It’s an odd feeling to show up for a fishing trip with no gear in hand. Unarmed, if you will. You’re reliant on friends or even strangers for the tackle that will determine the day’s success or failure.
On this given early morning I wasn’t worried. I was meeting Accurate Vice President of Sales and Marketing Justin Poe at Dana Point Harbor, where we were jumping aboard the beautiful vintage Skipjack 20 skippered by WON Director of Sales Chuck Buhagiar. We were off on a paddie hunting expedition, visions of dorado in our heads.
Justin arrived with an angling arsenal in hand, enough outfits to fill every one of the multitude of rod holders aboard Chuck’s boat. Justin had brought a variety of Accurate’s powerhouse reels, but I’ll be honest. I only had eyes for the company’s new Tern star drags mounted on brand new Valiant rods. Both products were announced at the ICAST trade show earlier this year and are just coming onto the market.
Why, I asked Justin, had the company famous for its TwinDrag lever drag designs cooked up its first star drag reels?
He answered without hesitation. It was due to customer demand. “Anglers still want that star drag,” he said. And while the company hadn’t produced a star drag previously, they had experience modding and improving Penn star drag reels with AccuPlates, so they weren’t starting from scratch. “We had already seen the fail points and weak points in star drag reels,” Justin added.
I examined the Tern 300 and 400. Both reels are the same size but a little heavier than the equivalent Valiant reels. They are compact and buff and look and feel every bit like any of Accurate’s high quality and lightweight reels. But what about the internals? What sets the Tern apart from other star drag reels?
Justin said the number one design goal was castability, as anglers in Southern California cast more than any other market. Accurate’s engineers were inspired by the legendary performance of Newell reels, and like Newell, they designed their eccentric gears to pull the reel into free spool, instead of pushing it out of gear like most manufacturers. This results, Justin said, in better durability.
There’s another huge difference, and that’s in the drag system. Justin said the Tern boasts the first TwinDrag in a star drag reel. Stainless steel and carbon fiber washers are situated on each side of the main gear (both the main and pinion gears are made of very hard, very precise 17-4 stainless steel, not softer brass or hardened aluminum) rather than stacked against one side, doubling the drag’s surface area and increasing the possible max drag output.
How much? Each of the Terns makes 30+ pounds of drag. Actually more, but 30 pounds is the maximum Accurate’s engineers think the Tern should be fished. “We don’t want to fish until its breaking point, for smoothness and efficiency. We don’t rate stuff with a hammer in one hand and a scale in the other. Maximum fishable drag is an important number for us. It’s way more important than max drag,” Justin said. “It’s a fact, the Tern gets more drag than any star drag of its like size,” he added.
About 22 miles south of the harbor just shy of the 209 we hit our first kelp and it was holding. Dorado cavorted, jumping and rolling, setting our hearts beating. Chuck set up the drift away from the paddy. I grabbed a Tern 300 mounted on an 8-foot Valiant rod, nose-hooked a lively sardine, and lobbed a cast off the stern. I didn’t have to wait long. The spool accelerated, I clicked into gear and just like that I was on.
Moments later Justin hooked up on a Tern 400, quickly busted off, then retied and connected again, this time on a better model that skipped high across the water. Drags sang.
We were only on 20-pound so we didn’t come close to testing the full capabilities of the Tern’s TwinDrag system, but I can affirm it was silky smooth. A little over 14 ounces, the reel was comfortable in my hands, each crank putting down plenty of power. Soon my dorado came to the gaff. Justin’s larger fish took a bit longer, but it too hit the deck.
The bite at our kelp died – before we knew it we were surrounded by another six private boats, so we moved on hopeful of more action. We stopped at a good dozen kelps over some 60 additional miles, but all were empty. It left us a lot of time to talk.
I asked Justin to break down the Tern models and MSRPs. The 300, which holds some 300 yards of 30-pound braid, retails for $280. The 400 is $290 and holds 400 yards of 50-pound braid. The 500 is $300, with a 400-yard capacity of 65-pound braid. The Accurate website indicates each is available in a 6:1 or 4.7:1 gear ratio. Justin said a 500 narrow, a 600 and a 600 narrow are coming later this year. Every one is made in their entirety in Corona, the bolts, screws, gears, handles… everything, and comes with two years of free service. Yes, even the lower-priced Terns.
“We are the innovators of small reels, big fish. We think our fans will want to fish with the smallest reels they can get away with,” Justin said.
What about the Valiant rods, also new this year? Justin said customers would call, asking about rods that perfectly matched their powerful but small Valiant reels (and now, Tern star drags). “Most rods were heavy, built for older style, larger reels,” Justin added.
The new Valiant rods are an ideal fit. The components match Accurate’s reel feet and avoid high-rise guides because the reels are so compact to the rods. The ones I looked at feature a locking ring on the reel seat. All are of composite construction. “We really don’t get into the modulus or the guide type because that’s not what’s important to us. These rods are made for fishing with your Valiants, and they are the best rods we feel we could make to pair up with reels that our customers were having trouble making a match,” Justin said.
With Valiant reels attached, only three combos in the whole mix are over two pounds. The lightest outfit is 14.6 ounces. Rods and reels together often weigh less than the previously recommended third party rod itself. “It really increases the enjoyment of fishing because you’re not fighting your tackle, you’re only fighting the fish,” Justin said. You can fish 60 on a 2.2-pound combo!
Rod models include four 7-foot boat rods rated ML through H; 2 extra fast action 7-6 boat rods rated MH and H, four 8-foot boat rods rated ML through H, and two 6-8 slow pitch jigging rods rated M and MH.
One fish on the new Tern star drag and matching Valiant rod isn’t much to go on, but from here it looks like Accurate has a couple new winners on its hands. I’d show up again, hands empty of fishing gear, any time I could be sure to borrow one.