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Electric Reels for Deepwater Fishing

Power Up!

Traditionally, fishing in deep water was limited to around the 300′ mark. Even when fishing that deep, cranking up a 2-lb ball repeatedly starts to get very tiring. What if you want to go deeper? The solution is to power up with electric reels.

Sablefish (Back Cod) Fishing

Electric reels are expensive and, until recently, uncommon on the west coast. That is changing, with more retailers offering them. The main reason for this increase in popularity is the growing number of fishermen on the west coast of Vancouver Island wanting to target black cod (sablefish). However, black cod are found in very deep water that is generally beyond the easy reach of conventional reels. Fishermen are also finding electric reels useful for Humboldt squid, halibut, turbot, skate, and deep-water rockfish. Two-speed reels can help for all these species, but to plumb these deep waters effectively, an electric reel is a massive improvement.

Fishing Guide Rob Frawley, Lucky Strike Sportfishing Tofino with black cod (sablefish)

About Electric Fishing Reels

In North America, they have been used in the Atlantic for swordfish, tuna, and snapper. For daytime swordfish, the fishermen are commonly fishing at 1,500′ to 2,000′. While these depths seem extreme to most west coast fishermen, with a good electric reel, they are within reach.

Electric Fishing Reel Brands

The most common brands of electric reels are Shimano, Penn, and Daiwa. Less common to the west coast are brands such as Elec-Tra-Mate and Banax Kaigen. Even the more common brands are currently very hard to obtain, with many retailers sold out for the season. If possible, pre-order for next season or look for individuals importing directly from Japan. However, these are likely to be Japanese language models.

Electric Fishing Reel Comparison Chart

The reels I have gotten my hands on are the Shimano Beastmaster, Shimano Forcemaster, and Daiwa Tanacom. They all can be mounted to a regular halibut rod as opposed to the very large electric reels which are fixed to the boat. They also easily can have a Scotty downrigger plug spliced to their power cord and plugged into a female Scotty downrigger receptacle, with no extra hardware. Note that having a very strong and reliable rod holder is a must for this type of fishing. A Scotty Striker should be considered the minimum acceptable rod holder. If you can afford it, a Burnewinn (such as the RH6650) would be even better. Bent butt-style rods are another option, although finding them on the West Coast is not very easy. These rods fit into flush-mounted rod holders and are a great choice for deep water fishing.

Daiwa Tanacom 750

Daiwa Tanacom 750

The Daiwa Tanacom 750 could be considered an entry-level electric reel (if an electric reel could ever be considered entry level). It holds 400 yards (1,200′) of 80-lb braid with retrieval rate of 16″ per revolution. It has a drag strength of 48 lbs, which is easily twice as powerful as most large halibut reels. With sealed electronics and many features including an automatic jigging mode, it would be a good choice for somebody looking to get started in deep water fishing. There is a portable battery pack option for this reel, but wiring to the boat is the preferred setup. The downsides are partial plastic construction and line capacity that is comparable to most conventional halibut reels. Another issue is the user manual is only available online and not included with the reel. You will need it to figure out the different modes and to spool it up.

Shimano Forcemaster 9000

Shimano Forcemaster 9000

The Shimano Forcemaster 9000 is a mid-sized electric reel with most of the features of the higher-end products. It can hold 340 yards of 80-lb braid and has a drag strength of 55 lbs. Its retrieval rate is 35″ per revolution of the drum. At full speed, this allows for winding speeds of 153 yards per minute.

Shimano Beastmaster 9000

Shimano Beastmaster 9000

The Shimano Beastmaster 9000 is a top-of-the-line reel, and if money was no object, it would be my personal choice. It holds over 1,000 yards (3,000′) of 80-lb braid, allowing fishermen to explore unheard-of depths. With its very large arbor, it retrieves 35″ per revolution and has a massive drag strength of 55 lbs. It features corrosion-resistant ball bearings, excellent cooling technology to prevent overheating, and a nice LCD display. However, these nice attributes come with a hefty price tag. It is also worth noting that Shimano currently does not have either reel’s user manual on their website, though it is included with the reel.

Electric Fishing Reel Modes

Most electric reels have many different features and modes. Auto jigging and depth memory can be utilized. Auto stop can be set so that the reel stops when the fish is just below the boat. The angler can then manually reel in and land the fish as usual.

Another great advantage of electric reels is for disabled, elderly, or even youth anglers. In fact, anyone with arm, back, or shoulder problems would benefit. Fishing guides who can provide guests with this option may find themselves with a broader client base for halibut trips.

Daiwa Tanacom 750 Fishing Modes

One note when purchasing an electric reel: Many Daiwa and Shimano reels are Japanese imports, and these reels may not have English displays. In fact, English versions of the Shimanos have only just become available. So, if purchasing online, be careful to consider if you need one with English displays and user manuals. The user manual is critical, as there are many different functions and modes. And English downloads of the user manuals are rather hard to find, or often non-existent.

I also recommend always using a rod leash and making sure to tie it off in such a way that the reel will not be underwater if it goes over the side. Though the power cord is a tether too, make sure your leash is shorter than the power cord so you won’t strain it or the outlet. Losing your prized reel or messing up your power outlet to a sixgill shark or giant halibut would be an unfortunate end to your fishing trip.

If you want to fish deep, or take the strain off reeling in a halibut, you might want to consider powering up to an electric reel. After a long day of deep-water fishing, your arm muscles will thank you for it.

This article appeared in Island Fisherman magazine, never miss another issue—Subscribe today!

July 2023 Island Fisherman Magazine

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