I've tested a few 13 Fishing reels throughout my career, but I haven't had my hands on many of the newer models. The older ones I've tried in the past, however, did impress me and I still use them to this day. I have a few buddies who swear by some of the new models and I finally had the chance with the new Concept A2 model for several weeks.
The fishing has been brutally tough in my area for the last month, so I've been doing a lot of junk fishing and scrambling around the lake which has allowed me to try this reel with a bunch of different baits. I feel like I got a really good feel for its features so I wanted to quickly run through some things you should know about this reel.
The drag has finesse and power
I love testing reels in the summer because that's when the striped bass bite really well here. If a bass fishing reel can handle a huge striper, it can definitely take care of a bass. I've used the 13 Fishing Concept A2 for both largemouth and stripers and the drag has perhaps been one of my favorite features of this reel.
I normally tighten my drag as tight as it will go when I'm bass fishing. A lot of casting reels don't have very smooth drag, so I tend to use my own thumb as some semblance of a manual drag system when a fish dives deep right at the boat. I made a point while testing this reel, however, to loosen the drag and play the fish a little more than normal.
The results were excellent. The Bulldog Carbon Drag System allows for small adjustments so you can fine-tune the drag setting to your liking and it dispenses line quite smoothly. There's no hesitation or surging when the fish makes a run, so I consider this reel a great choice for treble-hooked lures.
When it comes to stopping power, it's pretty tough to beat this reel. It has 25 pounds of stopping power, so whether you're flipping heavy cover, punching grass or even fighting a 15-pound striped bass, you'll be in control of the fight. Once you tighten the drag on this reel, it's not going to let out a centimeter of line.
Super small frame without sacrificing line capacity
I've always liked to keep a bunch of line on my reels but some of the new-age casting reels on the market are really beginning to cut down on their line capacity. It seems as if it's all about being the smallest and lightest these days, but I don't want to make a long cast and feel my backing knot.
While this reel has a small and lightweight HD aluminum frame, 13 Fishing didn't sacrifice line capacity to achieve it. Fortunately, the Concept A2 allows for 25% more line capacity without increasing the overall size of the reel.
Easily adjustable for hassle-free casting
Anyone who knows me knows how much I get frustrated at finicky casting reels. If I'm paying good money for a reel, I shouldn't have to monkey around with its settings for an hour to be able to skip a boat dock with it. And guess what? If I want to switch the weight of my jig or Texas rig, I have to start all over.
With that being said, I pay really close attention to castability when I'm testing a new reel. After unpackaging the Concept A2 and spooling it with some 15-pound fluorocarbon, I was skipping boat docks within a minute or two. It's not one of those moody reels that you have to constantly baby and mess with all day long. You take it out of the box, set it up however you like it and start casting.
I really like how it handles weight and lure changes, too. For instance, I was skipping a 1/2-ounce jig a few weeks ago and I kept getting short strikes for some reason. I decided to downsize to a 3/8-ounce jig and I didn't even have to touch the brakes or tension knob on the Concept A2. Not only does it reduce frustration and make me more efficient, but it also makes me more apt to make those small, key adjustments throughout the day.
The cork looks cool, but it's also helpful
I've always liked cork handle knobs on casting reels. If not for any other reason, I've just always thought they looked pretty cool. But after beating on some striped bass (slime, blood and poop all over the place) with the Concept A2, I've learned that these cork knobs allow for a super tight grip, even when my hands are slimy and filthy.
The cork accent on the thumb bar looks awesome in my opinion, but it also helps adds a little bit of tackiness while you're operating the reel. For instance, if a fish is taking a run at the boat and I need to press that thumb bar, I can't have my thumb slipping and delaying me giving that fish more line. I was testing a different reel last month during a tournament (dumb idea) and I hooked up with a 6-pound bass on a squarebill. I got her to the boat and when she saw my partner's net she took off underneath the boat. It was raining, my hands were soaked and I could not get that dang thumb bar to push down.
Long story short, she came off and we ended up two pounds out of first place. So yea... I guess you could say I was pretty excited to see this small, yet useful feature on the Concept A2.
This is one of those solid reels that you're going to be able to use for just about anything. I have been using the 6.8:1 gear ratio and it really is a do-it-all reel. Whether you like pitching, flipping, topwaters, spinnerbaits, crankbaits or whatever else, you'll like this reel for it. It'll probably be that reel that never leaves your boat.