Bauer RX-5 Fly Reel – Review

Over the years I have had a chance to play with many reels and rods on various saltwater trips around the world. The saltwater arena, the flats specifically are a great place to put gear through its paces on many different levels. As a flats angler you are putting a lot of trust into each piece of gear that you take out with you knowing that your selection could potentially be the difference between pure elation and heartbreak.

Recently, i was fortunate enough to take a trip down to the flats of southern Mexico in the town of Xcalak specifically to spend some time with our friend Rob at the Acocote Eco Inn. While down there I was lucky enough to thoroughly field test one of the latest additions to the Fishwest family of brands, the RX5 Series Fly Reel from our friends at Bauer Reels in Twin Bridges Montana.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Bauer here is a little background. In 1995, Jon Bauer brought his extensive knowledge of race cars and technology to the fly fishing industry and he changed the game with a simple yet innovative “zero backlash” drag. Despite many changes over the years Bauer has continued to create finely tuned reels that are considered some of the finest in the world. Fast forward to 2018 where you find Bauer at home under the roof of Winston Fly Rods in Twin Bridges Montana where you will find them still pushing the limits of design and technology while producing what they refer to as the “Swiss watch of fly reels.”

Enough about the backstory, here are my thoughts about the RX5 from Bauer Fly Reels.

For my recent trip I was geared up with the following 8wt outfit for which the RX was a great match.

Rod: Winston Air Salt 890-4

Reel: Bauer RX5

Line: Scientific Anglers Amplitude Grand Slam WF8

Backing: Scientific Anglers Colored Dacron – 30lb

What I liked:

  • Look and Feel – This reel looks and feels extremely solid. Simply pick up this reel and you can tell that alot of thought has gone into the machining. This reel emanates quality on every level. On a functional level, the reel boats a nice large drag knob that is easy to adjust on the fly as needed.
  • The Drag – Like I mentioned above, the drag is easily adjustable on the fly and is plenty stout to stop just about any flats fish that it tangles with a maximum setting of 10lb+ of useable drag resistance. I was able to put a dozen or so bones and a few cudas on the reel during this first trip and the drag within the RX was stout, exceptionally smooth, and flawless bringing those fish to hand.
  • Backing Capacity – This reel has a ton of backing capacity which I found to be surprising for a reel of its size. With the Grand Slam line mentioned above I was able to utilize 225yds of 30lb backing.
  • Spool Seal & Lock – The Bauer RX series features a spool release that uses a series of pins to insure that the system in stable, sealed, and locked into place before use. If these pins are not seated correctly, the reel will not function and freespool accordingly. Although this sounds annoying, it certainly provides peace of mind knowing that the reel is secured and ready for action at a moments notice.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Sound (or lackthereof) – The RX reel has a silent incoming. I personally am not a fan of this feature. However, the reel does have an audible outgoing which I can certainly appreciate even though it is a little bit on the quieter side.
  • Ergonomic Wood Handle – To match the quality and craftsmanship of the rest of the reel the RX comes standard with a resin impregnated wood handle. Even though this feature adds a nice aesthetic quality to the build of the reel I question it on two levels. Will the wood handle stand up to the elements over time? Also, I found that the handle when wet had a tendency to be a little on the slippery side. In the future, I would like to see an optional alternative available for those of us who use these tools in Saltwater more often than not.

This has been my first interaction firsthand with any reels in the Bauer lineup. Overall, I’m really impressed. This reel does live up to the moniker of “Swiss watch of fly reels” in my opinion. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Bauer Reels now that they have stability in the form of a partnership with Winston.