First things first, take a look at the reel pictured here, click on the pictures to have a better look and then have a guess at how much you think a reel like this would cost you by the first impression it creates. The price will be indicated later in this review, but I think that you'll find the comparison quite revealing.
For the benefit of the reader, I'll firstly list the features of the reel as they appear on the box:
High strength, corrosion resistance, graphite frame, six bearing system, machined aluminium spool, infinite anti-reverse, fine click drag system, tough machine cut gears, gear ratio 5.1:1, line capacity 140yds/12lb.
Sounds impressive and certainly the sort of features that you'd expect to find on a reel that's approaching the top of the quality range and, therefore, the top of the price range. However, that's where the shock comes: The Banax Tova 600L reel retails at just £59.99, with it's smaller brother, the three bearinged 300L scraping in at just one penny below £50.
The proof of the pudding with this reel was, therefore, going to be in the eating. Could a Korean reel of little notoriety possible live up to the claim on the box that it was made with 'The Best Engineering In The World'? Loaded up with 30lb braid, the only way to find out was to give it a go.
A break in the weather meant that the only place that I could try was a local 'hard' water, where I expected to catch little. In fact, I caught nothing, so don't expect amazing pictures and claims that the reel will guarantee you 30lb fish from the word 'go'!
The reel itself certainly looks the part. It's compact and hugs the rod, facilitating a nice, comfortable grip for an average sized man. How a big fella would feel with it, I don't know. I've often wondered how big hands cope with such things as small hooks and tackle, but they do, so I probably should set my mind to more important things. Some of the components are formed from a plastic material, but they are finished neatly and tastefully and don't really cheapen the reel. Initial impressions are that everything worked smoothly - the spool release mechanism (located at the rear of the spool) was simple to use and didn't once fail to engage, there was virtually no 'play' in the handle and the retrieve was oh so smooth! Being an 'unknown' make to me, I kept expecting to find a fault with this reel. Perhaps this is the only area in which it has let me down so far!
Casting with a baitcaster for a beginner is not the easiest of tasks, so if you are planning to buy a baitcaster for the first time, be prepared to almost write off your fist few sessions with it. Invariably, you will be embarking on a fairly steep learning curve - one that will give you a slight sense of superiority when you are nearing the end of it. There are some articles planned on this subject for the future, so it's worth coming back to Anglers' Net just to save you the price of umpteen spools of braid, although I'm sure that Brundall Angling Centre won't mind if you buy more than one!
Whilst I make no claim to be the world's greatest angler, I have had some experience with multiplier reels and found that, once I'd tensioned the spool properly, casting with braid was not a problem. I erred on the side of caution, where perhaps I would have gone for those extra few inches with 'my' reel, but feel confident that experience with this reel will make it a joy to fish with. To me, however, the real pleasure with this particular item of tackle (as hinted above) is the retrieve. If you use fixed spool reels for plugs, I urge you to at least borrow a decent baitcaster loaded with braid one day and experience the thrill and extra control that you will have by being able to, quite literally, feel every wobble and bump as you bring your lure towards you. (Enough of that, there's at least two or three articles worth of information on that subject!).
Perhaps the biggest selling point for anglers in the UK is the fact that the Banax Tova's are left hand retrieve! Right hand retrieve 'American' style reels seem to be dominating the baitcasting market, and this could well be the reel that many anglers have been waiting for!
I originally thought that if I absolutely had to pick a fault with this reel, then I'd actually pick two. Number one was that the level wind, whilst it appears to work admirably, looked like it could be the only possible weak link. It would appear that I was wrong and that it is, in fact, tougher than my wife's bread and butter pudding, but it's the only bit of the reel that doesn't seem to fit in with the 'expensive' look. Having said that, I recently looked at some more expensive 'competitors' at Anglin99, and they had the same sort of set-up, so I think that it's me who has the weak link in my design, and not the Banax Tova! The other nit-picky thing is that I believe that this is a superb reel for somebody wanting to get started in baitcasting and could, therefore, benefit from the insertion of some kind of 'instructions'. I'm not saying that I'd expect to see user instructions, because this rarely happens in the real world, but wouldn't it be nice if a manufacturer, or perhaps even a forward thinking tackle shop, could understand that not everyone buying a reel has buckets of experience. This is a superb little reel and I'd hate to think that somebody may not appreciate this fact purely because they are struggling to use it to its full potential. When all is said and done, however, this is one piece of equipment where the pros far outweigh the cons, especially as we haven't been able to find anything wrong with it so far!
If you'd like to find out more about this reel, then please contact the Brundall Angling Centre on 01603 715289. I doubt that you'll find a better reel of this ilk for less than £60 and I have heard that the £50 3-bearing model performs well, too. Please mention Anglers' Net if you do contact Brundall Angling Centre - it is through the support of people like them that Anglers' Net will continue to grow.
1st May, 1999