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Reel Review

Living up to the Hype? The Zero Ball Bearing Concept Z from 13 Fishing (continued)


Casting: If you read my preview of the Concept Z in the beginning of the year you may remember that the very first thing that I did when I received the Concept Z from 13 Fishing was the same thing that I do with just about every reel, I set the brakes and gave the spool a spin, which left me immediately perplexed.


This reel can cast! Max distance is a hallmark of the Concept Z

Like just about everyone at ICAST I heard all the hype about how good of a caster this zero ball bearing equipped Concept Z was, and yet the reel that I held in my hand exhibited one of the worst freespools ever! Yet when I spooled up the reel and gave it a cast the results were impressive, something just didn’t add up.


Inside we find the Japanese Hamai Cut Gearing

Testing the reel side by side with the Shimano Curado K I found that I could achieve between 8 and 15 feet of additional casting distance once the reel was dialed in. This is a significant delta especially when considering that we are comparing a reel with what are essentially souped up bushings with a proven caster like the Curado K.


The two CZBs that make the most difference when casting are the spool and handle cover bearings

The Concept Z’s cast is pretty effortless, which again is a surprise considering the amount of friction that you would assume from a bushing design, but the material that 13 Fishing utilizes to build the CZBs is both hard and slick enough to enable smooth and consistent casts. Consistency in between casts is also good on this reel, even with weightless lures, but when it comes to accuracy I found comparably priced offerings from Shimano and Daiwa just as good, and in some cases better. Yet the more I cast the Concept Z my initial skepticism of the bushing design conceded to the fact that this reel can really launch baits across the complete gamut, enabling the reel to be effectively employed for both power and finesse applications.


A drop of INOX oil on the shaft and spool contact bearings and the noise on the reel decreased significantly

Over the course of the tests I did notice that our test reel started to exhibit a noticeable sound with each cast. This particular reel was pretty quiet out of the box but a month in the sound seemed to get progressively louder, sounding something in between a whirring and a rasping sound. Similar sounds have been reported by other owners of the reel and I met up with two other anglers that purchased reels and observed similar sounds, but my test reel was by far the loudest. It took me a while to diagnose what was happening including reaching back out to Matt Baldwin, the head of Product Design at 13 Fishing to confirm my theory.


Under normal use the CZBs should be self lubricating but the oil certainly didn't hurt

When I first previewed the Concept Z I disassembled the test reel and in the process had stripped some of the lubrication from spool contact CZBs as well as the shaft. I added a drop of INOX oil on the ID of the spool and palm side CZB’s and the whirring sound decreased significantly. I still hear some of that sound, which I now feel is somewhat of a signature sound of the reel, and something anglers are either going to feel indifferent about or annoy them depending on how sensitive they are to the sound.


Testing after applying a few drops of oil and the reel casted much quieter and felt just as smooth

13 Fishing has stated that the CZBs are self-lubricating so as long as they are fished hard the theory is that adding oil to the bearings is unnecessary as the CZBs will break in over time. Matt explained “the CZB material is super hard so the self-lubricating properties take a bit of fishing to kick in. Basically the process is the CZB bearing is slowly filling in the microscopic holes in the spool shaft to create the smoothest fit for continued performance.”


Mid way through the tests I started to see some parallels between the Concept Z and my daily driver

As I continued to use the reel I got more and more used to the distinct sound the reel makes when cast, and much like the casting attributes are different on the reel so is the sound that that it makes each and every time it launches a bait. In this respect the reel reminds me of my Tesla Model S P90D, and while most passengers describe the car as silent I hear the electric AC induction motors make an audible whine each and every time I stomp on the accelerator.


The Concept Z pairs best with rods that have black blanks and don't have contrasting color highlights. The new Savage Gear Browser rods actually look great with this reel with the matching orange logos

The final thing that I noticed when testing the casting on the Concept Z is that the type of line plays a bigger factor on max casting distance on this reel than other reels that utilize traditional bearings. Much like the reel doesn’t spin freely by itself on a traditional thumb test, how the line affects the spool weight has a greater impact on the CZB bushing than traditional ball bearings, and dialing in the right settings for your personal cast is critical when changing lines that are significantly different like mono to braid for example.


Like other Concept reels the Z sits nice and low on most reel seats

Next Section: Wrapping your head around the design









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