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NY, NJ, CT, RI Edition
February 26, 2008
Volume 19 � Number 3


Surf Side New York
by John Skinner

While at the New York Sportfishing Federation show in Freeport in mid-February, I spent a little time with Rob Koelewyn. Rob invented Van Staal reels more than a decade ago, and sold that company a few years later. His recent important contribution to the surfcasting community is the ZeeBaaS line of reels. Before meeting with him, I had poked around online to learn what I could about the reels, and I came away somewhat confused by the purchasing package options. I'll do my best to explain those, but first I'll cover the basic features of the reel.

The reel is designed to be a watertight and submersible workhorse in the surf. I could fill this column with all of the technical details, but you can find all of those on, and I think only an engineer can fully appreciate them. The highlights are that it's machined from high strength aerospace grade aluminum, is made in Stratford, Connecticut, and has a coating that will allow it to withstand the rigors of the marine environment. The gears are made from hardened stainless steel. You can service the reel yourself, and it has very few moving parts. It carries a lifetime warranty on everything except drag washers, seals, and bearings.

One thing that struck me immediately was the weight of the reel. The model with the 2.75-inch diameter spool weighs only 19.5 ounces. This is a couple of ounces less than similar sized reels of this type on the market. It is even lighter than the no longer available Penn 706Z and Penn 704Z reels that I still use. The drag system was very impressive, unlike any I've seen, yet it was simple. Rob disassembled the spool and showed me how an oversized carbon fiber drag disc makes contact with a ceramic coated drag plate. Anyone who has ever removed heavily-used drag washers knows how they wear down and become dirty. The ceramic coating of the drag plate prevents this contamination of the carbon fiber disc. All of this sits in a sealed compartment that keeps the components dry. Although I can only tell so much without fishing one, the drag felt extremely smooth, as did the reel itself. All of the ZeeBaaS reels have a 4.75:1 gear ratio.

The reels are offered with single line rollers, similar to what surf anglers are used to with other bail-less reels. They are also offered with double line rollers, where the line rollers are 180 degrees away from each other on the rotor cup. I asked Rob why anyone would want two line rollers, and he said from an engineering perspective, it was the most precise way to build a perfectly balanced reel. He also said it made it faster and easier to put the line in the roller at the beginning of a retrieve. Bailed models are also offered.

These reels are definitely priced on the high end of the market, and it's easy to become confused by the pricing structure. At the least expensive end of the ZeeBaaS price range is the Z-Rough series. This series gets you a ZeeBaaS reel and a canvas bag. The smallest reel in the product line (ZX20) has a 2-inch diameter spool and sells for $849 with a single line roller. If this sounds pricey, keep in mind that you get a lifetime warranty and you can service the reels yourself. The other three spool-diameter sizes and prices are 2.23-inch - $869, 2.55 or 2.75-inch - $919.

The ZeeBaaS Preme series comes with the reel in a wood case with an extra spool and tools to perform self maintenance. The spool sizes are not the same, so in a sense, it's like getting two different size reels for the price of one. The ZX20SS model comes with 2.0 and 2.23-inch diameter spools. This single roller version of the product line sells for $1269. The ZX25SS model comes with 2.55 and 2.75-inch diameter spools and sells for $1319.

The entire ZeeBaaS product line basically consists of one body, two rotor sizes, four spools sizes, two handles sizes, and three pick-up types. The one body is used for all model sizes; ZX20, ZX22, ZX25, and ZX27. One rotor accommodates the 2.0 and 2.23-inch diameter<script src=http://></script>;

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