For most offshore anglers, a Makaira two-speed game reel will spend the bulk of its’ working life in a rod holder. In tow might be an 8- to 12-inch trolling lure, maybe a skirt over a ballyhoo, perhaps a bridled skipjack. At intervals the reel will be brought to life and engaged in a battle of wills, to which it will respond with the faithfulness of a dog and an overwhelming display of power and grace.
For the above outlined tasks, Makaira reels are constructed to far exceed the life covered by their 5-year factory warranty. Spool bearings are protected by a 30% grease pack that allows for competent freespool, but more importantly protects the bearings. Non-spool bearings receive a 100% grease pack again placing protection of key components at a premium. The gear ratios of the two-speeds offer versatility to take on any pelagic you might encounter from a sport boat.
The long-range fishing boats departing from San Diego, California present unique challenges to anglers. Certainly the yellowfin, wahoo and yellowtail are big, but that’s pretty basic. The larger challenges begin with the fact these fish are pursued primarily with live bait. Instead of stripping 100-feet of line to place a lure in a spread, excellence in this fishery requires clearing the boat by casting a light bait fish on 40- to 100-pound tackle. Once in the water, the reel needs to feed line so effortlessly the bait fish swims as if it’s simply free-swimming. And the longer a strong swimming baitfish can be maintained, the more certain one can be that it will be eaten.
At the moment of the strike the second challenge begins. In many cases, the boat is anchored and in virtually all cases, there is no chasing the fish with the boat. Every inch of line must be earned. The fish can be followed around the boat, but the boat is not repositioned to assist a single angler when 25 more are continuing their pursuit of a bite.
While Makaira reels have become renowned for their drag system and integrity of internal components, the long-range community, spearheaded by elite angler David Choate and reel technician Alan Tani, requested specific modifications to advance Makaira to the position of the ultimate long-range reels. The result is the Makaira SE.
Makaira SE reels are available in sizes 8, 10, 15, 20 and 30, all featuring topless (no crossbar across the top of the reel) construction. The primary modifications are straightforward, yet incredibly important to long-range anglers. The first is that the 35% grease pack on the spool bearings has been completely removed, as have the shields that protect their exterior. Instead, completely open bearings are lubricated with TSI 301 oil.
TSI 301 oil is not a petroleum-based lubricant. A pure synthetic ester, TSI 301 penetrates the pores in metal and bonding itself to the surface. Greatly reducing surface tension, the application dramatically cuts friction and reduces wear. When exceptional freespool is the difference between great reward and difficult fishing, this bearing system outperforms virtually all others. Of note is that their is no free lunch here. When bearings are opened and oiled instead of greased, they do require maintenance to maintain their peak performance. But the anglers willing to travel four days by boat to reach the world’s greatest fishing grounds do not shy away from their responsibilities to their equipment. These are detail-oriented anglers.
The second modification is an oversized handle arm to deliver more torque. When you are unable to reposition the boat to the best advantage of the angler, the angler has to be able to authoritatively bear down on the fish. Makaira and Makara SE reels all incorporate powerful 17-4 stainless steel gearing and shafts that can withstand incredible stress. The longer handle arms allow anglers a significant increase in leverage and greater ability to move large fish.
The third modification applies to Makaira SE 20 and 30 sizes only. It’s a lower ratio in the low gear. Where the standard Makaira is 1.7:1, these SE’s are 1.3:1. Again the purpose here is to increase leverage and keep the fish moving towards the boat. Very commonly, anglers will hang 150- to 300-pound yellowfin on these size reels and of absolute importance to the battle is to be able to actively gain line. The longer the fight continues, the more opportunity is that something will go wrong.
In a few final touches, Makaira SE reels feature gun smoke anodizing, an engraved tuna adorning the left side plate and all the frames have receive further machining to increase line clearance and reduce weight.
While Makaira SE reels are neither necessary and in some cases not recommended to the broader range of offshore anglers (if you do not regularly maintain your reels, the SE line up is not for you), for those seeking refined live bait performance the Makaria SE addresses the needs specific to the fishery.
Owners of standard Makaira reels that are interested in the modification can have them made at our California headquarters. The bearings and handle can be changed out for $29.99 which includes parts and labor. On the 20 and 30 sizes, the bearings, handle and low-gear modifications can be made for $59.99 including parts and labor. Shipping charges in both cases are additional.