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Enthusiast Review

2013 Bait-the-Finesse Finale : Daiwa T3 Air


Date: 1/4/13
Tackle Type: Enthusiast
Manufacturer: Daiwa Japan
Reviewer: Cal

Total Score: 7.78 - GOOD


Daiwa T3 AIR: The T3 Air came away from our late March 2013 Product Insight article with the early lead in this shootout. It is a reel based on Daiwa's first generation T-Wing platform, the T3. Made in Japan, the T3 AIR is a modified version of the flagship variant in this line and not the Ballistic which is made in Thailand instead of Japan. This platform has been met with mixed success here in the states with the greatest challenge being acceptance of its unorthodox flip open front plate combined with the reel's flagship price tag. The T3 Air does not compromise either of these characteristics.


The Aldebaran BFS scored very well. Time to see what the T3 Air is all about.


Daiwa T3 Air Specifications

Line Capacity 6lb / 55yds
Retrieve Ratio 6.8:1 & 8.6:1
Inches Per Turn (IPT) 22 - 27 & 28 - 34 inches respectively
Weight 5.7 oz
Bearings 11 + 1
Drag Max as tested ~9lbs
Origin Made in Japan
MSRP 55,000 JPY (~$570)


Quality/Construction: External moving frame parts and price tag aside, the fit and finish of the T3 Air is impeccable. Our review specimen features a matt black finish with red highlights and is aligned perfectly at every joint. The reel's handle has no backplay nor is there any movement of the into and out from the frame. There is no inward and outward movement of the knobs either. This reel is as tight and refined as they come.


The T3 Air is the epitome of a high end reel in terms of quality control.


Quality Ratings for Daiwa T3 Air

Finish (1-5)
Frame & Sideplate Tolerance (1-5)
Handle Tolerance (1-5)
Knob Tolerance (1-5)
Rating (= Tot/Pos * 10)

Performance: Matched with the same line (6lb Sunline Super Natural monofilament) and rod (Phenix Recon 2 PHX-682C) as our Aldebaran BFS, we took to the T3 Air to the water with our Junior staffers to test all aspects of this reel out in the reel world.

Our Junior Staffers putting test gear through the paces.

Deciding on which color Roboworm to use for some drop shot action.

Retrieve: The T3 Air is available in two retrieve ratios, 6.8:1 and 8.6:1. Our test subject is the high speed variant. It's nice having the option of different retrieve ratios to suit your needs with the actual inches per turn calculated as twenty eight to thirty four (28-34) inches on the 8.6:1 reel and twenty two to twenty seven (22-27) inches on the 6.8:1 all depending upon how much line you have out during your cast.

Reels like the T3 Air and Aldebaran BFS enable you to fish light, drop shot rigs on casting gear.

Actual feel of the reel during retrieve is reminiscent of the other T3 reels. Because the frame of this reel is made of Zaion, a carbon fiber composite, it has that really odd, hollow, carbon fiber feel to it. It's a somewhat polarizing sensation that you have to experience to understand. That point aside, the reel is very smooth otherwise.

Performance Ratings for Daiwa T3 Air

Retrieve (1-5)
Drag (1-5)
Power (1-5)
Casting Range (1-5)
Brakes (1-5)
Rating (= Tot/Pos * 10)

Drag: We've copied over the Sweet Drag performance data of the T3 Air from our March 2013 Product Insight article for ease of reference, but out on the water, the T3 Air's drag performed very well. Once again, the line we were using and applications in which we were using both reels (mostly drop shotting) did not call for total lock down and drag the fish out of heavy cover performance, but rather we were looking for smooth and consistent performance. Neither reel disappointed in this regard.

Sweet Drag Performance for Daiwa T3 AIR

Aldebaran BFS
Full Turn
Full + 2
Full + 4
Full + 6
Avg % Change
Start Up
Biggest Drop
Change in Startup vs Sustained
Biggest Drop from Sustained


For those who insist it's a point for comparison, the T3 Air did test with a higher max drag than our Aldebaran BFS, but as we've stated before, when it comes to finesse fishing with six pound test line, max drag numbers are hardly noteworthy.


Fig 2. above, is an illustration of the T3 Air's profile. Note the higher overall drag even though both these reels are classified as finesse.


Power: This reel is far more powerful than its spool will allow us to test. Because the T3 Air's spool is so shallow and so extensively ported, you're pretty much forced to use only the lightest of lines. You could spool braid onto this reel to leverage stronger line, but the spool appears so delicate, you might risk its structural integrity. This is especially true given the reel's upper end drag. If you're not careful to keep your drag adjustment at a reasonable force while spooled with braid, you could damage the spool.

The T3 Air's spool is very shallow and unfortunately, standard T3 spools do not fit as a replacement.

If you're lucky enough to have access to a standard T3 spool, the temptation is to leverage that deeper spool to extend the utility of this reel. The trouble is? The standard T3 spool does not fit in this reel! That's because the T3 Air's spool is actually smaller in diameter than that of the standard T3 and the T3 Air's sideplate is engineered to absorb that gap between the outer edge of the spool and the frame. This accommodation interferes with the outer lip of the standard spool.

Testing the T3 Air with a light jighead and Keitech swimbait body.

Casting Range: The T3 Air met head on with the same challenges as did our Aldebaran BFS. In our attempts to see how low both reels would go, we went as light as a Paycheck Baits Punch Skirt by itself (1.7 grams) up to an eighth ounce (1/8 oz - actual weight 4.2 grams) Evergreen International finesse jig. Similar to the Aldebaran BFS, the T3 Air's low end on our tests while mounted on a Phenix PHX-682C and spooled with 6lb Sunline Super Natural monofilament was an unweighted, four inch (4"), straight tail Roboworm (3 grams), but we failed to get any reasonable distance with this bait.

The T3 Air easily handled this offering.

Instead, Evergreen International's finesse jig was the most practical bait we could cast on both combos. However, what's important to note in our head to head comparison, is that while the useful low end for both reels was this threshold, the reel that handled this bait most easily was the Aldebaran BFS.

If the flip open top plate does not upset you, the T3 Air is a fun reel to fish.

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