Hot Tackle 2003, Part 1

A roundup of the year's hottest gear: rods, reels, and lines.

Field & Stream Online Editors

Despite a slow economy, tackle manufacturers still need to innovate and offer new or refined products. This year, there's no slowdown in new items available to help you catch fish, and I've sifted out especially notable items to look for. This selective roundup deals with rods, reels, and lines. In a couple of weeks, I'll follow up with new lures, electronics, and fishing accessories.

RODS AND REELS

Pflueger. There's good value in the Solara baitcasting reel, which sports four ball bearings, a titanium line guide, instant anti-reverse, and six-pin adjustable centrifugal brakes. This complements the new Solara spinning reels (seven models) and assorted Solara rod and reel combos.

(2.)****Penn. The 320LD is the first American-made graphite-body lever-drag reel with levelwind. It also features Penn's HT100 drag system with full, strike, and free setting, a machined-aluminum spool, four sealed ball bearings, and a 4.3:1 gear ratio. Also of note are the six-bearing Slammer 360 and 260 spinning reels with stainless-steel spool shaft.

Abu Garcia. Two spinning reels make up the new Cardinal 600 series; both have a large center-located drag system, making them part of a small field of center-drag spinning reels. Large Teflon and graphite washers promise top drag performance, and they have aluminum bodies, five bearings, and a light weight (7.8 ounces).

Shimano. The new ultrapremium Stella spinning reels are awesome. But more budgets will be attuned to the redesigned Stradic spinning reels (four models), which feature four ball bearings, large spool and small body, slow oscillation for even line winding, lube-maintenance ports, and more. In baitcasters, the new Calyx is bargain priced and feature packed.

Okuma. Epixor front-drag spinning reels (four models) are value priced, considering they have nine ball bearings and a spare aluminum spool. Also of note is the Epixor EB20, which is the smallest two-drag (for free-spool live-lining) spinning reel on the market, and the Inspira series of 11-ball-bearing spinning reels (five models).

St. Croix. Wild River is the new lineup of salmon and steelhead rods, in spinning (12 models) and casting (nine models) versions. Ten models make up the new Avid surf-rod series, with woven-graphite wraps in the butts and cork tape rear grips.

Mitchell. A smaller version of last year's popular 300X, the new 308X spinning reel is traditionally styled with a light graphite body, five-bearing drive system, 5.5:1 gear ratio, front drag, and easily removed spool.

Zebco. The Omega is a high-quality, premium spincast reel with six ball bearings, helical-cut brass gears, 3.7:1 gear ratio, oscillating spool, and three-point line pickup. Also notable is the Genesis series of value-priced spincast, spinning, and baitcast rod-and-reel combos.

(4)****Shakespeare. Synergy Alloy spincast reels (three models) feature instant anti-reverse, dual stainless-steel pickup pins, heavy-duty metal gears, left-or-right convertible retrieve, and 3.4:1 gearing. The Synergy Supreme front-drag reels have three bearings, instant anti-reverse, aluminum spool, and spare graphite spool.

G. Loomis. Targeted is the word for the new spinnerbait rods (seven), with extra-fast tips and lengths from 66 to 86 inches; crankbait rods (eight), with flexibility, power, and light to medium-heavy actions from 78 to 90 inches long; and drop-shot rods (two), with light guides, an extremely fast taper, soft tips, and 82-inch length.

(3.)****South Bend. The 4100 series Phase 2 spinning reels (three models) are budget conscious, yet feature five ball bearings, infinite anti-reverse, and spare aluminum spool. New Microlite combos bear scrutiny, plus combos for kids that include the new Learn 2 Fish CD-ROM. Also check the Calico Jack series of spinning annd casting rods under their Hurricane brand.

Quantum. The Bluerunner Gold saltwater series includes inshore casting and spinning models and application-specific offshore models, all one piece with premium components.

Berkley. The popular, revamped IM6 Lightning rods now feature light chromium guides, full-cork handles, hook keepers, and triple-wrap guide feet.

Daiwa. Silvercast Plus spincasting reels (three models) feature three ball bearings, smooth disc-drag operation, infinite anti-reverse, and a tungsten pickup pin.

Cabela's. The new low-profile Prodigy Baitcaster is this company's first offering in affordable high-performance baitcasting reels. It features both centrifugal and magnetic spool brakes, an aluminum frame, seven ball bearings, instant anti-reverse, a flipping switch--and a $100 price tag.

LINES

Stren. MagnaFlex is a copolymer product touted as all-around line by Stren due to its low memory, great flexibility, high abrasion resistance, and good knot strength; it's available in three colors from 4- through 100-pound-test. Also new is High Impact Class, a premium monofilament in 2- through 130-pound strengths that will wet-break at or under the labeled rating.

Fins. The new IGFA PRT Braid is the only superline that meets wet-break specifications for world records, which is unique in the superline field. It's available in 30- to130-pound-test. Regular and IGFA PRT Braids are made with a unique process that results in superior knot strength. Also new is Deep Drop, a superline with high abrasion resistance for bottom fishing.

(1.)****Berkley. Using what it calls revolutionary built-in technology that reinforces a matrix of polymers at the molecular level, Berkley has produced IronSilk, an unconventional monofilament. IronSilk is smooth, has moderate stretch (20 percent) and--according to Berkley--is two to three times more abrasion resistant than other "tough" lines. Two colors are available in filler spools from 4- to 30-pound-test.

Yo-Zuri. Said to have high abrasion resistance, low memory, and a fast sink rate, X-Tex Cobra line is a blend of nylon, fluorocarbon, and X-Tex polymer available in 4- through 20-pound-test in a multicolor camouflage pattern.

Silver Thread. Silver Thread Fluorocarbon from Pradco is 100 percent fluorocarbon, for use as a full fishing line or as a leader. It comes in 6- through 20-pound-test.

Spiderwire. High-tech braided Spiderwire Stealth is subject to a Teflon treatment that won't wear off and that makes the line smooth, quiet, and able to maintain a round form. It's available in a range of sizes.