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Reel Review

Getting in the Groove with Daiwa's T3 Ballistic


Date: 5/16/12
Tackle type: Reel
Manufacturer: Daiwa
Reviewer: Cal

Total Score: 6.92- FAIR

Over the last 20 years, Daiwa has been a model of consistency offering competently engineered, well designed reels to the bass angling public. Yes they make more than bass fishing gear, but this is the market with which we are concerned today. Right or wrong, they've built a reputation for reels that are relatively light, small, and often expensive product. But every now and then, they slip a product in that's a little different, a little against the grain, innovative, and yes, eccentric.


Over the last 20 years, Daiwa has been a model of consistency offering competently engineered, well designed reels to the bass angling public.

Several years ago, these honors went to their Viento casting reel and despite the perception that this reel was largely discounted by "serious" anglers, during its production run, the Viento was one of their best selling reels which is why Daiwa later offered the lower cost Megaforce THS. Do you remember the flipping profile TDZ only available in left hand retrieve?

The most controversial and polarizing reel from ICAST 2011? Daiwa's T3 and T3 Ballistic.

As the Internet age continues to evolve, Daiwa's reel designs in particular inspire heated discussions each and every year post the Tokyo and Yokohama, Japan tackle shows and North America's ICAST. The Z200/Z2020 was the subject of much conjecture with anglers discussing and arguing everything from the reel's line capacity down to its oversized top plate. People are passionate about new tackle and nothing stirs controversy on our discussion forum more than a new fishing reel.

We already looked at the T3, but what about the T3 Ballistic?

The most controversial and polarizing reel from ICAST 2011? Daiwa's T3 and T3 Ballistic hands down. Judging from responses on our discussion forum and local tackle shops, anglers either appreciated the forward thinking of Daiwa or chastised them for another gimmick and putting something else on a reel that can go wrong. Zander already put the T3 to the test and based on his positive experience, I acquired the more economical version with one intent in mind - to fish in the Amazon. Here now is our look at Daiwa's controversial T3 Ballistic.

Daiwa T3 Ballistic T3BLS100HL Specifications

Rated Line Capacity 12/150 : 14/120
Tested Line Capacity 55lb Daiwa Samurai Braid / 80 yds
Retrieve Ratio 6.3:1 & 7:1
Inches Per Turn (IPT) tested 6.3:1 = 26"
Weight 7.6 oz / 217 grams
Number of Bearings 5 + 1
Bearing Size 3x8x4 : 5x11x4
Drag 10lbs
Handle Length 80mm
Micro Click Adjustments Drag & Cast Control/Spool Tension
Spool Weight 18g
Brake Type Magforce 3D
External Brake Adjustment? Yes
Origin Thailand
MSRP $250


Impressions: Why do I refer to it as controversial? Well, first for the afore mentioned technology that many have dismissed as a gimmick, but second because it is indeed a more economical version of the four hundred dollar plus T3. In fact, the Ballistic T3 is forty two percent lower in price than the higher end T3!


Detractors are leery of Daiwa's pop-up hood design on these reels ...


... what those people may not realize is that hood is integrated to the thumb bar ...

Now side, by side, there is no doubt the T3 Ballistic is not as refined as its higher priced sibling. For one, the one ounce weight differential is very noticeable, but strangely enough, where you might think this weight savings is an advantage for the higher priced interpretation, this is not necessarily the case.

... so there's no extra mechanism to fail - it's all one piece.

Both reels are built from Daiwa's relatively new "Zaion" material which is basically their own formulation of a carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is seeing increased use in any and all structural applications because of it's comparative strength, weight, and stiffness properties as compared to steel. In sports and recreation, the most notable advances have been made in golf and cycling industries. It's just about impossible now to walk into a bicycle store and not find a range of bicycles made of carbon fiber.

This design is actually reminiscent of Shimano's Castaic flipping reels.

Carbon fiber bikes have a very distinct feel when you're riding them. Carbon fiber is a very stiff material, yet it has the unique property of dampening vibration and therefore, how you feel the road or trail all at the same time. It's very difficult to describe until you actually ride a bike built on a carbon fiber frame. Generally speaking, the higher end the carbon fiber framed bike the more distinct this feel can be.

It's a simple, yet very effective design.

I bring this up because the first time I compared the T3 and T3 Ballistic side by side in the tackle store, I had a déjà-vu moment. The higher end T3 feels just like a high end carbon fiber bike when you engage and disengage the free spool. Those unfamiliar with this feeling are going to interpret this sensation as cheap and plastic feeling and immediately discount the T3.

Here's a closer look at the Ballistic's unique, T-Wing line guide in the lab...

This sensation is not as distinct on the T3 Ballistic and my guess is it has to do with the weight of both reels. In the cycling world, the lighter the carbon fiber frame, the more distinct this feeling can be, the more responsive and lively the bicycle will actually be as you're riding. To have this sensation embodied in a fishing reel I'm sure was not an intent of Daiwa's but it's something of which to be made aware and be aware that the sensation does not really translate. The T3 has a different feel than any other fishing reel I've used (not good or bad, just different and unfamiliar) while the T3 Ballistic, because of its higher weight and inferior refinement actually feels more familiar and "normal."

... and another look out on the water.

Next Section: Let the field tests begin...









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