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Enthusiast Review

2013 Bait-the-Finesse Finale : Daiwa T3 Air (continued)


Brakes: The T3 Air's casting brake adjustment range is quite vast thanks to Daiwa's 3D MagForce braking system, but on a reel made for finesse applications we found it overkill. In order to tame the spool so that it could cast that finesse jig on our setup, we had to adjust the broad range lever at the bottom of the reel to "MAX" and the external dial to "10". Even then we needed to moderate the spool with our thumb a good amount to avoid an overrun.

The T3 Air benefits from Daiwa's Magforce 3D, but we find it a bit overkill on a finesse reel.

With the Aldebaran BFS, fine tuning adjustment was not necessary and with the same effort imparted into the cast, our finesse jig traveled further with this setup than that of the T3 Air.

For finesse applications, all you need is to set the bottom lever to maxbrake" and adjust from 0-20 on this external dial.

Subsequent attempts with the T3 Air set at less braking force variations all resulted in overruns. On paper it would seem the T3 Air is more capable, but in our hands at least, in practical application, the settings that allow this reel to be even more free are of no benefit because the spool is just too out of control.

Both the dragstar and spool tension knob on this reel feature micro-click adjustments.

Features: The T3 Air scores very well on our check list of features with the one oddity being there was no vial of oil in the box with our reel. To be honest, we rarely use the factory supplied oil anyway, but just the same this seems like an odd oversight on a top end reel from Daiwa Japan. Perhaps it was just ours?


Features Ratings for Daiwa T3 Air

Ext Brake Adjust? (1-2)
Levelwind Bearing (1-2)
Knob Bearings (1-3)
Micro Clicks (1-3)
Reel Cover (1-2)
Oil (1-2)
Rating (= Tot/Pos * 10)


Design & Ergonomics: The hollow sensation one feels while using the reel thanks to the T3 platform's frame material aside, the T3 Air is a very comfortable reel to palm. The handle length is a standard eighty millimeters. This is better than the typical shorter handles that used to come on JDM Shimano and Daiwa reels, but we'd still like something a little longer.

The design of these knobs are very cool, but they're not very comfortable to use.

The knobs are another area where this reel is polarizing. Daiwa did its best to shave weight from this reel where ever possible. They even hollowed out the knobs of this reel and while it makes for a very avant-guard design, in practical application, these knobs are not very comfortable to fish. It just doesn't feel like there's enough to hold onto.

All of the breakdown screws on the T3 Air are located on the same side of the handle sideplate making it a bit easier to open up.

Lastly, when it comes to breaking the reel down for maintenance, the T3 Air is as simple as they come to take apart. The three breakdown screws on the handle sideplate are easy to locate and are all facing the same direction so there's no flipping the reel back and forth and accidentally dropping the sideplate to let loose all the internal parts.


Design & Ergonomics Ratings for Daiwa T3 Air

Handle Length (1-5)
Knobs (1-5)
Palming (1-5)
Overall Weight (1-5)
Ease of Breakdown (1-5)
Rating (= Tot/Pos * 10)


Application: The T3 Air's applicability to a wide range of techniques is directly related to its line capacity. This reel has a very shallow spool. On the surface, with two different retrieve ratios, a max drag tested up to nine pounds, and a braking system equipped with a wide range of adjustments, you'd think this reel could handle any number of presentations and techniques but with such a shallow spool, you're more or less limited to finesse applications.


Application Ratings for Daiwa T3 Air

Horizontal (1-5)
Vertical (1-5)
Finesse (1-5)
Big Baits (1-5)
Topwater (1-5)
Rating (= Tot/Pos * 10)


Daiwa T3 Air Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality The T3 Air is the epitome of quality control in a high end reel 10
Performance The T3 Air performs nicely but we find the MagForce 3D overkill on a finesse reel 8.4
Price Even with the improved exchange rate, the T3 Air is an expensive proposition 5
Features The T3 Air has all the right clicks 8.57
Design (Ergonomics) A comfortable reel to palm and hold but that hollow feeling due to the reel's material is polarizing 8.4
Application Capable of more if only the spool were deeper and a little more stout 6.4

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:


+ This reel is incredibly refined - Standard T3 spools do not fit in this reel
+ Aggressive design - The knobs aren't very comfortable to fish
  - With the PX68 offered by the same manufacturer, do you really need the T3 Air too?

Passing down rigging tips.

Enroute to a fun catch!

The Wrap: The Shimano Aldebaran BFS comes back from initial impressions within our March 2013 Product Insight article with a higher score in our final, full blow product review. Does this mean it's better? Taking a look at the side by side scoring comparisons in the table below it really depends on which categories are more important to you.


Shimano Aldebaran BFS vs Daiwa T3 Air Ratings (?/10)

  BFS T3 Air
Construction/Quality 8.5 10
Performance 8.8 8.4
Price 7 5
Features 7.14 8.57
Design (Ergonomics) 8.6 8.4
Application 7.6 6.4

Total Score

7.94 7.78
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


We really nit-picked in the Construction/Quality department, but really, that's what the section is all about. If these points are important to you, the T3 Air is winners hands down. But of course, this level of QC comes at a price because the T3 Air cost of ownership is considerably higher than that of the BFS. Point back to Shimano?

Finesse fishing is a fantastic way to introduce your children to the fun of bass fishing, but when you can catch fish like this, the experience is simply over the top.

Special thanks to our good friend Roy Gray for facilitating our bait finesse shootout.

Ergonomically, the BFS edges out the T3 Air in weight, comfort in palming, and the BFS has a more comfortable set of knobs, but the T3 Air is more feature laden than the BFS with a micro-click adjustable drag and spool tension knob. Then again the BFS has better utility in a wider range of applications - but is that what you really want in a bait finesse reel?

Regardless of scoring metrics, two out of three Junior Editors chose the Aldebaran BFS.

Until next time...

In raw performance numbers, the BFS comes out on top again - just barely, so all in all, the scores and ratings across the board are so close, you have to decide for yourself which reel you think you'd prefer. For us, it came down to what our Junior editors found to be their favorite reel to fish. Three Junior Editors, two reels, one winner. In a two to one (2-1) split decision, the winner of our 2013 Bait Finesse Shoot is.... Shimano Aldebaran BFS. Congratulations Shimano Japan!









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