Rod Sizes: 5-6 weights
Best Use: Freshwater – Trout, Bass
The new Lamson Speedster is certainly a hot seller these days, so we wanted to take a more in-depth look and test it out. There are reasons that it has become so popular. First, like most Lamson Reels, it has an untraditional look. Lamson calls themselves - first and foremost - a design company that builds performance reels with sleek, contemporary design. The new Speedster is no exception. It has a sort of retro look, much like the rims on some hot-rod style car. Furthermore, the super sized arbor is extreme with an overall spool diameter of 3.75 inches. This means rapid line retrieval, however, the thinner spool width (.95 inches) also ensures that the line spools back up uniformly when reeling in. Looking at it, the thing that surprised me was how light this reel is. I tried it out on two separate rods – both 9 foot long – a 5 weight and a 6 weight. Loaded up with WF5F fly line, the reel balanced both rods near perfectly; which again, surprised me because I am used to smaller diameter trout reels. But its minimal weight is no surprise considering the amount of empty space throughout the reel’s design.
So I went fishing. The relatively warm winter day provided a nice setting for swinging small BWO soft hackle flies and I even hooked a few. What struck me immediately about its performance on the water was the smoothness of the drag and the line retrieval. Swinging soft hackles, I really wanted to fish a light drag so the fly wouldn’t cracker off or pull free upon hookup. Even the lightest settings still afforded smooth, uniform pressure. One fish (a big fat brown) had enough gusto to necessitate more pressure and the adjustment knob was quite easy to grip and tailor the setting during the fight (This is a very big pet peeve of mine – Why not build a drag knob that’s easy to turn? Seems a simple concept, but not all reels obey!) After fighting a couple fish, I started playing with the reel some more to find that there is virtually no slack at drag engagement. It engages immediately upon startup, which can be a fairly rare attribute.
The other bewildering moment came when I realized how quickly the line came back on the reel. Again, most of my longtime trout reels have small arbors, so this was sort of an awakening. I thought, so this is what I’m missing! I have long been in the habit of using my fingers to spin line back on my spool for rapid pickup. But with this reel, the difference in pickup was extremely evident making me think that 1: I might not have to use the finger technique, and 2: Wow, it’s really going to wind up fast if I do!
Ok, what else? Well it is not as if I have been using the reel for years, so I can’t tell you how it withstands the test of time, but upon immediate observation on the water, I can tell you that it worked perfectly and far better than my current reels from a performance standpoint. It’s light; it affords quick line retrieval and smooth drag. Also, it makes a bit of noise – or music rather – when the line is both, inbound or outbound. It’s not overbearing however, as it is just a clean, very subtle clicker. Here’s what else I like about the reel: The spool is removed, or locked into place by simply applying pressure with your thumbs against the spool. There are no hokey little tabs to press, or independent parts to worry about misplacing. There is comfort to be found in this well-working simplicity! Ok, here’s another: since the arbor is so large, Lamson has moved the reel handle in towards the center a little so the reel is easier to wind. Another nice attribute is if you need to change the retrieval direction on the reel, it is fairly easy to do so and instructions are provided in each reel box.
So what are my concerns with the reel? Well, since there is so much porting and the reel is so light weight, I wonder how durable the reel is. Of course, with careful/average handling there is no such concern, but I fear this reel would be worse for wear than other reels if I were to give it the hammer test. No, this not something I would ever do. That said, the reel is, indeed, built from high grade aluminum that is resistant to a lot of abuse.
Although this is nit-picky, I am not in love with the reel handle. It looks and feels rather cheap, but if it were not, you might be paying a little more money.
Overall, I am impressed with the drag system. It is very steady and sensitive. However, it does not tighten down into the Serious Stopping Power category. Sure it is fine for most trout/bass applications, but although it is saltwater-safe (Anti-Corrosive Finish), I would not want to battle saltwater critters without a stouter drag. For instance, strapping this on a six weight and hunting up bonefish is far from ideal. Furthermore, there is not nearly enough backing capacity for that sort of outing.
Whenever I hear the terms,” maintenance-free and completely enclosed drag,” I am immediately a little skeptical. Looking down into the guts of this reel, it is simply hard to tell how impervious the drag system and the bearings are to the elements. But upon frist glance, my gut tells me that it is not; but again, I do not have the luxury of giving you long-term feedback. Chances are, if you are not using a Nautilus or a Hatch, you will need to be dutiful when it comes to cleaning your reel and at the least, watching where you set it.
Rating Scale: 1-10 (1=Poor, 10=Best)*Of course, these ratings are done with as much insight as the reviewer can afford. There is certainly a lot of subjectivity concerning the scale, with Aesthetics certainly the most “personal” by nature! We have attempted to simplify our reviews with this scoring system in hopes to better display our opinions about what should be considered.
You get a lot here for the money. If you are able to look past the reel handle and the fact that the maximum drag setting is a bit lighter than other performance reels in its class, then this is an awesome, innovative option to consider. Again, long term durability has not really been covered here, but Lamson does have a great warranty program and they offer exceptional service in this regard. Personally, I would love to have one of these as a go-to trout reel and reap the rewards of fast-action line management.
Have a good time,
Duffy & The Gorge Fly Shop