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H2Ox Evo Baitcasting Reel Review

Academy Sports and Outdoors has made a big push into the bass fishing world the last decade or so. From being the title sponsor of the Bassmaster Classic multiple times to having one of the most extensive fishing sections of any big store shy of Bass Pro Shops itself, Academy has pushed their chips into the bass fishing space. As an angler, I’m thankful for it. 

We have an Academy near where I live in Auburn, Alabama. It’s a near weekly occurrence that I go in and peruse the aisles. In addition to the vast selection of bass gear from leading brands, Academy also has their own lineup of rods, reels, baits, line and more. Their rods and reels have piqued my interest of late, so I had Academy ship out a baitcast combo of theirs to test. 

H20 Evo Reel academy


For starters, H2Ox is an Academy brand that offers dozens if not hundreds of products geared towards anglers. One of their more recent creations—the H2Ox Evo Baitcasting Reel—came from a collaboration with Elite Series Pro Stetson Blaylock. Blaylock teamed up with Academy to design and bring to market the Evo reel as well as a few models of Evo casting and spinning rods. 

The Evo reel retails for $99 and comes in two gear ratios: 7.3:1 and 8.1:1. It’s built using a one-piece aluminum frame paired with carbon side plates. The hinged side plate opposite the reel handle can be opened to allow the angler to adjust the centrifugal brake system. The reel comes in a right hand retrieve only. 


I’ve had the Evo baitcast reel spooled up on a 7-foot, 1-inch medium heavy H2Ox Evo Casting Rod for just over two months now. I’ve fished with this combo probably 10 to 12 times during that period, walking the banks of ponds, fishing tournaments with my dad and fun fishing with friends and family. 

It’s been an easy rod to lend to a buddy while he’s in the boat with me, and one I’ve let my wife use a few times too as she continues to hone her baitcasting skills. The reel is fairly easy to cast and durable. The rod is too for that matter. They make a fairly light combo between the two of them. 

This is a great rod and reel combo for the beginner to intermediate angler that’s looking for a decent baitcast combo to grow into. Make no mistake, this setup is more than capable for the serious tournament angler as well. I’ve used it in tournament situations and Blaylock says he even uses it on the Bassmaster Elite Series. 

Fun side note, I actually stumbled onto a massive shell cracker bed recently and this was the closest thing I had to a finesse setup in the boat. I hopped out on the bank, dug up some worms, ran them up on a Ned head and caught a few of the slab bream using this rod and reel. So you can certainly throw light baits with it if you want to. 


For $100 you can get a pretty dang good reel these days. There’s the tried and true Lew’s LFS Speed Spool that comes in at $99. I’ve had several of those over the years. Then there’s the Shimano SLX 150 for the same price, a reel I’ve never personally used but one I’ve heard a lot of good things about.

I’d say for comparison that the Evo casts about equally well as the Lew’s LFS, and may even be a little bit stronger if you’re looking for a quality but affordable reel for power fishing. The lifespan is something I can’t speak too yet, having only had this reel a couple of months. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s a strong and dependable reel that I think most would be satisfied with. 

The reviews on Academy’s website have the Evo rated at 4.2 stars out of 5. I think that’s fair, if not a little low. I’ve been pleased with the Evo, both the rod and the reel. I think you will be too.