Almost every major reel manufacturer is making a baitcasting reel in the $250 to $300 range these days. Recently, I had a chance to give an Okuma Helios Air reel a workout. With so many reels available boasting comparable features, I was curious to see if Okuma’s latest entry in this market could stand out among its competitors.
The Helios Air is the lightest in the line of high-speed Helios low-profile reels, weighing in at just 5.7 ounces, which falls into the featherweight category. The light weight is achieved by using magnesium for the frame and side plates and reducing the number of internal components, of which most are now made from aluminum.
The aluminum/magnesium construction gives the reel enough beef and torque to handle big fish while keeping the reel extremely lightweight. Keep in mind that magnesium corrodes quickly when exposed to saltwater. That’s not a big deal for me, but something to keep in mind if you fish brackish or saltwater.
Along with a traditional cast control near the reel handle, this reel features an adjustable 7-position mechanical Velocity Control system under the palm cover for precision cast control. While most centrifugal cast controls utilize pins for adjustments, this system uses a dial. I could easily fine-tune the reel to my personal preferences as I switched lures and casting techniques. Turn the dial to the desired setting, close the cover, and return to fishing.
In addition, the reel has zirconium line guide inserts designed for use with braided lines. I’m a big fan of braided lines, so this is a big plus in my book.
Other features include nine stainless steel bearings (8BB+1RB), Japanese ABEC-5 spool bearings, a multi-disc Carbonite drag system, and a fast 7.3:1 gear ratio.
On the water, the reel is smooth and responsive. As with most new reels, it took an hour or two of fishing before I had the cast controls fully dialed in to my liking. Once I did, I didn’t find the need to adjust the controls much as I switched between lures and techniques.
The quiet retrieve is creamy and gentle, comparable to competitive reels with higher price points. The drag performed exceptionally well while fighting big fish. It’s plenty strong and buttery smooth.
I could tell Okuma put a considerable amount of time and effort into the creature comforts of the reel. The swept carbon fiber handle and the low profile design of the reel gave it an ergonomic, comfortable feel in the palm of my hand. I like that the EVA foam grips are thinner than the bulky Abu Garcia Revo MGX grips. It’s just a more comfortable fit for me. It seemed as though the reel was custom-designed for my hand. This made a massive difference after a day of slinging heavy swimbaits.
In a sea of choices in this price range, the Okuma Helios Air is a standout. It’s a contender worthy of consideration when comparing reels in this price range. The reel is available in both right, and left-hand retrieves and comes with a 3-year limited warranty.