How to Get the Best Out of Those Economy Priced Reels
by "Chuck Campbell, alias the Fluker, from Rochester, Mn."
Why spend all of that money on a reel when you can get a good one for so much less? Well, there are plenty of answers to that, and many good ones. Usually the main answer is that high end reels are truly better performing and longer lasting reels…BUT, here are some tips that will help you make those not-so-high-end reels perform much better.
I will be the first to admit that the Chronarch Super Free is by far my favorite reel I own. But not many of us can afford to have a whole arsenal of $225 to $300 reels. My economy priced reel is the Pflueger Summit. Although this article will be geared toward the upgrade of this particular reel itself, these ideas can be applied to any reel you feel is your "economy" reel.
The major differences I see in reels of high-end versus economy are body components (i.e. frame and shell materials), spool, drag component, bearings/bushings and handles. Some of these you cannot change, for example the main body components and in most cases the spool. The other items listed you can upgrade if you feel needed.
Step 1 - Bushing to bearing conversion.
To me there are really only 5 main spots that a bearing makes a major difference. (1) Roller bearing, (2 & 3) each side of the spool shaft, (4) where the spool shaft passes through the frame and (5) base of the main gear shaft. In my example of the Pflueger Summit, there are bearings for each of these except under the spool tension cap at the end of the spool shaft (Figure A, Item 77). This bushing replacement is my entire bearing up grade on this reel. In the 2000 model Summit, the bearing is a standard sized bearing where as the 2001 series is smaller in outside diameter. You should be able to order either from your favorite rod and reel repair shop. The swap is easy. Just remove the keeper (Figure A, Item 86) and pop the bushing out and replace with the bearing. Be careful when removing the keeper as they can fly out in a hurry.
I have also done bushing to bearing conversions in Daiwa Black Widow and Shimano Citica reels. I have a friend that actually likes his Citica better than his Curado's after the bearing swamp since the Citica is lighter.
Step 2 - Drag washer conversion.
For my Pflueger Summit's, this conversion is made easy since the size of the washers match up directly to a well known drag washer. Most economy priced reels have smooth plastic type drag washers. In my experience, these do not perform well, especially when they get wet. I replace the large drag washer (Figure B, Item 44) and the small drag washer (Figure B, Item 42) with the same drag washers from a Shimano Calcutta reel (part #'s 1424 and 1214 respectively). These washers are made from Kevlar material. You can apply a small amount of grease to the large washer which aids in performance. This by far improved the performance of my Pflueger Summit more than anything.
Step 3 - Reel handle.
This is something that I don't do, but can be an improvement. You can purchase spare handles and replace the one on your reel. For my Pflueger Summit's, the handle on the 2001 model (Figure C, Item 77) is more comfortable than the 2000. I could possibly order a 2001 for replacement, but again, this is not a major issue to me. Larger or smaller handles can also be used to swap to slow down and speed up retrieve speeds.
Again, these are just some tips to help you improve the reels that don't cost $250+. I'm sure we would all trade our $50 to $80 reels for Shimano Calais's, but in the meantime, you might as well get the best out of what you got!!
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