This summer I had the opportunity to test several ultra-large arbor reels, reels with a spool diameter of 4.8” to 5.5”. I will tell you, I am impressed.
The reels I tested are the Lamson-Waterworks Speedster 4, the Orvis Mirage VII-S, and the Allen Kraken XLA 5. My “standard” large arbor reel is a Ross Momentum LT 5, I used it for any baseline comparisons.
To start with, these are all exceptional reels, any of them would work perfectly for pike fishing. All have adequate capacity for 10 wt lines and lots of backing. All have drags more than adequate for fresh water fishing.
Allen Flyfishing Kraken XLA 5
This reel is a beautiful piece of machinery. Fit and finish is excellent. Everything is very smooth, both incoming and outgoing. It had the fastest rate of retrieve (14.5” per crank) and the strongest drag (by far). It was the largest of my test reels with a diameter of 5.5”. A neat design feature moves the crank inboard about one inch, making this reel feel much smaller while retrieving. Currently only available as a LH retrieve. At 8.9 ounces, this is an incredibly light reel for its size.
Orvis Mirage VII-S
The “S” (for shallow) designation refers to the spool depth, a size VII-D Mirage reel is the same diameter with a much smaller arbor, giving significantly greater line capacity. I like this reel a lot, the black nickel finish is both a little unusual and very attractive. The reel is very smooth, as is the drag. This reel also had far more drag than I could ever imagine needing. The handle is mounted in the traditional manner, so the cranking radius feels somewhat larger than the other 2 reels I tested. At 5″ in diameter and 11.7 ounces, this was the heaviest reel in my test, but it never felt unbalanced on my 10 wt rod.
Waterworks-Lamson Speedster 4
Lamson reels have a strong following, and it is easy to see why. The machining, fit and finish, and style of this reel are first rate. The retrieve is silky smooth. Lamson’s conical drag is also smooth, but not nearly as powerful as either of the other reels compared here. More than adequate for pike, but I would hesitate to use this as a tarpon reel. The crank handle is somewhat inboard, about halfway between the other two reels. At 4.8″ and 8.5 ounces, this is a the lightest ultra large arbor reel in my test.
Ross Momentum LT 5
I have used this reel for the last 7 or so years, abused might even be a more accurate description. It has never given me any trouble. There is a little play in the spool, and it has a few nicks and scratches here and there, but I’ll bet there are hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of pike left in it yet. A well respected reel from a well respected manufacturer, it will always have a place in my gear. 8.5 ounces, the same as the Lamson. At 9.5” per crank, this was the slowest rate of retrieve. All retrieve numbers were measured with a full spool.
I admit it, I have a new favorite reel. While all of these reels were very nice, the XLA was just, well, nicer. Its looks are striking, a definite attention getter. It was a pleasure to fish with, and the LH only retrieve was not an issue for me. Super smooth and crazy fast, all I can say is “Wow!”
This was obviously a very unscientific test. The essence here is that any of the new ultra large arbor reels make fantastic fishing tools. If you spend a little time with one, the extravagantly large profile will begin to grow on you. Fish with one for a while and the traditional, standard arbor reels will start to look disproportionately small.
Flyfishing is about pleasure. If a new piece of equipment increases my pleasure, either by making things easier or by working better, or both, why wouldn’t I be interested?
Give one of these bad boys a look, you might become a convert too.