Chose your reel seat!
What is the reel seat? It's the part of the rod
that you lock your reel into!
Unlike some custom rod builders who are "married"
to a single company's products, I'll first start off by saying I'm
happy to use ANYTHING you'd like. However, the price range can be
huge, sometimes not really justifiably in my eyes.
Due to the vast variety of styles, I'm going to
boil it down into some basic concepts.
1. Uplocking or downlocking?
- Most reel seats you see on rods are uplocking. The stationary
part of the reel seat is at the upper (tip) end; the reel's foot
slides into the top and then the bottom ring is screwed upwards,
locking the tail-end of the reel's foot in place. There is no major
advantage to uplocking or downlocking unless you're a tournament
caster - the only thing that the locking direction affects is the
balance of the rod...downlocking would require a lighter reel.
1a. - "Sliding
Ring" - you see these occasionally, sliding ring reel
seats where the reel is simply held in place by two freely sliding
rings. While vintage gear often has this stuff (and therefore some
folks want it on new stuff) I have to raise the question - why doesn't
every rod have these? Answer? Because they just don't work nearly
as well as the modern designs! Unless you REALLY want sliding rings
for a LIGHT reel, I'm more inclined to go with an uplocking or downlocking
Flush Mount or Inletted? - These are two distinct
styles of reel seat. Perhaps more common is the inletted style,
where the upper ring of the reel seat is inserted (and therefore
concealed) into the cork grip. Flush Mount reel seats are not inletted.
Personally, I have no preference, it's primarily a style choice.
However, the inletted versions position the grip approximately 1/2"
to 3/4" closer to the butt of the rod - this can effectively
change where you hold the rod, and therefore how it balances and
how you cast it. One final note, on larger rods it is sometimes
difficult to use an inletted reel seat as the cork surrounding it
may be too thin.
3. Hardware Material
- There are several available options for reel seat hardware, the
metal components of the seat. The most common hardware is aluminum,
finished either in Black, a Brushed Chrome or a Titanium Carbide
coating which is often referred to as a smoke or gunsmoke coloration.
Several other types exist, incluing Nickle Silver (very high gloss),
Gold, and a variety of color-adonized finishes in colors like blue
As a general rule, I think the best looking rods
are those where the hardware of the reel seat matches the color
of the other hardware on the rods, specifically the guides. So,
think about this when chosing your hardware all around - i.e. if
you want Gold Guides, let's do Gold hardware on your reel seat too.
4. Round Barrel or Mortised/Channel
Lock - Again there are two distinct styles here. Round barrel
is just what it sounds like - the entire barrel of the reel seat
is circular in cross-section. Mortized and Channel Lock reel seats
have a channel cut where the reel's foot will sit. The upside is
that the reel will be more firmly locked into place horizontally.
The downside is that not nearly as many options are available with
this style. Generally, the only time I see a real benefit to having
a mortized or channel lock reel seat are on the heavier rods.
5. Solid Metal, Graphite
Insert, Wood Insert, Other Materials, Decoration!? - There
are two basic styles of seats; first those that are all metal (more
common on low-end production rods and many higher weight rods including
saltwater rods). The other option is a reel seat that consists of
the metal components and an "insert" made of a different
material, usually wood. The wood forms the barrel or body of the
Solid Metal - The choice is simple if you want
solid metal - these are usually all aluminum adonized in various
finishes. In most all seats of this genre, the reel seat will be
one uniform color (all chrome, all gold, all black etc.) I am only
aware of one company (Batson Enterprises) who offers metal reel
seats that feature different colors for the body and the rings (see
rod #23). Generally solid metal reel seats are the least expensive
Graphite Insert - A newer offering, reel seats
with woven graphite inserts are available. Most often the graphite's
color is black, however there is also green. Some folks feel these
are "tacky" while I rather like them. Graphite insert
seats have the advantage of great strength in the barrel; the only
reason I typically chose these is for the modern look they give
to a rood. Otherwise they are no different than a metal seat.
Wood Insert - You see this a lot on nicer rods.
The option to go to a wooden insert is primarily one of taste and
style, there is no huge functional advantage to wood EXCEPT that
it may make the rod a bit lighter. One consideration with wooden
inserts comes when you chose your thread colors; you don't want
them to clash! Otherwise, go hog wild, there are literally hundreds
of materials to chose from. In addition to what is commercially
available, I have a personal preferential source for custom reel
seats made with wooden inserts - Dave Winslow of Winslow
Rods is my number one goto guy. For smaller reel seats, Dave
will also often turn a minature wooden fighting butt for the seat
from the same wood used for the insert. An alternative option, when
considering a mortized reel seat, is
Other Inserts - There's a LOT of choices out there
in the reel seat world - it's one of the several most customizeable
parts of your rod! In addition to the aforementioned, four other
reel seat insert materials come to mind. First is acrylic. Again,
Dave Winslow does some terrific stuff with it. Second is bone or
antler - Les of Inserts by Les does some great work here. Third,
Mother of Pearl - not so much an "insert" more than a
sheath over a wooden insert. It looks PHENOMENAL but can be hard
to get. Finally, there's CORK. The main advantages of a cork insert
are lightness and "warmness", specifically in cold winter
fishing a cork insert is going to sap less of your hand-heat than
any other material...it will feel warmer.
Decoration - ?! Yes, there's even MORE that can
be done on a reel seat. I've seen feather inlays, carvings and inscriptions.
If this interests you, I'll be happy to pursue it, however I must
warn you most that I've seen only detract from the overall rod.
So show me some options!
Next - Chose your grip!
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