Abu Garcia MAX4-41, A Chat On Bearings
By: The Angler
Abu Garcia has had the Abu Garcia MAX4-41 reel in the market for a few months now. However, recently I had tea with an angler who asked me why the MAX4-41 (and 61), a saltwater reel, has only 5 bearings (4+1). While I’ve explained to him the reason, it dawned on me that more anglers may also be asking the same thing.
[ Since the Abu Garcia MAX4-41 reels are set for a pocket friendlier price level, they (Abu Garcia) will have to design it so that it performs within the set performance standards… ]
Down To The Core
The Abu Garcia MAX4-41 is a low profile baitcasting reel designed for saltwater fishing. There are good reasons why reels made for saltwater fishing do not need that many bearings. Before we go down deeper, here is a question. What is the core objective of using a reel when one is fishing? I believe you know that the objective of using a reel is to keep line. What more?
The Abu Garcia MAX4-41 low profile baitcasting reel.
Another core objective of a saltwater reel is to aid the angler catch a fish by putting pressure on the fish. This is the reason reels come with a built in drag system. Can you still catch fish without a drag system in your reel? Of course, you will be finding other ways to add pressure to the fish such as to use your thumb (baitcasting reels), or your palm (spinning reels). But both these ways are not the most efficient.
What about performance? Yes, we want our reels to perform smoothly and not breakdown especially during a fishing trip. That said, there are reels that have broken down during fishing trips. I have experienced one myself when I was on an unplanned fishing trip many, many, many years ago whilst still in college. I bought a cheap combo set and took it to sea. The reel died on the one and only fish I caught. Yes, I landed it playing the fish as if I was using a hand line.
The benefit of a clicker is definitely a welcome feature.
I have also seen reels that cost about RM2k breakdown whist battling a very hard fighting big game brute. The reel became too hot to handle despite efforts to cool it down. It then jammed and my fishing kaki let loose some of the most powerful and emotional words the English and Chinese language both have.
So Why Only 4+1 Bearings?
Well, from the manufacturer’s side, cost is one major factor to consider. They have to design a reel that performs well at certain price points. Depending on which price points the reel is meant to be at, costing of parts will then be done in relationship to performance. While there are all sorts of bearings available in the market, good quality stainless steel bearings with higher ABEC ratings do not come cheap. Branded bearings will cost even more.
The Abu Garcia MAX4 low profile baitcasting reels may have only 4+1 bearings but is it enough?.
This means that for a well-known brand such as Abu Garcia; performance, reliability, and function must meet certain high standards. Hence good quality materials are used. When it comes to bearings, they are added to enhance smoothness and performance. Performance and smoothness too has got various levels.
Since the Abu Garcia MAX4-41 reels are set for a pocket friendlier price level, they (Abu Garcia) will have to design it so that it performs within the set performance standards. Hence, they go to 4+1 stainless bearings. This meets the needs and expectations of many anglers who shop for reels at that price points. Those who prefer greater performance and smoother will have to shop for Abu Garcia reels that are at higher price points.
[ When reel manufacturers decide on where to place bearings, the first priority goes to places where they are needed most to meet smoothness and performance levels… ]
What about reels that are less known or are even unheard of? Well, I have played with reels unknown brands that claim to have 14 bearings, yet are priced at only RM120 (about USD21). Despite such claims they were rubbish. Smoothness was unavailable. The reel broke after a day out fishing at a saltwater mangrove river. Upon dismantling I could not locate all 14 bearings. They were just claims. To be fair, they did not claim to be saltwater reels.
Many hard fighting fishes were battled and landed with both the Abu Garcia Max4-41 and 61; both reels come with 4+1 bearings.
A hard fighting wahoo defeated by the Abu Garcia MAX4-61.
Bearings Where They Are Needed
When reel manufacturers decide on where to place bearings, the first priority goes to places where they are needed most to meet smoothness and performance levels. These places are the main shaft, spool, side plate are that supports the spool, and the spool tension knob. The anti-reverse is on the main shaft.
Other places where bearings are located include the handle knobs, worm gears, etc. Placing bearings in these places enhances the performance of the reel making it smoother. Of course, again; the quality of the bearing is important. But what about reels that do not use bearings at this areas? They can still get smooth performance by using bushing instead of bearings. High quality bushings can be smoother than cheap, low quality bearings, but not as smooth as high quality bearings are.
The Abu Garcia Max4-41 and 61; both reels come with 4+1 bearings.
Abu Garcia MAX4-41, value for money saltwater reels.
In the past there are reels that do not have bearings but performed only on bushings. Of course they use high quality bushings for better smoothness and performance. While the reel may not be as smooth and high performance as current day reels, they were considered smooth back in the day, and more importantly; they get the job done.
Bearings And Saltwater
Needless to say, good quality bearings are awesome. They enhance performance and provide smoothness. But they also require more maintenance especially for saltwater classed reels, as saltwater is corrosive by nature. Hence it makes sense to reduce the bearing count on saltwater reels and use high quality bushings in its place.
Apart from bearings; other factors too play an important part in ensuring that a reel performs smoothly and well. The quality of the gears (especially the main gear), washers, bushings, etc. all play a role in the performance of a reel. You can have 200 high quality bearings in a reel but if the gears and other parts are not done well, you will get a bad performance reel with high bearing count.
Yes, reels such as the Abu Garcia MAX4-41 (and 61) comes with 4+1 bearings, but they perform well. Also many a saltwater grade reel come with lower bearing count to reduce maintenance of the reel. What is more important is that the bearings are high quality bearings, and they are placed in the important areas of the reel. Good quality bushings can then be used in places where smoothness becomes less of a priority.