The Daiwa 22 EXIST G LT Spinning Reel is the finest fishing reel Daiwa has ever made, and that’s saying something when you’re talking about 60 years of some of the most impressive innovations in fishing reels. Daiwa has always been highly regarded for its quality and craftsmanship, but the new 22 Exist is next level stuff.
I’ve had this reel now for a few months and it’s nothing short of overly impressive. It’s their flagship reel, so it incorporates every bit of their technology and manufacturing innovation as well as sourcing from the finest materials available to make a reel that is stronger, lighter and frankly just fishes beautifully no matter what fish you chase.
Let’s dive into some of the features that set this reel apart not only in their own lineup but probably from all reels in the market right now. If it’s not the very best spinning reel ever made, it’s definitely in the top 2. So let’s get into the features and my experience with this reel.
THE AIRDRIVE DESIGN IS NEXT LEVEL
They are already putting anglers on notice that the AirDrive Design is the future of spinning reels for Daiwa. Whenever you create anything truly innovative and industry shifting, the first iteration is usually extremely expensive. You see this in cars, electronics, aviation and many other highly technical industries. It costs a fortune to build the first one. But where it really becomes mainstay is when the technological innovation is pushed down into other offerings at lower price points and then the magic happens.
The AirDrive Design shines because of the reduction of the weight of the spool, rotor and bail assembly, which gives a lighter rotation. The effortless rotation feels almost like the spool is floating on air. The reel weighs so little, that you feel like you’re just holding a rod and reeling the handle in air.
And this is where peak performance is achieved with spinning reels. If you can reduce the weight and friction in the turning of the bail and rotor, you suddenly feel full control of the lure. If a reel has too much friction or drag on the rotation, you can’t feel what the lure is doing and you can’t feel when a fish changes that. So it results in a lot more missed fish. But when the rotor and bail turn with zero friction, you feel so much more.
OTHER DAIWA TECHNOLOGIES ROUND OUT 22 EXIST
The Monocoque Body, Touch Digigear and Magsealed design all combine to provide a solid, one piece feel with the lightest and smoothest operation you will find in a spinning reel. The rigid one piece body creates a more durable reel inside and out. Then the perfectly machined gears create incredibly smooth rotation quality. While the MQ body and Magsealed ball bearings keep all water intrusion out of the reel to make it operate like a fine oiled machine for the life of the reel.
NEW GENERATION DRAG ON 22 EXIST
The new ATD Type-L drag improves on that initial response, which is literally the make or break aspect for landing a big fish that makes a hard, spur-of-the-moment surge, usually right at the boat as you’re about to land them. If your drag doesn’t start up instantly and smoothly under pressure, you’re going to break your line and lose that fish. This new system gives you more control. All said you can use this drag to wear down big fish.
EXPERIENCES WITH THE 22 EXIST
The firs time I had it out on the water this winter, I was bass fishing out deep and saw a nice arch on my livescope, I flipped a Damiki rig into the water that the fish and got it to bite. Turned out to be a 2-3/4 pound crappie. The precise control I had on the casting, nice drag and smooth operation helped me detect and land one of my biggest crappie this year in the first few throws with the new reel.
Since then I’ve thrown Damiki rigs, small swimbaits, jerkbaits and floating worms with this reel. It’s absolutely amazing how well it fishes light tackle. Any spinning reel can handle 1/4 to 1/2 ounce tackle with ease. But getting down to 1/8 or even 1/16-ounce weights for your lures, and most spinning reels will struggle to handle fishing the light baits effectively.
The retrieve is great but so is the casting. Line comes off the spool so smooth and clean. The reel is so balanced.
The 22 Exist can do it all. My biggest fish thus far is a 14-pound drum on it, and that was a fun fight on a ML St. Croix Victory rod and the 22 EXIST with 10-pound Seaguar Smackdown braid and an 8-pound Inviz-X leader. I’ve also had an 8-pound channel cat on it. And I’ve had a few bass to 4 pounds on it and a few crappie over 2 pounds on it. Fishing is just getting going and right now my 22 EXIST has a floating worm rigged on it for the next few weeks. One of my favorite bites in the spring.
So I will follow up probably with some additional photos with this reel.
A FINAL WORD ON PRICE
Yep. The price on this reel is pretty out of this world. Having said that, this reel provides an incredible experience. And as I’ve gotten older, I am 51 now, I have come to enjoy the satisfaction of using better equipment in the activities I am most passionate about. I don’t buy 4 reels anymore to cover everything. I buy one really good one and make it work for a lot of things and really get a lot more enjoyment out of picking up those really great high end rods and reels I saved up for.
I am going the direction where I want to participate in activities using nice equipment that helps me enjoy those activities a little more. I want a really great BFS combo for trout streams. I don’t need 10. I just want a couple really nice ones. I want a really great fly rod and reel for fly fishing adventures.
It’s no different than the joy a coffee aficionado gets when he buys the super high-end coffee grinder and relishes in making his fresh coffee every morning on that incredibly crafted grinder. Just how everything feels and how enjoyable it is making the coffee from scratch on a fine piece of equipment.
No different than a golfer who first picks up a high-end driver for the first time and smashing a long drive after having played on his beater clubs growing up. How much more enjoyment that finer piece of equipment provided him in an activity he was already very passionate about.
Can I get by with a $50 spinning reel? Of course. I use $29 spinning reels often on my crappie combos. Will fishing with those reels be as enjoyable. Maybe for some if they continue to work fine. But for me, I have a deeper appreciation for using finely crafted equipment that adds to the experience. I get it’s not for everyone. But my job is simply to provide you with information about as many of the new products in fishing as possible and then let you decide which ones make the most sense for you and the stage you are in fishing and in life.
I actually am a minimalist at heart. That’s why I’d rather have one great reel and rod that will last me 10 years and still work like new in 10 years, than 6 mediocre ones. And over that lifespan the cost of the higher end piece of equipment spreads more evenly.
That’s my two cents. The Daiwa 22 Exist G LT spinning reel is one of the finest fishing reels I’ve ever used and relish in having been able to review it.
For those aficionados interested in owning one, you can find the 22 Exist at these online retailers: