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Really Cool,

The Bass Pro Shops White River Classic UL Reel

A Product Review By Joe Cornwall


Click For The Fly Fish Ohio Rating System


"It's a small world, but I wouldn't want to paint it."
─ Steven Wright (1955 - )


The art of building simply is often lost in the light of advancing technology.  Half a century ago, a finely machined single action fly reel was the norm.  Ten years ago it was rare.  Today, a quality click-pawl single action reel at a reasonable price point is truly unique.  Most click-pawl reels are now considerably more expensive than even some very sophisticated reels with sealed exotic drag systems.  This is true only because the drag reels are far more popular, not necessarily better under every condition.  Click-pawl reels, being in less demand, don't reap the benefit of the economy of scale. This is unfortunate as most freshwater fly fishers would be well off with a simple, nearly indestructible click-pawl design.  With the White River Classic UL,  Bass Pro Shops has turned economy of scale on its head with a reel of very small scale that delivers performance economically.


The White River Classic UL reel has been in the Bass Pro Shops line-up for several years. It measures 2 5/16 in diameter with a useable spool diameter of 2 1/4 inches. and an inside spool depth of 5/8 inch.  The reel is positively tiny! 


It weighs just 2.375 ounces empty, and when filled with a double-taper 2-weight fly line the entire package comes in at 2.85 ounces.  With a weight-forward 3 line the full package weighted 2.90 ounces.  The gear is press-fit to the bearing and is cut with 32 teeth for a super smooth resistance.  There is a single pawl mounted mid-point to a straight spring, so tension is equal is pay and retrieve, making the reel is ambidextrous.


The spool is counterbalanced, the handle appears to be wood and the finish is a sharp gloss-black anodizing.  The reel foot measures 2 1/2 by 1/2 inches and is tapered to make fitting this little pocket-watch-sized winch to an equally diminutive rod with a slip-ring reel seat both easy and secure.


Bass Pro Shops provided the Fly Fish Ohio team with four of these little reels for our Great 2-Weight Fly Rod Shoot-Out, and we were able to fish the reels with each of the 22 fly rods in the review.  The BP UL reels were given some harsh treatment and we found ourselves on more than one occasion hooked to a fish that had no business on the business end of an ultra-light.  Those moments demanded a smooth, reliable ability to feed and retrieve line; simple tasks that are often compromised by unnecessarily complex drag designs on some other reels. If a drag system exhibits any start-up inertia or "grabbing", a 2lb test tippet usually breaks.


This reel is truly small, so its label as an ultra-light is right on the mark.  As with any tiny reel, you'll have to stretch your fly line before fishing.  Being wound so tightly doesn't do much for the memory of most PVC lines, but this is a minor point.  I always stretch my lines before the first cast, regardless of line weight or reel size.  I found the White River UL reel held a WF3 fly line with about 20-feet of 12lb test backing or a DT2 with about 50-feet.  This is more than sufficient capacity.  Any fish that will run 50 yards or more isn't likely to be landed on a 6-foot 2-weight fly rod and 2lb test tippet - nor is it appropriate to try. Perhaps the best solution with this reel is one of the Cortland 10-meter fly lines (Editor's note - we'll be reviewing these lines in an up-coming feature, stay tuned), or use half of an ordinary 90' double taper.  45-feet of fly line plus 9-feet of leader is 54-feet and that's beyond the practical limit of the size 0, 1, 2 or 3 fly lines that will be used with this reel.


The Classic is quite smooth in use.  The click drag is very fine and the tension is minimal.  A robust strip of line from the reel can cause it to over-run, but in ordinary use I never had a problem.  The anodizing is excellent.  While rigging up I accidentally dropped the reel from chest height onto a concrete parking lot (sorry BP) and the only permanent reminder is a very, very slight ding in the finish.  That's tough!


The Bass Pro Shops Classic Ultra-Light reel is a machined reel, made in Korea.  It has an MSRP of $109.99, which when compared to similar click-pawl reels is a true bargain.  Our wish is that Bass Pro would now make this reel available in the next size up; something in a 3" diameter appropriate to size 3,4 and 5 lines.  Highly recommended!


Editor's Note: For a short period of time after initial publication, this reel disappeared from the Bass Pro on-line catalog and most stores  As of January 2010, the Fly Fish Ohio team has confirmed inventory in most stores and on-line.  The MSRP is now $119.99.

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