TO ABEC OR NOT TO ABEC
by: TODD IWAMOTO
Hmm, you're probably thinking, what the heck is this guy talking about? ABEC?
Let me start off by asking some questions:
Have you ever been at the edge of a vast frog mat and knew if you could get your cast to the back of a small hole, the fish of a lifetime is waiting for your frog?
Spots are busing bait all around you; but just out of range and by the time you get there, they're gone. You're in the back of the boat and can't quite reach the bank.
"If only I could cast a little further," you say.
Has your arm felt tired after a day of hardcore pitching when it seemed like you were fighting with your reel to get the extra distance needed but knew regular casting would not get the same accuracy?
These are a few of the scenarios where a simple upgrade of your bearings would make a world of a difference between a good and great day.
If you are like most of us, you pay very little attention to the ball bearings in your reels except when advertisements tells you this, "Xtra spectacular reel has 15 ball bearings," or whatever. What and how does it really affect the performance of your reel anyway, when some reels have many and other few but they are all pretty smooth and perform adequately?
The answer is twofold, but I am here to help you get extra performance from your reel whether you have a $50 or $500 reel. A simple change of your ball bearings in your spool will make a world of difference both in effort and distance.
First, a look at the diminutive ball bearing and some locations on the reel where it supports the spool:
As you can see, there is not a whole lot to these. Some balls have a cage (holding the balls in place) and an inner and outer race. Pretty simple and end of story, right?
To put simply, the ball bearings play a big role in performance. Both stainless steel and ceramic balls all have varying degrees of tolerance, how close to symmetrical they are. The tighter the specs, the better they perform. Reels have ball bearings that are rated on the ABEC scale. But, something you might be hard pressed to find out from the manufacturer, is the exact rating of their bearings. ABEC stands for Annular Bearing Engineering Committee of the American Bearing Manufactures Association. The ABEC scale is the industry accepted standard for the tolerances of the ball bearing. Bearings are scaled from ABEC 1 to ABEC 9. Using the Curado as a baseline, most reels in this category have somewhere in the neighborhood of ABEC 3 rated ball bearings. These are good but putting in ABEC 5 or ABEC 7 will make a HUGE difference in the ease of casting and distance.
An example of the difference in a simple test was seeing how long a spool would spin. In this case I took a reel that has been used and abused, a Chronarch MG50. I had recently got it serviced at Mike's Reel Repair (I'm not sponsored but have to tell you what a great job he does!) and was already amazed how smooth everything was but wanted to do the spool spin test. Nineteen seconds of spinning. Not bad as I've always been amazed at how easy to pitch 5 and 6 –inch Senkos with the reel. With some newly purchased Boca ABEC 7 Orange Seal Bearings in (www.bocabearings.com) the spin test went from 19 seconds to 47 seconds. That's two and a half times better!
Todd Iwamoto is a successful tournament angler from California, has competed in events as a co-angler, team partner and in his kick boat. Todd is very creative always thinking outside the box; working to find ways to be a better angler and catch more bass. Learning from all he encounters we appreciate him sharing his knowledge with BASS ANGLER. Big Bear Fishing Rods and Boca Bearings sponsor Todd.
The first time I took the reel out to the Delta I was having trouble overcastting. My pitches would crash hard into the tulles. It also took less effort to pitch. I had so much fun with this I ended up losing a couple fish as while admiring my pitches and the reel while the fish swam DEEP into the junk.
Now this is where it gets interesting, you can choose to do it yourself or get a professional to do it for you. If you are mechanically inclined and already service your reels and would like to attempt this, bearings, in most reels, are fairly easy to replace. The problem comes with the bearings on the spool assembly with a spool pin.
There are various ways to remove this pin from pliers with holes drilled into the pliers to specific spool holders along with just placing the spool on a giving (plastic, wood) surface and lightly using a pin remover tool (1/16 inch is recommended). Daiwa's, Abu's and the older Shimano's have this spool pin (I don't own the other reels so am sorry I don't have this information).
The new Shimano's are one of the easiest with the bearing in the spool cap along with the side plate. Just be careful with the tiny springy bearing retainer. You want to be extra careful about not losing the retainer clip by putting the reel in a plastic bag before removing the clip, a nice hint from the guys over at Tackle Tour.
There are many quality reel mechanics out there and there are a few good reel repair shops advertised in our classified section.
Once you have your new bearings in you reel you can decide to add a little light oil or keep them dry. In some cases the newer ceramic bearings don't really need to be oiled but I've noticed they were nosier than having some oil in them. Make sure you buy your bearings DRY as you have the option to add your favorite oil to them.
I hope this has helped you to gain a little more distance and comfort from your reel. If you need advice beyond this article go to the Tackle Tour (www.tackletour.net) "Shop Talk" forum and go to the Maintenance & Super Tuning section. They were the inspiration for getting me into this.
Now get on the water and start enjoying the casting and catching more!