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Favorite reel for big kings

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  • Favorite reel for big kings

    I upgraded my ambassador 6500's today to Penn 965's. My dad and little brother have been using the 965's for years with no problems to speak of while it seems every year I have to replace parts on my 6500's.
    Anybody eles got a favorite reel they use for kings.
    Also got myself a new GL2 G-Loomis Mag-heavy fast action rod today. can't wait to get out and beat the water up at clear creek in a couple weeks.

  • #2
    i have always used the 6500's for like 6 years. There are 5 of us that constantly fish with them. i have found that if you clean them at least once during the year and use the abu garcia reel oil then they will last longer and work sooo much smoother. just my 2 cents...
    NRA life Member JVJ


    • #3

      If the Penn 965 is the International model, that's the one I've been using too. I also have the Ambassadeur (sp?) reel you mentioned but favor the Penn because I can use it in salt. We go to Mexico now and then, and it's a great setup for inshore stuff like roosters, cabrilla, sierra and even small tuna. Works great for kings.

      Michael Strahan
      Site Owner
      Alaska Hunt Consultant
      1 (406) 662-1791


      • #4
        If the rod is gonna spend most of its time in a rodholder backtrolling plugs, it's tough to beat the Shimano Tekota 500 or 600 series.

        Best bang for the buck for casting/backbouncing, I would opt for a Shimano Bantam 50, but they have been discontinued. Still a few out there on the shelves though.

        Ultimate casting or backbouncing reel would be the Calcutta 400/401 TE. But be prepared to pay up.

        The ABU 6500 series has been my workhorse reel for decades, but are nowhere near as smooth as the reels above. Also the drags tend to be jerky after one season and need replacement. They can be salvaged with Smoooth Drags (sorry can't post link), but do a Google search.
        "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
        The KeenEye MD


        • #5

          I have been using these Abu Garcia bait casting reels for a while now. Every single one has gone belly up on me by September. My last ambassador that I purchased puked on me during its first use. Really dissapointed. The spool bearing went bad and I replaced it with some parts that I had laying around. When my current ambassador goes bad I will not be replacing it with the same brand. Its ashame, I really like these reels but the reliability isnt there for me.

          I have hauled in some monster kings on an ambassador bait caster mounted on a 6' Berkly Lightening Rod. Looking for a new bait caster similar to the Ambassdor's.


          • #6
            Favorite King Reels

            Favorite reel by far are the calcutta 400 or 401 (lefty). Smooth reeling and excellent drags. 400 can be had for $180. 401s only come in the TE model and run around $350.

            ABU Garcia Trophy Series "salmon" 6500 or 6501s are extremely durable compared to all other 6500 models. The trophy series 6500s cost around $100 and should last many seasons. C-3s, C-4s I've fished in the past don't make it a season. If your budget calls for $100, you will not be dissapointed, but if you spend the extra for the Shimano Calcutta - it will spoil you.


            • #7
              King Salmon Reel

              I use the Shimano TLD 2000 Charter Special for king salmon. I also own many of the 6500's and find many great features. Here is the reason for the Shimano's: Lever drag, line capacity, and most importantly, a ration of 4:1. The star drags are fine, but with the lever drag, everything is preset with nothing to worry about. I am able to squeeze about 200 yards of 25# mono on this reel. While the 6500 sports a 5+:1 Ratio, and has very limited spool size, the great thing about the Ambassadeur is the mag brake. This virtually eliminates backlashes after a poor cast... So, Shimano has my vote.

              Good luck.


              • #8
                I'll pipe in with a couple more observations about capacity, spool size and retieve ratios.

                Capacity is nice, but nobody "needs" 200 yds of line to fight a fish. If the thing gets 100 yds away from you in a boat, you and/or your boat operator are just flat out doing something wrong. If it happens on the bank, you're not gonna land that fish once he's 100 yds downriver of you... tough break.

                The reason to have a big reel is not capacity but spool diameter! More line retrieved with each revolution of the spool. Why anyone would fish with a half a spool of line is pointless. It only creates a handicap that seriously impairs their ability to pick up line FAST! The abilty to pick up line at warp speed makes all the difference in the world. When that Kenai megahawg that's been powering upstream for the last 100 yds (against you, the boat, the drag and the river) suddenly decides to charge back downriver toward your boat, you need to pick up line NOW!

                Remember from geometry that the ratio between spool diameter (how big or full the spool is) and circumference ( the amount of line gained with each revolution) is "pi" , roughly 3.14 and change.

                For each decrement of spool diameter, you lose three times that much in circumference, i.e. line pickup. You will hear guys bragging up their 5:1 or 6:1 retrieve ratio, and yet they fish with their spool only half full. If their reel has a small spool to start with, that makes their retrieve handicap that much worse.

                The real way to tell just how "hi-speed" your reel is, is to to measure how much line is retrieved by one turn of the crank... just may surprise you. So fill those reels to capacity, and keep them there. If you can't afford to fill the entire spool with your premium line of choice, partially fill it with cheaper backing to a point that when you top it off with 100 yds of your premium line, the spool is filled to the top.

                The other thing about the "hi-speed" reels is that there is a price to be paid for the 6:1 retrieve, and it's called torque. It's very difficult to crank against resistance with a high speed reel.... it's especially noticeable if you like to backtroll divers and/or K16 Kwiks. Installing a "power handle" with a longer crank arm will help a lot for you guys who like to fish the 6500 C4's
                "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
                The KeenEye MD


                • #9
                  I've got just about every reel listed above,and i'd have to lean towards the Penn international 965. I've been working them pretty hard for 3 yrs now without any trouble,smooth as silk. Fishnphysician has got some good points about line cap. thing to remember you get what you pay for,if you buy the trusty ambassaduer you'll find that in a year of hard fishing your going to have to work on the drag,and if you have someone else work on it it's going to cost you 50.00 bucks plus,you do that a couple times and your money ahead buying up one or two levels.
                  I ♥ Big Sheep


                  • #10

                    My brother and I have been using 6500's for many years with almost no problems. My brother Is not a guide but goes fishing for kings on the Kenai every day he is not on the Slope. We have cought many many big fish over 50, 60, 70lbs day after day.


                    • #11
                      I use a 6601-c4 personally. This is the first year I've used this model, its been 6501s in the past. I like the 6.3:1 gear ratio, I don't care about loss of torque on the retrieve. I use my 9' GL2 for the torque, the reel is just there to bring in the line. I'd love a calcutta 400 though, and I may pick one up next year and retire this abu to backup status.


                      • #12
                        My wife and I just sent our 6500C3s into Anchorage to be rebuilt last weekend. We have used these reels for over 10 years and caught a bazillion kings on them. They have served us well. We have purchased new reels, a 6601C4 (left hand model) for me and another 6500 C3 for her. Our old, rebuilt reels will now serve as spares. My boys bought a 5601C4 (left hand) for me for my birthday and I'll give it a try when the silvers show up. My 5000 is going in for a rebuild and it will serve as my spare reel for silvers. We've been very happy with the Ambassadors and we are looking forward to giving the new models a good workout.
                        Someday someone may kill you with your own gun, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.


                        • #13
                          I have several Abu 6000's & 6500's and have never had a single problems with any of them. Have a Shimano Corsair 401 that has worked well for me too. I'll do a quick tear down, usually once a year, just to clean them up and get a little fresh lube in them, and that's all I've had to do to keep them working like new.

                          A good habit to get into, for any reel, is back your drags off and loosen them way up during the off season. I do this with all my reels and it sure seems to help keep the drags in good shape. Haven't had to replace any drag washers since I've been doing this the past 5 or 6 years.


                          • #14
                            I could be wrong but...

                            It's my belief that if you have used a 6500 for more than a couple years without drag issues you probably aren't fishing in very fast water...or you are fishing from a boat.
                            My reels get 80lb Tuff line plus (or XP) the a 65lb mono leader and we generally fish the clear creek/talkeetna area. The last few years the kings have been in the slower back waters of clear creek and my setup has been overkill. however when I first started going there 10 years ago all of the fish caught were in the fast moving Talkeetna and you needed good gear or you loose the fish. We didn't know any better at the time as we were out of staters and we had some 5500's and they lasted the whole trip (In large part due to our burning thumbs) but were tossed in the "very used reels" pile.
                            I've been using 6500's ever since and they've worked, but the drags really stink and generally don't last very long. also have had quite a few problems with the level wind after (or during) fighting a big king in fast water.
                            I'd like to try the Calcutta as well I've heard alot of good stuff about it. It was between that and the 965 and since some other family members own the Penn I chose to go that route.


                            • #15
                              80# line? In slower streams I use 15 or 18# Maxima Chameleon. In fast water, like Clear Creek, I use 30#. I've used Ambassadeur reels for my entire adult life and have never had a single drag problem that wasn't something I caused. Not one. My preference is a 5501 with the lighter line and a 6501 with heavier line. It has nothing to do with money. I've got lots of money tied up in steelhead gear and fly gear. King gear isn't that precise. Especially if you're going to use winch line.


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