Ever heard of Shadow Fly Fishing? I hadn't until I came across a picture of their Assassin reel on Instagram about two years ago. Besides the info given on their website, I couldn't exactly find a huge database of knowledge or reviews pertaining to these reels elsewhere on the web. That really piqued my curiosity. On top of that, I was in need of a new 9-weight reel and didn't want to spend a fortune since I don't fish that rod size as much as I did in the past. After some careful deliberation, I pulled the trigger and ordered up a 9/10 Assassin in the black/gunmetal color scheme!
Line Size: 9/10
Advertised Weight: 7.5 ounces
Diameter: 4.25 inches
Width: 1 inch
Arbor Diameter: 2.5 inches
Backing Capacity: Up to 200 yards with WF9F
Drag: Carbon Fiber (fully-sealed)
Tested Max Drag: Approx 15 pounds
Spool Release: No Tools Needed
Colors: Black/Gunmetal (tested); Black/Blue
Reel Pouch: Yes (neoprene)
Spare Spool Available: None listed
Tested Reel Price: $244.99 (currently on sale for $174.99)
Shadow currently makes two lines of reels: Gladiator and Assassin. Positioned above the Gladiator series, Assassin reels deliver surprisingly exotic looks and a solid set of quality features.
Machined from 6061 bar stock aluminum, the overall design is extremely open and airy which results in a nice light weight on the scale. At just 7.5 ounces, the 9/10 Assassin is definitely not heavy when put up against other reels of comparable size. Loaded with 30 pound backing and a WF9F line, the total reel weight on my scale was about 9.99 ounces. The machine work on my reel is very good with just one minor little blip to be seen, and all tolerances appear to be excellent.
Shadow equips each Assassin reel with a large spool and arbor diameter, narrow width, sealed carbon fiber drag system, large drag knob, R/L conversion capability, and a twist-off center cap for easy spool removal.
The sealed carbon fiber drag is rated to produce up to 20+ pounds of stopping force. It starts up without any jerking or binding and proves to be very smooth as line is pulled from the spool at any setting. But, does it produce the muscle as advertised? After hand-tightening the knob as much as I could, I was able to get around 15-pounds out of it. While I couldn't match the advertised rating, that's way more than enough power. Whether it produces 15 or 20+ pounds of drag I could care less; I will never use that much!
The rear drag adjustment knob is easy to grab and the aggressive texturing makes it super grippy whether your hands are dry or coated in stinky slime. That surface texturing can actually be somewhat harsh on the fingers, especially when turning the knob at higher settings. Speaking of which, when the reel was new, the drag knob was actually REALLY stiff and hard to turn....so much so that I emailed the company to ask about it. I was told that was because of the o-ring sealing the drag and that it would become easier to turn with use. It definitely has loosened up a bit, but it's still too tight for my liking.
There's soft clicking detents throughout the range of adjustment and it takes around two turns of the drag knob to go from zero to full. When line is pulled off the spool, the clicking tone is modest and sounds decent quality-wise.
I'm a big fan of a large diameter spool/arbor and a narrow spool width, and this reel has both. Retrieve speed is good and it's easy to level the line back and forth while cranking. Although it has no texturing, the handle is a nice size and has a comfortable taper to it. While the retrieve is totally silent and relatively smooth, it's not absolutely buttery smooth but does feel satisfyingly solid.
Shadow makes it easy to remove the spool with the center cap. Twist it to loosen then pull off the spool. When the spool and frame are separated, the center cap stays attached to the spool—a nice safety feature. To fully reseat the spool, the little "pins" on the sides of the spindle must fit into the grooves on the spool. The easiest way to do this is to slide the spool on, then gently turn the spool backwards (the opposite direction you'd reel) until the pins find the grooves and fully seat. Works every time. Easy!
My 9/10 Assassin has proven to be a capable reel and a good value. It won't be mistaken for an Abel or Tibor, but you get a highly-functional reel all wrapped up in a relatively lightweight and very attractive package. These aspects do indeed make it competitive against a few higher-priced offerings I've tried. With all of this said, as of this writing I think Shadow is cooking up something fresh. Their reels are all on sale and I saw something hinted at on social media, so it seems like a possible upgrade or replacement is coming very soon. We'll see. In the meantime, you can snatch one of these up for just $174.99. Not bad. If you're interested in trying something outside the mainstream brands, give Shadow a look!