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Reel Preview


First Tests and a Look Inside the 13 Fishing Concept Z - Zero Ball Bearing Baitcaster


Date: 1/4/18
Tackle type: Reels
Manufacturer: 13 Fishing
Reviewer: Zander

Introduction: The Concept Z is finally here, the ball bearing-less reel that was the talk of the show this past ICAST where 13 Fishing unveiled prototypes. The Concept Z is the first high-performance casting reel to be manufactured without any ball bearings and instead makes use of an advanced polymer technology to create their Concept Zero Bearings (CZB) to build a reel that is designed to fish quite unlike any other. The new Concept Z reels are just starting to ship and we got our hands on one for a quick round of tests and a first look under the frame.


Finally the eagerly anticipated Concept Z has arrived in our lab, time to see what this ball bearing-less reel is all about


Seriously, no Ball Bearings? 13 Fishing didn’t just want to innovate they wanted to create a whole new class of reel with their newest baitcaster. There have been bearing-less reel designs in the past but none that could really be called “high-performance,” and when it comes to improving casting and retrieve the historical go-to performance upgrade for reel manufacturers has been to simply utilize better bearings, and typically ones that better resist the elements in an effort maintain performance over time.

13 Fishing challenges the very notion that a high performance baitcaster requires a single ball bearing with the introduction of the Concept Z.

The company worked closely with a US manufacturer to craft the new proprietary Concept Zero Bearings, and the material used in these hi-tech plain bearings can be described as a space-age polymer. The CZBs have no moving parts and are designed to maintain smooth performance over time with no performance loss due to debris, corrosion, or environmental wear. Sounds too good to be true? Like many other anglers we were skeptical and eager to see just how the Concept Z would perform in the lab and field.


The Concept Z features the recognizable profile of the existing Concept reels but it is what is inside that makes this reel so unique

Freespool doesn’t equal Casting Performance: We received a Concept Z from Matt Baldwin, 13 Fishing’s Director of Reel Product Development, a week ago and I couldn’t wait to get the baitcaster into the lab where we tested freespool, drag pressure, and took our first look inside the reel. Our first tests included backing off the centrifugal brakes and seeing what the freespool was like left me scratching my head. The freespool on the Concept Z is barely there at all, and showed one of the least amount of rotations of any reel we have ever tested. Not a good sign I thought to myself, but after spooling the reel up and making a few casts the Concept Z absolutely blew my mind.


Under the beetle wing rapid access sideplate is the centrifugal braking system

The Concept Z not only casts an extremely long distance but spool startup is also very quick. How could a reel that freespooled so poorly deliver some of the most effortless casts that I have ever experienced? The CZBs feel completely unlike traditional ball bearing based reels, and casts are not only long but particularly consistent. Short pitches, even with unweighted plastics, were accurate and consistent.

Casting with the Concept Z is effortless and all it takes is one cast to demonstrate that freespool doesn’t necessarily equal casting performance. 13 Fishing has the potential with this reel to lay waste to an ideology that goes back decades, that you need ball bearings to deliver a long and controllable cast, and that you can gauge how well a reel will cast by flicking the spool with your finger.


On the spool we get our first look at a production Concept Zero Bearing (CZB)

I also managed to catch a few fish with the Concept Z over the last week and the retrieve is equally impressive. The winding power and precision is remarkably good on the reel, and because the CZB is essentially a solid polymer bushing there is no give in the moving parts, making the alignment during rotation superb. Like with casting all it takes is catching one fish to start to appreciate the fluid and silent retrieve, and just how different this reel is in every way.


Inside we find the familiar Japanese Hamai cut gearing

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