The performance of your reel is everything when hooking one of the many speedsters of the flats. When looking at which reel to purchase for your trip, you will find that if you want performance, you really do get what you pay for.
Here are the features I consider crucial when considering a new saltwater flats reel:
This keeps the sand and grit out of the important parts of your reel, which is important if you or your guide drops it in the water. Very few reels are actually “waterproof”, so never submerge your reel in saltwater intentionally…
Low Start Up Inertia
Start up inertia is the initial force required to get the drag started, and you want this to be as low as possible so your drag is consistent.
Strong, Smooth Drag
Your drag should be able to comfortably pull up whatever fish you are chasing without your reel seizing or blowing up. Sorry, you need to leave your trout reel at home.
This provides both a fast retrieval rate, and more cranking power. This not only makes winding the fish in MUCH easier, it also allows you to keep connected to a hooked Bonefish that decides to change direction and swim towards you.
Leading edge design, quality materials and anodizing all add up to a robust high quality build. The cheap imports are not even in the same postcode as the brand name reels.
Appropriate Backing Capacity
When wading the flats, I like 200m of backing for Bonefish, and 400m for GT’s. You can comfortably get away with less than this, but I like plenty, just incase that fish of a lifetime eats your fly.
I use Hatch 68lb Premium Backing exclusively on all my reels. It’s strong, it’s incredibly thin for its breaking strain, and it holds knots exceptionally well.
I have a pretty extensive reel collection that spans many years, and many brands. There are 2 reels that are standouts for me for flats fishing:
I’ve been using Hatch reels since 2010, and they have proven themselves to me time and time again.
Hatch Finatic Gen II Features:
- Sealed Drag. Lip seals and sealed bearings are a one-two punch to protect against the elements and a whole new level of water protection.
- A multi-disc drag cassette comprised of Rulon® and precision stamped stainless steel discs applies braking pressure and heat dispersion over several surfaces. This virtually eliminates start up inertia and stick-slip problems.
- Bombproof frame-to-spool connection, which is essential for maintaining strength, and true-spin consistency.
- Machined reel seat. A solid is always stronger than two parts attached by screws, and this eliminates the common problem of corrosion at these points.
- Crank and counterweight protection. Ultraflon sleeves cover the aluminum shaft and separates it from the aluminum crank handle, eliminating the chance for galvanic corrosion.
Finatic Gen II Model Highlights:
The Hatch 11 PLUS Large Arbor reel is my favorite GT reel. It fits 400m of Hatch 68lb backing with a 12wt fly line, and has an insane amount of drag, which is needed to reign in the power and insanity of a big GT.
Compared to Hatch, the Lamson Cobalt is the new kid on the block. It is super light, and has a super strong drag that is not only sealed, it’s actually certified waterproof to 100 feet!
The Cobalt is jam packed with technical breakthroughs such as:
- Dual-axis machined frame that dramatically strengthens the side that bears the most load.
- The foot is embedded—rather than perched—atop the reel to effectively transmit force and distribute weight.
- The large arbor spool is also machined with many subtle asymmetries that bring perfect balance without a counterweight.
- Custom formulated self-lubricating O-rings protect every point of ingress.
- A fixed spindle format ensures complete sealing.
- A supercharged version of Lamson’s smooth conical drag system rotates on high-precision ABEC 5 ceramic ball bearings—and uses a proprietary high-temperature graphite alloy to create 12+ pounds of line out torque.
- The power is in your hands with a “set drag” system of adjustment that allows you to set a preferred stripping pressure against a stop.
- Access the full range of torque in half-pound click stop increments through a single rotation of the drag knob, with increments etched into the knob for visual reference.
- A coating as hard as type III anodize but with 20 times the protection against a saltwater environment, Cobalt is endowed with a stunning, shielding Micralox finish—exclusive to Waterworks-Lamson in the fly fishing world.
Your reel is one item that can literally make or break a trip. If it lets you down on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere, it's game over, so invest wisely.