Gear- Shimano Cardiff = Super Salmon Value

Every so often I’m in need of a major reel change over.  Everybody who’s fished a bunch knows what I’m talking about.  It’s the “I’m really tired of putting these in the “need repair” box” and really, I’m not sure that they can even be repaired.  These reels are beyond drag washers and grease.  These things have been run through the ringer to the point where the housings are tweaked, threads are stripped and the people that fish with you think your reels look like a well eaten plug.  They’ve been dropped, kicked, thrown and cussed.  It’s a love hate relationship at this point and the hate has won out.  No more gear incineration, all at once anti-reverse failure or worm drive malfunctions.  There’s a new set of reels out there for me, but

shimano cardiff 301a review

Shimano Cardiff 301A

I’m not short on performance requirements and I’m actually still rebounding from my latest reel relationship.

Following my 2011 Fall Salmon season, I knew I was in line for a couple new sets of reels.  My back bouncers had seen a lot of fish over the years and my Salmon Bobber reels had experienced plenty of close quarter combat in North Coast estuaries.  They’d been repaired repeatedly and I was ready for a change.

I’m constantly in tackle shops and knowing this day was coming, had looked at everything available that might fit my needs.  I wanted a 100 yd reel that didn’t take away from my nice light Lamiglas Rods.  The most important point however, was durability.  I need reels that work every day in brackish environments, on 10-40 pound Salmon and don’t mind a constant coating of egg goo.  It’s a lot to expect and come to find out, there are only a hand full of reels in the world that will actually handle the task.

At the 2012 Portland Sportsman Show I got a chance to hang out a little with Travis Moncrief.  Travis is the owner/guide of Fins, Feathers and Furs, in Oregon, but also runs a Salmon camp up on the Nushagak River in Alaska.  I fished out of Travis’s camp some years ago and can barely fathom the amount of abuse his equipment takes on that river.  Nushagak Kings are famous fighters and the numbers of fish the people catch up there alone would be enough to keep a reel technician fully employed during a typical Nush Salmon Season.

Knowing Travis has probably tried every reel under the sun in his own pursuit of performance and durability, I asked him what he would do if he had to buy another set of reels today.  Travis discussed a variety of reels, but ended with a surprising choice.  It wasn’t the most expensive, but he’d seen incredible durability out of the 40 or so that he owned.  The Shimano Cardfiff 301A, he explained, is basically and Calcutta without the one piece of bar stock aluminum frame.  The components are nearly identical and at $100, it’s a significant discount from the $170 Calcutta price tag.