shimano sustain spinning fishing reel
Shimano Sustain. Shimano

The finest brands in the fishing tackle industry debuted their latest and greatest wares at the recently completed ICAST show in Orlando leaving a thoroughly impressed contingent of outdoor writers in their wake. New lures, electronics, fishing kayaks, technical apparel, and eyewear were on display, but with the Outdoor Life Tackle Test on our early fall schedule, we took special interest in previewing the new rod and reel introductions for the 2018 season. Here’s a look at just a few of the standouts that we’ll be testing, many of which are not yet on the market.


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13 Fishing Concept Z | $200

13 fishing concept baitcast fishing reel
13 Fishing Concept Z 13 Fishing Concept

When 13 Fishing’s marketing manager Jose Chavez handed me a Concept Z reel on a Tampa, FL boat dock a few days prior to the ICAST show, my first thought was that it was really, really red. When he matter-of-factly mentioned that it had no ball bearings, my ears perked up. Why on earth did 13 Fishing buck the ball-bearing trend?

“Well, with no bearings,” says Chavez, “there’s less that can go wrong.”

I was fortunate enough to get it on the water for a bit, but will have to wait for the Tackle Test to wring it out completely. At first blush, I was impressed with how quiet it is—if that’s an important quality to you.

Central to the Concept Z is its proprietary polymer bearing, which is non-corrosive, heat resistant, and purportedly casts a third farther than other conventional reels. Certainly, 13 Fishing gets an A in the innovation department.

Shimano Curado K | $180

shimano curado baitcast fishing reel
Shimano Curado K Shimano

With a new look for 2018, this long-time Shimano favorite took top honors for best freshwater fishing reel at ICAST. There are six new Curado K offerings in the 2018 line that features both left and right-handed retrieves and gear ratios from 6.2:1 to 8.5:1. Each features a host of proprietary technologies such as MicroModule gears, SVS breaking system, and an overall smaller platform.

Lew’s Hyper Mag SLC | $299

lews hyper mag baitcast fishing reel
Lew’s Hyper Mag SLC Lew’s

This low-profile, 5.1 ounce reel features 11 ball bearings and a 32 mm machined aluminum spool that handles light lines and lures without sacrificing power and performance for big largemouths. Its carbon fiber drag system provides 20 pounds of drag power. Winn grips on the reel handle knobs deliver great gripping ability and are just a cool added touch.

Lew’s Mach Crush Speed Spool SLP | $160

lews mac crush baitcast fishing reel
Lew’s Mach Crush Speed Spool SLP Lew’s

The Mach Crush baitcast combo (reel and IM8 graphite rod) helped Lew’s to a four-peat win at the ICAST new products showcase. The orange Winn Dri-Tac reel knobs and Winn Gripp rod handles make this a great looking pair, but the Speed Spool reel seems like a solid stand-alone. Lew’s has continually impressed the OL Tackle Test field and we can’t wait to get our hands on this baby. It features 10 ball bearings and a solid dual cast control breaking system. Bring on the lunkers.

Quantum Smoke S3 (Conventional) | $170

quantum smoke s3 conventional fishing reel
Quantum Smoke S3 Quantum

Another low-profile beauty from Quantum, the S3 features a bigger paddle for better grip, a bigger spool for longer casts, 16 brake adjustments, and comes in four speeds. Gerald Swindle and KVD have been using the Smoke on tour all season and have, well, smoked the field.

Quantum Smoke S3 (Spinning) | $159

quantum smoke s3 spinning fishing reel
Quantum Smoke S3 Quantum

Uni-body construction for more precise alignment and an newly engineered ceramic drag system highlight the features on the revamped Smoke S3 spinning reel. It’s available in 10, 25, 30, and 40 spool sizes for extended range casting performance.

Shimano Sustain | $300–$310

shimano sustain spinning fishing reel
Shimano Sustain Shimano

Admittedly, the ICAST show floor is a terrible place to truly size up the capabilities of a fishing rod and reel—they all feel smooth, they all look sweet, and I want them all. The thing about the Shimano Sustain is that it somehow felt more solid and lighter than most of the other reels we cranked in the very many manufacturer booths we visited. It weighs an almost impossibly light 8.3 ounces. Can’t wait to take it out on the water. At first blush, the Sustain seems like one of those legacy reels you can pass down to your kids. The price is tough, though.

Pflueger President | $59

pflueger president spinning fishing reel
Pflueger President Pflueger

The entire Pflueger President line of reels has been a top performer over the history of the Outdoor Life Tackle Test. There’s never been a lot of glitz or glamour to them, but when I once compared them to the revered Mitchell 300 I was pretty certain that the test team would skewer me. In some ways, the Presidents remind me of some of those old-school spinners that were relatively inexpensive, but acted as if they’d last for many years. The 2018 version of the President features updated components and cosmetics, and seem like a great value.

Daiwa Steez A

daiwa steez tech baitcast fishing reel
Daiwa Steez A Daiwa

Okay, don’t faint. The price of the Steez A approaches the $450 mark. Like the Shimano, however, it seems designed to be a legacy reel—one that you’ll pass down to the next generation. Bells, whistles, and buzzwords abound in the manufacturer’s reels description—and considering Daiwa’s track record there’s no reason to doubt the bragging points. We’ll look carefully at power and durability very carefully during this fall’s tackle test. In fairness, the Fuego ($99) and Tatula ($200) will also be in our test pool.

KastKing Speed Demon

kast king speed demon baitcast fishing rel
KastKing Speed Demon KastKing

If you’re looking for a super-speed baitcaster, take a look at the Speed Demon—at least we will be looking at it. It’s 9.3:1 gear ratio is a class leader and the $130 price is budget pleaser. The Cadet, at $30, will also be in our test. Their track record for Outdoor Life is untested.


G. Loomis/Shimano Conquest | $650–$675

loomis shimano conquest fishing rod
G. Loomis/Shimano Conquest OL

In terms of fishing rods, the elephant in the ICAST media room was the joint G. LoomisShimano bass-rod collaboration dubbed: Conquest (aka: the $650 fishing rod). To pay that sort of money for an offshore rod is commonplace. But for a bass rod? As my many buddies have told me many times over: “I’d buy 10 Ugly Stiks before I pay even $100 for a fishing rod.”

That may be the case, but it should be understood that not all fishing rods are created equally—not even close. There is most definitely a difference in performance between a $50 bargain-basement rod and a $100 bass rod. I, too, was once among the expensive-bass-rod detractors. No longer. A $650 bass rod, however, is another matter. I cannot wait to fish this one.

Abu Garcia Veritas | $100–$200

abu garcia veritas fishing rod
Abu Garcia Veritas OL

The Veritas line of Abu rods has been around for several years and has always been a solid performer. That should continue with some upgrades for 2018, including 30-ton graphite to help improve balance, a newly designed hook keeper, and a re-imagined reel seat that eliminates the exposed threads that our OL test team dinged it for in earlier new tackle wring outs. The double-locking seat is also a smart upgrade.

Quantum Vapor | $129

quantum vapor fishing rod
Quantum Vapor OL

A brand new series of Vapor rods made of top-of-the-line graphite and backed by a five-year warranty. There are nine casting and six spinning rods in the line that is available at an affordable price.

St. Croix Legend X | $400

st croix fishing rod
St. Croix Legend X St. Croix

The new freshwater series from St. Croix combines cutting-edge design, great craftsmanship, and performance in an awesome new high-modulus graphite design.

Daiwa Tatula | $179–$289

daiwa tatula fishing rod
Daiwa Tatula Daiwa

Winner of the Outdoor Life Super-Saver award last year, Daiwa adds to its Tatula lineup with a signature series of rods developed by eight bass pros who were asked to create rods according to their favorite fishing techniques.

Denali Fission | $90

denali fission fishing rods
Denali Fission OL

Excellent quality, sensitivity, and strength at a good price, Denali has scored well in past OL Tackle Test. The Fission series features Winn Grips and is equipped with stainless steel eye guides protected by ceramic eye guides. There are two spinning and two casting models available in the lineup.

Phenix Feather Series | $140–$170

phenix fishing rods
Phenix Feather Series OL

Light, sensitive, and strong, the Phenix Feather Series Bass rods include carbide guides, a fiber reel seat, and EVA handles. Light and sensitive, rods are priced at $140 to $170.