I recently had the amazing opportunity to use the Lamson Vanquish. Lamson touts this reel as being designed for “total victory” and from what I saw of it, they weren’t lying. I will be the first to tell you that this is not dirtbag material. This reel costs more than all of my rods combined but since it is from Lamson, it’s always worth a glance.
First look at this thing and you realize that its light. I own a litespeed 3.0, and it feels like a brick compared to this thing. I had a Ross Evolution 1.5 on a buddy’s rod and it also completely outweighed Lamson’s newest toy. I had the Vanquish strung up with almost 300 yards of gelspun (because I like the color) and put some garbage 5 wt line on it. I still had some room on the spool and wouldn’t hesitate putting 6wt line on the thing. The 3.5” spool obviously picks up line faster than comparable alternatives and on top of that, the reel operates very smooth.
Ok, so when using trout reels you need your drag exactly 0% of the time. Even so, I thought it would be nice to give the Vanquish a workout. I have tried it against carp, trout, bull-trout, lake trout, and bass. I have put some nice fish on the reel that have tested the drag more than anyone will ever test the drag on a reel designed for 5/6 weight rods.
The drag was smooth and consistent. I set the reel in the water during a long fight with a carp to see if the drag was as sealed as everyone said it was. The drag never mal-functioned and so, short of putting the thing in the freezer overnight and taking it on the water I’m not sure how else I can test the sealed drag concept. I will say that it has been designed with the same principles as previous sealed Lamson drags, all of which have performed extremely well for me under duress.
Other than the weight I found the greatest benefit to be in the start-up inertia. Generally I discount what salesmen and websites tell me about products but in this case the start-up inertia worked as advertised. While a subtle benefit, the fact that you could get the drag to engage exactly where you wanted it and as smooth as anything you have ever felt was in my mind, a substantial advantage. I have broken a lot of large fish on light tippets as they make their initial run and because drag requires more initial energy to engage than the drag itself is set for (i.e. it takes 2.1 lbs to engage a drag set a 2.0 lbs). This is a very subtle difference that most of the time has little impact on your fish count. It does however, have a substantial effect when you are trying to land a 15+lb rainbow on 5x.
Finally, the last benefit is in the actual reel handle. One of the things that annoys me about some of Lamson’s other models is the small reel handle. It is difficult to grasp in the winter when you have gloves on and is just not convenient during other applications. The Vanquish handle is longer than their other models which I find extremely convenient. Obviously with a larger handle you also run the risk of having your line grab the handle as you are casting. In my mind this compromise is well worth it, I will take a longer handle all day long.
The negative’s of the reel are obvious, price point is without question the biggest negative. At nearly $600 you could buy several other reels of comparable usability for the same cost. As with most things, when you get into the higher end you are paying what seems like $100 for every ounce you are shaving off the finished product (think bicycle components). The reel handle does produce more line snags as you are casting, but as I alluded to earlier, I feel that the benefit of this far outweighs the negative.
If I could, I would have one of these on every rod that I own. It is simply the lightest most well designed drag that I have used…ever. If you are in the high-end reel market I’m sure you have looked at reels like Bauer, Abel, Hatch, etc but I can assure you that in terms of performance they don’t hold a candle to this entrant into the high-end market.