Hackney’s Reels are Probably Bigger than Yours

Greg Hackney won the 2014 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race by doing things his own way. The fishing reels he uses are no exception. The spools Hackney prefers are larger than those of pretty much every other Elite Series angler on tour, and most likely the ones you’re using too.

Thirty years ago, most all baitcasting reels were comparatively larger than present day. Then the fishing industry got on a weight loss program achieved mostly by designing sleeker, lower profile, reels that also feature smaller spools.

That’s where Hackney’s do-it-my-way mentality motivates him to seek something the rest of us often don’t – like using much larger spooled-reels with the same incredible lightweight comfort.


“Honestly, when Quantum came out with the EXO reel in 2011 it changed the way I looked at reels, because now I could get a really large spooled reel that was lighter than a lot of the smaller reels, and I knew that could offer some serious advantages,” reflects Hackney.

“There’s three huge advantages to using a larger, 200 size spool, versus a 100, or even a 150,” explains Hackney. “You’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose with a bigger reel.”

“First, you’ll cast more accurately with a larger spool. Second, you can feather a larger spool with your thumb easier, and it’s not gonna burn your skin on a long hard cast, and because of that, you’ll cast harder and further without hesitation,” Hackney explains. “Most importantly, you can retrieve a lure a lot faster with a 200 size EXO or Smoke that you can a smaller reel.”

“Now, what a lot of people don’t realize, is that a reel is only at its true retrieve ratio if the spool is full. I don’t care what reel your talking about – the spool needs to be full in order for it to perform optimally,” warns Hackney.

“That said, a larger 200 size reel is always going to retrieve faster than a smaller spool,” says Hackney. “I can use a 5.3:1 in a 200 EXO, and it’s got more power, casts further, and still retrieves as fast or faster than a 6.6:1 reel with a 100-size spool.”

Sometimes, Even a 200 isn’t Big Enough

Most consider a 300-size baitcasting reel to a perfect fit for musky or steelhead. Not Hackney, he packs one as his ideal winch for big swimbaits and Alabama Rigs. “As a rule of thumb, anything I’m throwing that weighs more than an ounce is gonna get tied to a 300 EXO.”

“If you try to throw an Alabama Rig or a big swimbait on a 200 or 100 size spool, you’ll burn your thumb, and you might run out of line, so you’ll hold back. But with a larger spool, it’s not turning as fast on the cast, so you can throw it as far as you want,” Hackney explains.

Spins with a Fifty

Hackney is best known for his shallow water power fishing dominance, but he’s not afraid of spinning reels – and when he reaches for one – it’s a big one! Hackney is currently using size 50 spinning reels like one he held for cameras in the attached photo the day he won the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title on Lake Michigan. Most anglers, including top pros, only use a size 30, sometimes, a size 40.

Hack Size 50 reel

“Spinning reels have always been comparatively heavier than casting reels, but with new super lightweight reels like the size 50 EXO that I use, weight is no longer an issue,” says Hackney.

Less weight is wonderful, but the undisputable advantage of using a large spinning reel is the elimination of tangles and nasty loops that seem to be an inherent frustration. The larger spool simply leads to far less line memory.

Hackney not only loves larger spinning reels for the improved line behavior they bring to his game, but also because he can use larger, stronger, fluorocarbon, and eliminate the necessity of using a knot to join thin braid to a fluorocarbon leader.

“Fluorocarbon by its nature is difficult to manage on a spool – especially a size 20, 25, or 30 spool. If you use anything larger than about 8 pound fluoro as your main line on a standard sized spinning reel you were asking for problems, so we’d always use thin braid as the main line, and then have to tie a knot to a fluorocarbon leader,” reflects Hackney.

“By using a size 50 spinning reel, I can use stronger 10 or 12 pound fluorocarbon as my main line, with no issues, and eliminate a leader knot that always carries some level of risk,” adds the 2014 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year.

If Hackney Were a Farmer

“Here’s the bottom line – most people fish for fun – I fish for a living,” Hackney says in unapologetic, matter-of-fact tone. “If was a farmer, I’d want the biggest equipment I could get to help me plant and harvest my fields as efficiently as possible. Big reels help me do that. They make me the most efficient angler I can possibly be.”