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Reel Review

The new Bass Pro Signature Series Flagship, is it worthy of the Johnny Morris name? (continued)

Retrieve: The retrieve on the JMR is smooth, but somewhat unrefined. It was during a brisk retrieve with the JMR that I stumbled upon my first real gripe. The spool rocks back and forth and the gearing tolerances seem a bit loose. I could discern a clacking sound from inside the reel. I have seen this on other reels in the past but with some adjustment of the cast control knob this is usually brought under control. Unfortunately with the JMR I found I really had to buckle down on the settings all the way to the point that it affected casting in order to reduce the clacking sound. Aside from the spool tolerance and noise issues the retrieve is smooth as well as fast, with the ability to draw 28 inches of line per crank. 


Click the plastic brake adjusters to modify the centrifugal weight settings


Drag: The BPS JMR drag system only dished out 5.7lbs of max counter pressure. We expected a lot more drag pressure out of this reel, but at maximum setting the star didn't seem to adjust aggressively enough. Compare this result to a Shimano Castaic ($169.00) which has a max drag of 9.2lbs, and the very affordable new Shimano Crestfire D ($49.99) which is capable of 8lbs of max drag. In comparison to many competitor offerings the JMR delivers equally smooth drag performance but falls short in terms of maximum drag pressure. 


The magnetic cast control is easily adjusted from the outside of the reel


Ergonomics: The JMR sits pretty low on just about any rod we tried and all of the knobs are easily accessible while fishing. BPS did a nice job adding ďpositive-clickĒ on all knobs, allowing for fine tuning of all adjustments. The only real ergonomic issue with the reel is the weight. Anglers used to fishing the Calais will find the weight customary as it weighs in .1oz lighter, but those used to lighter reels may find the JMR a bit heavy at first. The JMR's profile is well sculpted making it easy enough to palm. Anglers with medium to large sized hands will find it effortless to engulf this reel. I found the sideplate lock neat, as it was wittingly disguised as the BPS logo. The switch is sealed by a gasket for extra protection and to access the spool all you need to do is depress the logo and rotate the plate upwards.


The JMR is easy and comfortable to palm, though it is just as heavy as a Shimano Calais


Durability: The finish on the JMR is like an exoskeleton, providing a hard-wearing shield from the elements. The reel is slick to the touch yet particularly resistant to abrasion and corrosion thanks to an anodized finish, the perforated spool is also anodized. To top it all off BassPro includes a customized reel cover for the reel, a very nice touch. After nearly half a year of abuse the JMR has held up well, and we have not experienced any failures in design or degradation of performance.


The reel's drag is more than enough for bass but may be a little low for big stripers and inshore saltwater fish

Price: Where the JMR picks up some extra points is in the pricing department. All Bass Pro reels are priced aggressively and to have a flagship reel come in right over 150 dollars is inspiring in itself, but add in the fact that the reel includes all metal anodized construction, a 10 bearing system, and a dual drag implementation and you have a downright good deal at face value. The real question is whether or not the JMR is worth the money. Most of our editors agree that the answer is yes when compared to other 150 dollar reels. When you evaluate the reel apples to apples it matches the mainstream offerings, but those anglers used to a higher level refinement normally found at the 200 dollar price point will find something lacking in some of the reelís implementation. At this price point there are many other reels to consider, and many anglers may be better off looking at some of BPSís lower cost solutions which are lighter weight and offer similar features minus the anodized metallic finish.


Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Reel Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality The overall construction of the JMR is solid, no use of plastics here. The anodized frame and spool are very well done. The reel does lack a little refinement in tolerances but all materials check out nicely 8.5
Performance The dual drag system is innovative and functions well but the JMR has some problems with refinement leading to clacking of the spool and loose tolerances in some gearing. This is more annoying than an actual negative in terms of performance but the weak drag pressure is a concern in a reel of this weight class 6
Price The JMR boasts a great price for a reel with this many features and all metal construction. It competes well at this price point but really shouldn't go head to head with premium competitor flagship offerings like the Calais and TD-Z 9
Features The JMR has a lot of features including the anodized  frame and spool, a 10 ball bearing system. and a dual braking system that works. More time needs to be spent on refining drag adjustment and increasing max drag pressure 8
Design (Ergonomics) Ergonomically the reel is comfortable to palm but still on the heavy side. While not as ergonomically pleasing as a Calais it does feel pretty nice from all angles 8
Application This reel can be used in both fresh and saltwater applications thanks to the anodized frame, but once again the weak drag will make fighting inshore saltwater fish a bit more challenging 8

Total Score


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J A premium look and feel L Heavy
J Innovative dual drag system L Weak max drag pressure for weight class
J Anodized frame and spool L Refinement & "clacking"
J Clicking knobs  
J Great price!  

 I find myself somewhat torn when it comes to the Johnny Morris Reel. On one hand the reelís physical look is attractive and it does sport a number of quality features including an anodized frame and dual cast control system, but on the other hand the reel is lacking some refinement that anglers looking at premium reels demand. If there is a clincher it has got to be the aggressive price, at 159.99 this reel is priced at the upper end of the mainstream segment. The JMR reel doesnít match the sophistication of flagship reels like the Shimano Calais or Daiwa TD-Z, but then again it is only about half the cost. Pitted against opponent 150 dollar reels it is able to hold its own. So who should consider the Johnny Morris? Any consumer looking for a best bang for the buck in an upper-mainstream reel should be happy with the reelís performance versus cost ratio. The JMRís sleek new propriety design is unquestionably a bold move for Bass Pro, and while the reel's implementation isnít perfect, it is certainly a step in the right direction.











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