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Reel Review

Tiny reel offers full-size performance, the Daiwa Laguna LA500

Date: 01/26/04
Tackle type: Reels
Manufacturer: Daiwa
Reviewer: Zander

Total Score: 8.58

Introduction: Three years ago you would have been hard pressed to find an ultralight reel that offered infinite anti reverse and any level of refinement. Today reel manufacturers like Daiwa have extended their product lineup to ensure that anglers who enjoy fishing for panfish can benefit from the same high end features and performance found in their larger counterparts. We take a close look at the Daiwa Laguna LA500 to see if this ultralight reel delivers heavyweight performance.

Daiwa Laguna 500 Specifications

Weight 7.4oz
Gear Ratio 5.1:1
Bearings 7 Ball Bearings + 1 Roller Bearing
Line Capacity (lb/yds) 2-185 / 4-100
Additional Features HardBodyz light and rigid metal construction, infinite anti-reverse, twistbuster, free spare aluminum spool, same price for all sizes in lineup
MSRP $69.99

Impressions: While you can surely catch tiny fish with hefty reel and rod rigs you will most likely be muscling your prey, and have a much more difficult time trying to position, or even cast the smallest lures. Anglers who enjoy fishing for small fish, often in just inches of water, relish the fight of these small fish on ultralight tackle. Downsize your tackle and suddenly landing a crappie can feel like a tug of war with a trophy bass. All of which translates into more enjoyable experience for you, the angler. Experienced ultralight angles swear by ultralight lines, and are often found tossing tiny lures with no more then 2lb test. Inexperienced anglers often lose fish, or even worse, break off costly lures, simply because the tackle doesn't match the application, and they find themselves overzealously trying to muscle fish. The Laguna is built to cope with these exact circumstances, and still offer plenty of proven Daiwa spinning reel enhancements.


The LA500 is the smallest of the Daiwa Laguna reels, but still offers many of the same spinning technology enhancements


Materials: When I first held the Laguna it instantly reminded me of another Daiwa reel in size and dimensions...the popular Spinmatic series. While the Daiwa Spinmatic series offered an attractive size and light weight anglers would have to do without an infinite anti-reverse. The Laguna changes all that by offering a Daiwa reel of similar dimensions, a solid metal construction, infinite anti reverse. The LA500 is the smallest reel in the Laguna lineup, and is still a member of the new Daiwa HardBodyz light and rigid design concept. There are few plastic components on this reel, save the anti reverse lever, line roller arm, small sideplates, and the handle knob.


The Laguna is similar in dimensions to the older Daiwa Spinmatic X reels, but that's where the similarities end, as the Laguna offers 3 times as many features


The Field Tests: This tiny reel sports seven ball bearings and 1 roller bearing for the infinite anti reverse feature. Before heading out to the field we dissected the reel to examine its innards. The construction of this reel is unpretentious, and yet highly reliable. We were happy to see that while the entire reel was miniaturized the main shaft was still solid brass, and quite large in comparison to the rest of the undersized reel. The entire reel is sealed with 3 main screws and further kept closed by two functional caps. Even when fully submerged few contaminates can find their way into this reel.

The best way to field test the tiny Laguna was to spool up some 2lb P-Line fluroclear and hit some local trickling streams in search of small resident trout.


The Laguna features clean easy to lubricate gearing, we were happy to see the main shaft was still oversized and fabricated from solid brass


Casting: Casting tiny lures requires the right setup. Trying to do so when you are over-rodded with heavy line can be futile. For our tests the Laguna balanced out our 6ft Fenwick ultralight rod perfectly. Using 2lb line rather then 4lb will greatly enhance overall casting distance and stealth, the only downside is you must finesse fish to land them rather then simply haul them in.


For most of our casting tests we used gold 1/12oz Kastmasters. Often times when going with smaller reels you will have to sacrifice something for the advantage of size and weight. In the case of the LA500 that sacrifice is the removal of the terrific Daiwa ABS spool. All the larger Laguna's come with a ABS spool, which helps reduce line coils and in turn allows for much nicer casts. Including a ABS spool would have been impossible on the LA500 due to the spool diameter limitations. Still the LA500 casts very well for it's size, and for the most part you won't need to do any extreme casting to catch your petite prey.


The 3 holes in the reel arm help reduce overall weight


Retrieving: When you think about it seven bearings is an awful lot to pack into a super ultralight reel. We were pleased to see that when downsizing the larger Laguna reels Daiwa maintained the exact same bearing count. The result is the same level of refinement and smooth retrieve offered by the LA500's larger corresponding reels. There is a minute amount of play that exists in the handle, but a huge departure from the ultralight reels of the past, which actually snap back at you almost a quarter rotation. The LA500 feels smooth and powerful for its size. Definitely not as smooth as the Daiwa Capricorn reels, but still impressive for a reel of this size.

The coated spool houses a quality Daiwa drag, but the knob has no clicking resistance mechanism to help make fine adjustments

All of the larger Laguna reels share a very similar drag as the one found on the Capricorn. In fact the drag knob on the larger Laguna reels looks near identical, and is capable of the same minute adjustments. Unfortunately due to the small size the LA500 isn't able to use the same knob and instead uses a very simple flat knob that houses just a fighting bolt rather then any mechanics, which actually is indistinguishable from the Spinmatic's knob. The result is a knob that rotates without a clicker or much resistance, making it harder to make minute adjustments. The drag itself is still very good and makes use of the same multi-disc configuration that makes Daiwa drags so enviable. A high powered drag is not likely to be on your list of priorities when fishing for panfish, and we recommend that most anglers fish with the drag loose to prevent untimely ultralight line breaks.


The LA500 has a plastic knob, which is still easy to grip when wet


Ergonomics: The Laguna accomplishes its mission when it comes to delivering ample performance and still maintaining a wispy overall weight. When your hiking around mountain streams or in the backcountry having a nice lightweight rig helps make you more mobile as you sneak up to unsuspecting fish. The 3 holes in the arm of the reel are attractive as well as help reduce overall weight. The reel is easy to operate and all the levers are straightforward. The current plastic handle is adequate for most anglers, and we even tested it when wet, and the handle was still easy to grip for the most part. If there was one thing that could be improved it would be a slightly enlarged soft padded handle for supplementary comfort.



Daiwa Laguna 500 Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Very good construction, and a nice adaptation of the popular larger Laguna reels. 9
Performance Performance is very good in all categories. The casting and drag may not be as good as other Daiwa models, but these are sacrifices backcountry anglers are willing to make for ultralight line management and a more compact rig 8.5
Price At a MSRP under 70 dollars the Laguna is reasonably priced, and marks a notable improvement in super ultralight reel design. It is important to note that Daiwa retails every size of the Laguna for the exact same price. 8
Features While missing some of the larger reels refinements the LA500 still looks and  feels high quality, and not like a stripped down reel. 8
Design (Ergonomics) Lightweight and compact this reel is easy to operate and offers exceptional refinement 9
Application A great reel for any panfish or ultralight applications. 9

Total Score


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J High quality look and feel L No click in drag knob, harder to make minute adjustments
J Light weight, compact design L Absence of ABS spool found on the larger Laguna reels
J Exceptional low weight  
J Smooth retrieve  
J Reasonable price  

Conclusion:  If you have the right setup ultralight fishing for trout and panfish can be very enjoyable. The Daiwa Laguna lends plenty of top notch Daiwa features into a compact ultralight body. This reel feels refined and high quality, and Daiwa does a good job packing in so many bearings into this package. I have been fishing with the Spinmatic series of reels for years, but in comparison the Laguna offers so much more refinement that it is going to be hard to ever go back. The Laguna LA500 is undoubtedly an attractive reel if your looking for a compact reel with plenty of modern day enhancements all at a reasonable price.

Until next time....Tight Lines!










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