Tuesday 1 March 2022

Maxcatch Classic #9/10 Reel

Two Classic reels
Back view

 It is said that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery".  In that case Loop should be experiencing a warm glow of appreciation of Maxcatch's efforts.  However, I judge that unlikely, as Maxcatch doesn't seem to understand copyright law as evidenced by the comparison of the two sections of text below, drawn from the companies' websites:

Loop & Maxcatch - identical wording

"The Classic is completely corrosion resistant and benefits from a new ergonomic handle design with integrated leader retainer on the counterbalance. Available in specific left or right-hand wind, each reel is individually numbered and presented in a handcrafted leather case. With their timeless old world looks and ultra-modern braking power."

Leaving aside the blatant amateur copy-and-paste copyright breaches, the fact that Maxcatch don't number their reel or supply it in a leather case, and the very similar rear views, the front aspect of the two reels tells a different story that indicates more than cosmetic differences, despite the positioning of the 3 little rivets above the handle being identical.

Two Classic reels
Front view

It appears that Maxcatch have taken the name, look and feel of the Loop original, but adapted the design to arrive at a similar but different solution.  It's probably different enough to limit the risk of them being sued under WTO rules.

The front plate design and handle attachment is completely different.  Moreover, this includes an additional design feature shown in the photo below.

You will immediately spot the wide knurled external rim, which is optimised for palm control, and positioned on the same side as your winding hand. Given the width the knurling is probably superfluous, but overall, this is a very sensible enhancement, which compensates for one of the Classic's (of both breeds) design limitations.

This is the issue of arbor diameter.  As you can see in the photo, it's small in comparison to large arbor designs like the Loop, Lamson and Danielsson with similar line capacities.  The effect is apparent when you have a large fish running fast.  For every yard of running line taken the Classic rotates 6 times, whereas with the others it's fewer than 4.  By the time you reach the backing the ratio is 10:5. This isn't a knuckle friendly environment, so the Maxcatch palm control rim is an extremely sensible and worthwhile design response.The photo also shows the reel's substantial main frame.  The Classic is a chunky piece of kit: with a full load of line it tips the scale at 439 grams, or exactly a pound in old units.  For comparison that's about double the weight of the Vision Rulla and Lamson Guru 4.

Maxcatch Classic
spool inside view

The external finish is excellent, although it doesn't scale the heights of machining and polishing of the Loop.  There again, at £695 you are entitled to have high expectations of materials, engineering and finishing.  The acid test in such matters is an examination of the inside surfaces hidden from view.  In the event the internal finishes in the Maxcatch are very good, certainly far better than you might reasonably expect at £84.

Of course modern CNC machines produce excellent and consistent work, as evidenced by the quality of the hole drilling and finishing.  There was no evidence of any roughness: just a lower level of surface polishing.

Where you do notice a quality difference is in things like screws.  The plate screws on the Loop are objects of beauty, but correspondingly expensive.  Their counterparts on the Maxcatch are perfectly adequate, but smaller, less well finished and softer.  One of the cross head screws that hold the handles and front plate in place, concealed under the large central screw, lacked surface hardening and had me worried when removing it.  But that's what you get for £84.

Maxcatch Classic backplate
The greasy finger marks are mine
not the manufacturer's 
The sealed braking system is protected by three 'O' rings, two at the back of the spool (grey and black) and the other (orange) visible here.  I didn't feel equal to the task of taking the brake to pieces in the absence of any instructions.  It appears that the design is based on a disc stack pressing on a circular plate located beneath the cover.  The sales pitch doesn't elaborate on its construction or the friction materials employed, although stainless steel and carbon weave washers are a common solution.

Full application of the brake requires a couple of turns of the large handy knob.  The braking is progressive, smooth within the limits of my testing, and at maximum, rock solid.

The spool and component fit is excellent.  Everything lined up exactly when I reassembled the reel.  However, please note that the central shaft securing screw is in a recess under the large cover screw (which you undo with a 10p piece), and I found it impossible to align it without a magnetic screwdriver.  In all other respects dis- and assembly were perfectly straightforward.  Instructions are on the website: no paper leaflets or tools are supplied with the reel.

The line capacity is exactly as stated on the website.  Here you see the reel loaded with 150 yards of 30lbs Dacron backing and a #9/10 Spey line with a 55' head and integrated running line.  There's room for another 50-100 yards of backing if you choose to go to Norway.

Loading the reel proved that winding and rotation was smooth and regular.  No lateral movement or off-centre positioning of any component was detectable.  The spool sides were absolutely parallel, and tight enough to the frame to prevent any snagging of running line or backing.

Obviously I can't offer a final opinion on the reel's functioning until I've had it on the river for a couple of weeks.  But on the evidence before me in pieces and entire on the kitchen worktop, it looks like extraordinary value at £84.  In the UK that money barely buys you a die-cast reel with an unsealed brake, and you don't get a fully CNC-machined salmon reel for under £200.  Maxcatch have enough confidence in their work to give it a 10 year warranty, although I tend to be sceptical in a world where few companies seem to last that long.  Nevertheless, it is a statement of confidence, and there are more than 2,200 of these reels in use around the world, which suggests that while anglers may be daft, they're not stupid.

The Maxcatch Classic is going with me for a week on the lower Spey in early April, mounted on one of their SkyTouch 15' rods.  While the chances of me connecting with a unicorn-springer are exceedingly low, the week will give me the opportunity for some proper testing and evaluation.  Meanwhile the prospect of a week's fishing has excited me in ways I'd forgotten during the two blighted Covid years: Just One Week indeed!

I shall write on both subjects shortly, but I shall probably say little about my efforts to rediscover the long-forgotten art of casting a full length Spey line.  Until then, tight lines - short or long!