Friday, February 10, 2017

Servicing a 2015 Shimano Curado 201HG

I bought a Curado 201E7 a few years back. I got one myself because at that time it was a big hit in the US. The reel was made in Japan and was intended for the US bass anglers. I am pretty sure that Shimano made tons of money out of that reel. A lot of anglers bought tons and tons of this reel. But for some reason, everytime I use them, I somehow end up selling them. Could be the feel, the build quality, or possibly personal bias.

Anyway, because of the success of that reel, they made variations of it to capture more budget conscious bass anglers from North America. -- Citica, etc etc. I think that move was the big mistake that Shimano made, Instead of releasing an improved Curado following year, they just made copies of that platform and released a reel with a different name/model. If I remember it correctly, they called it Chronarch 201E7. It was pretty obvious that it was the old Curado and the fans were not amused. What was even mind blowing was that they used the old Chronarch platform and released it as the Curado. 

It was pretty obvious that Shimano was trying to save money by not building machinery/tooling to build new reels. They opted to just use the same tools to build rebranded reels with a new paint scheme and cheaper materials. To save cost even further, they were no longer made in Japan. Instead, the new reels were made in Malaysia. 

A few weeks ago, I got my hands on a "Curado"  201HG (actually a Chronarch) . A fellow angler needed help because the reel was rough and did not cast as far as before. He was hesitant to dismantle the reel so he decided to contact me. 

After holding the reel the first time, it is hard not to like the ergonomics of the reel. That frame was borrowed from the more expensive Chronarchs which are actually a couple of tiers higher than the Curado. It's more palmable and I believe it was supposed to be lighter (the Chronarchs). 

I think the Curado HG internals are almost the same as actual Chronarchs except perhaps the former has cheaper kinds of bearings. This probably explains why this reel's former owner replaced the stock bearings on the spool and handle with an orange seal.  I also think that the gear and pinion material is different than that of the Chronarchs.

Personally, I am no a fan of Orange Seals. They are expensive and they don't last long in salt water. Bass, yeah they are fine but after a while, the seals collect dirt and mud and slows down the spin of the bearing. This is was what happened with this reel. Upon opening, it was pretty obvious that it has not been serviced for a long time. The oil and grease was replaced with caked dirt and grime.

I had to completely dismantle everything and brush and rinse the parts and use an ultrasonic cleaner on metal parts including bearings. I had to remove the orange seals to get rid of the dirt.

One of the complaints by the owner was that the reel was no longer smooth when cranking. It was rough and sounded like it grinding teeth when you turn the handle. I noticed that a couple of bearings were rusted one under the spool adjustment knob and the big bearing that holds the pinion. The bearings are regular steel bearings and not the SARB type that you see from higher-end Shimanos. I had to replace both.better bearings.

After removing the worm gear and pawl. I found one more rusted bearing. The stock reel doesn't have a bearing in the worm gear. It only has a nylon bushing. This bearing was an upgrade made by the original owner. Personally, if you don't maintain your reel regularly, I suggest that you keep the bushing. You will be spared from rust. This is specially true for saltwater anglers. Don't replace the bushing with bearings (rollers, knobs, and worm gear). They will eventually rust if you fail to maintain them.

After replacing the bearings, cleaning the rest of the parts, I greased, oiled, and put them back together. I also cleaned the carbontex washers and re-greased them with Cal's grease.

After the cleaning, repair, and reassembly. IT was relatively smooth again. But not so smooth as a Chronarchs or Conquest.

My thought on this Curado 201HG? Well, it has a Chronarch body and I like the size of it compared to the old green Curado. But somehow, Shimano's habit of cutting corners was at the expense of refinement. Because the build quality is unlike the Made in Japan Chronarchs, it has that Shimano signature clackity-clack and handle play which I don't like. For the price, I am sure you can find an old school all aluminum Made in Japan reel from Shimano (Conquest, Aldebaran, etc) or a Daiwa Millionaire, Alphas, TDZ, etc. from year 2000-2006. They are cheaper, more refined, and more durable in the long run.

As the saying goes "New is not always better".

Friday, December 16, 2016

Daiwa Luna 203L: A workhorse reel for the American market

I was doing an end-of-the-year clean up of my laptop when I saw pictures of my old round reel --- the Team Daiwa Luna 203L. Daiwa's answer to Shimano's Calcutta TE series. 

I got this reel 5 years ago and for some reason I have completely forgotten to write about it. The reel is a watered down version of Daiwa Millionaire CVZ that was intended for the US Market. Same design but the components such as the handle, knobs, and a few of the bearings are cheaper versions of their Japan counterpart. Five years ago, the reel wasn't cheap. Around $200-250 for a brand new reel. When I checked eBay, it's still not cheap! It's still within that price range. In some countries, it even fetched at a staggering $300! The price really tells you a lot about the quality of the reel. 

I no longer have it but I had a lot of fun with it. It was a workhorse in both fresh and salt fishing. It never failed me even I sometimes I forget to wash it after kayak fishing in saltwater. Similar to a Millionaire CVZ, it has Magforce Z brakes - which is probably the best mag brake on a round reel out there. It has an externally adjustable brake (EAS). Just slide the brake setting to match your lure weight and wind conditions. It can cast a relatively small lure or even a huge heavy lure without backlash. The 203 is probably best used for swimbaits, spoons, top water for big barra, talakitok, mangrove jacks, or huge mamali (threadfin salmon). The drag is awesome, smooth and does not stutter, the AR is tight and solid, and most importantly balances well with a matching rod. You won't get tired of casting all day. AND, this is a really nice reel for light jigging! Just pop in a jigging handle and you are in business. It has a synchronized drag/guide system -- meaning the line guide moves as line goes in or out which reduces friction and improves casting and deep dropping.

Like most of Daiwa's reel designs, it has very few parts that can break down, It is so easy to disassemble, clean, and repair if needed. You can still get parts from Daiwa and also from their distributors all over the globe. You can use Millionaire parts if you want to upgrade it a bit. This is very important for a relatively expensive reel. If it breaks down, you can get the parts and repair it on your own. Unlike the newer Abus, newer Shimanos, or other no-name reel brands in the market. They are practically disposable as parts are hard to come by and when they break down, it will take you a while to get it repaired if ever.

At that time, I realized that the 203L was too much for the kind of fish I was catching. It was too powerful in my opinion so I had to let it go and bought it's smaller Japanese sibling -- The Millionaire Bay Casting Special 103L. Will I buy another one if given a chance or budget? Hell yes, if I can get it a bit cheaper. There are Millionaire CVZs that almost match the Lunas in terms of price right now but these CVZs are the ones without EAS (External Adjustment System), which I will discuss in some other post in the future.

So, my advise, get one if you can find one. It's a dual-purpose and reliable reel that will last for long time.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Shimano Antares DC7

A few years ago, I repaired a first generation Shimano Antares low profile reel. It was an excellent reel. The build quality was outstanding. I can't really find a problem with the reel except that it was a bit heavy and the finish was slick when wet. Then a few weeks ago, I got request to repair another Antares. This time the reel is the Antares DC7. According to the owner, it was relatively new and was only used a couple of times in freshwater.
At first glance, there's no doubt that this is an expensive reel. The build quality is outstanding. Even the box and the accessories that came with it look and feel premium.
The owner contacted me because the reel was not smooth to the crank as if something is stuck inside the gear or handle. They didn't want to open it because they were not familiar with the sequence in disassembling and re-assembling this kind of reel.
When I held it and cranked it, my initial suspicion was that someone opened it but reassembled it incorrectly.
To disassemble it, I removed the handle nut retainer screw, the retainer, and then the nut itself. Once the handle is out, loosen the star drag until it is unscrewed. Take care to hold it once it comes out of the shaft because the sprong  underneath will make it pop out and if the drag star drops into a hard surface, it might crack or get deformed.
Before you can remove the side plate covering the gears, you need to remove the spool. To do that, slide the lever underneath the reel to 'Open' position and then slide the side plate to expose the brakes. Remove the three black screws holding the DC brake and pull it out completely. Take care not to damage the coils. Once the DC brake assembly is out, pull out the spool and after that, you can remove the screws inside the frame that holds the handle-side side cover.

The internals were clean and looked new and never been serviced. I relubed them using Yamaha marine grease with a little Corrosion X. The bearings looked OK but underneath the main gear, there was a hint of corrosion.
I removed the main gear and pinion. I also removed the Anti-reverse bearing (aka roller clutch bearing) and that's when I noticed that it was rusted heavily. The roller clutch tube was stuck inside the bearing and would not budge. After a few cycles in my ultrasonic cleaner and a lot of Corrosion X, I managed to get it out. A few cycles in the cleaner and the bearing became usable ---but not as smooth as before. The permanent solution is to replace the bearing. I reassembled it and sent it back to the owner. He will send it back to me once he has the new part.

My impression of the reel? It is an awesome solidly built reel. It is still a bit heavy and slick when wet but the DC brake is a cool upgrade. The sound it makes during cast is so worth the cash if you have them extra. But, for the price point, the bearings shouldn't corrode that easily.
From my past experiences with the Shimano reels, the first to get rusted is almost always the AR bearing. It could be a design flaw where the frame lets water in or simply because they are using cheap bearings. Probably this explains why their reel's AR bearings are removable. Other reel's like Daiwa's are stamped or pressed into the frame and it is difficult to remove them. Probably because it is unlikely that you will need to. I rarely see rusted AR bearings from premium Daiwa reels.