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Tuesday, March 07, 2017
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Casting pond: the low-pro salt revolution
Low profile reels have been edging up in size year by year. They've just about taken over the swimbait tossing sector of saltwater, and more and more salt anglers have tried their hand at fishing live bait with them, discovering their toughness in handling even yellows and other big game species.

Top contenders include the Daiwa Lexa 300 and Shimano Tranx 300 and 400. Amazingly these lightweight pull-hard, wind-fast reels have held up to the saltwater test of time rather well. But very few ever considered putting them to the test with regulation surface iron and such.

THE LEXA 400 by Daiwa.

The launch of the Lexa 400 and Tranx 500 is set to change all that forever I think. Saturday morning I took the opportunity to head for the Fred Hall Show casting pool. It was a chance to toss a bunch of different baits on a bunch of different tackle, the way you would if it were your own, really put it to the test. I had a blast doing it.

Both these two new offerings were impressive. They each made tossing the bigger jigs, and poppers on straight braid easy. Both are roughly the same size ultimately, irrespective of the difference in number. They will hold around 200 yards of 80-pound braid, and each boast 25-pound drag capability. Each come in a speedy 43-inch per turn retrieve rate.

Each offer a “torquier” lower retrieve ratio as well. The LEXA-HD400HS-P pulls 37.7 inches per turn while it's Hyper Speed version is the LEXA-HD400XS-P, which is also offered in a left hand handle version.

The Shimano TRX500PG pulls in string at 30 inches per turn, and the 43-inch per turn high speed version is the TRX500HG. While 2-speed reels have made short-pumping strategy almost obsolete, gaining the casting performance of these ultra-lightweight star-drag style spools, coupled with retrieve rates that can effortlessly skip jigs across the water's surface will require bringing that strategy back into play.

However, smoothness and handle size provide plenty of pulling power, when it's needed. Coupled with an 8-foot-plus stick like the longer of Daiwa's Proteus line can turn almost anyone into a surface iron launch master. The raw power needed to sling far all day long is no longer necessary. These rigs were so much fun to toss, I didn't even need fish to inspire me to spend a few hours at it.

Key elements the low-pro format brings to surface iron tossing are eliminating the need to carefully stack line as you wind, as the level wind does the job and far forward positioning takes almost no power off the cast. The incredibly light weight spool keeps energy lost to starting it spinning low. Amazing control now standard in low-pro reels allows an angler to be much less precise on spool thumbing strategy and greatly reduces the nasty tendency of brades to pull back under you thumb and catch, stopping a cast mid flight.

While I was there, also had a chance to try the star drag style Daiwa Saltiga Shimano Trinidad 12A. Here I found an interesting thing, driving me toward staying with 2-speed lever-drag reels of this style and size. On the narrower frame I prefer for casting performance, the star-drag style version fairly frequently flipped into gear as I cast.

This was mostly because I push my thumb to the far right of the reel as I release, and target switching to thumbing the spool flange as soon as metal is exposed. Two-speed leavers are more top oriented and out of the way, as the free-spool leaver on old-school reels I learned to cast with.

If you're like me, I'd recommend going all the way to 2-speed leaver drags for this and other reasons, when considering a beefy round reel for handling 65-braid to 40-pound mono and above. Modern leaver drags cast really well now, even though the heavier spool does tax the cast a little. However, the wider format "30" style star-drag reels had plenty of clearance between thumb and free-spool leaver, even for me.

Tossing tennis balls at floating hula-hoops with the Avet 2-speeds was a blast too. I just grabbed the longest most powerful stick I could find, and the selection of light-weight graphite available was amazing. While one can zero in on a reel that will work for a given task, with rods, personal preference plays a much greater roll. Some folks like to load the rod and have the stick toss the bait, while others want the rod tip to go as fast as they push it, no matter what.

Some are sticks are all about killing a fish rather than the angler once bit. Others are all about how they present the bait in the first place, regardless of how they perform in fighting the fish. Each angler picks their own right balance between the two.

Ultimately, the new larger low-pro reels push them into a new realm when it comes to saltwater fishing, including large surface irons and long-range casting of small heavies like the Flatfall, Megabait and Coltsniper.

* * *

Merit McCrea is saltwater editor for Western Outdoor News. A veteran Southern California partyboat captain, he also works as a marine research scientist with the Love Lab at the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute. He can be reached at: merit@wonews.com.

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