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Reel Review

The Bear brings the Heat, Okuma's Helios Baitcaster (continued)

During our tests we did experience a little boat rash in the form of two small scratches on the top of the reel right in the middle of the center frame which exposed the black frame underneath. Other than this cosmetic damage the Helios has held up very well and if you prefer fishing braided lines the reel’s Zirconium line guide will serve you well.

The reel makes use of a Zirconium line guide in case you prefer fishing superlines

Ergonomics, Price & Applications: If you like baitcasters with a small overall footprint the Helios has your name all over it. The reel is a pleasure to palm ad seems to completely disappear in hand while still allowing plenty of access to the spool. The reel feels lightweight and the matte finish also delivers a nice tactile feel that never seems slippery, even on those cold wet mornings.

A very compact footprint...

While I like the use of EVA grips I found the knobs just to be a tad too thick and while they held up very well I just didn’t find them to feel as natural as those utilized on some competing reels which are both thinner and wider. Okuma did a great job reducing weight on this reel, even porting the carbon fiber handle and aluminum drag star to shave off every little bit of unnecessary weight without sacrificing strength.

...that seems to disappear when you palm it

At only 6.3oz. the aluminum based Helios is among the lightest in the class, and when you consider the $219 dollar price point this feat is even more impressive. The Shimano Chronarch 200E retails for $199 and weighs 7.6oz and even the smaller Chronarch 50E weighs in at 7.1oz., Daiwa’s Zillion workhorse reels cost 100 dollars more and weigh 8.6oz., and even the Abu Garcia Revo Premier weighs more at 6.7oz. Perhaps one of the biggest competitors for the Helios comes from Quantum’s aggressively ported EXO PT baitcaster which weighs only 5.9oz. and retails for just a little more at $249 dollars.

The carbon fiber handle really stands out under the sun

Ratings: (We've re-calibrated our ratings standard for 2008 and have included a key at the bottom of the following matrix as a guide):

Okuma Helios LP Casting Reel Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Very good construction that makes use of an aluminum frame and handle side sideplate. The aluminum gearing s held up and the implementation on the carbon fiber swept handle is well done, as is the porting and anodizing on the metal components 8.5
Performance Feels smooth like the Serrano but definitely more "connected." The drag system really delivers. Good to see use of aluminum in the non-handle sideplate which also helps keep the gears in good alignment 8.5
Price A excellent price and overall value, something Okuma is becoming known for (especially with the 3 year warranty) 9
Features Lots of features including a corrosion resistant finish, high end Japanese ABEC-5 spool bearings, carbon fiber swept handle, EVA knobs and a multi-disc drag system that really works 8.5
Design (Ergonomics) Call me Goldilocks, I thought the knobs on the Serrano were a little small and now I think the knobs on the Helios are a little big. Nonetheless I like the choice for EVA grips and the overall footprint is excellent and very palmable, just wish the sideplate didn't have to come all the way off just to make adjustments to the cast control system. But where are the lefties? 8
Application Great for both freshwater and inshore fishing, the extra durability and corrosion resistant features make this a well rounded reel 9

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:

                 Plus                                    Minus

+ Very lightweight and great overall ergonomics - Adjusting cast control requires removing of sideplate which disconnects from body
+ Powerful and smooth drag system - No lefty (again)
+ The carbon fiber handle is light and durable (and yes it looks cool too)  
+ Three Year Warranty  
+ Takes the Serrano and makes it even better while still delivering an excellent price and overall value  


Conclusion: The Helios is the dawn of a new day for Okuma baitcasters and takes an already proven formula from the Serrano and makes it even more compelling. The Helios not only ups the ante for the company it delivers to market a truly competitive reel that is better in many respects than the comparably priced offerings from the traditional big name players. The Helios is right on the fringe of an editors choice award for us, delivering both a level of refinement we have never seen from Okuma, till now, and staying true to delivering a whole lot of reel for the money. So what keeps it from taking this top honor? The fact that the sideplate needs to be completely removed in order to dial in those cast control settings and the lack of a left handed version. While there are certainly more anglers that fish “rightie” reels there are plenty of anglers (our Enthusiast Editor Cal included) that are not just partial to, but demand left hand retrieve. A reel as good as the Helios really should be available in both variants, and possibly additional retrieve speeds as well.


Okuma's new Helios brings the heat to the competition with a very light package and Okuma's most refined baitcaster to date

We still want to continue to revisit the aluminum gearing over the long term to see how well it holds up and in the next few months we will continue to put the Helios through additional stress tests, but thus far the reel has proven to be more than enough for all the bass fishing applications we have thrown at it. Okuma certainly has confidence in the Helios and backs it with a 3 year warranty which far exceeds the traditional single year that accompanies most competing reels. The carbon fiber handle gives the reel a sporty appearance but it is the drag system, smooth retrieve bolstered by ABEC-5 bearings and reel’s lightweight ergonomics that make the Helios a serious contender. The competition should feel a little uneasy about the Helios as this reel is definitely bringing the “heat” in the form of performance, refinement and overall value.  

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