New fishing reels were on everyone’s radars at the 2016 International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, or ICAST, including mine. Picking out pricey, top-of-the-line reels was fairly straightforward. But finding the gold among the massive amount of new products took some digging. And I dug plenty. There were a couple of expensive standouts that clearly shined above the rest, but anglers need not fork out a mortgage payment to get a high-quality reel out of this year’s new crop. Here are my five top picks, with a little something for everybody.
Shimano Metanium MGL
The new Metanium MGL series is a product of Shimano’s cutting-edge technology and materials. The body of the reel is constructed of Hagane, and it’s durable, lightweight, and void of any frame distortion under stress. All reels in the series have ten strategically placed, shielded, anti-rust bearings, as well as a one-way roller bearing that eliminates any backplay in the handle. The result is a silky-smooth, long-casting reel. There are six reels in the series, all 150-size, with three different gear ratios, in both left- and right-handed models.
Okuma Helios SX
Okuma has been on fire lately. Each year, its products grow more impressive, and the Helios SX is a fine example of that trend. The Helios is constructed of Okuma’s C-40X carbon fiber, resulting in components that are 25 percent lighter and 50 percent stronger than their graphite equivalents. Just holding this reel leaves an immediate impression of its lightweight, rigid construction. It has eight stainless-steel, corrosion-resistant bearings, in addition to one roller bearing. The Helios SX reel comes in three sizes: a 20, a 30, and a 40.
Abu Garcia MGXtreme
This reel impressed me the most at ICAST. The price tag is going to turn some anglers away, but for a gear junky like me, the MGXtreme is a gem. This reel weighs only 4.5 ounces, which is incredible. The magnesium frame and carbon-fiber sideplates not only keep the weight down, but also offer maximum durability. For a tiny reel, the blazing fast 8.1:1 gear ratio takes in an insane 32-inches-per-handle turn. The downside is that it has only 12 pounds of drag, but this isn’t the reel you’d use to flip and pitch. That said, its ability to cast smaller lures with ease is unparalleled. The MGXtreme comes in one size, and is offered in both left- and right-hand models.
One 3 Creed GT
One 3 is a brand-new offshoot of 13 Fishing. Its reels feature 13’s sleek design and cool componentry, but are offered at a lower price point. The Creed GT is going to be an immediate hit—it’s by the far the best reel I’ve seen for the price. It features a carbon body, carbon rotor, carbon handle, and a six-disc carbon drag system. The reels are super lightweight, with the 2000-size models coming in at around 7 ounces. There’s are also 1000, 3000, and 4000 sizes in the series. These are sharp-looking reels with dynamite construction, and they are an absolute steal for the price.
Pflueger President XT
The Pflueger President is a household name (as far as fishing reels go, at least), trusted to withstand years of use. And for 2017, it got a serious upgrade. The new President XT features durable carbon sideplates, an externally adjusting magnetic braking system, and nine ball bearings that make it one of the smoothest reels on the market. I found the slip-resistant cork knobs to be ergonomic and comfortable, and they add to the overall aesthetics of the reel. The President XT weighs in at 7.7 ounces, and takes in a healthy 31 inches per handle turn.
Mark Modoski is Field & Stream’s go-to angling expert for crappies, muskies, ice fishing, and more. He also plays a big role in our annual tackles tests.