(Editor's note: Here's a reel-related piece featuring Greg Hackney written by longtime industry rep Alan McGuckin.)
Greg Hackney won the 2014 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race by doing things his own way. The fishing reels he uses are no exception. The spools Hackney prefers are larger than those of pretty much every other Elite Series angler on tour, and most likely the ones you’re using, too.
Thirty years ago, most baitcasting reels were comparatively larger than present-day models. Then the fishing industry got on a weight-loss program achieved mostly by designing sleeker, lower-profile reels that also feature smaller spools.
That’s where Hackney’s do-it-my-way mentality motivates him to seek something most people often don’t – like using much larger-spooled-reels with the same lightweight comfort.
“Honestly, when Quantum came out with the EXO reel in 2011 it changed the way I looked at reels, because now I could get a really large-spooled reel that was lighter than a lot of the smaller reels and I knew that could offer some serious advantages,” he said. “There’s three huge advantages to using a larger, 200-size spool versus a 100, or even a 150. You’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose with a bigger reel.
“First, you’ll cast more accurately with a larger spool. Second, you can feather a larger spool with your thumb easier, and it’s not gonna burn your skin on a long, hard cast, and because of that, you’ll cast harder and farther without hesitation. Most importantly, you can retrieve a lure a lot faster with a 200-size EXO or Smoke that you can a smaller reel.
“Now, what a lot of people don’t realize is that a reel is only at its true retrieve ratio if the spool is full. I don’t care what reel you're talking about – the spool needs to be full in order for it to perform optimally.
“That said, a larger 200-size reel is always going to retrieve faster than a smaller spool. I can use a 5.3:1 in a 200 EXO and it’s got more power, casts farther and still retrieves as fast or faster than a 6.6:1 reel with a 100-size spool.”
When 200 isn't Big Enough
Most consider a 300-size baitcasting reel to a perfect fit for musky or steelhead. However, Hackney packs one as his ideal winch for big swimbaits and Alabama Rigs.
“As a rule of thumb, anything I’m throwing that weighs more than an ounce is gonna get tied to a 300 EXO, he said. “If you try to throw an Alabama Rig or a big swimbait on a 200- or 100-size spool, you’ll burn your thumb and you might run out of line, so you’ll hold back. But with a larger spool, it’s not turning as fast on the cast, so you can throw it as far as you want."
Hackney is best known for his shallow-water power fishing dominance, but he’s not afraid of spinning reels. And when he reaches for one, it’s a big one!
Hackney is currently using size 50 spinning reels, like the one he held for cameras in the accompanying photo the day he won the AOY on Lake Michigan. Most top pros don't employ anything bigger than a size 40, with a 30 being much more common.
“Spinning reels have always been comparatively heavier than casting reels, but with new super-lightweight reels like the size 50 EXO that I use, weight is no longer an issue,” he said.
Memory Loss is Good
Less weight is wonderful, but the undisputable advantage of using a large spinning reel is the elimination of tangles and nasty loops that cause extreme frustration. The larger spool results in far less line memory.
Hackney not only loves larger spinning reels for the improved line behavior they bring to his game, but also because he can use larger, stronger fluorocarbon and eliminate the need for a knot to join thin braid to a fluorocarbon leader.
“Fluorocarbon by its nature is difficult to manage on a spool – especially a size 20, 25, or 30 spool. If you used anything larger than about 8-pound fluoro as your main line on a standard-sized spinning reel you were asking for problems, so we’d always use thin braid as the main line and then have to tie a knot to a fluorocarbon leader.
“By using a size 50 spinning reel, I can use stronger 10- or 12-pound fluorocarbon as my main line with no issues and eliminate a leader knot that always carries some level of risk.
"Here's the bottom line," he continued. "Most people fish for fun – I fish for a living. If was a farmer, I’d want the biggest equipment I could get to help me plant and harvest my fields as efficiently as possible. Big reels help me do that. They make me the most efficient angler I can possibly be.”