Abel has always been known for producing products of extreme quality, and the SD Series doesn't stray from that. While these reels are quite different in appearance and internals compared to the more traditional Abel Super Series models, they still tout rugged construction utilizing some of the best materials out there. Sure, all Abels are rock solid and look amazing, but our tester (and my personal reel) is an easy 10 out of 10 on the awesomeness scale thanks to its custom Army Camo paint scheme. What a beauty!
SD Reels are fully machined from aerospace-grade 6061-T651 cold-finished aluminum for maximum strength and precision. The frames and spools of these new models are heavily ported to reduce weight, and in going over the SD 5/6 there's nothing but clean, smooth edges and perfect proportions. The heft and stature of this particular model is pleasing, with a weight of 5.9 ounces, a diameter of 3.5", width of .750", and hub diameter of 1.850". Speaking of the width, I've always been a fan of the narrow spools for easier line leveling and (in my opinion) better looks when mounted on a rod.
Abels have historically had great drag systems with one big drawback: they were open to the elements. While I still own and fish a Super Series reel with this "old school" drag setup, something has to be said for the added peace-of-mind of a sealed drag to protect it from contamination. SD reels sport Rulon/aluminum drag stacks that are fully-sealed for maintenance-free usage. Operation on our 5/6 is smooth with minimal startup inertia and 22 nice, firm detents of adjustment which equates to about one revolution of the easy-to-grab rear knob. With a fish on, the drag produces the same mellow clicking sound as on retrieval. It's alright but not the most pleasant acoustics I've heard.
Besides the drag system, another huge upgrade to these reels is the fact that they feature a quick-release spool. When I fish with my Super Series 7/8N, I carry a dime with me in case I need to unscrew the rear nut to remove the spool. When that's done, care must be taken to not drop or lose any of the pieces that then become loose. With the SD reels, simply unscrew the center cap (it doesn't have to be fully removed) and the spool/frame pulls apart easily without any random loose parts to worry about. Fitting the spool back onto the frame is usually pretty easy, but sometimes the center cap gets jostled loose and needs to be reseated. Perhaps I'm doing it wrong?
As mentioned earlier, the SD 5/6 has a narrow spool that I like for easy line pickup. The optional machined handle is both excellent in looks and feel. This reel is somewhat "tight" on retrieval and doesn't spin much when the spool is smacked or slapped—bad news for those that like to use this technique to gather loose line at a rapid pace.
Despite a couple minor drawbacks, this is a pretty outstanding reel—heck, I wouldn't have bought it otherwise! Made in the USA, this is a great pick if you want to treat yourself to something truly special that can also be customized a number of ways. Carrying a price of $755 (spare spools cost $445), cost of ownership is definitely up there, but so is the overall quality. Go Abel!
WF5F / 125 yards of 20lb backing
WF6F / 100 yards of 20lb backing