Reviewed by: Captain Mike Schoonveld
Every Great Lake trolling boat has a couple, or more than a couple, line counter reels on board. Except for the Abu Garcia Altum “digital” line counter (thus the DLC in it’s model name) all the LC reels I’ve used rely on a mechanical readout based on a series of gears which engage the reel’s inner-works to spin numbers on an axle. I’ve used just about every brand and they all work similarly.
The Altum DLC probably has some sort of gear drive internally – I didn’t disassemble the reel to check – but after that, the readout shows on a liquid crystal display which right off the bat showed me two advantages. First, the numbers in the readout are over a half inch tall – much easier to see at a glance. Second, if you hit the light button when you are setting a line in the dark, the readout lights up and it can be seen without having to hold a flashlight in your teeth.
The one I used is the “20″ size model, which is a “medium” model for most Great Lakes use. Line capacity is listed as 330 yards of 20-pound mono. I’m using it as a diver reel so I spooled on about 200 yards of 30-pound mono and then topped it off with 200 yards of 30-pound braided line. There’s a smaller “16″ size, about 1/3rd smaller than the 20, which would be great for walleye trollers.
Every line counter reel really just counts the revolutions of the reel’s spool rather than the actual feet of line being deployed so the readout you see is inaccurate more than spot on most of the time. It all depends on the diameter of the line being used and the amount of line on the reel’s spool. It’s the same with the Altum, though the digitizer circuitry inside can be set for various line sizes. Change the setting and it boosts accuracy. There’s a choice of 8, 10, 12, 17, 20 and 25 which I presume is referring to monofilament diameters. Since I spooled with braid, I set my reel on 8, spooled off a measured 25 feet and the digital readout showed 24. Close enough for me – I don’t fish for picky fish. Read more about fishing with line counter reels in “Reels You Can Count On” in this issue.
The reel is battery powered so the battery will eventually run down. I haven’t used it enough to gauge battery usage but the reel has two features to extend the life. First, after a few minutes the readout goes to “hibernate” mode, retaining the memory of how much line is out, but the readout goes blank. Touch a button or move the reel handle, the display will turn back on. If you forget to turn off the reel, it will automatically go from hibernate to power-off after 10 hours. Get a spare battery and don’t worry about it. It’s easy to change.
This is a quality, well built, solid feeling reel – what one would expect from Abu Garcia. The drag material is carbon fiber and the drag is smooth as silk. One feature I’m still learning to use is how once the drag is set to where you need it, the reel handle can be cranked a third-turn back which loosens the drag setting about 50%.
Saltwater specialists use reels with this feature so hard hitting fish can’t snap the line on the initial strike but once that first run is over, cranking forward puts the reel in fight mode. I’ve used it when setting a diver, letting diver and line run out line slowly against the light drag as the rod is set in the rod holder unattended while I do something else. I glance at the readout occasionally, then just reel forward to tighten the drag when the amount of line I’m setting out shows on the readout. This real is widely available at retailers as well as online sources. Check them out at: http://www.AbuGarcia.com.