Reviewing Ultralight Reels
Our test panel used and abused four ultralight spinning reels and here's what they found.
We asked reader testers to fish for trout, sunfish, peacock bass, and walleyes with current versions of ultralight spinning reels. They based their evaluations on how far they could cast, smoothness of retrieve, drag consistency, and how many tangles occurred while fishing. Panelists used the same size and brand of line and identical baits and lures. Manufacturers were asked to supply reels rated for 4-pound-test line, with a retail price no higher than $130. All reels came with anti-reverse and extra spools.
ABU GARCIA SORÖN STX 10 ($130)
THE LOWDOWN Weighing 8.2 ounces, this newest addition to Abu Garcia’s line of spinning reels can hold 140 yards of 4-pound line. The STX 10, which comes in a neoprene case, has 11 bearings (more than the others in the test) and a 5.1:1 retrieve ratio. There’s an anticorrosion alloy in the frame and side plate.
Three high scores gave the Soron a comfortable first-place finish. The testers unanimously agreed that the retrieve was ultrasmooth and balanced. Collins, however, said that his reel had a sticky bail and its price was too high. He placed it third, although he did like its construction.
HITS “This reel will stand up to pro tournament angling and reckless kids.”
MISSES “It had a very sticky bail that I had to force to flip over.”
“If I’m spending this kind of money, then this is the reel I’m spending it on.”
QUANTUM CATALYST CT10PTI-A ($129)
THE LOWDOWN With the thinnest profile of the group, this aluminum-body reel weighs 8.45 ounces and has eight bearings and a titanium bail. It also has a magnetic clutch, with a 5.33:1 retrieve, and will hold 125 yards of 4-pound monofilament. It was the only reel to come with a 48-hour turnaround guarantee for any repairs or warranty issues.
All four testers ranked the Catalyst second. Everybody liked its overall look and its smooth retrieve. Two of the testers agreed that the reel cast the farthest, and no one had any tangle issues. Cooprider complained that the drag was sluggish when he fought a 4-pound peacock bass.
HITS “Very smooth retrieve, whether you’re catching walleyes or bluegills.”
MISSES “I did not like the plastic drag knob.”
“Extremely smooth retrieve, a nice finish, and the bail works very well.”
BROWNING CITORI ($99)
THE LOWDOWN Named after the Browning over/under shotgun, the Citori has an all-aluminum frame and rotor. The spool–which holds 120 yards of 4-pound line–is made of machined aluminum and has a titanium-coated lip for line management. The reel uses eight bearings, has a 5.1:1 gear ratio, and weighs 8 ounces. The oversize handle is coated with soft rubber.
The Citori got mixed reactions. Collins loved it and awarded it first place. Three third-place scores, with some on the high side, led this reel to finish just behind the Quantum. Except for Cooprider, the testers liked the oversize handle and the way the reel performed without tangles. On the downside, some said that the reel simply wasn’t worth $99.
HITS “The line flows very smoothly.”
MISSES “I think you’re paying for the Browning name; it’s way too expensive for the quality.”
“I didn’t like the shiny chrome. The glare could spook fish in certain situations.”
BASS PRO SHOPS MICRO LITE SUPREME ($38)
THE LOWDOWN At just 6.2 ounces, the Micro Lite was the lightest and smallest reel in the test. It has eight bearings, a gear ratio of 5.2:1, and a spool that holds 105 yards of 4-pound line. The frame is made of graphite, and the handle is machined aluminum. At less than $40, the Micro Lite was by far the least expensive reel submitted for judging.
With three last-place votes, the Micro Lite simply wasn’t in the same league as the other larger and pricier reels. While some testers liked its balanced retrieve and smooth, secure drag, both Bailey and Downing said the bail was extremely hard to flip. Cooprider also got tangles unless the line was perfectly layered on the spool.
HITS “A good choice for panfish with kids.”
MISSES “The bail release was stiff and didn’t work very well.”
“I could cast far with this reel.”
“If you like to fish with ultralight gear and are on a budget, this is a great reel.”
HOME WATER: Tonto Creek, Arizona
ANNUAL DAYS ON THE WATER: 100
HOME WATER: Mill River, Connecticut
ANNUAL DAYS ON THE WATER: 150
HOME WATER:The Everglades, Florida
ANNUAL DAYS ON THE WATER: 240
HOME WATER: Nagawicka Lake, Wisconsin
ANNUAL DAYS ON THE WATER: 30