Fly reels can cost an arm and a leg, but thankfully there are plenty of great options out there at friendlier price points. From my observations, the Guru line of reels from Waterworks-Lamson has seemingly always been an extremely popular series, to say the very least. Recently, these reels were revamped and hit the market in mid-late 2019 now carrying the "Guru S" name. I have zero experience with the last generation of Gurus, but with the new series promising lighter weights and higher performance, I had to finally give one a shot.
Reel Size: 2/3/4
Measured Weight: Approx 3.68 ounces
Diameter: 3.2 inches
Spool Width: .90 inches
Backing Capacity: WF4F / 60 yards
Drag: Conical (Fully Sealed)
Tested Max Drag: Approx 4 pounds
Spool Release: No Tools Needed (pull apart)
Test Reel Color: O.G.
Reel Pouch Included: Yes
R/L Interchangeable: Yes
Spare Spool: $129.99
Reel Price: $259.99
Machined from 6061 aluminum, the new Guru S reels feature an enhanced spool machining technique where material is used only where it’s crucial. The result are reels with more "open" porting and thus lighter weights. I dug up some old specs of the last-gen Guru reels and found that the same size reel as our tester had a listed weight of 3.87 ounces, while the new reel is listed at 3.73 ounces. On my personal scale, the new reel actually did even better at just 3.68 ounces.
Waterworks-Lamson reels often exude precise, techy, futuristic vibes and I definitely get that here. From its multiple spokes to the concave spool arbor, the reel has an interesting look from any angle. The dimensions of the reel are also excellent, and the nice narrow .90" spool width gives the reel a more streamlined look while helping to improve line lay and retrieve.
The craftsmanship of the Guru S is impressive. Machined in the USA, the look is as clean as it gets. There were no burrs, sharp edges, or other imperfections anywhere on our test reel—just smooth, clean, tidy surfaces throughout. Two thumbs up!
My Guru S was the "-3+" model which in simpler terms is rated for 2/3/4 lines. I mounted mine to a 4-weight rod and hit up a couple of the local bass waters to see if I could find some decent largemouth to pull a little line.
This reel uses Waterworks-Lamson's unique conical drag system. Fully sealed from the elements, its design uses two cones that seat into each other along with "proprietary friction materials" that give the necessary brake force rather than the typical flat washers. The sound of the drag is nice with mellow clicks provided by a small plastic arm that ticks against a gear on the top of the drag housing.
During testing the drag ramped up beautifully without any noticeable startup inertia at any setting. Line then flowed off the spool without any hard binding or jerkiness, but wasn't quite as silky smooth and consistent as I hoped. Max drag topped out at around 4-pounds on my scale which is more than enough for a reel of this size.
The shape of the rear drag knob looks cool but was slightly awkward to use. I was surprised to find that the knob didn't click at all while turning—I can't recall another drag knob in recent memory that spun smoothly with no clicks/detents. Going from minimum to maximum drag takes about 1 3/4 turns.
Handle design is pretty straightforward with no taper, flare, or texture built in. When reeling fast it felt slightly unrefined but did the job. The reel is on the tighter side while cranking, so its not the best if you like to "smack" the spool to quickly retrieve a bunch of loose line. The retrieve also exhibits pleasant mellow clicks just like the drag.
A firm pull separates the frame from the spool without much fuss—no tools, caps, or little levers to mess with. Both pieces also join together easily with a good firm pop once seated. This was nice because I've had reels before that were quite hard to pull apart and/or didn't always re-seat that easily.
The new Guru S represents a good value for a reel machined right here in America. In addition to the 2/3/4 reel tested here, other sizes include 4/5/6, 6/7/8, and 8/9/10. Reel prices range from $259.99 on up to $299.99 with spare spools running $129.99 to $149.99. On top of our O.G. colored tester, other colors include Blaze (2/3/4 and 4/5/6 only) or Arctic (6/7/8 and 8/9/10 only).
Get your Guru S fly reel by clicking right here