After my previous experiences with using the older Van Staal VSB series of spinning reels and how I ended up really disliking bass fishing with them, never did I imagine that I would end up seriously wanting another Van Staal spinning reel - but holy cow do I want one of these newish VR50 ones. I have rarely come across a spinning reel at the right sort of size and weight that made so much sense to me for how so many of us go about our bass fishing…………
OK, I only had a quick go with Carl’s new Van Staal VR50 last week out in Ireland, so this blog post is purely conjecture because I don’t know how well these reels may or may not last. Van Staal do have a very good reputation for building gear that does take some serious punishment in a saltwater environment (my Van Staal titanium pliers are as good as they were on day one, more than four years ago for example), and what really attracts me about this smaller and far lighter than is usual for a Van Staal spinning reel VR50 is that it is meant to be fully sealed against water and sand and grit etc. getting in.
And if this is indeed true - and things do look good on this front with Carl’s reel so far - then to me that is a huge deal, indeed watching how Carl could go about his lure fishing in Ireland last week and worry not for one second if his reel got splashed with saltwater or got some sand on it or ended up in the drink was very interesting. To take some of these photos that you can see here I had Carl’s VR50 in the water for say twenty minutes (with his permission I might add!), and when he took the sideplates off that evening we could not find a single drop of water inside the reel. Think about this - how many of you have ended up with damaged or indeed trashed spinning reels because saltwater always, always gets inside somewhere? If you haven’t then you are either fishing in freshwater only, or you are fishing in saltwater but you certainly aren’t getting in amongst it all.
If you know anything about Van Staal spinning reels, they tend to have a reputation for being fully sealed, having awful line lays, being pretty damn heavy, and for being fairly rough to fish with. Now this doesn’t matter for a lot of anglers who will gladly trade those issues for a reel that lasts and lasts and lasts and doesn’t fall apart with saltwater use - but even the VSB100 I once owned for me was too big and cumbersome and rough for my regular bass lure fishing. I made a mistake and I haven’t missed the reel for a single second. I get what they are designed for if that helps, but it didn’t make me enjoy the experience. Horses for courses though, as ever.
And then along comes this newish Van Staal VR50 and suddenly things have got a lot more interesting to me. Carl reckons the reel weighs about the same as his Daiwa Certate 3000 (Van Staal quote the VR50 as weighing 8.9oz/252g), and from having a few casts with it strapped to the new HTO Shore Game 9’3’’ 7-30g lure rod (review here) I see no reason not to agree with these figures. It’s also about the same size as a Certate 3000 which is a tiny bit smaller overall than a 4000 size Shimano reel, I love the chunky handle (it’s a solid material, not foam), and the line lay is miles better than on the VSB reels I used to own.
But Van Staal do have a reputation for making these sealed spinning reels that I suppose by their (sealed) nature have to feel that bit tighter and less smooth because of that sealing - and whilst this new VR50 isn’t as smooth as a Shimano or Daiwa reel is when they first come out of their boxes, it’s so much nicer/smoother/easier to wind/easier to fish with than their older VSB ones I have experience with. As for these smooth as butter spinning reels anyway, how long do most of them stay uber-smooth anyway, and how many of you would give up a bit of that uber-smooth winding experience (which is only for our benefit and doesn’t catch any more fish) for a reel that is properly sealed against the elements and as such I must hope has a far greater chance of lasting for a far longer length of time? I know I would. I loved turning the handle on this reel and I would imagine that over time the experience would feel very normal.
I loved my brief experience with this VR50 and it felt outstanding to fish with. Carl had loaded his new reel up with Sufix Performance Pro 8 20lb braid and used it all week - he chucked all manner of hard and soft lures in all kinds of conditions (we copped some seriously unfortunate conditions eventually!) and the reel performed flawlessly. Whilst the line lay isn’t quite as flat as on say a decent Shimano spinning reel, it is miles better than on the older Van Staal VSB reels, and all this does is prove to me that as nice as a flat line lay looks to our eyes, it obviously doesn’t actually matter very much with how well Carl’s VR50 behaved. If the reel works that well with one of these modern, ultra-thin 8-strand braids then that’s good enough for me.
The reel is meant to be completely sealed against saltwater intrusion so I guess this means the line roller as well, but with the lack of info I can find I am having to assume here. I would be fascinated to understand more about how Van Staal have achieved this when every single Daiwa or Shimano or whoever spinning reel I have ever used lets some degree of water in around the roller bearing - if indeed the Van Staal line roller is 100% sealed on this reel. I can’t find any info on the Van Staal website (why?) but there’s a bit of info here for example.
At the moment I don’t think these Van Staal VR50 spinning reels are available in the UK, and even in the US where the reels are actually made and sold in various shops I believe they are still on backorder due to high demand and/or Van Staal perhaps not being in a position to make enough to keep up with demand (apologies, an amendment - I believe this VR50 is made in China and not the US). I am not even going to try and pretend that I need a new spinning reel for my lure fishing, but I am sorely tempted to import a Van Staal VR50 into the UK because of what it can do for me compared to some of the admittedly stunning spinning reels we can get our hands on here - but as lovely as so many of them are, they are not sealed against saltwater getting in, and that for me is a huge deal when something like this Van Staal VR50 comes along.
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