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Reel Review


Okuma Aims high with the Helios Air Baitcaster (continued)

Retrieve: The Helios Air is smooth out of the box and feels connected to the gearing. The reel features an 8BB+1RB stainless steel bearing system which includes Japanese ABEC-5 spool bearings. During testing I found the reel to be smooth when cranking as well as when there was heavy resistance on the line. Over time the reel did become noisier and the gear mesh became more perceivable.


The reel feels very connected on retrieve

After a few months the reel was still smooth enough to use but definitely felt like it needed some grease on the drive gear. I’m not sure what kind of grease ships with the Helios Air but it did break down over the course of a season, perhaps more of it would help. Taking apart the Helios Air for service is very easy and it once I applied some more grease and oil on the gears and friction points the reel was once again smooth and quiet.


A carbon fiber drag star and handle further reduce weight without sacrificing durability

Performance Ratings for Okuma Helios Air

Retrieve (1-5)
Drag (1-5)
Power (1-5)
Casting Range (1-5)
Brakes (1-5)
Total
Possible
Rating (= Tot/Pos * 10)
4
3
3
5
3
18
25
7.2


The drag is made out of carbonite

Drag: Back in the lab, we put the Okuma Helios Air on The Machine to see how sweet (smooth and consistent) its drag performs out of the box. Our Helios Air test reel peaked at right around seven pounds when tightened down, but when cranked down very aggressively we were able to get higher but this really was beyond what most anglers will do in the field.


Fig 1: The Sweet Drag Performance chart above shows the consistency in drag performance of our Helios Air casting reel.

While the max output of the carbonite drag in the Helios Air wasn't all that high we did find that the reel was pretty smooth and consistent throughout the range. The reel makes use of a multi-disc system that doles out smooth pressure under load.


A bearing in the Helios Air knob

Sweet Drag Performance for Helios Air (2.5 Turns to Lockdown)

 
Full Turn
Full + 2
Full + 4
Full + 6
Lockdown
Avg % Change
 
 
 
Start Up
0.5
0.8
1.6
3
6
Sustained
.4
.8
1.7
3
6.1
Lowest Value
.3
.3
1.4
2.6
5.4
Change in Startup vs Sustained
12%
3.2%
5.2%
1.1%
4.2%
5.1%
Biggest Drop from Sustained
22.6%
60.2%
16.6%
14.4%
12.3%
25.2%
To measure the drag on this reel, the dragstar was backed all the way off, then engaged with one full turn and strapped to the machine for the first test. With each successive test the drag was increased with two short pushes with the thumb as if fishing. After 6 pushes, the drag was locked down finger tight


This reel is comfortable to palm all day long

Power: The Helios Air is not only light it is also fast. With a 7.3:1 gear ratio I found the Helios Air excellent for both finesse and power fishing with plastics. I could cast into target points and work baits back through dead water quickly, maximizing each cast. Where the Helios Air feels underpowered is when deep cranking plastics, the constant pressure of deep divers is better suited to the Helios TCS baitcaster which is available in a 6.6:1 gear ratio.


The handle is swept for better cranking leverage

Casting Range: I fished our test reel on a variety of Medium and Medium-Light rated rods but the reel spent the majority of time on a matching Helios rod. As expected the Helios Air casted the heavy stuff close to 1oz. very well but I was surprised by how good the reel felt when casting much lighter worms rigged with 3/16oz. jigheads. As long as the reel is spooled up with lines 8lb. test and below it performed beautifully in finesse applications.


I was surprised how well the Helios Air could cast light weight rigs

Brakes: The 7-position “Velocity Control” system is located on the spool and the effect on the casting is noticeable with each click of the dial. The only thing that about the adjustment process that I didn’t like is that the Helios Air still makes use of a complete takedown palm-side sideplate, which requires anglers to hold the loose plate while making these adjustments.


A look at the side of the spool reveals the embedded Velocity Control cast control system

The spool adjustment knob is also a bit tight, and getting your fingers around the knob to click it forward or backwards is a little awkward. An external cast control system is now becoming the norm on premium reels, or if there is a takedown sideplate having it remain connected is preferable for quick and safe adjustments on the fly.


There are seven adjustments on the system

Next Section: Features and Ergonomics

 

 

 

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