the spool. If you do need that much line capacity, then this reel wins because that's not even an option with the other three reels.
13 Fishing's Concept Z
is my new go to reel for the California Delta.
Unfortunately in this head to head shootout, in the aspects we scored, the Concept Z failed to pick up any points. The bright side is, anyone who has doubts about the company's synthetic bearing tech should think again. 13 Fishing's zero-bearing tech performs like a reel equiped with high end bearings with the difference being you don't have to maintain those bearings and you can fish in salty envoronments worry free. The concept Z is now my go to reel for the California Delta.
Abu Garcia has transformed the STX with their IVCB-6 brakes.
Abu Garcia's Revo4 STX: What a difference the casting brakes can make. Abu Garcia's Revo4 STX was solid throughout these tests. I thought it was going to suffer in a head to head battle with the other three reels casting into the wind, but to my surprise it held its own. Where this reel surprised me was casting that small, 3/16oz Molix bait. The previous gen STX would not have fared well there, but those IVCB-6 brakes really transform this reel and it tied with the Chronarch MGL to take that category (when spooled with nyon monofilament). The only negative about this reel that stood out during its head to head battle was the size, shape, and material of its knobs. After extended use, that EVA foam gets kind of hard and slick, and the knobs are much larger than those on the Tatula and Chronarch. Fortunately, there are aftermarket solutions to this issue.
Daiwa's combination of SV braking and TW line guide is powerful.
Daiwa's Tatula SV TW: Having fished all of these reels separately before putting them together for the head to head battles, Daiwa's Tatula SV TW was the early favorite. I really thought this reel was going to run away with the shootout. The combination of that SV spool and TW line guide is powerful, and really blew me away the first time I fished this reel and it is the reel that requires the least amount of effort to cast. What surprised me in this shootout though, was how well each of the other reels performed in comparison with the same exact line mounted on the same exact rods, casting the same exact bait. There weren't many categories where there was a clear winner, but the Tatula SV TW did score four points in the performance category of this shootout tying the Chronarch MGL.
The Chronarch MGL came into this shootout as the highest priced reel of the four and the only reel to be made in Japan.
Shimano's Chronarch MGL: The Chronarch MGL came into this shootout as the highest priced reel of the four and the only reel to be made in Japan. Those two factors alone are often enough to persuade consumers that a product has to be better. It's not enough for us and in fact, this reel was fished with a little more scrutiny than the others because of it. In the end, that MGL magic scored five overall points tying the Tatula SV TW in performance points, but winning in our part one ergonomics breakdown. However, if you factor back in price, it becomes a pick'em between Chronarch MGL and Tatula SV TW.
This was the closest shootout I can recall conducting.
The last two shootouts are the closest I can recall ever conducting. Sure in the end it came down to Shimano vs Daiwa once again, but take note, that performance gap is narrowing. We looked at other factors, but what I really wanted to determine was which tech was the best overall and in that mindset, this shootout is a tie. Each entry had its own, intriguing story which made it all the more fascinating because there was no clear cut separation. Apparently there is more than one way manage your line as you cast a bait and all four of these reels are excellent in that regard.
The winner of our 2018 Low Profile Baitcaster Shootout is Shimano's Chronarch MGL. Congratulations Shimano!
We also discovered if you want trouble free casting, it's best to stick with nylon monofilament followed by a more managable superline. Fluorocarbon is the most difficult to tame, but really, everyone knew that, right? Retrieve ratio definitely has an impact on a reel's apparent power as does the size of its main gear, and shallower spools are preferred if you're going to cast small-ish or light-ish baits. Three out of these four reels can cast it all. Two out of the four can cast and pitch it all, and if all you care about is performance, again this shootout ends in a tie. But in the end, one out of the four narrowly edges out the competition thanks to yes, ergonomics. The winner of our 2018 Low Profile Baitcaster Shootout is Shimano's Chronarch MGL but a close, followup award going to Daiwa's Tatula SV for being a better value. Which factor is most important to you, ergonomics or economics?
Interested in conducting your own tests? Each shootout contestant can be found right now at TackleWarehouse:
Tatula SV TW : Chronarch MGL : Revo4 STX : Concept Z