Wednesday 16 March 2011

Sealed fixed spool spinning reel for under £100?

Review of Alcedo Aluminium MTC

Alcedo Aluminium MTC 4 year warranty

One of the great problems with kayak fishing is the terrible treatment that is given to your equipment.  Sand, sea water and fish slime are the culprits.  Many kayaks are classed as "wet" rides, in that even with scupper plugs, the sea water comes into the kayak and swills around your feet and where you sit.  Where you keep your tackle will also end up sitting in a puddle of sea water.  Quite often when the fishing is fast and furious, you are equally drifting at speed over shoals of banked up fish.  The quickest way to get back over the shoal is to put your rod and reel between your legs and paddle like mad to get up drift of them.  So both your rod and reel will just end up if not submerged then doused at regular intervals.

This kind of exposure to salt water is a killer for reels.  It reduces shiny new pieces of tackle to rusting, clogged up, scratched up pieces of rubbish only fit for the dustbin.  Worse, it does this in as little as a season.  Given the risk of capsize and possibly losing tackle overboard, many sea kayak anglers choose cheap and cheerful reels and accept they have to be replaced every year.  The only other option is find a reel that is genuinely salt water proof.  But that means fully waterproof.  Just having non-corrosive components or rust-resistant bearings, or even a waterproof drag isn't good enough.  Neither is the old adage of rinsing the reel under a tap when you get home.  Once sea water gets inside a reel, just rinsing it under a tap won't get that salt out.  Instead, the salt gradually attracts moisture to it, and it will eventually rot 95% of gear mechanisms out there.

So what's the solution?  As I said, it has to be a fully waterproof reel.  There are several American manufacturers out there, such as Van Staal, but these reels retail at £400 and more, so they're not an option for kayak fishermen who might lose them overboard!  Van Staal also have their critics in terms of line lay and their noted "agricultural feel".  

However, help is hopefully finally at hand.  Thanks to cheap Chinese manufacturing costs and resourceful Italian design, Alcedo are now offering a waterproof spinning reel that not only retails under £100 but also comes with a 4 year warranty!  Well I had to try one, and I have to say I am very impressed.

Along with excellent line lay, it comes with two aluminium spools with one extra shallow for low diameter braid.  The proudly declare the reel's fully waterproof body and drag system on the body of the reel.  Notice that red stuff over one of the screw heads?
That's the warranty seal.  You even try to open it and bang goes the warranty.  Great - hassle free reel that I just return to claim the warranty!  It seems too good to be true, but the reel's specifications don't stop there.  Very fast retrieve (6:1), ultra-light body casing in aluminium (yes, not plastic like every other Shimano or Daiwa!) which is itself coated in a strange rubbery coating that makes it easy to grip even when cold and wet. 
Not many manufacturers declare their warranty on the body of their reels, do they?  Push release spools show a final warranty seal:
All in all, I can't find anything bad to say about this reel.  Each time I pick it and turn the handle, it feels incredibly smooth and rock solid.  The proof will come at the end of the season, and that's when I'll update this review to let you know how it looks and feels then.  Despite being an incredible reel for its price and in comparison to what else is out there, to justify its price tag to kayakers it needs to last for several seasons and be at least as good as a brand new ultra cheap reel by the end of it.  Only by doing that will it beat the "buy cheap and chuck it" philosophy.  At it's current pricing, the reel would need to probably need to last around five seasons, in order to outlast another favourite among kayak sea bass anglers: the ABU Cardinal Saltwater 174SWi.  This has become my back up reel, it's on its second season and is still performing OK for a third of the price of the Alcedo. 

Mid-season report:  the reel has had quite a few outings now, including an overnight trip where the reel wasn't rinsed off with fresh water at the end of the first day.  Two main problems emerged after that trip.  Firstly, the quick release button on the spool jammed, meaning I couldn't get the spool off.  Eventually after a light tap with a spanner, the button seemed to allow the spool to come off ok.  Secondly, some rust is visible under the rotating head in the join / groove between the head and fixed main body.  The reel did seem a little stiffer, and made a slight rubbing noise initially when I picked it up after the last session.  Added a little T9 lubricant and it seems to have gone.  So far nothing major, but I can see the reel is wearing, the clutch is a little less smooth, one of the body screws has rust in it and so on, minor niggles but I'm a bit sceptical it'll last the 4 years of its guarantee at this rate.  Then again, I can always return it if it does fail.  I'll give you a more thorough analysis of its performance at the end of the season!

End of season report: well, it's not quite the end of the sea bass fishing, but it's the end of the season for this reel, as after a gap of a few weeks I took the reel out of my tackle bag and found that it had completely seized up.  I couldn't even turn the handle! 

The spool also seems to have jammed on and the reel is in a pretty sorry state.  So it seems that it failed to last even a single season of sea kayak fishing.

The photograph below shows what looks like some form of corrosion, even though the reel body is claimed to be aluminium.  From the seal there, it looks to me like sea water got into the casing somehow, so the company's claim that the reel is waterproof doesn't look too good:
Warranty seal intact, unlike the case seal from the look of things..
But the reel is boxed up and ready to return.  We'll see if I get a replacement and if it lasts any longer.  It could be that I had a bad one, or it could be that they just aren't tough enough for sea kayak fishing.

Luckily I still have  a cheap "chuck at the end of the season" reel to fall back on.  Disappointed with the Alcedo though.

Update: I have been in contact with Italia Fishing's representative for the UK who tells me that the reel is not salt water proof, and whereas you or I might infer waterproof means salt waterproof, it doesn't and here is his explanation:

The reel is not guaranteed salt water proof I am afraid,only the inner gears have sealed warranty.  I suspect you will find that the inner gears are perfectly sealed and waterproof, that doesn't however make the reel salt water proof.  It was originally designed in Italy as a fresh water reel( bassing) and the Italians are a little concerned as to its salt water use.  There is definitely one bearing sitting exposed inside the rim which you must not let dry out and will seize if not maintained when the reel is submerged in the salt.
So there you have it.  Unfortunately it is impossible to keep a reel dry on a sea kayak.  In rough conditions, waves will wash over any reel held in the rod holders on a kayak and there's nothing you can do about it.  This reel did seize up completely, and given it's a known issue with the reel, they could provide a little more information about how to protect it if it's to be used in a salt water environment.  However, they have honoured the guarantee provided that any future reel is not submerged in salt water.  That's impossible for me to ensure, so I'll see if I can find a lube that will protect that particular exposed bearing and make it last a little longer than just a few sea kayaking trips!

3 year update:  Well the replacement reel is just about holding together, but then this happened:
Yes, I kid you not. The somewhat cheap and nasty rivet holding the plastic grip to the metal reel handle just wore away, meaning that you could just pull the handle straight out of its socket!  Naturally I wrote to Italia's fishing representative once more to complain, and he quickly pointed out the 4 year guarantee only applies to the inner gears.  But for the cost of its postage, he could get me a replacement handle as I was "a valued customer"!  Guess what?  Yep, you probably already guessed.  He sent me back the handle from the first reel I returned to him, charging me £4 for the postage!!  Well, I guess my even my corroded old handle is better than no handle.  But this particular reel or supplier no longer inspires much confidence.

Shortly after this, the reel finally died suffering internal gear failure.  I haven't replaced it.
Metal gears should never fail like this.  Poor design.


  1. is the reel still working smootless ?

  2. Not sure about "smootless"?!

    The weather has prevented me from having many bass sessions this summer, so it's still a bit early to give it my full recommendation.

  3. Hi Kester,

    Nice blog - some interesting and informative stuff.

    I was looking at this reel as general plugging reel for both shore and off the yak so would be interested in your thoughts when you've had a chance to give it a fair crack of the whip. Have heard some good reports from the shore fishing fraternity but would be good to know how it stands up to the wetter kayak environment!


  4. Hi Andy

    I am very close to doing an end of season report on the reel actually. But the short answer is no, well yes possibly if they are good on their guarantee. But even so I'm not convinced the design of the reel is genuinely waterproof.

    My reel is seizing up pretty badly now after a session, and the quick release button on the spool has jammed, meaning I can't change the spool. It's true that a few turns of the handle and the reel frees up and works again, but salt must have got in there somewhere.

    So if their guarantee is good, and I get a new reel, fine I guess, though I'd like my spool of line back when I send them it!

    I'll write all this up, including their response in a month or so when the fishing slows up a bit, so please check back then.

    Tight lines.

  5. Cheers Kester - will deffo keep an eye out for your final report. Thanks again.

  6. What a shame, it could have been a real seller for the kayak fishermen - I saw your initial review a while back, and thought I would hold off getting one until you had tried and tested it. Great review, shame about it not being saltwater resistnat. Van Staals cost the earth too - back to the cardinal as you say !


  7. @dizzyfish

    Yes, this is no better than a cheap chuck-it-after-ten-sessions type reel in terms of how long it lasted, so at least for sea kayak fishing I can't recommend it. Presumably it would be fine in freshwater, but even so I wouldn't fancy dropping in the water too often.

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