I recently bought a new Abu Garcia Pro Max 2 baitcasting reel. Well, it was actually a birthday present from my wife, but I was the one who went and picked it out
I have read some mixed reviews from other anglers about the reel, but a couple people that I know personally seemed to like it, so I decided to take the plunge and buy one.
I bought this reel with a little hesitance on my part. Let me explain why.
A few years back, I had bought another Abu Garcia baitcaster in the $150 – $200 price range. I had checked it out at Dick’s Sporting Goods and was really impressed with the smoothness and the feel of it.
It seemed like a great deal for the price, especially when compared to the Shimano Curado 200E7 that was sitting right next to it. And it cost around $20 less than the Curado at that time. So I plunked my money down and took it home.
To make a long story short, I ended up despising the reel so much that I took it back and exchanged it for a Curado. You can read more about it by Clicking Here.
So with that not-so-good experience in mind, I decided to give Abu a try once more, but this time without laying down $160 in cash. Being a bit more budget conscious this time around, I forked over the very reasonable $79.98, walked out of Wal-Mart and drove home.
I looked forward to trying the new reel. So I spooled it up with fresh line, mounted it on a rod and laid it on the front deck of my boat. I really wanted to give it a good break-in, catching largemouth bass at night, chunking big spinnerbaits.
The first time I hit the water, I gave it a few good casts just to see how the casting performance would be. Based on my last experience with an Abu Garcia reel, I kind of hesitated to make that first cast. But I did cast and the reel performed impressively, casting the bait a good distance and not giving me any grief with backlashes.
Over the course of the night, I used it here and there, but never did catch a fish on it. I was pleased overall with the casting performance, but I was a little concerned with something that I felt while retrieving a topwater wakebait that I was trying out.
During the retrieve, the reel had a “ticking” sort of sensation inside of it. I could feel it and I could hear it. It felt almost like the gears weren’t meshing quite right. This was not good news. And let me backtrack for a minute and tell you about what I found when I initially brought the reel home and opened it up.
First of all, buying a reel from Wal-Mart means getting it packed in a blister pack, not in a box. So instead of being able to flip the cover of the box open and view your new purchase in all of its glory and wonder, you’re forced to resort to using scissors to cut away at the package until it surrenders and gives you access to your new reel. This seems like an exercise in futility when you’re in the midst of doing it.
So after literally struggling with getting the package open for 4-5 minutes, I finally cut enough of the cardboard and plastic away to be able to grab the reel and pull it out of what was left of the factory packaging.
I took a good look at the reel and gave the handle a spin. I was unimpressed. It didn’t seem to spin very freely.
I passed this off as just a quirky characteristic of the reel and decided to try the free-spool performance. I pressed the clutch bar to disengage the spool and gave the spool a spin with my thumb. I was unimpressed for a second time. I checked the spool tension adjustment and made sure it was backed off until the spool had a bit of side to side play and gave the handle another spin. I also made sure the magnetic spool adjustment was backed all the way off, and gave it another spin.
Still not so good
I started going over the reel with a fine tooth comb, looking for anything that might be causing the reel to under-perform. I didn’t necessarily find the culprit, but I did find that one of the screws that holds the reel together was very loose. It hadn’t been tightened at the factory. Shoddy workmanship on the part of the assembler!
So I tightened it up and checked the rest of the reel. Thankfully I didn’t find anything else out of place or loose. This obviously didn’t explain or justify the poor free-spool test, but it did show me that there was something lacking in the QC department at whatever factory produced this reel.
OK. Back to where I left off.
So over the next few fishing trips, I tried a few different baits on the rod that had this reel mounted on it. I used a Mann’s Waker, a Senko and maybe one or two other baits.
When using something like a Senko, the ticking on retrieve wasn’t very noticeable, since there was no tension on the line during the retrieve. But when throwing something like the Waker, which required a pretty steady retrieve, the ticking was noticeable enough to become an annoyance. And let me state once again that this wasn’t just something I could hear, I could also feel it as I retrieved the bait.
Long story short? I unspooled the brand new 15 lb. line from the new reel onto another reel and promptly took the Pro Max 2 back to Wal-Mart to exchange it for another one of the same model. I wanted to give this reel a fair shake at impressing me (or not).
Wal-Mart exchanged the reel with no questions asked and I was on my way back home with another terrible blister pack to wrestle with!
Upon taking this new reel out of the packaging, the first thing I did was give the handle a spin. Much better this time! Then I pressed the clutch bar and spun the spool with my thumb. Also much better this time!! Maybe I had a winner now
Next, I checked to see if there were any loose parts or screws. I was disappointed, but not surprised, to find the very same thumb screw loose, as mentioned above and pictured above. I simply tightened it up and then mounted the reell back on the rod I had it on before.
And within a minute or two I had the 15 lb. Big Game line spooled onto it from the other reel that I was storing it one.
So now back out onto the water to give the Pro Max 2 some real-time testing.
This time I tied on a 1/2 oz. Hawgstomper spinnerbait and began chunking it around. As before, the casting performance was excellent, with very long, smooth casts and no backlash problems.
I had initially started with the spool tension adjustment set pretty loose, as I do with all of my reels. Basically, I tighten the spool tension knob down a bit and start backing it off a little at a time, until there is just a tiny bit of side to side play in the spool if I try to move it with my thumb.
I started out with the magnetic brake set at 100%. I did this for the sake of making that first cast or two with no fear of creating a major birds nest due to lack of familiarity with the reel. Even with the magnetic brake set to max, it still cast like a rocket.
After a few casts, I backed off on the magnetic brake a few clicks. I like the fact that it has a click mechanism in the magnetic brake so it makes it easier to make adjustments and go back and forth based on the number of clicks, until I get it exactly where I need it. There’s no guess work based on making visible estimations as to where the setting was before or after an adjustment.
By the way, the spool tension adjustment knob also has the click feature, which is pretty uncommon in budget baitcasting reels. I don’t think it’s a necessity, but it does make it easier to make fine adjustments for people who don’t set it the way I do, with the side-to-side play in the spool.
So after I backed off on the magnetic brake, I made a couple more casts. This time I had to carefully thumb the spool to prevent a backlash, but it was still not bad, since I had really cast it pretty hard. Remember, my goal was to test the reel and see how easily it would backlash (or not).
A simple adjustment of the magnetic brake, a click or two back in the other direction, put the settings right where I wanted them, with long, smooth casts and no fears or worries about backlashing. I used the reel for the remainder of the night with no problems or concerns, making dozens and dozens of casts that were long, smooth and backlash free.
Unfortunately, the bite on the night of the testing was slow, so I never caught a fish on that particular rod and reel combo, which means I didn’t get to test the drag. Based on my experience with baitcasting reels in general, and what I had to do to get the drag set to where it seemed sufficient, it did seem to be a little on the light side. This means that I had to crank it down a bit more than I would have preferred to do, bringing it almost to the max tightness. But it was definitely not something that concerned me to the point of giving it a negative score.
Now, let’s talk about the overall look and feel of the reel. For aesthetics, I would give this reel 5 stars. It looks great… sleek and strong, with nice features and colors. Now I know that looks don’t make the reel fish well or make it last a long time, so I won’t spend any more time on this. But suffice it to say that it’s a reel that you can own and use without it looking gaudy or cheesy sitting on the deck of your boat.
As for the feel of the Pro Max, it is extremely comfortable to use and to palm in your hand. It is lightweight, weighing in at just 7.9 oz., just slightly heavier than the Shimano Curado 200G which weighs 7.2 oz.
The Pro Max 2 boasts 7 stainless steel ball bearings and 1 roller bearing, for a total of 8 bearings. This is pretty much unheard of in a reel that costs less than $150, much less a reel that costs less than $80. By comparison, the Shimano Curado G has 4 ball bearings and 1 roller bearing, for a total of 5 bearings. And this is in a reel that costs almost double what the Pro Max 2 will cost you.
The line capacity of the Pro Max lets you spool on 145 yards of 12 lb. test. This is comparable to the Curado.
The overall size of the reel is also comparable to the Curado G (200 series). It is very light and comfortable to use. It does not tire you out to use it for long periods of time. The profile of the reel is very compact, not bulky or clunky to handle.
The reel has a 7.1:1 gear ratio, which makes it easy to keep up with a big fish that decides to charge the boat. It also makes it painless to chunk a spinnerbait or lipless crankbait to cover a ton of water in no time at all.
So I give the Abu Garcia Pro Max 2 a solid 4.5 stars. Definitely a winner, in my opinion. Again, don’t expect it to stand beside a reel that costs $200 and feel as smooth, but it will fish next to them and handle a tough day of fishing without complaining.
The overall feel of the reel when it comes to quality is very good. It doesn’t feel cheap or inferior. It feels solid to use. Now, keep in mind that it will not feel as smooth as a reel costing $179.00 or more, but that’s just common sense. You pay $79.99 and you’re going to get a $79.99 reel.
But that $79.99 price tag is more than fair for this reel. It’s a great deal for the money and anyone considering a new baitcasting reel with less than $100 to spend should seriously consider this one. In my opinion, it’s a solid entry in the low-to-mid-priced baitcaster category and should get a serious look from anglers who are buying their first casting reel or for someone looking to add to their existing reel collection, without breaking the bank.
Give the Pro Max 2 a try. I think you’ll be more than happy with it. You can see it by Clicking Here.