Tackle Test 2014: Best New Trends, Innovations and Designs

Here's a look at the three most clever innovations incorporated in the designs of the rods and reels, and the three broad trends observed in the gear we tested.

Innovations

1. Guide Within a Guide

Photo by Luke Nilsson

Being skeptical of anything appearing remotely gimmicky, we had significant reservations about the American Tackle Company's MicroWave Guide System, which can be found on the Seeker and T. Allen spinning rods. After ample on-the-water testing, we can report that this guide system really works.

The two-stage stripper guide gives way to smaller diameter guides of consistent size along the rod's length. As it comes off the reel, line is focused through the stripper and, subsequently, the other guides. This reduces line slap and creates a more uniform path of travel for the line, minimizing drag and improving casting distance and accuracy over traditional systems.

2. Supreme Control

Photo by Luke Nilsson

Centrifugal casting controls have been standard on baitcasters for decades. Magnetic casting controls have been around for a while, too. The Lew's Multi-Setting Brake, found on the Team Lew's Pro Speed Spool, employs both.

The reel's 4-pin positive on/off centrifugal brakes are adjusted internally, whereas its magnetic braking system is adjusted with clicks of the external dial. The dual braking system makes for quick and easy adjustments of the spool's speed and also improves the user's ability to fine-tune the drag for greater casting distance with less backlashing.

3. Get a Grip

Photo by Nathaniel Welch

A great grab on a fishing rod is essential to success. The Xtreme-Skin handle on the St. Croix LegendXtreme Inshore rods is molded from a nylon-like material. It deftly repels water, cleans up with a damp cloth, and is impervious to the roughest use.

The handle really excels over traditional cork and EVA handles with its exceptional sensitivity. The solid grip conveys strikes directly to the user, without any transmission loss when converting vibration from the blank into the grip.

Trends

1. Aluminum Gearing
Reel manufacturers, Abu Garcia and Lew's among them, are opting for aluminum gearing and drive shafts to replace traditional brass components. Hard anodizing toughens the alloy, cutting down wear over time while simultaneously reducing weight.

2. Beefier Blanks
Micro-diameter blanks have been all the rage the last few years, but they have had a ­tendency to break at the most inopportune times. Blanks that are beefier, especially at the tip section, are quickly supplanting their spindly cousins. In particular, these can be found on the new Fenwick HMG and St. Croix LegendXtreme Inshore rods.

3. Magnesium Reel Frames
This strong, lightweight material is rapidly finding its way into reel construction. Manufacturers credit improvements in computer-aided design (CAD) for streamlining magnesium castings, driving costs down, and rendering them affordable on moderately priced offerings, like the Quantum Tour MG and Okuma Helios Air reels.

Our Favorite Little Touches

1. Rotor and Bail

Photo by Luke Nilsson

Unnecessary material is milled away in the skeletonized rotor of the Quantum Accurist reel, decreasing weight and improving balance. The reel's bail wire is made of titanium and carries a lifetime warranty.

2. Grip
The Quantum Accurist rod's grip and reel seat utilize a rearward locking system that covers seat threads that can dig into the fingers of the rod hand while fishing.

3. Lure Keeper

Photo by Luke Nilsson

The low, flat profile of 13 Fishing's hook keeper makes it unobtrusive and snagproof, and easy on the rod hand when fishing. It also does a good job of keeping lures secure when they're hooked up.

4. Guides
The Alps SS316 Stainless/Bronze guide train on the CastAway Invicta features single-foot guides that are rigid and far more substantial than other single-foot designs. This keeps the guides aligned without bending or twisting.

5. Cast Control

Photo by Luke Nilsson

The brake weights of the Shimano Chronarch CI4+ utilize inner friction and an internal raceway. The design provides precise control over lighter lures. An external adjustment knob fine-tunes the system.

See the full tackle test: Best new rods and reels.