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Enthusiast Tackle: Reel Review

The Versatile Petite Purple Powerhouse, the Daiwa Alphas

Date: 10/07/04
Tackle type: Reels
Manufacturer: Daiwa Japan
Reviewer: Cal

Total Score: 9.00

Not in recent memory had the anticipated arrival of a new reel caused as much Internet banter as that of the Daiwa Alphas. Targeted in size somewhere between the top end Team Daiwa TD-Z 103H and the diminutive finesse reel Pixy, the Alphas is Daiwa’s answer to the established legend from Shimano Japan, the Scorpion 1000 series reel. Yet, after its debut in late June of 2004, not a thread could be found either supporting or discounting this new wonder reel. Why had the buzz suddenly disappeared? Was the reel a bust? Or was the fact the reel came in 15% over the anticipated retail price enough to turn away the majority of potential buyers? Yours truly was able to acquire one of these mystery machines and the following are my findings and evaluation of this new wonder reel from Daiwa Japan.

Daiwa Alphas base Specifications

Weight (lab measured) 6.4oz (6.6oz)
Gear Ratio (actual retrieve) 5.8:1 (22 inches per turn)
Bearings 6 Ball Bearings + 1 Roller Bearing
Line Capacity (lb/yds) 12/100
Additional Features MagForceV Cast Control, Duralumin Spool, CRBB (corrosion resistant ball bearings)
MSRP $265.00 (Approx. import price)

The first thing that struck me when I first opened the box of my Daiwa Alphas 103L reel was the color. What happened to that ultra-cool purple color I’d seen in all the pictures over the Internet? Was this the right reel? Sitting in my box was a very plain, almost tan colored object – definitely not what I was expecting. But, when I lifted the reel out of its container and turned it in my hand, I came to realize, not only was this the same reel, but the finish on this work of wonder was iridescent – changing colors depending on the angle from which it was viewed and what source of light offered its luminance - incredible!


The second most notable feature of this reel is its relative weight. It has the heft of a magnesium-framed reel, yet is reportedly made of a more durable aluminum. Lastly, this reel free spools with the best of them. I counted a good eight seconds of free rotation after activating the spool with a flick of my finger. This reel is a very worthy contender in the market of high performance fishing tools from Japan.

The tiny Daiwa Alphas makes every effort be extremely ergonomic and lightweight, notice the cut away slots in the front plate, and low profile design


The Field Tests: For a real world test, I mounted this reel on three different rods and worked a range of lures from weightless senkos to cranks and spinnerbaits. Spooled with 15lb Seaguar Carbon Pro fishing line, here's how it handled each task:

Casting: The difference I’ve discovered with higher end, super tuned reels is not necessarily supreme casting distance, but rather the effort required to make a proper presentation with these reels is considerably less than other reels that are not as refined. The Alphas is one of the easiest casting and pitching reels I own. The MagForceV cast control system is as simple to use and as effective as they come – even when casting into a modest head wind. I was able to cast lures down to one sixteenth of an ounce with relative ease and heavier lures, up to three quarters of an ounce were also easily handled. This is an impressively versatile reel.

Ready for action the Daiwa Alphas 103L mounted on a Kistler Helium He76HC served up Zoom Horny Toads and Yamamoto Senkos on the California Delta

Retrieving: Though not the smoothest reel I’ve ever used, there is a definite feeling of connection between the lure and the reel as you turn the 80mm long handle. This standard handle length makes for a very comfortable retrieve for a wide variety of baits, and the modest 22 inches of line recovery per handle rotation reinforces this reels versatility.


Drag: Sporting a surprising and confidence inspiring five pounds of maximum drag pressure (2.25kg) the Daiwa Alphas can easily subdue the majority of freshwater species and many light tackle saltwater fish as well. This is an amazing amount of pressure for a reel targeted at the finesse end of the market. During field tests, this reel aided in the landing many black bass up to three and four pounds in size. Line, when pulled off the reel by a feisty fish, spooled off smoothly and effortlessly.


However, where I deduct points in this category is for the drag star itself: a simple stamped metal piece with no micro-click adjustment for positive reinforcement fine-tuning – not something I’d expect for a reel in this price range. Nevertheless, drag pressure is easily adjusted and remains consistent during the fight.


The Alphas bears many familiar top notch Daiwa features like MagForceV and top notch aluminum construction but the unique iridescent finish is exclusive


Ergonomics: The Daiwa Alphas sits lower on the reel seat than any other reel I’ve held. It is extraordinarily easy to palm and serves well for casting setups. However, where it really shines is as a pitching reel. It is so comfortable to hold in the palm of your hand while gripping the reel seat and rotating the rod tip down and out for a soft, subtle presentation that you almost forget you have an actual reel attached to the fishing rod! The standard length handle is a joy to use and the grips on the handle itself have just the right amount of tack to ensure a solid grasp between your fingertips.


This largemouth bass was easily subdued by the Alphas surprisingly stalwart drag

Price and Availability: Prior to the reel’s release, online merchants were projecting this reel to be offered somewhere in the range of $230 (US Dollars). Instead, when finally released, the reel was listed at $265 or more. This could explain the seemingly low adoption rate of this reel coming to market at over 15% above anticipated prices. Either that, or those who have the reel are keeping the news to themselves so as not to spread the word of their new secret weapon. Either way availability is somewhat limited but reels can be ordered for the slightly premium price.


Daiwa Alphas Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Solidly crafted with the only detraction being the stamped metal dragstar 9
Performance Perfectly tuned out of the box with an astonishing 5lbs (2.25kg) of max drag pressure. Smooth silky retrieve with effortless casting. Only minor deduction is for the lack of refinement in the drag adjustment 9.5
Price Priced a little high for an aluminum framed reel. Daiwa is in the process of releasing US variants which, while not identical, will be easy to buy locally 8
Features Standard 80mm length handle, lightweight duralumin spool, MagForceV cast control system. Throw in a micro-click adjustable drag and this reel would be perfect 9
Design (Ergonomics) Super low profile and height in the reel seat, unique, iridescent finish, cut outs in the front plate for weight savings, and a standard length handle 9.5
Application First impressions lead one to believe that this is a finesse reel only, but don't let that fool you, this reel is as versatile as they come 9

Total Score


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Very light for an aluminum reel L Lack of refined micro-click adjusting drag
J Strong drag for a finesse reel  
J MagForce V cast control  
J Attractive Iridescent finish  

The Daiwa Alphas is as versatile and capable as any reel I’ve used. Just about perfect right out of the box, it makes a great reel for casting as well as pitching any number of different baits. Whether you’re only out for a couple of hours or on the water from sun up to sun down, it is comfortable and light enough to grasp all day long without feeling fatigued. The 5lbs maximum pressure drag helps to ensure that just about anything you hook with this reel will soon be in your net and within your grasp. It is truly a remarkable little reel – emphasis being on the “little”.









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