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ICAST 2023 Coverage


 

Baitcasting Young Guns: Fresh New Low-Profile Reels

 

Date: 8/3/23
Tackle type: Reels
Manufacturer: Various
Reviewer: Zander








Introduction: When it comes to baitcasters Shimano and Daiwa are typically top of mind as they not only have the largest marketshare but are able to support the most proprietary reel platforms with in-house design and manufacturing. Other leading and well-established brands include Pure Fishing's Abu Garcia, Okuma, and Lews. While the reel market is very competitive there has been a number of rod manufacturers that have introduced their own branded reels, as well as a few independent reel makers that are entering the fray. Let's take a look at some of these baitcasting "young guns" that launched new low-profile reels at the recent ICAST.

 


The Bates Hundo is the smallest reel from the young reel brand

 

Bates Fishing Co.: Bates comes from the same team that created Seaborn fly and inshore rods and is a Texas company that manufactures high-end low profile reels that feature machined components. The reels look and feel very refined as they are machined from a solid block of 6061-T6 bar stock aluminum, and cut on their own 9-axis CNC machine. Bates specially treats their frames with clear anodized anti-corrosion finishes to be extra tough in adverse conditions. One of the things that I really like about the reels is that every piece of the reel looks like it is precision made to last, including the drag star and knobs which are all made out of aluminum. The company's current reels all retail for $299 dollars each and this year they introduced their smallest and highest end reel to date, the Hundo.

 


The Hundo is quite narrow and is 20% smaller than the company's first generation reels

 

The Hundo was really compact in hand and is roughly 20 percent smaller than the original Bates reels. Bates considers this a 100 size frame and the narrower profile palms very nicely.

 


The entire reel looks and feels beautifully made

 

The Hundo also features a shallow spool, dual braking system, and improved bearings to help make this a more finesse-oriented reel. The Hundo will come in both 7.1:1 and 8.1:1 gear ratios and weighs in at only 5 ounces.

 


The Hundo features a dual cast control (centrifugal and magnetic) and is more finesse oriented than previous Bates reels, but is still built tough with the same level of craftsmanship

 

When I look at the Hundo I can see some of the machining paths, and it reminds me of the craftsmanship of a fine tool or timepiece. The milled handle and spool tension knob on this reel are beautiful, heck the entire reel is beautiful and a reminder that it is possible to build small production high-end reels in America. The fact that this CNC reel retails for only $375 is kind of mind blowing. Of all the new "young gun" reels that I held at ICAST the Bates Hundo felt the most enthusiast oriented.

 


Excellent palmability. The Bates Hundo looks like a contender!

 

Denali: From the makers of Denali rods comes a new lineup of three new low-profile baitcasters in the Novus Series. The Novus reels all feature the same compact frame with varying levels of features and refinement. The Novus reels all feature aluminum frames and the most affordable Novus casting reel comes with graphite cover plates while the higher-end Novus Pro and Novus Elite both make use of carbon composite sideplates. These reels also feature a dual braking system that is externally adjustable and high strength brass drive gears to stand up to tournament level abuse. The Novus reels are priced aggressively from $159 to $249 dollars each.

 


Meet the Novus, Denali's first reel series

 


Pro Angler Michael Neal has been fishing the new Novus reels and shows us the higher end Elite and Pro reels

 


The Novus Pro is recognizable with a matte black frame and has a 9+1 bearing count versus the 7+1 on the standard Novus. It also gets a souped up drag rated at 15.4lbs.

 


The Novus reels are pretty compact and the Novus Elite weighs in at 7.2 ounces

 


A look at the carbon sideplate on the Novus Elite and the externally adjustable cast control system

 

SEVIIN Reels: From the team at St. Croix rods comes a new reel brand called SEVIIN, offering both spinning and low profile reels. The first SEVIIN baitcaster is called the GF Series and consists of six low-profile baitcasting models in three available gear ratios with right-hand or left-hand-retrieve configurations. These are workhorse oriented reels and come with a 4+1 stainless-steel bearing system and hardened brass pinion and drive gears. The compact frame is built from graphite, though it was hard to tell when held in hand, and the handle is made from carbon fiber and finished with EVA knobs. Cast control on the GF is magnetic and externally adjustable. Other features include a line indicator knob and Japanese stainless steel bearings. The SEVIIN GF will retail for $120, come backed with a one-year warranty and start becoming available in September, 2023.
 


From the team at St. Croix rods comes SEVIIN reels. Their first baitcaster is the affordable GF

 


The GF will come in 6.6:1, 7.3:1, and 8.1:1 gear ratios, weigh in at 7.3 ounces. and retail for only $120

 

SPRO: Best known for their robust line of lures SPRO is entering the baitcasting market with their Vortex E line. Unlike many of the competing brands that are targeting high-performance market the Vortex E is focused on the value segment. Looking to offer a lot of bang for the buck the SPRO Vortex E comes with 4 bearings, magnetic cast control, and will be available in both 6.3:1 and 7.3:1 gear ratios for the aggressive price of only $89.99.

 


SPRO is targeting the value segment with the Vortex E baitcaster

 


Externally adjustable magnetic cast control

 


Small body, big knobs

 

ARK: ARK Fishing started as a reel manufacturer and last season entered the reel market with their Gravity Series of reels. Unlike many of the other me-too reels built in the same OEM factory the Gravity reels surprised us with a few proprietary design elements including their own patented braking system. We shouldn't have been surprised as Louie has a long history in rod and reel design going back to previous brands, and even reel supertuning parts a decade ago.

 

Louie at ARK shows us the brand new ARK BFS. Louie is not only the head of ARK but also an expert in both rod and reel design

 

This season Louie and his team at ARK are introduced the Gravity BFS which makes use of a ultra-light ported 28 mm spool that weighs only 5.2 grams (spool only without the bearing) and is designed to startup with low inertia. It features a refined version of the proprietary Gravity Control Brake System, cone shaped line guide, aluminum gearing, and multi-material C3 Force Drag. The Gravity BFS features an asymmetrical frame designed for palming comfort and will be available in a fast 8.1 gear ratio, and weigh in at only 5.1 ounces. Best of all this is a BFS reel for the masses and will retail for only $149 dollars!

 


ARK's newest reel is designed specifically for BFS fishing

 


The Gravity BFS is a compact reel that weighs only 5.1 ounces

 


One of the most special elements about the Gravity BFS is the patented Ark braking system

 

The Gravity BFS reel features an asymmetrical design for palming comfort

 

Our Quick Take: We have already covered a number of interesting reels from ICAST including offerings from Shimano, Daiwa, and relative newcomer KastKing. The baitcaster market is going to get even more competitive this season as more rod manufacturers are bringing out reels to cater to their existing rod customers, and start to make their own name in reels. I think what Bates is doing is very interesting and fills a niche in the high-end market and it is good to see more aggressively priced reels on the opposite end, especially the ARK Gravity BFS which will be one of the most aggressively priced baitfinesse reels with a spool and cast control system designed specifically to launch baits as light as .6 of a gram. The old guard still has the advantage when it comes for R&D and manufacturing but these new young gun brands and baitcasters are looking to differentiate and come in with some aggressive designs and prices. Time for a shootout.

 

Looking for some these new baitcasters? Some are starting to become available for order at Tackle Warehouse

 

 

   

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