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Reel Review

Redefining a Classic, the Lew’s BB1 Baitcaster (continued)


Real World Tests: The easy thing to do would be to grab a few crankbaits and go fishing with the BB1 and call it a day, but we wanted to see just how well this baitcaster would hold up over the long haul fishing a variety of different lures, as well as compare the multiple models side by side. We fished the BB1 reels on a variety of rods, including both traditional casting rods and application specific cranking sticks over the course of an entire season. These reels saw action on bodies of water including Clear Lake, the California Delta and Lake Pardee targeting both largemouth and smallies. 


The BB1 is easy to match up cosmetically with just about any rod


Casting: The classic BB1 reel was known for its excellent casting and the new version takes it to whole new level. Crankbait guru, David Fritts, swears by this reel and uses it for bombing swimbaits over long distances to cover vast amounts of water quickly. The first time I cast the reel I was impressed.


What does the BB1 do best? Long distance casting.


The spool speeds up quickly and with the centrifugal brakes dialed back to just two it is very possible to cast the multi-stop Z model reels 70 yards without breaking a sweat. We will talk more about what the zero anti reverse means in terms of retrieve feel in the next section but this older implementation actually is designed to take some of the pressure off the spool allowing for small, but noticeable gains, in long distance casting.


A badge on the side is labeled "BB1 - Lighter - Faster - Stronger"


The other element that affects casting distance is friction and Lew’s addresses this by moving the levelwind  further away from the spool and increasing the size of the titanium line guide from a circle to a large oval so that line can move more freely out of the spool. When compared side by side the zero anti-reverse BB1 model out casted the standard version by 3-5 yards, and when compared with  competing reels at the same price point it was definitely among the top performers. The only other reel in the same basic price category that casted just as easily over long distances was the new Daiwa Tatula.


Lots of access to the spool here


When it came to precision casts the BB1 was good but this reel clearly excels at tossing the bigger stuff for distance than finesse casting ultralight lures. Anything down to 1/4oz. really is where this reel does well, lighter than that and you really need to move to a lighter line and compensate with a light action rod.


All the components on this reel are aluminum, no cheap plastic knobs


Retrieve: The original BB1 had a low gear ratio of 4.9:1 and this combined with the excellent casting distance made it a favorite among crankbait anglers. But that wasn’t all. The same zero instant anti-reverse that some anglers complain about on the BB1HZ, BB1SHZ, BB1HZL, BB1SHZL (basically the “Z” designation in the part number) was a popular attribute on the original. This simple yet effective design is reliable and delivers a distinct feel that classic crankbait anglers believe gives them a greater awareness of the action of the crankbait at the end of the line.


Comparing the standard and zero anti reverse models


Today’s anglers are so used to instant anti-reverse that the lack of one in a higher end reel is somewhat of a foreign concept. If Lew’s only offered zero-anti reverse models that would be a mistake as the features that anglers expect out of modern day baitcasters has changed, but the fact that they offer both configurations in the BB1 is a big plus. The ability for anglers to choose which model, feel, they prefer is admirable. Lew’s didn’t have to maintain so many skus, but they did so to cater to both the classic fans as well as those just learning about the new BB1 Series.


The type of bait that so many anglers will fish with the BB1


When retrieving crankbaits I could discern the difference between the two different implementations, and although I was skeptical at first, just after a few uses I not only got used to the zero anti-reverse models but grew to prefer them for cranking. When fishing slowly or with contact baits the feel doesn’t translate like it does with constant pressure on the line, and in these situations I still preferred the instant anti-reverse for quick hooksets. When fishing with crankbaits the fish hook themselves as baits are being wound back to the boat and that extra forgiveness isn’t a bad thing at all when you are trying to keep treble hooks pinned.


The BB1 feels smooth and confident under pressure and delivers plenty of power to muscle fish to the boat


In terms of general smoothness the BB1 is definitely one of the smoother reels at this price point thanks to 9+1 and 10 bearing configurations, and anglers will find that inside the reel the key areas are all generously lubricated. Even after a season of use our test reels continued to remain smooth and the main gearing is accessible via a maintenance port on the bottom if anglers want to add any lubrication mid season.


Performance Ratings for BB1

Retrieve (1-5)
Drag (1-5)
Power (1-5)
Casting Range (1-5)
Brakes (1-5)
Rating (= Tot/Pos * 10)


A look at the carbon composite multi-disk drag system


Drag: In the lab we were not able to achieve the 14lb drag pressure rating and most of our runs at full lockdown delivered 12.8-13.2lbs of drag pressure. This is close to the published specification and the consistency between our test reels was also very good. This is more than enough stopping power for bass applications and more importantly than raw pressure the Lew’s multi-disk carbon composite drag is smooth under pressure. At both ends of the settings we found that the drag was not able to be adjusted in the same small increments as some of the competing reels from Daiwa but overall the drag system was both reliable and smooth under pressure.


Features Ratings for BB1

Ext Brake Adjust? (1-2)
Level wind. Bearing (1-2)
Knob Bearings (1-3)
Micro Clicks (1-3)
Reel Cover (1-2)
Oil (1-2)
Rating (= Tot/Pos * 10)


Ergonomically the BB1 is very good and feels comfortable to palm


Next Section: Living up to the legacy?









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