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March 8, 2011 / flogginwater

Gear Corner – Okuma Rods and Shimano and Abu Garcia Reels

Welcome to my first Gear Corner review. These will be my subjective reviews on various pieces of equipment – rods, reels, terminal tackle… it’s mostly going to focus on gear I like – but occasionally I might wind up sharing with you gear I *don’t* like. Any gear I write about will either be owned by me, or possibly on loan from another fisherman. I have yet to have tackle manufacturers offer me new gear to test for free. I won’t turn down such samples if they’re ever presented, but for now, I’m just some little independent blogger and fisherman who has to buy his own stuff. Which isn’t bad.

Over the years I’ve had a lot of different brands of rods, reels, and other tackle filling my arsenal. Some of it has been good, some bad, some mediocre, some has been great, and some has been utter crap. About 9 years ago, I was searching for a nice long, light rod for trout and smallmouth bass fishing. I had other ultra lights – up till that point all my gear rods were on the short side, 6’6″ was the longest. I wanted something longer. My quest took me to Fisherman’s Marine Supply in Oregon City – where I found gold, made by Okuma. Okuma was just really becoming a hot name in fishing tackle back then. The rod I found was from their Celilo line, named after Celilo Falls here in the PNW. The rod was a 7 foot 6 inch light action spinning rod, rated for 4-10lb test line, and lure weights as low as 1/32nd ounce. I paired this rod up with one of my Shimano TX 4000 spinning reels, and filled it up with 4lb test line.

It did great for what I bought it for – fishing light jigs and spinner baits for smallmouth bass and trout. I could chuck a light jig head with a 1 1/2″ grub a country mile, and when the fish hit and I hooked up – it was even more of a blast. It quickly became my favorite rod to fish with for everything short of salmon.

Fast forward to about 2009 – my Celilo is firmly entrenched as my most loved non-fly rod, and I decide to expand my collection of ultra light rods, along with getting back into salmon and steelhead fishing after a hiatus from it. With so many years of happiness from my original Celilo, I turned to Okuma. I found a 7′ ultra light rod for 2-6lb test, a 9′ heavy action casting rod rated for 20-40lb test, and a medium action 9’6″ casting rod. Being a fan of Shimano and Abu Garcia reels – I paired up my new ultra light with a Shimano Sienna 1000FD reel, replaced the old TX 4000 on the 7’6″ rod with an Abu Garcia Ultra Cast 2000 I recieved as a gift from my father in law – and put a Shimano Corvalus 401 on my heavy rod. The medium drift rod got paired up with the Abu Garcia 6301 C3 I’d purchased a season earlier. The 6301 wound up getting sold and replaced with a low profile Abu Garcia Black Max reel. I only got to fish with that Black Max on the 9’6″ one time before it got stolen from me. The steelhead rod was replaced with a Celilo 8’6″ 6-12lb casting setup, paired up with the most excellent Abu Garcia Revo S-L reel.

Last summer (2010) I replaced the Ultra Cast on my 7’6″ rod with a Shimano Sienna 2500HD reel after being so impressed with the 1000FD on the 7′ rod. I bought another Celilo rod – a 6′ ultra light – for my wife, and it wears the Ultra Cast reel now.

I added two more rods to the stable for steelhead fishing – an 8’6″ spinning rod for 6-12lb line, which got the old trusty TX 4000 brought out of retirement and spooled up with 8lb line. Then I added a 9’6″ medium action spin rod, which got paired up with a new Shimano Sienna 4000HD reel. The 8’6″ rod got given to my nephew Tyler for a Christmas present.

When I’m gear fishing – I’m almost always fishing for bass, panfish, or salmon & steelhead. Spinners, jigs, and spoons are my favorite lures to fish. I love fishing small, dinky streams for trout, as well as fishing shallow brushy, grassy water for panfish. I wanted a longer rod, but I’d never seen an ultra light Okuma longer than 7’6″ – then not long ago on ‘s discussion board, a gentleman from Eastern Oregon posted pictures of an ulra light Celilo rod that was 8’6″ long! I HAD to have one. I began my quest to find one.

And I did!

Okuma is revamping the Celilo line up for 2011. The old trout/panfish rods sported a nice brown black, cork handle with uplocking graphite reel seat and swollen grip ends, along with over-size guides which help increase casting distance. The salmon/steelhead rods sported a dark green blank, with straight cork handles with a tapered front grip, and down locking graphite reel seats. The new Celilo rods are revamped – the blanks are now all a lovely olive green, and feature the handle styles of the old salmon/steelhead rods.

I’ve matched this rod up with one of the fine Shimano Sienna 2500HD reels spooled up with 4lb test line. This is destined to be a panfish slaying machine!

My only complaint with the new Celilo rods, are the grips on the ultra lights. I really prefer the older style grip, and this new rod has the exact same grip as my steelhead caster. Not my first choice for this light of a rod, but if that’s my biggest complaint, that’s none too shabby.

Over all of my years of fishing the Celilo rods, I’ve only had one issue with any of them – I banged my 9’6″ steelhead spinning rod on the rocks along the Clackamas River last summer and busted two of the guides. Even though Okuma rods come with a good warranty – I opted to replace the guides myself, just to keep the down time with that rod to a minimum. I’ve never had a defective rod, or one with poor workmanship. They’re light weight, with nice thin, sensitive tips for their respective classes, and honestly – they compare favorably to more expensive rods. My first Celilo rod set me back close to $70 – now the same rod sells regularly for $40 or less. The Steelhead and Salmon class rods are still selling for anywhere from $50 to 80 depending on the exact model.

I’ve fished more expensive rods by makers like Lamiglas, Shimano, and Quantum – and the Celilo rods are on the same playing field. They’re a high quality, high value rod that doesn’t cost a lot of money.

I’ve always been a Shimano fan – and the Sienna reels have just kept me firmly in the Shimano camp. The frame is a sturdy, light polymer, the spool is aluminum, the drag adjustments are smooth and light, they feature solid zero-back roll anti-reverse, and a fairly high retrieve ratio. They have a smooth retrieve, and when a fish runs, the drag is not jerky as you would find with other reels in the economy class (the Sienna reels retail on average for $29.99). They have many of the features you’d find on higher end Shimano reels, but in a less expensive package.

On the more expensive end of the spectrum – I can’t be happier with my Abu Garcia Revo S-L (That’s a Revo S, meant for left hand retrieve)

I got my sample on sale from Fisherman’s Marine for $120.00. That’s $50 more than I paid for the rod it rides on. And it’s worth every penny and more. It’s light, it’s got a butter smooth star drag, anti reverse, and it casts very light baits and lures. The casting control knob only needs light adjustments when changing lure or bait weights. Over runs with this reel are far lower than I’ve had with other bait casters. It balances perfectly with my steelhead drifter – and did double duty on a bass fishing trip to Takhenitch Lake last summer. I’m seriously tempted to buy a second one of these reels for my Wright & McGill made 7′ one piece medium light casting rod, unless I settle for the Abu Black Max (another good reel, but not nearly as good as the Revo) for it.

Abu Garcia really knows how to make a solid reel. The Revo series of reels give the Shimano Curados a run for their money from the standpoint of quality, and they come in lower in price – thus – at least in my mind, they’re a higher value than the Curado. That isn’t to say I wouldn’t buy a Curado – if I had a lot more disposable income, and didn’t have to justify every penny I spend – I’d have a stable equally made up of Curados and Revos – but until I’m rolling around on piles of cash surrounded by beautiful, naked young women – I’m going to stick with the highest value-to-quality gear I can. And of course there’s the X-factor – personal enjoyment. How much more enjoyment will I get from my fishing experience with a Curado than a Revo? As nice as the Revo is, and as much as I smile when fishing with it – I can’t imagine I’d enjoy the curado a lot more, certainly not $50 to $100 more per reel.

Look for more Gear Corner posts in the future.

One Comment

  1. Mel / Mar 19 2011 12:05

    Just started following your blog this morning and have been reading a few of your posts. Really enjoyed your reviews of your rod and reel combinations. Anymore, good quality at a good price is hard to find. Appreciate your opinions.

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