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What Do You Get For $89.99 Anymore?

What Do You Get For $89.99 Anymore?

Pinnacle Producer LTE Casting Reel (PRD10LTE)

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I remember many years ago, first getting into bait casting gear, and dreaming about being able to afford reels priced from $80 and more in the display cabinet of my local tackle shop.  I settled for $40 reels, and they worked alright.  Occasionally, I’d break one, and this is where I learned to take care and service my own reels.  I couldn’t afford a new reel, but if the part was less than $10 to order, then I called the company, and ordered the part.

   That was a long time ago, and these days, an $80 reel doesn’t generally even register on my radar when looking at reels.  So, it was an interesting opportunity to be able to field test and review the Pinnacle Producer LTE (PRD10LTE) bait caster. Truth told, after fishing with it a few weeks, I struggled to come up with any material for the review.  The reel has a pretty smooth retrieve, casts quietly, the drag is sufficient – it even has a nice indexed, clicking star knob. With all this, the overall package is super light yet feels as solid as reels that cost twice as much.  My only gripe was that in settings from 0 to 3, the magnetic brake was inconsistent.  That isn’t a deal breaker since I generally use more brake than that, and run a very loose spool.

   So, there you have it.  What can be said that hasn’t already be said?  How about we tear into this reel, and look at it side by side with a high end reel from the same manufacturer?  Sounds cool, huh?

   I picked the Pinnacle Primmus Xi HS Hand Tuned Casting Reel (PR10XI) because it’s new, and in many aspects is similar to the Producer: light weight, general purpose retrieve ratio, no frills. In this pictorial breakdown, the Primmus will be on the left, the Producer on the right. That way you can visually compare each sub-assembly side by side.

   Here are our two stars of the show, the Producer in the foreground, since it’s actually the subject of this article.  Both are sharp, modern, and have a typical low profile form.  The gear housings are dropped well below the reel seat mounts which makes palming the reels easy, even for anglers with smaller hands.  These reels are also narrower than many others – a trend I’ve started to notice the past few years.  The Producer lacks some of the visual bling the Primmus shows off, but at $89.99 we’re not really concerned with looks as much as construction and functionality.  A pretty reel that doesn’t work well is a trapping that many in the entry level category suffer. That isn’t the case here, though it isn’t an ugly reel by any stretch of the imagination either.

 

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   The first thing to come off the reel is the handle assembly.  Both reels use a swept design, and feature a tried and true method for attaching to the crank shaft.  I like this look, though some might prefer a prettier chrome cover over the exposed nut retainer and lock screw.  The $250 Primmus has a carbon fiber handle, while the Producer handle is swept aluminum.  Not surprising, and will say, if it weren’t for the fact that the carbon fiber handle literally weighed nothing, I’d say the Producer’s aluminum handle weighed next to nothing.  It’s light.  They both feature high density EVA knobs, supported by not one, but two bearings.  This is an area where so many reels get short changed.  Knob bearings are so inexpensive, and really add to the long term durability of a reel.  I give Pinnacle a “thumbs up” for going this route, even if it artificially inflates the bearing count.  This is one feature that you have to look beyond the marketing department. Remember – it’s where the bearings are that counts more than how many are in there!

 

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   Next up, after the handle assembly is the drag star.  Look at that, they are almost identical!  Both drags are indexed with a reassuring micro click when adjusted.  I’ve learned to love this feature, even though I think it’s totally unnecessary, especially when low mass is a main target spec for the design.  Both work almost identically.  I might even give the Producer a slight edge for its “appealing click.”   Note there is an extra washer shown on the Producer, but it’s also on the Primmus, it was just camera shy.

   Moving on, it’s time to pull the side plates off and remove the spools.  While we’re at it, we’ll take the spool tension knob off, and see what’s under there. 

 

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   Now we’re starting to see some differences!  The Primmus has an indexed, micro click tension knob, while the Producer does not.  To me, this really is just a luxury feature, though it’s something I expect once a reel enters the $200 price range.  For a sub $100 reel, I’d be shocked to see it, and wonder where they skimped to get it in there.  Both spools feature a bearing behind the engagement pin, but the Producer has a nylon bushing behind the spool tension cap.  Some might cry foul, but think about this – the spool in both cases is supported by the bearing behind the engagement pin, and on the other side by the bearing in the palm side plate.  You can see both side plates do indeed have a bearing.  If there was a bushing here, I’d be the first to cry foul.  Both spools spin freely and smoothly, and this translates in casting baits on the water.

   You’ll also notice the differences between braking systems by looking closely at the side plates.  The Primmus has a simple centrifugal braking system with the push-pull shoes, whereas the Producer uses a typical magnetic system.  I’d prefer a centrifugal brake here, but the magnetic brakes work well, once you’ve found your sweet spot.

   It’s also worth mentioning that the Producer features “Advanced REF2 Carbon Fiber” side plates. I’m not sure what that is, but the side plates are TOUGH.  Many composite side plates flex when you exert pressure on them, especially reels in the sub $100 price range.  These are every bit as tough as aluminum or steel side plates, but obviously much lighter.  Combined with the X-Bone composite frame, the reel is very solid feeling.

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   Speaking of the frame, let’s get the crank side plate off, and take a look!

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   Despite slight differences in the actual parts, the internals are pretty much like any other bait casting reel in any price range.  One glaring difference though is the use of cast metal components in the spool release/clutch mechanism.  It is a refreshing throwback to reels that were built like tanks.  Often, these parts are flimsy stamped steel, or even some type of plastic.  Both reels have a reassuring, solid, mechanical feel when depressing the thumb bar to make a cast.  Reengagement of the spool via a quick turn of the handle is equally satisfying. 

   Below, a closer look at the clutch mechanisms, the Producer on the top, with the gear set removed for a better view.  Look at all that metal!

 

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   Now, let’s take a closer look at the gear and drag stacks.  In a $250 reel, you get a hardened aluminum main gear – tough and very light weight.  What do you get in a $90 Producer?  A hardened aluminum main gear.  Wait, what?  Yes, it’s true.  This was a big surprise to me.  This keeps the weight way down.  The differences start to show in the drag system.  The more expensive reel gets a multi-disk carbon matrix drag stack, with an exotic ceramic keyed top washer, and light aluminum alloy washers under.  The Producer gets a typical steel washer with a Dartanium type drag washer.  This may not sound exciting, but remember, this was pretty much state of the art up until just a few years ago.  Before that, all you got were plastic disks or even cork.  I took the Producer, put it on a medium heavy rod, and took it northern pike fishing, and the drag performed admirably.  It was smooth, and didn’t suffer from the chatter that some reels suffer from when the drags heat up after line peeling runs.  It will work great for typical bass fishing.

   Both reels have identical instant anti reverse roller bearings, dog eared kick back gears and nylon idler gears.  The pinion and yokes are similar, though specific to each reel.  Both also feature a bearing at the top of the stack.  This is often omitted, even on higher end reels.  It provides smoothness and extra stability of the crankshaft, as well as prevents wear on the anti reverse bearing.

 

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   What about those crankshafts?  They’re both hardened aluminum, but the Primmus has a hollow shaft.  I’m sure this shaves a fraction of a gram, but doesn’t seem overly important. 

   You can see in detail the clutch engagement parts as well in here.  They’re very robust parts, compared to many other brands.  The big news here though, is the bearing at the base.  This is the first thing I replace if I find a nylon or brass bushing.  It’s very reassuring to see a bearing there.  This explains the smoothness of the drive train – all points are supported by a bearing, and longer elements are supported by two bearings.  I think I’ve heard something similar marketed as “new” from other brands.  It’s nice to see this as standard operating procedure on an entry level reel.

  

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   Last up, the most fun assembly to take apart (that’s sarcasm, folks!): the level wind. Pinnacle has kept both assemblies as a simple affair.  There are no bearings in the Producer - they add weight, and do not contribute to performance or smoothness in a properly designed level wind.  The Primmus has a bearing on the geared side of the worm gear.  It’s what I call a “nice to have” feature. I would think that this would cut down on wear and tear of the worm drive gear and worm gear housing, but in practice, these parts rarely wear out.  Both worm gears and stabilizer bars are hardened aluminum, which is hardly a big surprise at this point in the break down, but it’s yet another high end feature packed into a reasonably priced reel.  This has been a running theme throughout the break down – one that gets my attention.

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   That’s all there is left on the reel!  You can see, there’s an awful lot of innovation and features packed in this reel.  That you can take it home at a fraction of the cost of the Primmus is a huge bonus.  Is it the same as the Primmus?  No.  But it’s pretty close.  Is it as smooth?  It’s actually hard to tell.  Does it cast as far?  Sure does.  The Primmus can handle baits getting under that magic 3/8 oz. mark just fine.  That’s about the limit with this reel.  If you want a good reel for under $100, and just want to get out and fish, this is a solid choice.  There’s so much low end gear not worth even looking at, this was a refreshing change.  I’ll be honest, I was a little disappointed to hear this reel would be my subject, but this has been one of the more exciting reviews to date. 

   For $90, it won’t disappoint, for sure!

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