By Mike Schoonveld
When the new braided lines were introduced and became popular with saltwater anglers, reel-makers adapted. They quickly developed new models specifically for the new skinny line. These braid-crankers were scaled down in overall size, fitted with relatively massive drag systems, and engineered with super-high gear ratios. Physical size, strictly to increase line capacity, wasn’t needed. Six-hundred yards of braid will fit on a reel with only a 200 yard capacity for monofilament.
Just half-filling a reel with braid is a lousy option. A reel with a full spool of line may wind on 24 inches of line with each turn of the handle. The same reel with only a half-filled spool will wind on only 12 inches per handle revolution.
By the same token, a tough fighting fish pulling line off a reel at 10 feet per second, spins the spool against the drag mechanism twice as fast with a half-filled reel. A drag system that may handle 100 rpm’s may fail completely at 200.
Reels for the Great Lakes market didn’t adapt. Though the use of braid (or equally skinny wireline) has increased, almost all the braid and wireline guys continued to use the same reels they formerly spooled with mono. To make it work, they wound on enough mono to nearly fill the reel’s spool, then topped off the spool with braid or wire. The line under the braid or wire on top was filler used solely to insure a reasonable amount of line was retrieved with each turn of the handle and to make the drag work efficiently.
I don’t know if Shimano’s newly designed Tekota-A models are designed to specifically to bridge the gap between braid and mono, but they do, and quite nicely. Shimano Tekotas (the original model) are, in the opinion of many, the best Great Lakes trolling reel ever made. I have Shimano Tekotas on my boat, I’ve fished with them on other boats and have nary a complaint about them. So why change to the Takota-A?
The change isn’t just cosmetic between the old and new versions. Available (at this writing) in 500 and 600 sizes with the same line capacity as the “non-A” Tekota 500 and 600, that’s where the comparison ends. The originals had a gear ratio of 4.2:1. The “A-Team” has a gear ratio of 6.3:1. (Rough math comparison, with full spools, the A model winds on 37 inches of line, the original will retrieve 25 inches with each handle revolution.)
The drag on the original Tekota’s maxed out at 18 pounds; the Tekota-A torques down to 24 pounds. The increased power means the drag will perform better, more smooth, more reliable, no matter how tight it is set, no matter how full the spool.
My test reels (Tekota 500A’s in the line-counter version) have performed flawlessly for two seasons now. I spooled one with a 30-pound braided line, the other with 40-pound 19-Strand Torpedo Wire. I needed a bit of monofilament backing to bring 500 feet of wire and 200 yards of the braid to reach “full spool.” The reels were mounted on diver rods and used for diver trolling.
I formerly used Tekota 600’s for trolling divers with the same amount of braid or wire but needed more mono backing under the top to fill the reel to the right level. I needed the full spool diameter to give me an adequate line retrieval per crank. The high gear ratio on the Tekota A more than made up for the smaller diameter spool on the smaller 500-size reel. In use, the smaller 500A is noticeably lighter, the drag holds nicely against the pressure on the troll and slips smoothly when a big fish hits the lure. I ran each diver, at times, with as much as 200 feet of line out. I really appreciated the high speed retrieve when reeling in just the diver and lure – no fish – on the longer line sets.
Tekota lovers, if you are buying another reel, the Tekota-A are as good or better than the original Tekota’s, the “better” means you can easily get by with the smaller 500A if the line capacity suits your needs. There’s a reason the Shimano Tekota-A reels won Best of Show at the 2018 ICAST event and has been a winner on my boat for the past two seasons.