We’ve fished a lot of great value priced reels these last few months in an effort to compare reels around the $100 price point. I’ve been particularly pleased with the performance and quality of all these reels. Today, I’m adding another to that list with our Echo Ion reel review.
Quickly, let’s reiterate some of the differences you might find between reels in the sub $200 range: First, the construction of the reel is often a price differentiator. Machined aluminum reels are often more expensive than cast aluminum and are thought to last longer because there tend to be fewer imperfections or voids in the metal that could cause the body to deteriorate. Second, the drag system is a key distinguishing factor. Classic fly reels were made with Click and Pawl spring drag systems, while many newer reels are made with a disc drag system. Both have their place and provide a distinct reel experience.
The Echo Ion reel is a bit of a hybrid in these two categories, and a pretty impressive one at that. I’ve had a really enjoyable time fishing it over the last month and a half. It has performed well, cast smoothly and met all of the drag demands I’ve put on it with the type of fishing that I’ve done over the last month.
Construction / Porting
What if you could combine the value of a cast reel while still maintaining the precision porting of a machined aluminum reel? The ION does just that. It starts with a fully cast base and then is machined to precision. They call it a hybrid design and it seems to work. So much so that a fishing buddy of mine picked up the reel a few weekends ago and commented, “Nice, machined aluminum right?” How do you answer that question…
You can tell the body has been machined instead of cast as well. The precision on the spool and base are what you would expect of a much higher priced reel and provide a nice quality look to the reel.
The one downside of the construction is the weight. The reel is the heaviest of the three that we have fished lately at 5.3oz. I fished it in a ⅘ weight and didn’t feel that the weight was overbearing, but I did notice that it was there.
The first thing I noticed about the reel is the size of the arbor. More than its height, it is quite wide. At 1.2” it’s the largest of the three reels that we tested recently. That explains a little bit of the extra weight, but I quite like it. It holds line and backing well with plenty of room. This may not be a big deal for the average trout stream, but if you were to take one of these on a salmon or steelhead fishing trip you’d want every inch of line you could get. I personally liked it.
Using a Rulon disc drag system the Echo Ion Reel performs excellently in handling any of the trophy trout you are going to run into. The drag is responsive, and easily adjustable with the drag knob on the back.
What I liked most about the drag was the positive click system of the knob. Often I find drag reels continually tighten with no scaling feature or indication that you are increasing in resistance. The Ion reel drag knob clicks as you increase in resistance. I like that feature when shifting between a more and less aggressive drag. I actually can tell I’m increasing or decreasing resistance rather than being left with guessing how much to turn.
One other thing that I’d mention is the manner in which you remove the spool. Most reels have either a button or lever to remove the spool, the Echo Ion reel has a cap on the front that is unscrewed to remove the reel (and what you would need to remove in order to change the retrieve direction).
I’d also recommend getting a different case for the reel. It comes with a light drawstring bag and if you are looking for additional protection you might invest in something a bit more padded.
At 79.99 this is certainly the lowest priced reel of the three and impressive for that price range. Frankly, I’m surprised they are able to sell a reel like this for that price.