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Okuma Cortez Star Drag Review

In this review of the Okuma Cortez Star Drag reel, we will take a look at why we feel that this is a great reel for the money.  As I have said in several of my other reviews of Okuma equipment, I am really impressed with what you get for your dollar.

If you are looking for a quality conventional star drag reel to pair with a heavy rod for casting irons, trolling or jigging and you are on somewhat of a limited budget then this might be the ticket for you.  So what makes this a great reel for the money?  First off, you get a graphite frame and side plates that are both corrosion resistant and lightweight.  The only exception here is the CZ-55Wa which is designed for cranking in those heavy fish and it is equipped with an aluminum frame and side plates.  Next, all of the aluminum parts on the reel including the spool, handle, lever and star drag are all machined aluminum and are anodized in either a nice gray or red depending on the model you choose and is going to provide you with great durability in harsh saltwater conditions.

The Okuma Cortez Star Drag reel is available in 4 models with the primary difference being spool capacity.  Max drag pressure starts out at 15 lbs on the smallest of the 4 models and goes up to 18 lbs on the other three.

Casting is easy with the Magnetic Control System (MCS) that will help you to make longer casts and all but eliminate backlashes.  The MCS is 100% waterproof so the reel is designed to stand up to the abuse of saltwater fishing.

Features

Corrosion resistant frame and sideplates – The Okuma Cortez Star Drag reels feature a graphite frame on all models except the CZ-55Wa which features an anodized aluminum frame.  All models have graphite sideplates which are extremely corrosion resistant.

Machined aluminum, anodized spool – With durability and weight in mind, Okuma has made the spool out of machined aluminum that is then anodized to combat rust and corrosion.

Forged aluminum, anodized star – Unlike some of its counterparts that use composite material, the Okuma star drag adjustment is made of anodized aluminum which provides you with a very solid feel while at the same time being lightweight and durable.

Multi-disc Carbonite drag system  – The Okuma Cortez uses a multi-disc carbonite drag system that has proven time and time again to give you consistent stopping power with smoothness and durability.

Anodized aluminum swept handle – The anodized aluminum swept handle reduces wobble while cranking by bringing your hand closer to the center of the reel and the rod and allows you to create greater torque.  At the end of the swept handle is a very comfortable ergonomically designed grip knob.

4BB + 1RB stainless steel bearings. – The use of 4 stainless steel ball bearings and one stainless steel roller bearing prove a smooth retrieve and will withstand saltwater fishing conditions for years.  Note: this is not a sealed system!

MCS: Magnetic Cast Control – Okuma’s MCS system which is available on the three smaller 5CS, 10CS and 12CS sizes uses magnets to allow you to get a very smooth cast and then as soon as the reel starts to slow it engages the magnets to prevent backlash or back spooling.

Dual anti-reverse system (mechanical & roller bearing) – When fighting larger fish it is always nice to have a backup and that is just what you get with the dual-anti-reverse system. The roller bearing will provide a quick set for the hook and the mechanical anti-reverse makes sure that the spool does not go in reverse unless the drag is engaged.

XL Gearing: Drop down gear box. – The drop down gear box allows the center of gravity to be placed closer to the center of the rod and increases the amount of torque that can be created.  Inside the Okuma, gear box is helical cut stainless steel gears that are extremely strong and durable.  The quality of the helical cut stainless steel means that you get an extremely smooth retrieve and durability due to spiral-cut that allows for more teeth to mesh at any given time.

MSS: Mechanical Stabilizing System – Okuma’s MSS provides increased durability by integrating gear support in the way of a metal side plate that supports not only the gears but also the gear shafts and the bearings.  This is similar to what Shimano does with their X-Ship technology which supports the pinion gear on both sides and is available on the Tranx 300, Tranx 400 and Tranx 500 models.

Self-lubricating gear system – All four of the Okuma Cortez Star Drag reels have what is called a self-lubricating system.  What this means is that as you are cranking on the reel, the grease inside of the gear box is being spread around to lubricate the gears.  This means that there is less friction on the gears and that they will last longer.  As with any reel there is some maintenance that is required and in this case, it is the addition of grease.

 Features at a Glance

  • Corrosion resistant graphite frame and sideplates
  • CZ-55W features aluminum frame and graphite sideplates
  • Machined aluminum, anodized spool
  • Multi-disc Carbonite drag system
  • 4BB + 1RB stainless steel bearings
  • MCS: External magnetic cast control system
  • Ergo grip handle knob
  • Dual anti-reverse system (mechanical & roller bearing)
  • XL Gearing: Drop down gear box
  • Quick-Set anti-reverse roller bearing
  • MSS: Mechanical Stabilizing System for increased durability
  • Self-lubricating gear system, all models

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

MODELGEAR  RATIOBEARINGSWEIGHT (OZ.)LINE RETRIEVEMAX DRAGMONO CAP
CZ-5CSa6.2:14BB+1RB1438"15-lbs410/14
305/18
270/20
CZ-10CSa6.2:14BB+1RB17.643"18-lbs260/25
350/20
350/20
CZ-12CSa6.2:14BB+1RB18.443"18-lbs300/30
400/25
540/20
CZ-55Wa4.7:14BB+1RB28.340.7"18-lbs600/30
500/40
400/50

Pros

  • Price
  • Durability
  • Magnetic cast control
  • Stabilizing system

Cons

  • Lower max drag
  • Not fully sealed

Alternatives

The first alternative you would want to check out would be Daiwa’s Saltist Black Gold Conventional saltwater reel, which is going to be the closest thing you can find, however, it only comes in one model that would rival the Cortez CZ-12CSa.  Read the full review of the Daiwa’s Saltist Black Gold Conventional HERE.

The other one I would have you take a look at would be the Penn Squall Star Drag Conventional.  Penn has ben around for years and the Penn Squall offers a few more features for only a few more dollars. Read the full review of the Penn Squall Star Drag Conventional HERE.

In Conclusion

For someone who is just getting started with saltwater fishing or who is on a limited budget the Okuma Cortez Star Drag reel is a great choice.  I know a handful of Captains that use these reels on their charter boats as they will take abuse pretty well and with the magnetic cast control they are great for the less experienced angler.

I do not think that you are going to get decades of use out of this reel but at the price point, this is not really a necessity.  If the reel is taken care of, meaning rinsed well after each use, I am confident  that you will get years of smooth casting and retrieving.  Keep in mind that this is a saltwater reel but is not a waterproof design other than the magnetic cast control portion.

Overall for the money, this is a good reel and I would give it 4 out of 5 stars based on the features and price point.

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