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Reel Review

More for the money...the redesigned Cardinal 502ALB spinning reel

Date: 2/27/06
Tackle type: Reels
Manufacturer: Abu Garcia
Reviewer: Zander

Total Score: 8.50

Abu Garcia has completely redone their Cardinal Series of spinning reels for the 2006 season. Sitting on top of the lineup are the redesigned Cardinal 500 ALB reels. The Cardinals have always offered anglers a lot of features and performance for the money, and we take a look at the C502ALB to see if the same can be said about this freshly revamped offering.

Abu Garcia Cardinal (C502ALB) Specifications

Line Capacity (lb/yds) 6/175
Gear Ratio 5.1:1
Line retrieve per crank 25.5 inches
Weight 9.7 oz
Bearings 10BB
Additional Features Instant anti reverse, Aluminum body, "Everlast" spring system, anodized ported spool, oversized line roller,  spare graphite spool, advanced oscillation
MSRP $64.95


The new Abu Garcia Cardinal is the most modern looking Abu spinning reel released to date

The new Cardinal reels are a bit of a departure from reels of previous seasons. These reels appear cleaner and more utilitarian in design. Gone are the wooden knobs, painted fames, and gold highlights. Instead the new reels are almost completely metallic in appearance with varying shades of metallic tones. The 300 series reels feature a darker titanium-like faÁade, while the 100 and the 500 have an aluminum and platinum tone finish. One of the things I like best about the C502ALB is the machined aluminum handle, which matches the other metal plates on the reelís frame nicely.


A look at the side of the Cardinal 502ALB

When I first pulled the reel out of the box I was instantly impressed with the Cardinalís finish and quality materials used in itís construction. The spool that comes mounted on the reel looks fantastic. Not only is it ported for weight reduction it is also anodized for corrosion resistance. The only thing that put me off a bit was the fact the reel comes bundled with a graphite spool rather than an aluminum one. The average angler rarely uses the spare spool, but it is nice to have the option if you are planning to fish the reel for multiple species. With the alternative is a graphite spool I can guarantee you I wonít be switching out spools unless my fishing trip absolutely depended on it. Once I got over the graphite spool I began to appreciate the clean rotor implementation and oversized bail wire design. When compared to the previous generation reel I prefer the new cleaner more unpretentious yet chic execution.

The Cardinal 502ALB features an oversized bail design


The reel sits a fair distance from most rods, but it is easy to grab the line with your index finger for quick casts


The rotor is ported for better balancing


Another look at that thick bail


The Cardinal's "accu-balanced" rotor


Real World Test: These days I find myself employing baitcast gear for the vast majority of all my bass fishing. But there are applications where I still find a spinning reel more advantageous, including fishing tiny jigs, dart heads, and drop shotting. For the field tests I mounted the new Cardinal 502ALB on a G.Loomis Drop Shot rod. With this combo I could toss everything from a medium sized crank to a single tail grub. All field tests were conducted on the cuts and sloughs of the California Delta or on local reservoirs.


Next Section: Moving on to the field tests 











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