FIELD & STREAM 2005 BEST OF THE BEST AWARDS

This year, seven of our field editors looked through the thousands of new products offered by the outdoor industry, tested hundreds of them, and finally came up with a list of the 22 best. These are Field & Stream's Best of the Best.

Field & Stream Online Editors

[BRACKET "Baitcasting Reels"]
DAIWA VIENTO
This baitcaster is at the top of the heap among new freshwater reels for 2006. A long list of premium features is headed by what Daiwa calls a Twitchin' Bar, a unique design that lets you retrieve short lengths of line without cranking the handle itself. The bar, mounted at the top rear of the frame, is operated with the thumb of the hand that's palming the reel. Pressing the bar once slowly retrieves about 4 inches of line-ideal for gently twitching anything from a floating-minnow plug to a sunken plastic worm. If you need to quickly recapture any slack line, just use a faster thumb motion. The system gives you more control over the retrieve.

Other features include six ball bearings, a solid anti-reverse, Daiwa's Magforce antibacklash control, a rigid aluminum frame, a fast 6.3:1 gear ratio, and an easily controlled whiffle-type perforated spool. At 8.3 ounces and carrying 100 yards of 14-pound-test nylon, the Viento is light, and for a premium reel, the price is right. $200; 562-802-9589; daiwa.com -J.M.

SHIMANO TORSA
I got my hands on Shimano's latest mechanical marvel about four months ago, and I'm still happily purring-just like the reel itself. The Torsa won Best in Show at a recent national fishing-tackle trade convention. Designed for nearshore saltwater use, it features the biggest, toughest drive gearing ever placed in a Shimano reel, all nestled rigidly in a cold-forged, machined-aluminum frame. That produces unreal cranking power and, just as important, gives room for a huge drag to tame everything from stripers to tuna. The ratcheting lever-drag system is unique, allowing the use of eight interchangeable drag cams that fine-tune the reel for specific fish, a Florida kingfish, say, or a mid-Atlantic white marlin.

Four models range in size from the TS16N (narrow spool, 28.6 ounces, 300 yards of 14-pound nylon mono) to the TS30 (31.1 ounces, 420 yards of 25-pound mono). All have 5.8:1 gear ratios and internally adjustable centrifugal cast controls for easy tossing of heavier baits. $670¿¿¿$700; 877-577-0600; shimano.com -J.M.