See all Reviews
Write a Review
Going, Going... Just About Gone
Written: Mar 22, 2009
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Built like a tank; Quality; Warranty
Cons:Heavy by today's trout reel standards; Inconvenient spool change
The Bottom Line: Discontinued, but still available for now. A solid, well-built reel that, depending on what you value, is worth what you pay.
No, the Abel Big Game series is not gone; though a quick glance at the company's 2009 catalog and their website might lead you to believe that is the case. The short version is that the series is now "hidden" in their Super Series. As their website clearly states:
"We're not saying goodbye to our 21 year old series of Big Game reels. We’re simply renaming them Super Series standard arbor reels."
Simply put, the Super Series was the large arbor version of the Big Game Series. Several years ago, Abel made the Super and Big Game series interchangeable insofar as being able to use the spools on either frame. This allowed you to buy a Big Game reel, then later purchase a Super Series spool so that you could have a large arbor spool for a lighter line weight using the same reel and visa versa. The marketing department dubbed this "InterchangeABELity."
According to the Abel representative I spoke with, have two, separate, interchangeable series became "too confusing" for many shops. My suspicion is that said "confusion" stemmed from the fact that using the large arbor spool reduced the spool's capacity, necessitating a lighter line weight for a given reel size. For instance, the Big Game Pt. 5 reel would hold a 5 wt. line with 155 yards of 20 lb. backing or a 6 wt. line with 130 yds. of 20 lb. backing. The Super Series spool which fit on the Big Game Pt. 5 was the Super 2. Unfortunately, the Super 2 was designed to hold a 2 wt. line with 100 yds. of 20 lb. backing or a 3 wt. line with 75 yds. of 20 lb. backing.
That's a substantial difference - a difference that could and did cause some consternation if one simply ordered a Super 2 spool in the hopes of having a large arbor for a 5 or 6 weight line. It's also why it appears that the Abel Big Game Pt. 5, along with the Super 2 appears to be on the way out. In fact, Abel's website lists both as discontinued, but still available for purchase; at least while supplies last.
Available, But Disappearing
Once again quoting from their website:
"In an effort to constantly improve products, we continuously evaluate our line. And so- after much thought and the creation of the new Super Series 3n - one of our original workhorse trout reel the Big Game Pt.5 will be discontinued. Remaining reels are available in solid and ported frames and will be offered at a 25% discount."
In a nutshell, the Super Series 3N is a compromise. It represents the company's attempt to address the criticisms of the Big Game Pt. 5 insofar as a trout reel. (More on those in a moment.) Unfortunately, this compromise results in a reel with less capacity for 5 & 6 wt. lines in the standard arbor (the old "Big Game"), but increased capacity in the large arbor; i.e., the large arbor holds a 3 wt. line with 100 yds. of 20 lb. backing or a 4 wt. line with 75 yds. of 20 lb. backing.
The Big Game Pt. 5 standard arbor, while supplies last, is now available for $280 in high gloss or matte black finish with a Rosewood handle (2008 retail was $375). The ported version, available in 2008 for $420, is now being closed out at $320 in the same finishes. The Pt. 5, spool only in the same finish options currently lists for $157.50. It would appear that you can still avail yourself of all the extra finish and handle options for a variety of prices depending on your choice of options; options that are too numerous to even begin to list here.
Boat Anchor Or Simply The Best Made?
Your evaluation of whether this is a boat anchor or simply the best is greatly dependent upon your priorities. As an example, a couple of years ago, I was showing the Epinions website to another flyfisher and he caught sight of a review of both an Abel Big Game reel and an Orvis Battenkill reel; two entirely different classes (not to mention price points) of trout reel. The Abel was rated three stars while the Orvis was ranked with five. He nearly exploded: "How could the Orvis be rated a five and the Abel only rated a three?!?!" I tried to explain, patiently I hope, that opinions were subjective evaluations greatly dependent on your point of view. Were the reviews penned by the same reviewer? What was the basis of the criticism of the Abel?
The majority of reels in the Big Game series were intended for use on large, powerful fish species; i.e., Steelhead through large saltwater species. The "trout" reels in the series, generally considered to be the "0" and "Pt. 5" were, and still are, considered by many to be vastly overengineered and far too heavy for the rods, leaders/tippets, and line weights used in pursuit of trout - particularly in today's market of ultralightweight rods. How often are you going to be able to, let alone want to, use the capability of the Big Game's cork-based, "stop-a-sub" drag system when fishing for trout with leaders/tippets that are typically 4X - 7X in size (i.e., 6 lb. - 2 lb. test)? If you're among the fly rodders who simply must have the newest, boron or other ultralight rod, how heavy is the Pt. 5 standard (5.0 ounces) or even the Pt. 5 ported (4.6 ounces) going to feel on a 2 7/8 oz. ounce 9' 6 wt. Winston BIIx or a 9' 6 wt., 3 7/16 oz. Sage Z-Axis (see The Sage Z-Axis - It Might Just Get Your Mojo Workin' )?
To individuals such as these, one of the most overused descriptors is - "It's a boat anchor." To those who value quality, even though the drag system is far too much for the majority of trout fishing, the Abel Big Game Pt. 5 represented a standard which spoke less to 'value-for-the-buck' and more to an aesthetic in terms of durability, performance, and appearance. (Well, there are also those who consider it a bit of a social statement; some as a positive one, others as a trifle elitist. I won't dwell on that as I am decidedly in the value-for-the-buck social class, but appreciate and strive for the best I can get my hands on. Some refer to this as champagne tastes on a beer budget. In my case, the old "nickel beer" might be a more budget appropriate descriptor.)
Steve Abel, founder of the company, used to maintain that "a poor man can only afford to buy the best." What he meant was that if you buy a less expensive (and potentially inferior) reel, you'd end up having to replace it more than once during the normal lifespan of an Abel reel. Typically, this philosophy would be bolstered by stories of how a Big Game reel would be found at the bottom of a river after a couple of years, simply washed off, the cork oiled, and it'd be fit to fish. While this may sound like the usual, marketing hyperbole, I know of at least one such story that are absolutely true; i.e., the reel sat on the bottom of the Lower Sacramento River in California for almost two years until the flows dropped and a lucky fisherman stumbled on it. It's still in use today.
Another criticism of the Big Game reels is that inconvenience of changing spools. Most trout reels are designed so that a small spring is compressed, either by a lever or button, and the spool pops off; allowing a change from say a floating to a sinking line without having to carry a second reel or removing the reel from the rod. The Abel Big Game is engineered so that a threaded bolt must be removed (you can use a coin) as a starting point. While it is not overcomplicated and requires no special tools, it is also not as convenient or as quick a streamside switch as most other designs. In fact, a company representative definitively states that most people simply end up buying a second reel rather than messing with a spare spool. What was that I mentioned about "overengineered?"
For My Money
About a year ago, my tax return was sufficient to cover a surprisingly good deal on an Abel Pt. 5 (Yes, it was just a little better than the one Abel is now offering. Hey. I'm entitled to one of those happy circumstances once or twice a decade.) I have subsequently used it on both a Winston 8' 6" 5 wt. WT (see A Tradition That's Slowly Disappearing ) and a Winston 9' 5 wt. LTX. With a spool diameter and width of 3" and .75" respectively, it 'balances' both rods exceptionally well. Just bear in mind that I cut my teeth on 'heavy' reels and do actually prefer a rod that is 'butt' or 'grip-end' heavy. Of course, in the High Gloss black finish, looks just gorgeous to boot. (Others might prefer the matte black or 'artistic' finishes as every fingerprint, dob of floatant, etc. shows up on the High Gloss finish. But, hey. Remember, at this price, remember you are making a bit of a statement regarding aesthetics.)
Start-up on the reel is smooth and good. I tend toward a relatively light drag setting since I tend to use 6X and 7X tippets three-quarters of the time. Even with 4X and 5X tippets, I don't crank down on the drag much at all. I am also of the school that one does not adjust the drag tighter while fighting the fish, even if the substantial drag knob on the Big Game series makes it temptingly easy. Let's just say that I've had some smokin'-hot trout of steelhead lineage and 20" - 25" in size on with tippets from 5X - 7X and my Big Game Pt. 5 handled them with aplomb. Well, I did have one break off; but, as much as I'd like to, I can't blame that one on the reel, the rod, the tippet, the lunar phase, alignment of the planets, or even the young-ish dog who still had a lot puppy in him that jumped in with the idea that he was going to help this apparently nice guy land that fish.
Maintenance has been a dream. Just simply put a dab of Neat's Foot Oil on the cork a couple times a year. Converting the drag from left-hand (as it is shipped from the factory) to right-hand retrieve was a minor fiddle, but not much worse than some other, 'older' reel designs. Remember, the Big Game reel has been around for over 20 years without too much in the way of design changes. Which, I suppose, says something in-and-of itself.
One of those few and tiny changes is in the fact that the Big Game Pt. 5 now comes with an out-going click. I once asked Steve Abel why the reels were silent as line was pulled from the reel. He claimed he liked to hear the sound of the line as it passed through the rod's guides. As I pointed out (and as many, many, many others evidently responded), I knew when I was retrieving line, but I couldn't always hear the line in the guides, nor could I always take the time to look to see if line was going out and I definitely did not want to grab the line to tell. As a concession to those of us without the 'proper' aesthetic appreciation, Abel gave this reel an out-going click several years ago.
Simply put, it has been much appreciated.
Wrappin' It Up
Is the Abel Pt. 5 worth the price you pay for a trout reel? Again, it depends on where you place your priorities. I will say that I'm not personally scrambling to put out $300 on another one. But, I do know others who see it as an opportunity they can't afford to see get past 'em. Now, if I had the extra money, I'd probably grab one for the same reason. As it currently stands, I will probably try to get my hands on a spare spool.
There's the additional thought that part of what you're paying for is the warranty. In addition to the lifetime warranty for repair or replacement due to defects, you get the following:
"For a nominal fee of $20 plus postage and handling, Abel will clean, inspect and re-lubricate your reel. We recommend every 5-10 years. Should the ball bearings need replacement due to normal wear, there will be no additional cost-of-materials charge."
Did I mention that Steve Abel's philosophy was that "a poor man can only afford to buy the best." Unfortunately, as with many, more 'traditional' (some might say the 'best') aspects vis a vis the tools of the sport, the Abel Big Game Pt. 5 is just about gone.
Read all 1 Reviews
Write a Review
Abel Products from Angler's Habitat Abel Spey Reel with a free fly line up to a $80.00 value. To meet the demand of steelhead, salmon and other big wa...
The Abel Super Series 6N (Narrow) Standard Arbor is a very attractive, meticulously constructed, and tremendously smooth-functioning fly reel. Made fr...
Shop for Abel Super Series Quick Change and other fly fishing Reels at RiverBum.com and save. Great flies, fly fishing gear, equipment & More...
Here we have the Abel #4 Pliers and Knife Combination with Leather Sheath NEW in Package. This Model is the Standard Pliers and is 6 1/2inches in Leng...
Abel Pliers are widely recognized as the best fishing pliers money can buy and with good reason as they have every feature fishermen want - lightweigh...