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The Fish Magnet Gear Guide
Steelhead and Salmon Spey Fishing
By Dave Robinson

Dave Robinson Fish Magnet Gear Review

November 22, 2016

Featured Gear: Waterworks Lamson Reels

I will tell you I have had quite a bunch of these reels! If I wasn't such a gear whore always buying, selling and trying new stuff, for better or worse, I would still have an ARX 4+ and a Speedster 4+ HD for sure.

I have, however, put these reels through their paces with some hard running big steelhead and salmon. I am going to review only the models that I think really fit the bill for Spey rods in the 12-14 foot range. If you have a switch rod that needs a bit lighter reel, then read on because all of the reels I'm reviewing here come in smaller lighter sizes just for you!

My introduction to these great reels started when I first went fishing with Jeff Layton at custom fly shop. Actually even earlier, after I bought his Reel Scream video. He was using an older Lamson ULA in the footage and man did it sound great on the long runs that were featured on the video! Coincidentally, Jeff still uses Lamson reels and still has and fishes his old ULAs!

I ended up with one of those big ULA reels and used it for a lot of fish. I was unsatisfied ultimately with it though, as it was not a full cage reel, and the mono running line would sometimes get out of the captured spool. That doesn't happen often, especially once your casting tightens up to where you don't have running line whipping all over the place! Read on about full frame reels that don't allow this to happen. HD in the reel title means full frame and would also indicate that there is a non HD reel available. For Mono running line, you really want an HD version or a model that is inherently a full cage reel. For an integrated non mono line it is merely a matter of preference.

The drag on a Lamson is a cone riding inside of what looks like a bearing race inverted cone. As it turns it wants to be loose and get away from the race but as you tighten the drag it comes into more contact. Can you think of anything more simple and foolproof?!

Let's start with the Ultimate Lamson Reel.

The ARX 4+

 It is a really fantastic reel, it fits the bill on all levels and is close to as good as it gets. At $499 it is worth every penny and as good as reels for twice as much. The 3.5+ costs a bit less at $469.

Specifications:  Model      Diameter        Width         Weight         Backing Capacity #30 Dacron

                            ARX 4+           4.48               1.5                10.5                 275 yards

                            ARX 3+            4                    1.5                 8.8                   150 yards

These reels are a fully caged, large arbor reel with lots of capacity. I particularly like the drag knob that is still easy to use with gloves on yet doesn't grab at the running line on long casts.

It sounds great with an external clicker that is louder going out than coming back in.

It has Lamson's hard Alox finish that is really great about not chipping. One thing I REALLY like about this reel is that the frame is cut away on the bottom to allow palming of the spool. If you're like me, I like to set my drag low to medium to protect my tippets from breaking or pulling loose on an ill hooked fish and palm the reel if need be. This reel allows palming with ease.

It also holds a ton of line and backing for Skeena River like fish and runs. I like to fill a reel most of the way with Dacron, then put about 200 yards of gel spun on top. The gel spun is much smaller in diameter and you not only get a lot more backing on, but you end up with an even larger arbor usage because the gel spun takes up so little space on the spool.

Dave Robinson Fish Magnet Gear Review

See Waterworks Lamson Reels (click here)

On the Fish Magnet rating scale I give this 10/10 grabs and can find nothing about this reel that is a negative!

Lamson Speedster 4+ HD $429

4.82" diameter    1.25 in wide    9.38 oz.    250 yards backing

The non HD model is 8.5 oz. and would be very similar in weight and useful with an integrated line instead of mono, and would save you a bit of money.

In the fall of 2015 I was on the Klickitat and hooked a slab of a king salmon that put this reel to work. I eventually lost this fish to a bad hook set but managed to land another in the 17 lb. range. One thing I notice with the bigger diameter reels is the ability to almost "walk a fish up" because of how well you can smoothly bring line in without pulsing the rod which sets off a fish into running again.

I particularly love this reel as well. It has the usual nice drag sound. It comes in Black or Silver Hard Alox coatings. It is an extreme large arbor reel at about 14 inches of line retrieved per revolution! I really have a love affair with 5 inch diameter reels for that reason. I have had too many fish on that ran at me and were hard to catch up to. The only con I can put against this reel is that the drag knob is very low profile. It doesn't bother me much though as I usually pre adjust my drag and don't mess with it much. But it would be a little difficult to adjust with gloves on or cold fingers. It is nice for new casters though because the knob is made so that even mono won't catch on it.

Dave Robinson Fish Magnet Gear Review

See Waterworks Lamson Reels (click here)

The Fish Magnet Scale gives this reel a 9/10 grabs. Only because of the low profile drag knob.

Guru HD II $289

Diameter 4.48"    Width 1.31"    7.24 oz.    250 yards backing

At $289 if this reel appeals to you is a very good buy. Especially if you have a lighter or shorter rod that would balance well with a 7 oz. reel.

This reel also has a fairly low profile drag knob but is different than the Speedster. It too will shuck off mono running line but be a little harder to adjust on the fly. Lamson has knocked this out of the park with this lower end high quality reel. Also a full cage large arbor reel with nice dimensions and a great drag sound. This is not the Hard Alox but a type ll Pewter finish. Lamson does a lot of finishes on these different price level reels. Each new finish may or may not be as good as the next but from what I have seen, they hold up and look good for a long time.

Dave Robinson Fish Magnet Gear Review

See Waterworks Lamson Reels (click here)

Fish Magnet Rating 9/10 Grabs.

I want to give it a 10 but drag knob is a little inconvenient to get ahold of with gloves or cold fingers. This is one tough reel!

Litespeed Micra LS 4 $439

Diameter 4.63"    width 1.3"    8.6 oz.    250 yards backing

This reel has a hard Micralox finish, thus the Micra in the name. Lamson is genius for the different finishes they have put on their reels and this is no exception.

This reel fits in my box of perfect spec sizes. I like a reel in the 9-11 oz. range that can be used on a number of rod applications. This is one of the newer and higher end reels in the lineup. It fills the gap between the Speedster HD 4 and the Guru 4+. It may be the perfect reel for a longer switch rod application or shorter, or a well-balanced spey rod.

It is machined Aluminum with Stainless components. This reel like the ARX has a pronounced drag knob for ease of adjustment on the fly with a fish going berserk on the end of the line!

Dave Robinson Fish Magnet Gear Review

See Waterworks Lamson Reels (click here)

Fish Magnet Rating 10/10 Grabs

Remix HD

$219 for a reel. Or pay $299 for a reel, 2 spare spools and a handy case

Diameter 4.79"    Width 1.37"    8.29 oz.    250 yards backing

Wow! What a bargain, built on a proven frame and drag design. Look at these specs, Almost 5 inches in diameter, and narrow enough for even line retrieval. Over 8 ounces and a big arbor backing capacity for a measly $219! Make it $299 and it comes in a nice case with two additional spools and you have a reel ready to go for 3 rods at the snap of the spool! It also has a big easy to adjust drag knob.

This is a unique reel. Really a hybrid of components. The frame is the usual C&D milled aluminum for strength and finish with a liquid cast spool to reduce building price to allow the budget minded buyer to have a really nice reel that will last a lifetime for half the price. Liquid casting is not the stigma it once was. It's a very precise and strong material now, not the brittle weak pot metal it use to be.

I wish this reel was an ounce or two heavier and I would get a 3 piece kit for spare rods. I like my rod to balance more to the butt but everyone is different that way.

This reel has custom color hub sleeves for only $10 in orange, blue and green. A great way to distinguish reels.

Dave Robinson Fish Magnet Gear Review

See Waterworks Lamson Reels (click here)

Fish Magnet Grab Rating 9/10 only knocking off a point because I feel a reel of this awesome size should be a 9 or 10 oz. reel, but chalk that up to personal preference! Make it a 10/10 if you like the weight.

Lamson Liquid LQ4

$99 for a reel and $159 for a reel, 2 spare spools and a nice case.

Diameter 4.65    Width 1.37    8.9 oz.    250 yard backing capacity

Once again, a perfect example of perfect Spey specifications. This reel right at 9 oz. will be very versatile for many rods.

This reel has a die cast frame and spool but don't let that bother you too much. It has the same proven drag and bearing system as all Lamson reels and their lifetime warranty.

Pros- Spay perfect dimensions, great warranty and also available for only $10 you can customize these reels with a colored hub sleeve.

Cons- Low profile drag knob resists hanging line on but is hard to grip with gloves on or cold fingers.

If I was buying my first setup or budget minded I would get a Redington Chromer 8136-4 or the 8126-4 rod, and either this Lamson Liquid or Remix reel.

Dave Robinson Fish Magnet Gear Review

See Waterworks Lamson Reels (click here)

Fish Magnet Rating 10/10 grabs for an unbelievable value in this Lifetime warranty Lamson.

In Conclusion, I have also had to call the service department at Lamsons a couple of times. Once for a stiff hub on a Speedster, they didn't ask for anything, just sent me one in two days!

Another time I bought an old ULA off Ebay that had a broken and missing clicker piece. Once again, they asked me about the reel, and just sent me one. They don't care who the original owner is. These reels have a true lifetime warranty like you've never seen, and fantastic customer service.

These are my favorite low and mid- priced reels on the market period! The ARX especially at under $500 is as close to perfect spey reel as you can buy at any price. Reels up to $1100 have nothing on this reel that is perceptibly better. There are other factors involved in reel testing, taking into account drag startup, smoothness of retrieve, sound, inches of line per rotation etc.…. But guess what? Most of that is hard to detect in the heat of the battle and is mostly just splitting hairs!

You can catch fish with a bad cast, but you will catch more with a good one!

See all of Dave Robinson's gear review articles (click here)

Learn more about Dave, and see some of the fish he catches (click here) - Jeff Layton/Grabflies