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Reel Review

Okuma Aims high with the Helios Air Baitcaster (continued)

Features: The Okuma Helios Air shares a familiar profile as the original Helios, only with a magnesium frame versus the aluminum one found on the original. Okuma didnít cut any corners with the Helios Air and I am impressed that they chose to employ magnesium on both sideplates. While the use of magnesium is the top feature of this reel the carbon fiber on the swept handle and drag star help give the reel a high end look and feel.

A closer look at the carbon components

Features Ratings for Okuma Helios Air

Ext Brake Adjust? (1-2)
Levelwind Bearing (1-2)
Knob Bearings (1-3)
Micro Clicks (1-3)
Reel Cover (1-2)
Oil (1-2)
Rating (= Tot/Pos * 10)

The Helios Air is an attractive reel with just the right amount of bling

Design and Ergonomics: If you have ever fished the original Okuma Helios reels the Air will feel right at home in the palm of your hand. It is comfortable to cast and retrieve and while the original was by no means a heavy reel at 6.3oz. you can definitely feel the difference with the Air, which breaks the 6oz. barrier easily.

Design & Ergonomics Ratings for Okuma Helios Air

Handle Length (1-5)
Knobs (1-5)
Palming (1-5)
Overall Weight (1-5)
Ease of Breakdown (1-5)
Rating (= Tot/Pos * 10)

The gearbox is relatively small which adds to the low overall profile of the reel

The EVA knobs on the Helios Air comfortable to hold, even when wet. Everything on this reel clicks, including the drag and spool tension adjustment. The only thing that really could be improved ergonomically speaking is the separating palm side access plate, but even that clicks in securely and never came loose during fishing. Okuma also does what so many other manufacturers neglect to do, they offer the Helios Air in both right hand and left hand retrieve.

The cast control system is hidden under the non-handle side sideplate

Price & Applications: The Helios Air retails for $249 dollars, which is 50 dollars more than the standard Helios TCS baitcaster and is reasonable when you consider the weight savings. This reel is best used for fishing plastics or smaller hardbaits in freshwater but through the entire season I fished the Helios Air in the brackish water of the California Delta, never once rinsing it off, and still didnít observe any corrosion on the reel whatsoever.

A look at how low the reel sits on the Helios rod

My favorite application for this reel was finesse fishing with 8 and 10lb. fluorocarbon lines. This reel is able effortlessly to cast small rigs or even a drop-shot, and I caught a lot of smallies with this reel fishing small baits in ultra-clear water. In the stained water of the California Delta I employed the Air in power fishing applications and it was also able to handle these applications beautifully.

Application Ratings for Okuma Helios Air

Horizontal (1-5)
Vertical (1-5)
Finesse (1-5)
Big Baits (1-5)
Topwater (1-5)
Rating (= Tot/Pos * 10)

The reel matches up nicely with the Helios rod when it came to balance

When it comes to competition the Helios Air is pretty much in a league of its own when it comes to magnesium baitcasters at the $250 dollar price point. Many competitors offer magnesium reels, some of them arguably more feature rich and refined, but also much more expensive. For example the Shimano Metanium retails for $419, the new Daiwa Steez SV makes the series more affordable but still retails $399, and even the aggressively priced Lewís Team Pro Magnesium Speed Spool ACB retails for $279 dollars. Kudos to Okuma for making magnesium performance more available to the masses.

The Helios Air showed no signs of corrosion inside or out after a full season of use and abuse


Okuma Helios Air Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality The most refined baitcaster we have seen from Okuma yet. The Helios Air makes use of quality materials throughout and the build quality is excellent 9.0
Performance Overall performance was strong. Though best suited for finesse applications the Air can handle everything except deep diving cranks with ease. The drag while not the most powerful is smooth and the reel casts very nicely through the entire range 7.2
Price When it comes to magnesium baitcasters the Helios Air features not just a Mg frame but both sideplates as well and retails for less than the competition 9.0
Features The best feature is the magnesium construction but the reel is surprisingly refined and comes with nice carbon components and all the clickies 6.43
Design (Ergonomics) Same overall reel as the original, only lighter 8.0
Application A slow speed retrieve ratio would make a big difference here, but for finesse fishing and quick power work the Helios Air does not disappoint 6.0

Total Score

Ratings Key: 1 = terrible : 2 = poor : 3 = lacking : 4 = sub par : 5 = mediocre : 6 = fair : 7 = good : 8 = great : 9 = excellent : 10 = unbelievable!
For More Details of the updated rating system visit our explanation here


Pluses and Minuses:


+ Quality magnesium construction not only on the frame but both sideplates - No external cast control and adjusting the casting system requires removal of the non-handle side sideplate
+ Carbon components are a nice touch - Required grease mid-season for optimal retrieve
+ Casts lightweight baits well  
+ Good overall ergonomics and light weight. Palms very well  
+ A great price for a magnesium reel  
+ Comes backed with a 3 year warranty  

Conclusion: The Okuma Helios Air is a very good baitcaster, in fact it is the best we have seen from Okuma yet. It builds on the companyís predecessors to deliver a lightweight and refined reel that is made out of magnesium, all while staying reasonably priced. As more and more reel manufacturers move away from magnesium it is great to see that Okuma continues to embrace this premium material. While magnesium does have limitations, like not being recommended for inshore use, it does still offer a very nice blend of light overall weight and extremely rigid and connected feel, something that is still hard to achieve with carbon.

If you are a fan of what magnesium reels feel like the Helios Air makes the material accessible to mainstream anglers. This is Okuma's most refined baitcaster to date and represents a great value for anglers

Okuma aims high with the Helios Air and for the most part the company hits the mark nicely. The company has always offered anglers a lot of reel for the money and the Helios Air is no different, and yet it does something that some Okuma reels have struggled to do in seasons past, it delivers the one two punch of excellent ergonomics and refinement. If you are looking for a lightweight baitcaster with the feel that only magnesium is able to offer, all at a very reasonable price, then the Okuma Helios Air represents a great value and is definitely worth checking out. 

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