Long were the days in which round reels commanded the realm of muskie angling. This has been most often attributed to the high cost of low profile reels capable of handling the mechanical requirements of pursuing muskie. For quite some time infact, a quality low profile reel fit for muskie could cost literally double or sometimes even more than the average round reel offerings. If you have gotten used to the ergonomic improvements of low profiles, it is very hard to fish a round reel more often than not. Particularly if you palm your reels, which I often do. Luckily for us however, Abu Garcia has stepped up to the plate big time this year with its new offering.
The Abu Garcia Max Toro reel has finally hit the market! This low profile bait caster geared toward muskie anglers packs solid performance needed for muskie angling into one of the most affordable packages to ever be offered. The Max Toro features 4 stainless steel HPCR bearings in addition to one roller bearing. Abu Garcia’s trademarked Duragear system provides a smooth and durable retrieve, while the Carbon Matrix drag gives you Abu’s well known smooth as silk drag. This stunning low profile reel also features the MagTrax brake system which allows quick and easy adjustments to match your fishing style and situation. The handle is a double paddle with large comfortable knobs that provide your phalanges with a great purchase on the handle. The frame construction is one piece graphite which makes for a strong housing for the internals of the reel to perform their job.
Two models are currently available, both a right hand retrieve (MAXTORO50) and left hand retrieve (MAXTORO51). As the model indicates, it is the smaller 50 size that has been common in the Toro models for years now and is extremely comfortable to palm while still providing plenty of line capacity for muskie anglers. The gear ratio is 5.3:1 which yields a 26 inch retrieve rate. It weighs in at 12.35 ounces and can hold 165 yards of 50lb braid, although still readily holds enough 80-100lb braid for heavier needs. The Max Toro’s drag maxes out at 25lbs and features the standard star drag. It features an aluminum spool for light weight and durability, along with instant anti-reverse. If all this sounds good so far, everyone will really love the price. The Max Toro MSRP is a paltry $149.95 and will likely be found for less at numerous retailers.
After getting a call from one of my good friends at Pure Fishing that a new muskie reel prototype was heading my way I was elated to say the least. Abu Garcia has been my go-to reel since I was able to purchase my first quality reel at age 13 and, especially for muskie, has proven to be a very solid choice. Not knowing what to expect I tore into the box once it arrived to find a 50 size Toro with a name I was unfamiliar with. Initial impressions where that the reel was very smooth. Every bit as smooth as my NaCl and older Revo Toro models. The graphite body certainly reminded me of some of the Black Max and similar budget reels. There’s no rough spots or problems with the finish, but its finish didn’t look to be as classy as other Toro models. You’ll also note from the photos a color change from my prototype to the production model. The first two things that jumped out at me were the lack of a bait clicker, and disengaging levelwind. I’ve been an avid fan of the non-disengaging levelwinds for many years and at first wondered if this was simply part of the redesign to meet its price point. I would later find this to be standard on the new Toro S and Beast models. The lack of a bait clicker on all the new Toro models including the new Max is troubling to me in some ways. Although I use some rod/reel combos tailored to trolling, I also use my inventory of muskie rods as multi-role tackle. When trolling I always have one hand on the tiller and another hand holding a rod. When doing this, the clicker is a non-issue. However, when I find that same rod put in one of my rod holders doing that same job, I greatly appreciate having a nice audible clicker like those of my Abu line counter reels and older Toro models. Moving on to the handle, it had a nice ergonomic double paddle handle which is my preference more often than not. The drag out of the box seemed to be smooth and an easily adjustable brake was present to make sure adjusting the reel would be easy to do for whatever lure I was throwing. I spooled the reel up with some 80lb Spiderwire and put it to work the next day.
On the water my first goal was to determine if the disengaging levelwind had a negative impact on my casting distance. I placed it along with a Toro NaCl on two 10’1″ Abu Garcia Beast rods which where also out for field testing at the time. With the same lure/leader combo I found the Max Toro able to cast lures just as easily after getting the MagTrax brake dialed in. I also tried the reel on several other rods including other models in the Beast series and a couple St Croix models. Initially I was worried that the more budget friendly construction of this reel would mean a short life span before muskie baits would destroy it internally. But these fears have been laid to rest with time. The Max Toro did not fail. On the water, first up was the scourge of most reels. The hard pulling bucktails known for destroying some muskie reels in short order would be the first true test. I threw both DC9 and DC14 Llungen bucktails and found the reel to do a remarkable job of handling them for only having a double paddle handle. If you plan to use it alot for bucktails I would advise adding a power handle from another model Toro for extended use. For occasional/moderate use, it will certainly get the job done. The reel has had over a year of hard use on it as I type this, and it mechanically is no worse for wear. The gears have held up to the battery of blades and rubber thus far. I’d also like to add that the reel has never been oiled, cleaned, or serviced. I’m not intentionally abusive of my gear, but I’m not the type of person that sends my reels in yearly for servicing nor do I routinely oil them. I simply use the reel until it no longer can function in the required capacity, then I fix it. The fact I do this has spoken well for the Max that it is still functioning as well as it did on day one. I no longer give any thought to the disengaging levelwind and have accepted that they don’t impact the reels performance. After using the Toro S model, which you can most closely compare the Max Toro too, I have to say if I were blind folded fishing both models that I couldn’t tell one from the other. Infact after over a year under its belt I would have to give serious thought to whether or not I’d opt for the Toro S over the Max. As mentioned, I would like to see Abu go back to offering a bait clicker on all the Toro models. Especially when using the reel for propwash trolling when I don’t always immediately see the rod get hit. My Toro Max prototype has put numerous muskie in the net in the course of a year and probably gets more use than most of my other reels. Largely this is because well…I just like it. Part of me also is curious to see how much it can truly take before it needs maintenance but I’m not up for holding my breath on that one yet. The release of this reel is pure genius in my eyes, as many anglers who held out on spending $200 dollars and above for previous low profile models now have the opportunity to modernize to a more ergonomic reel that can be had for around the same price as the round reels. I’m sure once these people get a feel for how nice the low profiles are they will be much more inclined to visit the idea of stepping up to the Beast and Toro S models. If you are a guide you will be hard pressed to find a better client reel as well. Everyone who has used mine has been very pleased and I had many people chomping at the bit while awaiting its release. So if you’re looking for a great budget reel, a backup, client reel, or simply are ready to ditch the old round reel this may be just the ticket!