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What To Look For In A Bonefishing Reel

Seasoned bonefishers know just how important it is to choose the right gear.

While you may be able to borrow what you need from the lodge or one of your fellow fishers, bonefishing excursions are infinitely more enjoyable for those who come well-prepared. Keep this in mind when choosing your primary reel and any backup that you decide to bring. Following are five, essential features to look when searching for a reel that can stand up to both aggressive bonefish and the ravages of saltwater.

1. A Large Arbor Design

Bonefish are known to take a a lot of line when running. More importantly, they take the line fast. If a bone ever stops mid-run, or chooses to turn and swim back to you, you have to be able to retrieve your line fast. This is key to shortening the fight and making sure that every aspect of your pursuit is humane. Any reel that isn’t designated as a “large arbor” design is going to place you at a significant disadvantage on the flats.

2. Keep It Simple

While factors such as strength and efficiency are always going to matter, simplicity is of the utmost importance. Reels that are loaded with countless parts and unnecessary features tend to be far more trouble than they’re worth. Every extra component increases the likelihood of breakage. This is especially true when you’re fishing in saltwater and dealing with long, extended runs. Rather than paying for additional features, set your sights on a high-quality, simple design that’s made for the environment and all other challenges inherent of bonefishing.

3. Go For A Sealed Drag

While you can certainly catch a bonefish or two with an unsealed cork drag, you’re always going to get the best performance from innovative, sealed drag designs. Simply put, this more advanced technology works better. Not only do cork drags require a considerable amount of maintenance, but they also perform a lot differently when wet. With a sealed composite drag, you’ll get consistent performance, and you’ll have a lot less work to do when packing your gear back up.

4. Smooth Drag

Most drag systems on the market have sufficient strength for slowing bonefish down, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re all smooth. Smoothness is a quality that’s important for a variety of reasons. To start, any large bonefish is going to test your tippet’s limits. Smooth drags give your tippets the best level of protection. Whenever bones turn to start a run, you want your reel to respond and give up line without hesitation. This is vital for ensuring that your leader stays intact.

5. Durability

It goes without saying that you want your new reel to last. Unfortunately, saltwater can take a toll on your gear in a way that fresh water will not. Combined with long boat rides spanning impressive distances, the salt air, and the heavy pressure of powerful and fast-moving fish, this can shorten the lifespan of your rod and reel considerably, especially if you’ve made the mistake of choosing the wrong design. Always look for machined reels rather than those that have been machine-finished. You want an anodized reel for assured saltwater protection. For any option you choose, the rod handle should be secure enough to stay in place for a lengthy fight, the reel frame should be virtually inflexible, and the entire setup should be free of small-sized components that might break off, degrade, or corrode into virtually nothing. Gaining an ounce or more of weight is definitely worthwhile when you know that your reel has been built solid and made to last.


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