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If you are like me, you want a reel that can perform without breaking the budget. Reels, as with other gear can be very expensive and complicated, and I believe that is unnecessary. This is why I love KastKing and their products, especially the Spartacus 2.
KastKing makes a good reel that is simple to use but also comes the modern components and features you’d expect. For example, the braking feature allows simple control over your cast to prevent knots and bird nests.
I had old cast reels when I was a kid and the rate at which the line was released was determined by your thumb. This led to needing to get a feel for the reel. Reels that have a braking system are great for learning but also for use in the long term.
Today we’re going to have a look at the Spartacus II, the updated version of the original, popular and budget-friendly Spartacus offering from KastKing. I believe that the Spartacus 2 may be the best baitcasting reel under $50 available today. In this review, I am going to give you my first-hand impressions of this sleek little reel, from the opening of the box to its field application and performance.
So, let’s dive in and see what makes this baitcaster such a good deal.
The Spartacus II Out of the Box
The box that the reel ships in is very sleek and durable, protecting the reel very well. I like that because it helps me be assured that my reel will be in one piece when it arrives.
Upon opening, I noticed it was in a protective plastic bag to protect the reel from moisture or humidity, another point scored for KastKing.
The additional contents of the box are many and only add to the value of this already very good little reel. I really got more than just a reel in a box with this.
I want to go over these different things with you so you can appreciate what you are getting with this reel.
Free Line Offer
For reviewing the reel, you will receive an offer for a free roll of braided fishing line from KastKing. The card inside has a link to the site where you can fill the form out. If the KastKing reel is to your liking, this may be a good chance to try another product they make – good marketing on their part.
Be sure to do this and see what their line is like, but more importantly what the line feels like on the reel. Ordering a reel always feels good but you won’t understand the reel completely without lining it. This is a free way to do that.
How to Cast a Baitcaster Instructions
Included is a set of instructions for using a baitcasting reel and I really like this. Often, learning to use a casting reel is a new and sometimes difficult experience. This makes the Spartacus II a great gift for those starting to learn about these reels.
Today’s reels are more complicated than they ever were before. These instructions were very informative to even me, who has fished these reels for years.
Complete Instructions on Assembly and Maintenance
The maintenance of a reel is very important. This reel comes with what is, in my opinion, the most detailed assembly schematics I have ever seen in a budget reel. These instructions also include the areas where the reel needs the most maintenance such as oiling and regular cleaning.
Aside from obviously cleaning the reel, this is a good way to learn how these reels work. I could see buying this just to learn what makes it tick (well… maybe not just for the education). Anyway, that kind of knowledge will be handy down the road with a more expensive reel.
Decided that you love KastKing? Try their loyalty program where they offer discounts, free early products to try, notice of new products before they are sold and so on. However, what I think is most important of all, is it extends the 1-year warranty of the reel to 2 years.
Most brands of fishing gear have warranties but rewards programs are a little rarer. I really like this reel and am excited to see what some of their other products are like as well.
In other articles, I have mentioned that I love line organization, and this free little feature is amazing. You get 4 stickers that allow you to jot down the type of line, its weight, and the date it was applied. This is an important and well-thought-out feature for keeping the best performing line on your reel.
It is important to stay informed with regards to your line and its age. There is also some room to make a small mark every time you finish fishing with it because the age of line and the mileage are two different things after all.
You also get an aesthetically pleasing KastKing logo sticker that you can stick somewhere. I have countless stickers from brand names from the various places I have been, so this was a real treat for me, as silly as it might seem. It also shows that KastKing stands by their name and products.
Materials, Design, and Specs
The reel improves on the original Spartacus design by shaving off 5mm off the height, lowering its profile to a sleek 39mm with a weight of just 6 oz.
Let’s talk about materials for a minute because it is a huge deal and can be a deal-breaker depending on how you fish. A reel should be fairly damage-resistant and I know that with the small moving parts, some folks are skeptical about baitcasters, I know I am as well.
A design feature that I really like is the perforated, anodized aluminum spool for better water dispersion and corrosion resistance. Spools that are not perforated retain more moisture on the bottom layers of your line. This can contribute to line rot and faster wear than normal.
This design allows the line to dry better from both top and bottom, with the drying effect increased by the rotating spool motion. Those line indicator stickers we talked about will not need to be changed as often.
The reel frame is made from a coated, reinforced nylon material for weight savings and to prevent corrosion. Inside are 7+1 stainless steel ball bearings that are shielded to enhance performance and extend the life of the reel.
One thing I noticed, though, immediately upon opening it is that the grips are EVA foam and a little cheaply made. But, upon closer inspection, I saw that they can be replaced very easily with better grips. I would have preferred a better quality grip, but this wasn’t a deal-breaker for me given the reel’s overall quality and value.
The gear ratio for this reel is 7.2:1 and it can hold 140 yards of 10-pound test of mono and 270 yards of 20-pound test braid line, so this reel definitely has the capacity for fishing long distances and has a great retrieval speed. As stated above, this reel comes apart down to the last spring, so maintaining it is fairly simple.
The brake system features a 5-button magnetic design that is very easy to use with your thumb, but when I used it in the field it was pretty sensitive. When dialing this in, be very subtle. Both the brake and the spool tension are accessible from the aluminum handle itself and the ergonomic shape of the drag crank allows you to dial it up more quickly.
Speaking of the drag system, it is impressive for a reel in this price range. What stood out to me here is here was the 17.6 pounds of fish-halting power in such a compact, lightweight reel. KastKing uses a 4-disc carbon fiber design which it refers to as “ tournament ready” to achieve responsive and powerful drag performance.
The spool tension is also a little sensitive and, as with other baitcast reels, you will find yourself adjusting this to the different baits you use. It is important to understand that the spool tension should never be tightened too far or you will wear down your reel.
I found it easy to over-tighten the tension for the spool, so when you get this reel to the lake remember to go easy and let the weight of your bait be the decision-maker in that regard. It will extend the life of the reel and save you some headaches.
I love the small design of the reel as well, it is very compact and this is a great feature when it comes to storage. Big, bulky reels can get knocked around very easily and damage can occur, and they are also awkward to store.
Features and Specs I Liked Most in the Spartacus II:
- Low-profile, lightweight nylon/aluminum construction: it’s just 39mm high and 6 ounces
- Anodized, perforated aluminum spool helps to drain water and keep corrosion out
- Line indicator stickers help me to monitor my line condition
- 7+1 shielded stainless-steel ball bearings give the reel smoothness and durability
- Plenty of line capacity: it holds 10/140 12/110 15/90 of lbs-test/yards of mono and 20/270 30/140 40/115 of braid
- The 7.2:1 gear ratio gives me an excellent line retrieval rate with this reel
- Easy to use single, 5-button magnetic brake system means less friction and fewer bird nests
- The drag system features 4 quality carbon fiber discs and 17.6 lbs of stopping force – impressive for a budget reel!
What I Think Could Be Improved:
- As I stated before, the foam grips felt a little flimsy and underwhelming. I have seen worse, though, and you may find them just fine. On an otherwise very good and affordable reel like this, I am not going to let that deter me. You can, also, replace them with a more solid grip, as I plan on doing.
Field Test: Putting the Reel Through Its Paces
Here in the Montana summer, the rivers run with trout and I could think of no better place to test a baitcasting reel. Baitcasters can be more fine-tuned, making shots across the river easier with more accuracy.
The first thing I did was strap the reel with a 10-pound test at 140 yards and mount it to an old steelhead rod I have from my Washington days. It fit perfectly, with room for the gear mechanism on the side – and this rod is not small either.
When I was a kid, I learned baitcasting by attaching a piece of lead to the line and throwing it in a field. This is what felt natural before hitting the water with the Spartacus II. Generally, the easiest way to throw this reel would be overhand but it threw amazingly well sidearm once it was dialed in. For me, the magnetic brake felt right at 2 and a heavier spool tension because of the weight of the lead.
Once I had it at the river, I was using a Rapala to start, a medium-sized perch pattern that was well-loved as it had been in my tackle box for 5 years. Making the spool tension very light, and raising the magnetic brake just a tad, this reel flung that lure beautifully.
The retrieval was very smooth and the perforated spool was visibly propelling water away from the line, which I loved. It just felt good on my rod and in my hand.
On that trip, I managed to hook into a small rainbow and the drag system was just naturally there and easy to use. I was able to really play that fish and wear her out before landing her. I was a little awkward with it for a while but I acclimated to it after a short while.
While fishing with it in upper Missouri near Craig, Montana, we got hit with some turbulent weather and the reel got its first real moisture test. All reels get wet but heavy rain can be something to be concerned about.
I won’t lie, I sort of allowed the reel to get soaked. I was curious as to how it would hold up. It comes completely apart and, after all, I could lubricate and dry it again. This reel maintained 100% water-tightness and did not allow water in where it should not be. I was thoroughly impressed and it made me think of home where rain is basically the norm all year.
The Kastking Spartacus 2: Quality and Performance at a Bargain
I grew up chasing salmon on the coast of Washington. Baitcasting reels were the preferred river fishing reel for any angler and learning to use them was an important milestone as a young angler.
Naturally, I am going to tell you that this reel should be on a river, but honestly, this reel will work anywhere. Bass fishing in the south is primarily done with baitcasters and this particular reel is versatile enough to shine in almost any water.
I have seen smaller reels like this one bring in big fish, and the Spartacus II has the potential to perform well for fish species of all types. Something that comes to mind for me is backpacking, where its small design is perfect for packing in and fishing high mountain lakes.
The cost of this reel is very affordable and it would make a great gift for a young angler learning his/her way around casting reels, especially with instructions included. It is very apparent that KastKing wanted to make this both a good beginner reel as well as a solid, reliable baitcaster for the seasoned angler looking for a bargain.
There are 4 color options – black, fire engine red, silver, and spindrift (powder blue) – for this reel as well, which I found appealing. I chose to go with the black with red accents model to hide any dirt or grime (which if I take care of the reel properly, should not be an issue).
If a lighter color is what you want, be sure to be prepared to clean the reel regularly to keep it blue, for example, and not grimey and gray. When cleaning this reel, I really liked just using some plain water but making sure to dry the reel after. You can also use light soaps but steer away from harsh chemicals that could harm the finish on the reel.
I really like this reel, and I plan to use it extensively over the summer and see just what KastKing offers. This box came with quite a bit of freebies but, at the end of the day, it’s the reel you are buying.
I encourage you to take a look at this reel. For the price, you really can’t beat what you are getting with the Spartacus II. I was, and am, very happy with it and I think you will be too. Here’s to some great fishin’!