Every so often, a fly reel series comes along that simply becomes a hit with anglers. It takes a pretty special blend of quality and performance to gain such status, yet some of these famed reels deliver the goods at less-than-premium price points. Over the years, the Ross Gunnison lineup has been a perfect example of this!
Particularly prolific among trout anglers, Gunnison reels have been in use for quite a while now. In Ross' words, it's "one of the most iconic, reliable, and best-selling fly reels ever produced." Despite their popularity, Ross decided it was time for a refresh, which in my opinion was about due. Well, that update finally came in a major way in 2018 with the all-new Gunnison.
Line Size: 7/8
Measured Weight: Approx 7.49 ounces
Diameter: 4.03 inches
Spool Width: Approx 1 3/16 inches
Backing Capacity (20 pound): WF7F 175 yards / WF8F 150 yards
Drag: Steel/Carbon (fully sealed)
Tested Max Drag: Around 4 pounds
Easy Release Spool: Yes (pull apart)
R/L Conversion: Yes
Colors: Matte Black
Reel Pouch: Yes (neoprene)
Reel Price: $395.00
Just like the redesigned Animas reel we reviewed here, I'm absolutely loving the cosmetics of these newly-updated reels. They include the same basic looks and familiar lines of the discontinued reels, but have received numerous upgrades that blend old and new in a way that works amazingly well.
Inside and out, these fully-machined reels boast a new generous porting pattern for weight reduction along with a smooth matte-black finish. I especially like how the spool front looks like an old-school standard arbor from the outside, but is actually now a large arbor—and a generous one at that. With no release mechanism or lever needed on the outside of the spool for removal, it also cleans up the look immensely.
Compared to the past discontinued models, other notable differences include a new handle, drag knob, leader groove on the frame, and upgraded drag based off the Evolution LTX. As a whole it looks far more streamlined, fresher, and oozes a serious classic western vibe. Zero issues with quality or workmanship were seen when I inspected the reel during testing.
These reels seem to be marketed more towards freshwater anglers, so I made sure to test mine mostly in saltwater....hah! I did take it bass fishing a few times, but beach fishing for snook and jacks was the most fun and a welcome opportunity after a summer filled with red tide. For those of you that have caught jacks before, you'll also know that they are a great fish to test a reel's drag with—bigger ones peel line in a major way!
On the topic of the drag, the Gunnison's is silky smooth at all settings and ramps up with zero noticeable startup inertia. As mentioned, the system is derived from the Evolution LTX's and is a 4-disc stack comprised of steel and carbon fluoropolymer with the drag mechanism fully-sealed from the elements. I could only muster about 4-pounds of maximum pressure with the knob cranked to max, but I've said it before: how much do you really need on a reel like this? It was more than enough for me, and if I ever need to apply extra pressure, I typically prefer to use my palm or fingers on the spool rim anyhow.
The drag knob is easy to grab and twist. Going from minimum to maximum drag is achieved in about 2 1/2 turns of the drag knob with mild clicks along the way. If I had to nitpick, a little firmer clicking feel and sound when turning the knob either way would be appreciated.
My 7/8 tester had a nice quick retrieve speed. The spool diameter of 4.03 inches and a sizable arbor diameter of roughly 2 3/4 inches makes it great for catching up to quick fish or simply reeling in line when it's time to switch spots. The narrow spool width also contributes to this somewhat since you can level line back onto the reel with faster, shorter finger sweeps back and forth as you crank. As I've talked about in other Ross reviews, the canvas phenolic handle offers great grip and is very comfortable. It also has a kind of rustic, denim-type appearance to it—super cool.
The Gunnison is not what I'd call a loud reel by any means. The clicking sounds while reeling are mellow yet refined, and you'll hear lighter clicks when line is pulled off the spool. For line retrieval in a pinch, it's a good reel if you like to "slap" the spool to get line back on the reel extra fast.
The new Gunnison really does it for me. Its got excellent performance, clean lines, and an overall design that I find hard not to stare at. I'm also a sucker for reels with narrow spool widths and larger spool diameters—both of which this reel has. Major bonus points there.
The worst part of this whole review was having to give the reel back. Seriously. This was one of those reels which had that special "it" factor to it which made letting go rather difficult. I was equally disappointed because I had other fishing plans for it in the last month that fell through, so I only got to do about half of what I wanted with it. But that's okay....at some point I'll likely have to grab one of these in some size for my personal arsenal. This one makes the "want list" for sure!
Also, remember that Ross donates 10% of every American-made product sold to the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration program.
Interested in a Ross Gunnison fly reel?
Try Trouts Fly Fishing