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.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Bay jigging Zambales and my epic struggle to find a good fishfinder battery

In the past couple of years or so, jigging has caught on locally and it is now a very popular method of fishing. With the help of social media, more and more people are posting spectacular catches through jigging and with each picture, more and more anglers are getting inspired to also take on this style of fishing.

Fairly recently, Zambales province in the north of  Philippines has gained popularity as a prime jigging spot. And it wasn't a surprise. In the past few months alone, a lot of anglers are catching different kinds on fish from jigging. From the huge Giant Trevallies (GT), Wahoos, Yellowfin Tuna, to the tasty Coral trouts. And what's amazing is that almost all of them were caught using light jigging tackle -- PE1.5-3.0 using 100-150g jigs. Aside from the variety and number of catches, more and more anglers are flocking to the province because it is also very accessible. From Manila, you can get to the spot in around 3 hours.

Sometime during the middle of last year, I also got into this trend and was able to test my Ryoga Bay Jigging C2020PE HL with Daiko Spear Jigging rod that had been collecting dust in my rod rack. Relatively speaking, I did fairly well on the first attempt. I got a decent sized Trevally and a Rainbow Runner using an Ima Ganpeki jig. I could have caught more if not for my fishfinder battery (Sealed Lead Acid 7AH) that died after just a few hours of fishing.

After that, no more jigging trips. The next jigging trip was when I joined Naks, our Japanese jigging master, for a night jigging session last December. Because of  strong wind and big waves plus another fail on the fishfinder battery (3AH Motorcycle battery ), we had to cut the trip short. Nonetheless, we still managed to catch a lot of Barracudas using luminous 100g jigs. Naks was able to land a cuda that was more than four feet long. I think it was around 6-8kg. The fish wouldn't fit in the cooler and nobody want's it inside the boat because of its big set of teeth that can easily chop off a couple our toes.

Anyway, a couple of weeks after that trip, I managed to try jigging again in Zambales as a detour during a visit to my in-laws, Unfortunately I forgot to get a better battery. As expected, the fishfinder battery was dead after less that 3 hours of fishing. My boatman didn't bring an anchor and was unable to locate the hole due to the strong current. Still, I am convinced that the method is very effective (especially when on the right fishing spot with a really nice structure). During the first 2 hours of jigging (with the aid of a fishfinder), I managed to catch 6 table-sized fish using 80-120g jigs. I also lost around three big ones that pulled drag and straightened my hooks like they were nothing.
From my limited experiences during these trips, I am convinced that the use of a good quality fish finder (and a good quality battery) is really important especially if your boatman is clueless when it comes to finding the right fishing spot. In Zambales such as the town of Pundaquit, a seasoned boatman is very hard to come by. They are almost always booked by other anglers. Most of the remaining boatmen are mostly into island hopping tours and have no experience in fishing. 

Having a good sounder is a good alternative and it will save you a lot of effort, time, and money finding underwater structures that hold fish. Jigging is tiring and exerting energy on a barren area is a waste of time. 

So what's a decent fishfinder? For me, a dual beam ff that can reach at least 200m in Saltwater is a good choice. I am using a Garmin Echo 500C that has 200 and 77mhz beam. It is cheap (if you know where to look) and it is very easy to use. A lot of fishfinders being sold online do not divulge the real depth that it can see in saltwater. Most of them will only go as deep as 50m. So, you have to really check how powerful it can go. The low freq beam of the Echo 500c can penetrate deep into saltwater and can deliver great bottom detail up to 250m deep when I tested it. The high freq beam can show a wide detail around the boat up to 50m in saltwater. The resolution also is very nich even in really bright sunlight. The problem is, it draws around 1amp of current every hour which explains why my batteries get drained easily. Next time I use it, I will get a 24mah deep cycle battery. Based on my calculations, it should last at least 12 hours of fishing. I hope this will address this problem once and for all.