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13 Fishing Concept Z Review

In this 13 Fishing Concept Z review, we will take a look at what all the buzz has been about.  When I first saw the Concept Z in its bright orange or as they call it Tequilla Sunrise finish at the On The Water event at ICAST 2017, I did not really know what to make of a reel that had “Zero” ball bearings.

I mean how is that possible?

We all know that one of the things we anglers really like is a smooth spinning reel that stays that way over time.  I am pretty meticulous about rinsing my saltwater gear after each trip and I even use Salt-Away to make sure I extend the lifespan of my gear. 

Nothing makes me cringe more than taking a crank on a reel and feeling it bind due to saltwater corrosion, well – maybe the feel of a big one getting off!

 

The Bottom Line

  • A new and interesting concept with no ball bearings = no corrosion?
  • Very smooth and strong drag
  • Casting distance seems to be further and more consistent
  • Very durable anodized body

The 13 Fishing Concept Z is unique and lives up to most of the hype and is available HERE.

The 13 Fishing Concept Z is a reel that was designed from the ground up specifically for inshore fishing.  You know the kind of fishing you do that includes everything from wading to kayaking to splashing around in your bay boat where your reels are going to get wet from spray and unfortunately the occasional dunk.

13 Fishing has taken on one of the major challenges we face as anglers which is how to keep our reels running smooth.  With the introduction of the 13 Fishing Concept Zero Bearing, they have certainly solved one of the major issues we face which is corrosion specifically in the ball bearings.

By replacing the traditional stainless steel ball bearings with the proprietary CZB made of a proprietary polymer material designed specifically for fishing several things are accomplished.  First, the weight of the reel is dropped as the heavy steel bearings are no longer present.  Secondly, one of the major weak spots as it pertains to durability in any reel is eliminated.

The castability of this reel is awesome as there are no balls in the bearings to create friction.  Now we all know that a good quality sealed ball bearing, like the ones you will find in other reels such as the 13 Fishing Concept C and Shimano Curado 70 will deliver a smooth and effortless cast is well maintained.

Features

CZB – Concept Zero bearing technology – The CZB polymer material is engineered specifically for use in fishing reels, this is not some other material that has been repurposed. Take a look at the picture above of the spool and you can see the CZB bearing (it is green).

HD Aluminum Frame and Gear SidePlate – Both the frame and gear sideplates of the Concept Z are made out of aluminum, making it incredibly lightweight yet durable against the elements and strong enough to handle large fish without any issues. 

The aluminum body is then coated with a brilliant bright orange to protect it from the elements as well as making quite a statement when you are on the water.

Ocean Armor 2 saltwater protection process – The Concept Z features 13 Fishings Ocean Armor 2 saltwater protection process which is essential for keeping your gear in good condition when you’re using it in saltwater which is what this reel is designed specifically for. 

While you may still want to rinse your reel off once you’re done for the day even though you don’t have the bearings to worry about, you certainly don’t have to worry about the body of the reel corroding quickly.

22 lbs Bulldog drag – The Bulldog drag system is a stack of steel and carbon washers that provides a smooth and strong feel from the start with no noticeable variation during a strong run from even a big snook or bull red.  I like the fact that this drag gives me the power I need to pull a big fish out from deep cover.

The only time that I was able to notice any variation in how smooth the drag performed was when it was cranked all the way down and let’s face it, there is really no need to do that when you have 22 lbs. of drag to work with.

13 Tech EVA handles knobs – The handle on the 13 Fishing Concept Z is wide and made of aluminum to keep the weight down while still maintaining strength.  The grips are made of a high-density EVA foam material that is easy on the fingers when fishing all day long. 

The EVA material does provide a good grip even when wet but I think I still prefer cork handles, however that is just a personal preference.

Arrowhead line guide – This open line guide system is a free-flowing area, allowing your line to pass through without any resistance when you are casting and allowing the line to lay very evenly on the spool when you retrieve it. 

This system is similar to what Daiwa has with their TWS or T Wing System and assures that you are ready for your next cast without having to worry about backlash or tangles in your line. 

6-way centrifugal braking system – The six-pin braking system has teeth located around the perimeter, which allow you to make very fine adjustments that are marked as 0-6.

Keep in mind that the number you click to determines how the brake weights are engaged, the higher the number the more braking power will be applied. While the pins themselves are small, they seem to be sufficient to get the job done.

Beetle Wing Rapid access side plate – The six-pin brake system is housed inside the beetle wing which I think should be a design that is adopted for all baitcasting reels.  The reason I say this is that I have had my sideplate pop off on several occasions and one I actually lost the sideplate. 

This not only ruined my day of fishing but was an expensive lesson to learn as well.

With the Beetle Wing access,  the hinges are located at the front instead of the back.  It’s spring loaded and stays attached even when it’s open, making it incredibly easy for you to get access and make your changes without the fear of having that sideplate pop off into the boat or even worse the water.

Dead stop anti-reverse – The dead stop anti reverse is a simple yet efficient system that assures a solid hookset assuming the fisherman knows how to set the hook properly :-).

Japanese Hamai Cut gearing – The Japanese Hamai digital cutting process is extremely accurate and means that your gear threads are going to be cut very to a very tight tolerance, which means that your gears are going to mesh perfectly together. 

One of the things that you will notice is how smooth the reel is when you retrieve due to this very tight tolerance range.

 Features at a Glance

  • CZB – Concept Zero bearing technology
  • Ocean Armor 2 saltwater protection process
  • 22 lbs Bulldog drag
  • 13 Tech EVA handle knobs
  • 6 way centrifugal braking system
  • Arrowhead line guide
  • Beetle Wing Rapid access side plate
  • Dead stop anti-reverse
  • Japanese Hamai Cut gearing

Castability

So the number one thing that everyone seems to be talking about and focusing on with the 13 Fishing Concept Z is how well the reel casts, particularly as it relates to the distance it can cast.

When testing the reel we found that indeed it does seem in most cases with both a lightweight bait as well as a heavier lure to cast slightly further than traditional reels with ball bearings.  With that said since we are typically fishing from a kayak, there is really never a need to cast 250′ as some people have claimed to be able to do. 

I don’t know about you but I have a hard time seeing a fish at that distance that I want to sight cast too.

When casting we did feel that the reel was very smooth.  However, we also did notice that when we were going for broke with a slightly heavier lure that there was some noise that we would have to describe as a high-speed hum or chatter. 

It is interesting as I would normally associate this with a resistance of some kind but in this case, it is just a noise that I am not used to and it does not seem to affect the castability.

For those of you who want all the details I have provided the chart below.

ModelRetrieveGear RatioBearingsMono-cap
(yds/il)
Max DragWeight
Z6.6-RHRight6.6:1Zero135/1222 lbs.6.4 oz.
Z7.3-RHRight7.3:1Zero135/1222 lbs.6.4 oz.
Z8.1-LHLeft8.1:1Zero135/1222 lbs.6.4 oz.
Z7.3-LHLeft7.3:1Zero135/1222 lbs.6.4 oz.

Field Test

For our field test, I paired the 13 Fishing Concept Z in a 7.3:1 gear ratio with a 7’6″ St. Croix Mojo Inshore Casting rod.

I wanted to test the reel with light soft plastics, hard topwater lures as well as some chunk bait so I could get a feel for how the reel handles -all three which basically covers most of the fishing that I do.

Starting out with the soft plastic, I was casting a 4″ fluke with a 1/8 oz weighted Owner hook.  I have to say that I was impressed with how easy it was to cast the reel and get some decent distance.  There was a bit of a wind blowing, maybe 12 mph so I had the opportunity to see how the reel performed when casting directly into it. 

I was pleased that the wind had little to no effect as the spool speed seems to keep up perfectly with the cast.

Fortunately, I was able to get into some decent 18″-19″ specs and had a lot of fun.  The drag was easy to adjust with the star drag and I found it to be very smooth.  Obviously, the 22 lbs of drag were way more than I needed for these smaller fish.

As the early evening rolled on I tied on one of my favorite topwater lures the 7/8 oz. 4.5″ Strike King KVD Sexy Dawg to see if I could pick up some topwater action.  I found that I was able to adjust the tension on the spool very easily with the 6-way braking system. 

For me and this lure, 3 seemed to be the perfect setting.

The 7.3:1 ratio seemed to provide just the right speed needed for a nice walk the dog action over some nice grass flats at the mouth of one of my favorite little estuaries.  The first 15 minutes did not reward me with anything other than a small spec but then WHAM!! Blow up! 

The surface erupted as a beautiful bull red hammered the sexy dawg and I have to say there is nothing sexier than seeing your topwater lure get hammered, especially as the sun is starting to set.  It only takes one moment like this every so often to keep you coming back to the water time and time again.

This bull red was going to give the Concept Z a good workout, especially since I had forgotten to tighten down my drag.  He took off for some cover and I was able to easily adjust the drag.  As I increased the pressure on the fish the drag remained smooth and I was able to get control of him. 

It took me about 6-7 minutes to get this beauty back to the boat for a quick measurement – 30″ before I released him back to grow a little more.

Now that the sun had set, I wanted to see how this setup would handle some heavier cut bait.  I pulled out some mullet and took a two finger chunk, I am guessing that this probably weighed 2-3 oz.  This time I did remember to adjust the brakes and set it at 5 to start with. 

The reel cast just as smooth with a heavy bait as it did with the lighter fluke earlier in the day.

Overall, I am impressed with how well this reel casts.  I did manage to hook into a few other redfish in the 22″-26″ range and the reel performed flawlessly.  With that said the feel you get when retrieving is very different than that of a reel that has ball bearings. 

I think that this will take some getting used to for some people.

Pros

  • Castability
  • Built for saltwater
  • Solid proven bulldog drag system

Cons

  • The whirring sound when you cast
  • There is some minor chatter when retrieving
  • Different feel than traditional ball bearings

Alternatives

Probably the closest reel to compare the13 Fishing Concept Z to would be the 13 fishing Concept A that is about $20 less expensive.  The Concept A is basically the same reel as the Concept Z with the main difference being the use of the CZB or Zero bearing in the Concept Z. 

The Concept A uses traditional anti-corrosion stainless steel ball bearings which add an additional 0.4 oz in weight.  Read the full 13 Fishing Concept A review HERE.

From Daiwa, I would have you take a look at the Daiwa Tatula CT Type-R which also retails for about $20 less than the Concept Z.  The Tatula CT Type-R offers corrosion resistant bearings, a smaller drag only 13.2 lbs and weighs almost a full ounce more.  Read the full Daiwa Tatula CT Type-R review HERE.

From Shimano take a look at the Shimano Curado 70 which has the same retail price as the 13 Fishing Concept Z and a similar weight at only 6.5 oz.  The Curado 70 offers shielded stainless steel ball bearings to minimize corrosion but falls short in the drag department at only 11 lbs. of drag.  Read the full Shimano Curado 70 review HERE.

 

In Conclusion

So what are my final takes on the 13 Fishing Concept Z?  I have to say that I am impressed with a reel that does not have the best free spool action but when cast can go the distance. 

I found that the reel does perform well for everything from casting a heavier lure to finessing a lightweight soft plastic and that the bulldog drag is pretty much flawless as we have found in other baitcasting reels from 13 Fishing.

I found as have many other people who have reviewed this reel, that there is a certain chatter or whirring sound that gets progressively louder during the first 10-20 hours of use.  Matt Baldwin over at 13 Fishing said that once the bearings have broken themselves in they should require very little lubrication. 

I am pretty sure that when I first got the reel and opened it up to look at it, that I must have rubbed some of the lubricant off.  This was easily resolved by applying a few drops of INOX lubricant after which the sound decreased significantly and has not returned. 

There is however still a sound that is something that you will have to get used to and that I am sure some people will just not like period!

Overall I am pretty impressed with Concept Z and would recommend it as a solid choice for someone that is targeting inshore species such as redfish and snook.  Time will tell but from what I have seen and what has been reported by others it looks like we have a winner.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
13 Fishing Concept Z
Author Rating
41star1star1star1stargray

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