Tackle Test '09

Abu Garcia REVO Winch Overall Rating: 3 stars Three testers referred to this reel as a "workhorse," thanks in part to a 24-pound carbon matrix drag. Eleven bearings and a six-pin centrifugal break system make the Winch a ruthless fish fighter. ($200; abu-garcia.com) Report Card Design: B Performance: B Price/Value: C+
Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Gold Overall Rating: 31⁄2 stars This elegant and ergonomic low-profile reel fits in the hand so well you'll forget it's there. It casts smoothly, and the dual breaking system makes it easy to get dialed. It offers a flipping/pitching/bottom-bouncing switch. The one-piece aluminum frame resisted torque while fighting fish and the reel proved its 14 pounds of certified drag pressure by stopping a number of largemouths from beelining for the lily pads. This reel is great for a number of diverse applications, and a bargain given all the features and fine gold finish. ($180; basspro.com) Report Card Design: B+ Performance: B Price/Value: A Great Buy
Daiwa Zillion 100SHSA Overall Rating: 2 stars Daiwa's 50th anniversary reel has a ripping 7.3:1 retrieve, nice ergonomics and dual casting controls, plus Daiwa's patented anti-backlash system. The disc drag and oversize gears whipped fish. ($300; daiwa.com) Report Card Design: C Performance: B Price/Value: D
Pflueger Patriarch Overall Rating: 4 stars The Patriarch received more perfect 10s than any other reel. "Everything about it screams quality," commented tester Todd Kuhn. The casting control is infinitely adjustable, the raised dots and rubber on the thumb bar prevent slippage and the handle is an ergonomic delight. All the mounting hardware is internal, so you aren't distracted by it, and the star drag is simple to use and strong. The 7.1:1 gear ratio lets you burn a bait at light speed and the drag simply purrs. The Patriarch won the Editor's Choice award by unanimous decision. ($200; pfluegerfishing.com) Report Card Design: A Performance: A Price/Value: A Editor's Choice
Shimano Citica 200E Overall Rating: 3 stars The reel has sharp points on the frame and stem, and only a friction break. But the Citica has a light (6.8 ounces), flex-free, one-piece frame, and a strong drag with anti-reverse. It also boasts a 6.2:1 retrieve ratio. ($120; shimano.com) Report Card Design: C+ Performance: B Price/Value: B
BAIT CASTING RODS, LEFT TO RIGHT Daiwa Zillion TDZL 661 MXB Overall Rating: 2 stars The 6-foot 6-inch Daiwa Zillion casting rod we tested is a great worm rod--the short, stiff stick stuck bass, reds and trout easily, even when we intentionally didn't "Tex-pose" soft-plastic baits. The testers disliked the foam grips and the ergonomics. And the strength and long-term durability of some components, especially the handle, was questioned. ($200; daiwa.com) Report Card Design: C Performance: C Price/Value: D Fenwick Elite Tech Topwater ECTW62M-MF Overall Rating: 21⁄2 stars A highly specialized rod in the Elite Tech series, this
topwater rod is designed for walking the dog. The shorter length allows command over the line, and a moderate-fast tip forgives overreaction when setting the hook. The short length of the butt prevents splashing while wading. The first guide is a bit far from the reel seat, which may limit casting distance. The reel seat will not be popular with large-pawed anglers. ($200; fenwickfishing.com) Report Card Design: C+ Performance: B Price/Value: C G. Loomis Crankbait CBR783C Overall Rating: 31⁄2 stars Perfect for medium-size crankbaits and surface lures, this
G. Loomis creation serves double duty and more. It works well in close quarters, thanks to its shorter (6-foot 6-inch) length and short pistol grip. The soft tip makes it shine with big stickbaits. It loads easily, is lightweight and has more than enough power to handle big fish. ($220; gloomis.com) Report Card Design: A Performance: A Price/Value: B Lamiglas XCC 725 Crankbait Rod Overall Rating: 4 stars The perfect rod for the serious crankbait or buzzbait angler earned the Editor's Choice award in the casting division. The XCC 725's soft tip allows light-gauge wire hooks to set and hold. The small blank diameter contributes to great sensitivity, but the rod has plenty of backbone to drive home the likes of a frog hook. An abundance of guides helps soften the taper. ($220; lamiglas.com) Report Card Design: A Performance: A+ Price/Value: B+ Editor's Choice St. Croix Mojo Bass MBC70MHF Overall Rating: 31⁄2 stars The Mojo Bass series of affordable specialty rods arguably brings to market the finest $100 rods ever made. The 7-foot, medium-fast plug rod we tested handily won the Great Buy award. Perfect for fishing slop with frogs and rats, it casts far and pulled bass and gator trout from heavy cover. ($100; stcroixrods.com) Report Card Design: B+ Performance: B+ Price/Value: A Great Buy
Abu Garcia Soron STX Overall Rating: 21⁄2 stars Abu beefed up this reel to keep water outside the frame. We found some sharp edges, but the reel both casted and managed line well on the retrieve. The Soron STX comes with a superline spool, which sports rubber O-rings to eliminate braid slippage. A carbon matrix drag reduces "startup inertia," the initial resistance to a fish's run that is the nemesis of light line. ($130; abu-garcia.com) Report Card Design: C Performance: B Price/Value: C
Daiwa Fuego Overall Rating: 3 stars Were it not for points lost in the Price/Value category, Daiwa's Fuego spinning reel might have won the Editor's Choice award. The reel did not produce a single wind knot over four days of blustery fishing conditions in the hands of four anglers with very different fishing styles. Its drag, bail and finish weathered hours of saltwater drenching and banging around on the floors of flats boats. The sealed drag system seemed unfazed by the bullish runs of big redfish, and the large-diameter spool produced the longest casts of all the spinning reels. ($250; daiwa.com) Report Card Design: B Performance: A+ Price/Value: C+
Pflueger Supreme XT Overall Rating: 31⁄2 stars If you fish in both fresh and salt water and would like to use the same tackle for both settings, this hard-core reel will suit you well. Except for a few uncomfortable edges, the Pflueger Supreme XT is well-designed. It sports a 10-ball-bearing system with a one-way clutch, carbon drag washers and oversize stainless-steel bail wire. It also comes with a Sure-Click titanium roller and spare spool. ($130; pfluegerfishing.com) Report Card Design: B Performance: B+ Price/Value: B+
Shimano Symetre Overall Rating: 4 stars Winner of both the Editor's Choice and Great Buy awards this year, the Shimano Symetre clearly represents the effort Shimano put into building an affordable reel that lives up to the company's reputation for superior spinning tackle. The Symetre is a lightweight, compact and well-machined aluminum-frame reel with a graphite rotor. Slow oscillation lays the line down in a parallel pattern, resulting in smooth casts. The "guts" are made of corrosion-resistant parts. There are no hard edges on the T-bone handle or any play in the spool to interfere with a strong hookset. ($75; shimano.com) Report Card Design: B+ Performance: B+ PRICE/VALUE: A+ Editor's Choice, Great Buy
SPINNING RODS, LEFT TO RIGHT: St. Croix Legend Extreme ART Overall Rating: 31⁄2 stars This beautiful piece of craftsmanship almost caused a fistfight to break out among the testers, as we all clamored to fish with it. Our test rod was the 7-foot medium-weight, fast-action model. Nine resilient spring guides are set single-foot style for uniform flex. The split-grip adds to incredibly lightweight sensitivity; light soft-plastics went sailing, but landed soft as mayflies; and this Editor's Choice winner easily turned strong reds from tangled mangroves. ($360; stcroixrods.com) Report Card Design: A Performance: A+ Price/Value: C Editor's Choice Berkley Cobalt Fire Overall Rating: 3 stars The Berkley Cobalt Fire is specifically designed to be fished with braided line and Gulp! bait. When the testers first picked up the 7-foot, medium-action rod and wiggled it, we said things like, "Not enough sensitivity." Then we strung up the rod and took it out on the water where we said things like, "Wow! This beauty must cost a mint!" We were floored by the low price and great performance.($80; berkley-fishing.com) __
Report Card Design: B Performance: C+ Price/Value: B+ Great Buy Cast-Away HG40 Series Drop-Shot Overall Rating: 2 stars The Cast-Away HG40 is another drop-shot rod that
performed above average in a variety of applications. The action was a little slow, and we weren't thrilled about the hookeye being so close to where we placed our thumbs. But the rod loads easily for casting, and is well-constructed. ($190; castawayrods.com) Report Card Design: C Performance: C+ Price/Value: D Daiwa Fuego TDFG661MXS Overall Rating: 2 stars Our test model was the 6-foot 6-inch medium-action model, a perfect drop-shot-action rod that also enabled pinpoint casts with light soft-plastics. It displayed a strong backbone when fighting fish. However, the Zalon reel seat is awkward to operate and didn't look very durable. ($200; daiwa.com) __
Report Card Design: C Performance: B Price/Value: D Shimano Clarus Overall Rating: 3 stars The 6-foot 6-inch Shimano Clarus we tested is a light drop-shot rod that would also work well with small spinnerbaits and jigs. The action was a little slow, but it's a production line for guides and dads who want easy-to-load tackle that won't make you wince if it meets an untimely demise. ($60; shimano.com) Report Card Design: C+ Performance: B Price/Value: B

The hottest rods and reels available in 2009.