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BFS Reel Review


 

KastKing’s Kestrel Elite Magnesium Baitcaster Takes Flight

 

Date: 3/1/22
Tackle Type: Reel
Manufacturer: KastKing
Reviewer: Hobie-Wan Kenobi





 

Total Score: 8.51 - GREAT

 

Introduction: KastKing has made a name for themselves in recent years by producing fishing tackle that offer great value for the cost. They have also been producing many products for Bait Finesse such as the Zephyr BFS rod and reel. Usually aimed toward the casual angler, KastKing reached outside of their comfort zone and set their sights on JDM competitors with the release of the Kestrel Elite. Does the Kestrel Elite have enough wind under its wings to soar with Shimano and Daiwa?

 

KastKing Kestrel Elite Specifications

Line Capacity - Rated

8lb/50yds

Retrieve Ratio

8.4:1

Inches Per Turn (IPT)

29.1

Weight

4.5 oz

Spool Weight

5.6gr (4.5gr without bearing)

Handle Length

80 mm

Bearings

11+1

Bearings per Knob

2 bearings per knob

Levelwind Bearings

2 bearings

Rated Max Drag

13.2lb

Origin

China

MSRP

$219.99


There is something so familiar about this stranger

Impressions: My first impression while researching the Kestrel Elite was “this reel sure looks a lot like the Shimano Aldebaran BFS.” Whether KastKing drew inspiration from Shimano will never be known but, KastKing definitely had the Aldebaran BFS in its crosshairs. First thing I noticed when mounting the reel was how small the Kestrel Elite was. At 4.5oz and a tiny 36.5mm tall, the Kestrel Elite disappeared in my hands. The brake dial being recessed was unnoticeable compared to when palming the 2022 Shimano Aldebaran BFS. There were no sharp protrusions or other considerations when handling the Kestrel Elite.


Always a good idea to inspect a new reel before use. Could be over/under lubricated

Opening the sideplate to examine the spool, I noticed the spool bearings to have a lot of grease. Grease will greatly hinder a reel’s casting performance, as it will introduce unnecessary resistance on the spool’s rotation. My plan was to do a few casts without cleaning the bearings. A short walk down to a local lake, I took a few casts with the greasy bearings. With no surprise, the casting felt very overbraked and dull. I did decide to give the Kestrel Elite a fair chance by cleaning the grease off the bearings and lubing the spools bearings with Hedgehog Alchemy Oil before the real testing began.


22 Shimano Aldebaran BFS (left) braking system compared to the Kestrel Elite (right)


Another look at KastKing’s Flyout Arc Finesse (FAF) braking system

The braking system operates similar to the Finesse Tuned Braking (FTB) system that Shimano has been using since the 2016 Shimano Aldebaran BFS. The braking system uses a similar style to Shimano by having the spool be free of any part of the braking system. The braking force increases as the spool speed increases via magnetic flux. To round out the weight savings, the Kestrel Elite is outfitted with a free floating spool that weighs a mere 5.6gr with the bearing. The walls of the Kestrel Elite spool are thicker and look more robust than many other BFS reels.


The fidget spinner shaped porting conceals knots quite well

Even with that lightweight spool, KastKing does not state any line type restrictions. You can employ your favorite line without fear of the spool collapsing (I would still avoid using a spooling machine or strong force when spooling line). The porting on the spool allows for the knot of the fishing line to out of the way when spooling line.


Finesse fishing isn’t just for open water

Real World Tests: The first set of testing with the Kestrel Elite was stream fishing. I found that reels can excel performing on open water yet, struggle with the short range, slow spool speed casting that is needed to be efficient while stream fishing. To fully divide the casting characteristics of stream fishing and open water fishing, I used a slower taper fiberglass rod for my stream testing to start and finished my testing with a more traditional carbon bass rod on open water.


The Kestrel Elite melts into the Fuji PMTS reel seat

I decided to use 4lb VARIVAS Super Trout Advanced Sight Edition monofilament for my stream testing. The bright line aids with lure tracking and also will allow me to see the trajectory of the lure much better. Lure trajectory is important when casting short distance, especially with brush and overhanging trees.


The Kestrel Elite wasn’t the only bird of prey on this stream

It did not take long to get the Kestrel Elite dialed in for stream fishing. The braking profile is very forgiving, almost too forgiving. The brake dial was set to almost zero for most of my stream testing. I would have liked to see the “comfort” setting to be around 4 on the brake dial to allow for more free casting in these short range situations. The Jackson Meteora 45 and Jackson Trout Tune Floating minnows saw most action from my stream testing.


The Kestrel Elite’s small size is incredibly comfortable to fish with

The Kestrel Elite did perform well with a variety of lures during my stream testing. I found that the casting trajectory flattened out around 4gr. Lighter than that, the trajectory had a noticeable arc to the flight. In the well protected streams I was fishing, wind was not too much of an issue and the banks were a little cleaner than some backwoods creeks I usually fish. The casting was stress free and the predictable nature of the braking profile really gave me confidence to cast into tight spots.


The combination of the Kestrel Elite and the Cashion Icon BFS rarely left my hands on the water

Casting: During this stretch of the year, I had been neglecting bass fishing quite a bit. The Kestrel Elite was a great excuse to ditch the streams and load up the boat to chase some bass. I spooled the Kestrel with 50 meters of 7lb VARIVAS Dead or Alive Fluorocarbon. The reel then was mounted on the 6’10” Medium Light Cashion Icon BFS. This setup had that feeling you get when you get rod/reel pairing is made for each other.


Throwing typical spinning reel lures with a BFS reel never gets old

I rigged up a Jackson Igaraba Jig with a Zman Craw for my initial testing. This rig weighs in at around 1/8oz. After the first few casts, I now realized the beauty in the Flyout Arc Finesse braking system KastKing used in the Kestrel Elite. The balance of distance and control was put to the test. The majority of my testing was in windy conditions. The Kestrel Elite was able to get my lure wherever I aimed without giving me issues with line control. Casting felt slightly restrictive but, that faded as I changed to heavier lures. The biggest surprise to me was the ability of the Kestrel Elite to handle skipping lures. It really reminded me of the Shimano Curado BFS in its ability to skip finesse bass lures, but with a slightly more restrictive feeling.

While anglers have their preference of spinning vs baitcasting, I found the Kestrel Elite to be fully capable to take on the most duties normally assigned to spinning reels. The reel really showed the efficiency many anglers are finding with BFS tackle. Pitching, short roll casts and even skipping did not give the Kestrel Elite any problems.


My secret weapon for fishing bluegill in deep weeds

For the final test for the Kestrel Elite, I decided to mount the reel onto the Daiwa Gekkabijin AIR AGS 60XULB-T with the aforementioned 4lb monofilament to catch some panfish. Casting lightweight panfish jigs tests the adaptability of the brakes, especially with wind. I used a 3/64oz Jackson Igaraba Jig with the Jackson Tiny Squid as a trailer. When casting this less-than-aerodynamic lure combo, the Kestrel did a great job of preventing backlashes. The distance was noticeably restricted more than other recently tested BFS reels but, the Kestrel Elite does get the lure out far enough to be effective.


Even though I may look “grouchy”, panfish on BFS tackle is loads of fun

After casting a variety of lures ranging from 3/8oz jerkbaits down to finesse panfish jigs, I found the Kestrel Elite was willing and capable to tackle any finesse lures I tied on. The forgiving casting, although slightly restrictive, offered stress free distance in a variety of conditions.


Sometimes a second opinion is needed

Next Section: Will the Kestrel fight above it's weight class?

 

   

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