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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 seat.

Inletted Damon Rods Tulipwood Reel Seat in Nickle Silver. Flush Mounting A7 Reel Seat with teal-stablized Fiddleback Maple by Winslow Rods.

2. 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 and green.

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.

Angle-cut bloodwood mortised reel seat by Damon Rods. Pacific Bay A8 Channel Lock TiCH reel seat.

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 reel seat.

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 option.

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 Damon Rods.

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 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!

Winslow Rods My first choice for wooden seats, and definitely the place to go for a custom-ordered reel seat! You must go here if considering a wooden insert, especially with a gloss finish.
Damon Rods - my choice for mortized wooden reel seats and matte / semi-gloss finish inserts.
Inserts By Les - If you're considering bone or antler, he's the guy!
Pacific Bay - the first choice for afordable metal reel seats (also the hardware used on most custom wooden seats!). If you want removeable butts (see the next page) it's gonna be a Pac Bay seat!
Forecast Components - offered by Batson Enterprises, I believe these are actually manufactured for Batons by Pacific Bay. There's some different offerings here, so they're definitely worth a look in the metal seat department.
American Tackle - again I suspect some of their stuff is actually manufactured by Pacific Bay, but again American Tackle is worth a look...for starters they offer the Mother-of-Pearl Reel Seats.
Struble - Struble is considered the top of the line, high end stuff. Personally, I have a rod with it and well, I'm actually happier with the Pacific Bay hardware. But, for those who want it, here it is!
REC Components - REC has an expansive selection of reel seats, again I tend to go with Pac Bay primarily feeling that the quality is the same but Pac Bay is the better value. Again, if you're heartset, I'm more than happy to oblidge!

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