Head to Head Gear: Reel Deals

A test of four new - but reasonably priced - baitcasting reels.

Field & Stream Online Editors

[BRACKET "1."] Cabela's Black Label II
800-237-4444; www.cabelas.com
This reel is built with a plastic case and an aluminum frame. It's a solid performer for medium-size crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Best Features: A great starter reel-it's not fussy, and the price is right. Points to Ponder: The drag isn't super smooth, and the reel seat is a lighter plastic than I care for. Specs: 6 bearings 5.1:1 ratio 10 lb./150 yd. capacity 9.5 oz. Price: $40

[BRACKET "2."] Pflueger President Wide
800-347-3759; www.pfluegerfishing.com
Now available with a higher-capacity spool, the President is so well respected on the pro circuit that no one modifies it. Best Features: Perfectly balanced, it has impressive machining. Even the handle knobs have bearings. It's one of the best reels on the market for the money. Points to Ponder: I tried, but I could find nothing to fault in this reel. Specs: 10 bearings 6.3:1 ratio 12 lb./160 yd. capacity 8.9 oz. Price: $129

[BRACKET "3."] Shimano Corvalus 200
877-577-0600; fish.shimano.com
With an aluminum frame and side plates and a variable brake system that won't kill your casting distance, this is a rock-solid round baitcasting reel. It performs similarly to its $150-plus cousins. Best Features: You can throw a midsize crankbait or hurl a swimbait weighing close to a pound. It has excellent balance and is tough enough for double-digit bass or steelhead. Points to Ponder: The handle side of the thumb release has a hard vertical edge that could aggravate your thumb. Specs: 4 bearings 5.2:1 ratio 10 lb./210 yd. capacity 10.8 oz. Price: $70

[BRACKET "4."] Bass Pro ProLite Finesse
888-287-2486; www.basspro.com
Super sleek and very smooth, this reel is at home with small baits or any fishing that requires a light touch and a precise presentation. Best Features: This finesse reel is comparable to much more expensive models. Points to Ponder: It could be a little too sensitive for the inexperienced baitcaster. Specs: 7 bearings 6.3:1 ratio 10 lb./160 yd. capacity 7.9 oz. Price: $99

The Test We cast a variety of baits with each reel and made many adjustments to the braking and drag controls. All performed flawlessly. Next, we wanted to see how long the spools would spin when disengaged and with braking and drag adjustments released. This indicates how smoothly the reel can cast a lure, but to be fair, round reels like the Shimano are not designed to free-spool without some resistance. Keep in mind that a little resistance can be a good thing for less experienced casters.
Shimano Corvalus 200: 4.4 seconds
Pflueger President Wide: 15.9 seconds
Bass Pro ProLite Finesse: 12.1 seconds
Cabela's Black Label II: 2.5 seconds