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ICAST 2019 Update Coverage

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Reel Review

Pushing the Envelope, the Daiwa Steez EX Spinning Reel (continued)

Durability: Whenever you utilize magnesium, like on the previous generation Steez reel, there are always going to be durability concerns. No matter what coatings the company applies or how the reel is finished the reel is likely to scratch over time, exposing the magnesium frame to the elements. Daiwa’s Zaion frame and rotor to not have this issue, but they arguably sacrifice something in the process. What is lost is some of that crisp “feel.”

The Steez EX's body is extremely slim and svelte. The handle knob... not so much

Much like the difference between a metal and carbon framed bike the reel feels different. The Steez EX is undoubtedly smooth and refined but it doesn’t feel “metal,” and cranking on the reel does feel different. What Daiwa is able to gain is the ability to reduce weight while improving durability and because Zaion is more durable the company is also able to implement new designs that normally wouldn’t be possible or cost effective with magnesium. An example of this is the aggressively styled Zaion air-rotor which features an open arm design that is wonderfully minimalistic. You can see through the sides of this rotor and though it doesn’t look very strong it performed beautifully in our tests with the pressure of big fish on the line. Though I like the feel of magnesium based reels the benefits of moving to a carbon composite material when it comes to design and durability are a worthy tradeoff in the case of the Steez EX.

A look at the Steez EX's compact profile

Daiwa also adds a substantial layer of paint on top of the Zaion and while the reel looks almost black in low light it is a deep blue, complete with pearl flake under the sun. At first I wasn’t sure if I liked the cosmetic treatment of the reel, especially compared to the clean matte finish of the previous gen reel, but it has grown on me over time. What the finish does do a good job of is resist damage, and over a season of use does not exhibit any scratches or boat rash whatsoever.

Even the handle is beautifully machined out of aluminum

Price & Applications: Daiwa has long been known for their high-end baitcasting and spinning reels and the Steez Series has always been positioned towards the enthusiast market. Branding this new Steez and “exotic” wouldn’t be far from the truth, and the company has made some significant advances with this latest iteration. What the NSX is for Acura/Honda is what the Steez EX is for Daiwa. It is an expensive, semi-exclusive, hi-tech product that is more than just a premium performer, it is a statement. Like the NSX the Steez EX is a “halo” product, one that demonstrates all of what makes a Daiwa premium reel so great, and while many will pine for this reel the fact that Daiwa is willing to build such a product is enough to elevate the brand’s status in the high end segment. Much like supercar the Steez EX makes use exotic materials and the use of Zaion carbon composite and magnetic oils in the Mag Seals are both shining examples of utilizing technology to overcome obstacles achieve and a higher level of performance.

One of the most unique elements of the reel is the aggressively styled air rotor that is light yet rigid thanks to the Zaion construction

The Steez EX is a great reel for just about every light to mid range spinning application and while it is perfectly suited for bass fishing it is also ideal for fishing for trout and even inshore fishing for smaller species. The Zaion frame will not corrode and when it comes to a lightweight crossover reel it just doesn’t get much better than this.

Even the spool is ported for weight reduction

Of course all this performance and refinement comes at a price and in the case of the Steez EX the ticket to ride is a steep one at $749 for the standard reel and $799 for the larger capacity Steez EX 30. At just under 800 dollars the Steez EX retails for even more than the comparably sized Shimano Stella reels, and yet the two will cater to slightly different types of enthusiasts. While this reel will likely split the Shimano and Daiwa camps right down the middle those looking for ultimate refinement will probably prefer the silky smooth retrieve and solid feel of the Stella while those looking for the lightest overall weight will select the Steez.

Fully extended you get a clear view of the Mag Sealed body and Air Spool


Daiwa Steez EX Spinning Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Excellent overall construction. Just what you expect from a premium Daiwa product. The use of advanced materials and tight tolerances make for an ultra-refined spinning reel 9
Performance Exceptional performance across the board, this reel feels great and delivers surprising power and confidence under load, especially when you consider the light total package 9.6
Price This is a premium reel with a price to match. It is even more expensive than the Shimano Stella when compared to the similarly sized reels 5
Features Plenty of features including the Zaion carbon composite construction, Mag Sealed construction (body and line roller) and all the usual premium Daiwa features 9.1
Design (Ergonomics) A delight to fish when it comes to refinement and weight. The only thing that I didn't like was the over sized handle which looks out of place on this svelte reel 9
Application Good for finesse fishing but can tackle general spinning applications and even light inshore use. The only problem is Daiwa doesn't offer the reel in as many sizes as the Stella so the series is best for lighter line applications and excels at Bass and Trout applications 8

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:


+ Light overall weight - Costly investment
+ Ultra refined - No spare spool (unfortunately something now common practice with premium reels)
+ Fluid yet powerful retrieve  
+ Excellent corrosion resistance and durability thanks to Zaion construction and Mag Sealed components  
+ Aggressive design that makes this reel not only unique looking but a reel that you just want to take out for a drive  

Conclusion: When it comes to performance and refinement in a lightweight spinning reel the Steez EX is hard to beat. This lightweight reel doesn’t sacrifice durability in the process and delivers the kind of feature set that you expect from a flagship product and with a price tag that matches. If you are looking for a practical reel, this is not it. No, the Steez EX is definitely not for everyone, and while there are many anglers that simply cannot fathom the idea of dropping 7-8 bills on a spinning reel there are others that will settle for nothing short of the best and are looking to fishing something unique.

The Steez EX may not be for everyone but it absolutely is for enthusiasts seeking the ultimate in refinement and power in a light spinning footprint

It is for these anglers that Daiwa builds the Steez EX, a low volume, high margin, supreme performer… and we are glad that they do. Reels like the Steez EX push the design envelope and debut features that will ultimately work their way downstream into future offerings, and they demonstrate just how far the company is willing to go in their mission for ultimate refinement. There is just something magical about the Steez EX, and it fishes like more than the sum of all its parts. This reel casts like a dream and delivers power without ever feeling pressure on the gearing.  Perhaps it is the implementation of the ultralight Zaion air rotor or the use of the magnetically sealed bearings, whatever the combination is Daiwa got it right. The Steez EX is right up there with the best JDM enthusiast reels and for those anglers willing to make the significant investment the Steez EX does not disappoint, and is so far the first and only spinning reel this year to earn our “Ultimate Enthusiast Award.”  

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