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Reel Review

A palm sized reel for your ultra-light requirements, the TICA Cetus

Date: 8/26/03
Tackle type: Reels
Manufacturer: TICA
Reviewer: JIP

Total Score: 8.33

Introduction: Spinning reels range in size from the massive saltwater rigs to refined ultralights. Fishing with an ultralight reel is exciting, but it's essential to pick a reel with quality components. A unreliable reel can put a damper on any backcountry trip, and its for this reason that Tica developed the reliable and refined Cetus.


TICA Cetus SB500 Specifications

Weight 6.3oz
Gear Ratio 5.2:1
Bearings 6BB + 1RB
Line Capacity (lb/yds) 4/95, 6/60, 8/50
Additional Features Aluminum spool, Instant anti-reverse, titanium plated Anti-twist line roller, soft-touch handle knob, extra spool
MSRP $54.99

Impressions: The TICA Cetus SB500 spinning reel is very attractive and minute, easily fitting in the palm of your hand. Even though it has a compact frame the Cetus sports a load of features including 6 precision ball bearings and 1 roller bearing providing an instant anti-reverse, unlike many other ultralight reels of the same size which only offer a three point locking mechanism, resulting in much sloppier performance. The Cetus also has a nicely finished handle, and a ergonomic knob that's designed to keep your fingers comfortable while fishing.


The TICA Cetus SB500 is a work of art


Complete Rig for Cetus SB500 Tests

Rod St. Croix Premier Traveler
Reel TICA Cetus SB500
Line 2 lb Maxima Ultragreen

Real World Tests: Using ultralight tackle is probably one of the most fun and delicate ways to fish. Anglers can feel every take, and 12inch fish feel like lunkers. The TICA Cetus was put to test in Crowley Lake for trout, Mammoth Lakes for Alpers, the Yosemite backcountries for wild trout, and in many local reservoirs for panfish.


Casting: An ultralight reel paired up with light line results in great casting distance. In spinning reels the spool design is critical in this category. If the width of the spool is too wide or too narrow the loops shooting off the spool will encounter excessive resistance off the spool lip. While casting small Kastmasters, Panther Martins, and even tiny tube jigs, the TICA Cetus doesn't have any problems casting, and the line shot straight through the guides efficiently.


The spool, line roller guide, and precise gearings all contribute to surprisingly good casting distance for such a small reel


Aside from a good spool diameter design, retrieving the line back onto the spool uniformly is also a requirement for better casting. The SB500 ultralight reel has a consistent oscillation resulting in a very even line lay.


Retrieving: Having fished with the Cetus for months now there's only a few words to describe it...and they are almost all positive. The tiny reel is smooth, well balanced, and very comfortable. Thanks to the 6 ball bearings and the precise worm shaft this ultralight reel achieves a silky fluidity straight out of the box, and after these last few months no degradation in performance is evident.


Balance is the key to easy and smooth retrieves.  (notice the part of the frame arm where your fingers grip. It's designed to be ergonomic)


The hardware that makes up the reel gives it the smooth and powerful feel, but that's not the only thing.  Balance is also important. Having a well balanced setup such as the main body, rotor, and handle all play a role in yielding an effortless retrieve.


The Drag: The sound of your drag screaming as a fish runs is pure heaven to anglers. That's exactly how I felt when I was float tubing at Crowley Lake in the Easter Sierras. Upon hooking a huge rainbow trout it instantly ran taking a good portion of my 2 lb. test Ultragreen. My heart was beating with excitement but rather then clamp down I allowed my tackle to do most of the work. Prior to using the Cetus, I pre-adjusted the drag to the right pressure and was comfortable to allow the mechanics do the fighting as the fish made their runs. Throughout the morning I landed numerous fish many times the size of this small reel. These fish put plenty of stress on the drag, but the Cetus reciprocated with confidence, making it easy for me to give the TICA SB500 two thumbs up in this category.


Don't be fooled by its ultra compact size, the TICA Cetus can still handle sizable size fish due to a first-rate drag system


Additional Notes: Having two spools is always beneficial when it comes to fishing, especially when going on road trips to different destinations where trout come in all sizes. Unlike the main spool which is aluminum, the spare is graphite and doesn't feel nearly as good. We wish it came with an identical aluminum spool, but considering the price you can't ask for more than what the reel already comes with. At least you do have an emergency spool lined up so that your trip wont be cut short should your main spool's line become damaged.


There are some plastic parts on this reel, which is no surprise considering the aggressive price of the Cetus. Tica did good job dressing up the plastic in gold plating, making the components a good deal more attractive, but the plating can scratch if the reel comes in contact with abrasive surfaces. 


Playing this brown with the Cetus on 2 lb test was stirring


TICA SB500 Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Overall a rugged construction using minimal plastic components.  After months of testing the reel showed no major weaknesses in construction 8.5
Performance Performance is well above average in casting, retrieving, and the drag can withstand a great deal of stress 8.5
Price An affordable price for a reel that's solidly built, contains many features, and has good performance 8
Features Most of the features are now an industry standard, but TICA does it for an incredible value 8
Design (Ergonomics) Ergonomics is why some people look to ultralight tackle and the SB500 delivers this in both weight, feel and placement of the handle and its knob 9
Application Great ultralight reel for trout and panfish of all sizes because it sports a good drag mechanism designed to fight larger fish 8

Total Score


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Palm size ultralight L Gold plated parts can be scratched
J Good drag system L We wish it came with an extra Aluminum spool instead of graphite
J Lightweight/Ergonomic  
J Reasonable Price  

Conclusion: Today in the sport of fishing there are the rugged saltwater guys who love to tackle big game with gear that can muscle in any monster from the ocean, while in the freshwater arena there are those on the very opposite side of the spectrum, who prefer a delicate approach to finesse fishing. Ultralight is the way to go if you're up against easy to spook fish, or simply want to reduce your load while hiking out to the backcountry. Anglers that think smaller is better wont feel insignificant with a palm sized Cetus in their hands. The SB500 is ergonomically fit for all anglers, built solid, and performs better than any ultralight reel I've ever fished with before. The TICA Cetus is a top contender in the ultralight category, and should be considered by anglers looking for a good petite reel, and a reasonable price.









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