I've always thought that retrieve speed is one of the most overlooked aspects of bass fishing; especially when you're talking about crankbait fishing. I've seen a slight increase or decrease in speed make a world of difference on the water and if you pay close attention to speed, I can absolutely guarantee you'll catch more bass.
As the water temperatures are cooling down throughout the country, you can expect bass to become a bit more lethargic than normal. Their metabolism slows and they become much less apt to chase a fast-moving lure, making a slow and methodical presentation essential for maximizing your bites. While it may be tougher to trick 'em into biting, your wintertime cranking bites are going to be big when they happen.
To help me keep my retrieve slow, I've always like to use a low gear ratio this time of year. Anything in the 5.3:1 to 5.4:1 range is normally my preference. Even if I accidentally get impatient and reel a little too fast, a low gear ratio casting reel will help my crankbait maintain a slow swimming action.
I've been testing the Abu Garcia REVO Winch Gen 4 casting reel lately and I've found it to be an excellent tool for cold-water fishing. I'll quickly go through what has impressed me about it.
Your body will thank you
If you've ever thrown a high-resistant lure such as a deep-diving crankbait or umbrella rig for an entire weekend, you're probably all too familiar with the aches and pains you feel come Sunday evening. These kinds of baits will kick your butt after a few days of fishing if you're not using the right type of reel.
In my opinion, the Abu Garcia REVO Winch Gen 4 is the "right" type of reel for high-resistance baits. The 5.4:1 gear ratio really cuts down on how hard these types of baits pull throughout the retrieve. I can throw a deep plug all day long with this reel and have very little, if any, fatigue or soreness at the end of a long fishing day. My elbow and forearm feel as good as new once I get off the water. I'd imagine it would be the same with an umbrella rig as well but in full disclosure, I've made exactly two casts with an umbrella rig in my entire life.
My biggest passion in bass fishing, however, is shallow cranking. This reel is an excellent choice for this technique because as I mentioned earlier, it forces you to slow down. When the water temperatures dip below 50 degrees, I want to feel every single wobble that my shallow crankbait makes; that's how slow I fish 'em. The problem, however, is that I'm an incredibly impatient angler who likes to move quickly and put my bait in front of a lot of fish. With this low gear ratio, I'm able to turn the handle a somewhat "normal" speed for me without burning my crankbait too quickly.
Some of the older Winch models I've used in the past have been a little finicky in my opinion. The Winch Gen 4, however, hasn't given me a single problem in regards to castability or adjustability. Whether you're throwing a heavier deep crankbait or a lightweight, flat-sided balsa crankbait, this reel can handle it without frustrating you. When I first got this reel out of the box, it took me about five seconds to get it dialed to my personal preference.
I've also noticed how well this reel casts into the wind. With dropping temperatures normally comes some nasty, windy days on the water, so having a non-temperamental reel is essential to remain efficient and, if I'm being honest, keep you in a good mood throughout the day. Nothing can ruin a fishing day quicker than constant backlashes.
But I can be fishing down a protected bank with this reel and of course, have no problem at all making accurate casts. As I'm coming out of that protected pocket and want to make a cast on a shallow, windblown point, I can still put my crankbait where it needs to be without fiddling with the settings of this reel. I think even novice anglers will find this reel easy to operate and adjust on the fly.
Smooth and precise drag system
Abu Garcia designed the Winch Gen 4 with something called the Power Stack Carbon Matrix Drag System. I could give you a bunch of brochure talk on all of this but I'll spare you. In my personal experience, this particular drag system has proven itself to be not only powerful but also smooth when it needs to be.
A lot of drag systems tend to be very sensitive, especially when you're deep cranking. One click too tight and it won't release enough line if your fish takes a quick, boat-side run. One click too lose and when a 6-pounder loads up on your crankbait, the drag will slip as you lean into the fish. I've found this to be an all-too-common issue when testing low gear ratio reels.
I'm happy to say that this reel doesn't seem to have those issues. It has a very strong drag when necessary but it can also be adjusted very precisely, which allows the drag to dispense line like butter. Casting reels can be known for their drag "surging" when fighting a fish but this reel will not do that. Whenever a fish takes a deep dive, this drag system immediately responds and keeps you in control of the fight at all times.
I like the way this reel feels in my hand. Weighing in at 7.5 ounces, it's not the lightest reel you're going to find out there. But for heavy-duty, high-resistance applications I prefer to have a little larger frame on my reel. I feel like it allows me to control my rod easier. I've tinkered with some of those ultra low-profile casting reels for these techniques and I feel like they don't give me enough to grab onto, if that makes any sense.
While this reel may not have the most petite frame on the market, I consider that a good thing due to the applications for which it was designed.
If you plan on fishing moving baits this winter, I'd certainly recommend taking a close look at this reel. I'd also say the same if you plan on chucking an umbrella rig or deep crankbait as well. I've enjoyed using it and it will likely remain on my front deck for the rest of the winter months.