Let’s face it – in an awful lot of angling situations, your reel is just a line holder. We love freshwater fish like fat rainbow trout, but the fact is that most (not all!) freshwater fish can be controlled just fine with a good old clicker drag and an old-school small arbor spool.
Reels matter when you’re bonefishing. Although bonefish aren’t the biggest fish in the sea, they’re strong, fast and capable of repeated long runs than can quite literally melt the drag systems on lessor reels. The saltwater environment is also mighty tough on anything made of metal, and you really want a reel that’s not going to corrode or come apart on you.
Here’s what we think you should look for in a bonefishing reel.
- Large Arbor Design. Bonefish take a lot of line, and they take it fast. When that bonefish stops (or even worse, when he turns back towards you), you need to be able to retrieve line, pronto. Getting your line back quickly is key to a short, effective and humane battle with a bonefish.
- Simple. We once saw an ad for an old-school Atlantic salmon reel that touted its hundreds of parts as a benefit. Uh…no. More parts means more ways to break, especially where long runs and saltwater are concerned. Simple is good.
- Sealed Drag. True, a good many fish out there, even bonefish and other saltwater species, have been caught on unsealed cork drags. We just feel like modern sealed drag technology works better! We don’t like gear that requires maintenance (cork does), and we don’t like drags that perform differently when they get wet. We like sealed composite drags.
- Smooth Drag. Lots of drag systems out there are strong enough to slow down a bonefish, but not all are smooth. Why does smooth matter? If you’re hooked up to a 10 pound bonefish and he turns his head to run, you don’t want your reel to hesitate before it gives up line. Big bonefish will test the limits of your tippet, and smooth drags protect tippet better.
- Durable. Salt water and salt air, long boat rides across giant fisheries, and heavy pressure exerted by strong fish all add up to make bonefishing destinations graveyards for lesser reels. You don’t want your reel frame to flex, you don’t want your handle to come off mid-fight, and you don’t want itty bitty parts to corrode into nothing. Besides being simple, you want your reel to be beefy. In our minds, it’s well worth it to gain an ounce or two of weight for a reel that’s built solid.
One example of a reel that we like has been reviewed here before – the Sage 6080.