Whew! What a trip! A few members of our Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures team recently returned home from this year's 2017 ICAST/IFTD Expo at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.
The expo is the annual gathering of the top companies within the fishing industry to network and showcase their products to dealers and retailers. It also serves as a chance for members of the fishing industry to talk about the state of fishing, learn about issues affecting our industry, and get a first-hand look at new gear for 2018.
We took some time at IFTD to explore the new 2018 saltwater reel offerings to check out the designs and new introductions that are relevant for the traveling angler.
When it comes to saltwater fly fishing, having a fly reel that can stand up to the abuse of both the fish and the harsh elements is critical in our eyes. While most anglers tend to have their own favorites, we wanted to weigh in on a few highlights from this year’s event.
We looked specifically at the most popular weights for saltwater: 8, 9, 10, 12. When considering the right reel for a typical saltwater flats environment, we look for tough construction, a sealed drag system, a well-designed handle, and a design that is easy to clean and maintain.
Below are some of the new and interesting saltwater reels from this year’s IFTD show that we feel are worthy of a closer look.
1. HATCH - Finatic Generation II
We cannot say enough good things about the reels Hatch has been producing over the past 10 years. The Yellow Dog team has used and abused Hatch reels extensively all over the planet. They take a beating and keep on going no matter the conditions. In our opinion, they are the best overall reel option out there. The Hatch 9 Plus is the all-around best saltwater reel built to cover multiple species and scenarios. Capable of handling 9 through 11 wt lines, Hatch designed the reel specifically for fly fishing in the salt. It is the one reel that is truly versatile no matter where you fish. For 2018, Hatch has made the 9 Plus and all related sizes (we also love the 7 Plus) in the Finatic lineup even better.
New for this year, the Finatic “Generation II” builds upon the great foundation of the original Finatic, with several new design elements. Specifically, for saltwater, they developed a new handle that utilizes a self-lubricating plastic bushing and is built from similar metals to discourage corrosion in the most compromising situations. Additionally, they have added two more seals to the drag system to increase the water resistance and problem-free performance in all scenarios. Outfitted with these recent design changes, the Finatic Generation II is built to withstand the harshest saltwater environments you can find.
Suggested Retail Price: $800.00
2. Nautilus Reels - GTX Salt Water Reel
Winner of this year's 2017 ICAST/IFTD Best Saltwater Reel award, the new GTX from Nautilus turned some heads with a lightweight 5" diameter, fighting-class reel. The reel features a new pressure spring that sits in between two aluminum discs that rotate in unison. This new system applies an even amount of pressure to the drag surfaces. The new dual drag surface features a Kevlar/ cork/carbon fiber hybrid on one side and an oversized carbon fiber disc on the other. The cork acts as a compression material to ensure a smooth drag transition while the carbon fiber helps give the reel a smooth feel. The GTX was designed to be a tough, fully-sealed, quick retrieving reel. While the GTX retails at the higher end of the spectrum, it’s advantages are notable and we feel this is a reel worth checking out.
Suggested Retail Price: $1,299.00
3. Abel – Super Series Reel
While there have been various improvements and adjustments over the years, there are perennial details that have never changed with Abel’s reel designs. Specifically, their super-smooth, infinitely adjustable cork drag system married to a strong aluminum frame and large arbor spool. For the 2018 season, Abel has redesigned the original Super Series reel with a new line of lighter-weight sizes that feature a quick-change spool system that eliminates the previously removable locknut and drag knob. It can be set light enough to protect the finest tippet, but can also be cranked to slow down the toughest tarpon. The reel frame, spool, drag knob and foot are made of 6061-T651 Aerospace grade aluminum.
Suggested Retail Price: $895.00
4. Tibor – Signature Series
The simple but efficient design of the Tibor Signature Series consists of very few parts. It features a completely ventilated spool and frame that keeps the reel cool during long runs and provides a robust incoming and outgoing clicker sound. The unique mechanical clutch system allows for an easy change-over from right to left hand retrieve. An impressive sealed drag system constantly applies pressure while in free spool to ensure the reel will never overrun while stripping line. The drag is equipped with a micro-grain cork that is constantly lubricated. Available in five sizes, their waterproof and self-maintaining design makes this reel one of the top reel options for chasing strong fish on the flats.
Suggested Retail Price: $785.00
5. Sage Fly Fishing - Spectrum Max Reel
Sage introduced the new Spectrum Max reel at this year’s IFTD event in Orlando, Florida and we were impressed. Their new reel is fully machined with 6061-T6 aluminum and houses Sage’s Sealed Carbon System (SCS) Drag. The Max features a super rigid frame-to-spool connection, a widened palming rim, a large/vented arbor for high retrieval rates, and Sage’s One Revolution drag knob with 40 detented drag settings for adjustable and repeatable drag resolution.
Suggested Retail Price: $499.00
6. Waterworks-Lamson Colbalt Saltwater Reel
Over the years, Colbalt has been a popular choice for many a saltwater angler pursuing bonefish on the flats, and a big part of the ongoing popularity has been the innovative features that include a drag system that is certified waterproof to 100 feet, ABEC 5 ball bearings, a graphite alloy conical drag, and an angler-adjustable line-out torque range to 12+ pounds. Dual-axis machining strengthens the structure, and the reel is finished with a corrosion-proof Micralox finish.
Suggested Retail Price: $799.00
7. Ross Reels Evolution R Salt Reel
The R Salt features a 16-disc, sealed drag system built of stainless steel and carbon fiber, producing nearly 30lbs of drag. This power is housed in a lightweight, incredibly strong frame and spool based on the “Evolution R” revolutionary design. The innovative shape of the ultra-large arbor spool is engineered to force even winding of the line across the face of the spool as it is retrieved. Ross has succeeded in creating a reel with a strong power-to-weight ratio all at an affordable price.
Suggested Retail Price : $595.00