Editor’s Note: Need some new gear for a late-summer angling adventure? Looking for the next best thing for 2018? Military Times outdoors columnist Ken Perrotte has you covered. Read all about the latest reels and combos below, and click the links for reviews on lures, boats and accessories. Items with an asterisk (*) earned best-in-class honors at this year’s American Sportfishing Association’s ICAST show, short for International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, in Orlando, Florida. Prices all are MSRP unless noted.


Lew’s continues its winning ways with this combo featuring an SLP, or Super Low Profile, compact Speed Spool reel with a one-piece IM8 graphite blank constructed using Lew’s proprietary Nano technology. The 7.5:1 gear-ratio reel has a graphite frame and sideplates. It has 10 double-shielded, stainless steel bearings and ZeroReverse anti-reverse.

The main gear and crankshaft are solid brass. The 32mm machined and anodized U-shape aluminum spool helps the reel achieve its compact design. Other features include multisetting braking, 95mm bowed aluminum handle with Winn Dri-Tac knobs, a 20-pound carbon drag system, and American Tackle Airwave rod guides. Available in right- and left-hand models. $199.99. Available in October.


Kids can fish with favorite Star Wars combos in this Zebco line extension, targeted toward specific age and ability levels. Kids 3 and up might like the BB-8 droid combo, which features a 30-inch rod with a closed-face reel. Zebco’s new patent-pending tangle-free rod tip on this combo helps reduce the problem of kids wrapping line around the tip. The reel’s thumb button is oversized for easy activation.

The rod also contains a safe hook storage chamber. And the whole thing floats, in case kids accidentally drop it in the lake. $14.99. Older Star Wars fans can get the Rey and Kylo Ren combo (ages 6-9, $17.99) or the Darth Vader spinning combo or 6-foot telescoping Vader combo (both $29). All are available now.


These affordable combos debuted last year and became available for use last winter. We tried a couple on frozen Lake Champlain in Vermont. The rods vary in length from 27 to 38 inches, each designed for different types of ice fishing — from close-quarters work inside a shelter to jigging deepwater for suspended fish. The rods are made from a solid graphite blank and sport stainless steel ice guides. The handles are tapered cork. The reels have a machined aluminum spool and 4 bearings. MSRP is about $60, but combos are selling for about $40 at many retailers.


The Concept Z from 13 Fishing is touted as the world’s first high-performance reel with zero metal ball bearings. Instead, the reel has “Concept Zero Bearings” made of a polymer. The difference, over time, is that the polymer bearings can’t corrode. How long they hold up compared to traditional bearings is the big variable.

People using the new reel during on-the-water tests noted it performed as well as many other baitcasters they had handled. It weighs 6.1 ounces, has Arrowhead line guides, six-way centrifugal braking, 22 pounds of drag, saltwater protection treatment and Japanese Hamai cut gearing. $200. Available in February.


Pflueger’s new, award-winning Supreme QRS, short for Quick Release Spool, is among the most affordable of the newer fly fishing reels. It has an interchangeable large arbor, polycarbonate cassette spool system. The reel is a machined aluminum alloy and includes a dual spool four-line rating, a quick release line sliding system and a line indication system. $149.99. Available in September.


This is a “value” offering in the popular Revo lineup. It has a lightweight, alloy frame, seven stainless steel bearings and a roller bearing, a “carbon matrix” hybrid drag system rigid reel, and the oversized handles now common in many reels. It comes in multiple sizes with gear ratios ranging from 5.4:1 to 7.3:1. It’s available in both left- and right-hand retrieve and weighs 8.3 ounces. $99.95. Available in September.


This nice combo pairs a graphite rod (stainless steel guides, zirconium inserts) with a carbon-body reel sporting a graphite rotor and aluminum spool. The 6.2:1 gear ratio reel has six stainless steel bearings and a roller bearing, and the “carbon matrix” hybrid drag system. Available in two versions (7-foot and 6-foot-6-inch). $149.95. Available in September.


The Curado line has been hugely popular and reliable for years. Shimano tweaks it with the K model, featuring new “MicroModule Gearing.” This is a larger gear than past models with more, but smaller, teeth. Gear ratios range from 6.2:1 to a blazing 8.5:1 that retrieves 36 inches of line with every crank of the handle.

Also new: the SVS Infinity centrifugal braking system, with brake weights that use inner friction against the raceway during the cast to control spool speed. The reel is designed for either fresh or saltwater use and comes in three models, each with left- or right-handed cranking. The body and other parts are mostly a mix of aluminum and carbon matrix. It’s a nice reel that feels as smooth as models costing a C-note more. Weighs just 7.6 ounces. $179. Available in September.


Quantum says this is their best baitcasting reel in 30 years. It has eight anti-corrosion, two-speed bearings and one roller bearing, all designed for either freshwater or saltwater conditions. A sapphire jeweled spool tension washer, like those used in watch crystals, gives the spool shaft a smoother, harder surface to turn against. Quantum shoehorns a larger 35.5mm spool into a compact frame, preserving line capacity.

A new ACS 4.0 cast control minimizes the amount of energy it takes to get the spool spinning on a cast, along with additional brakes that disengage around 5,000 rpm to maximize distance. The external braking dial comes with 16 settings. The oversized handle is made of carbon fiber. Available gear ratios are 6.1:1 and 7.3:1. It comes with a 3-year warranty. $199.99. Available in October.


This affordable LT (short for “lighter, tougher”) reel is lightweight, with a carbon-based material housing. The sealed main shaft keeps water and other problems out and delivers easy cycling. Daiwa says the key is using a special “Magoil” seal that can be magnetically solidified like a packing on a boat’s propeller shaft. The handle is machined aluminum. The reel has six ball bearings and one roller bearing. Available in sizes from 1000 to 4000 and gear ratios of 5.2:1 and 6.2:1. $99. Available now.


This small company in Virginia’s Northern Neck makes big-sized reels, performance-wise. This new model takes the company’s most popular small-game reel and gives it an even narrower profile, reducing weight without sacrificing power and torque. It’s a lever-action drag model with a carbon fiber washer. It has a 6:1 gear ratio, retrieving 38 inches of line per crank.

This reel has a mix of stainless steel and ceramic bearings, stainless steel shafts and gears, and a rod clamp. It also comes with a lifetime warranty. $250. Available now.

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