Thursday, January 24, 2013

Test Drive: 13 Fishing Black Betty Rod & Reel Review

I truly did not know what to make of all the hype that surrounds 13 Fishing and their Black Betty ice fishing reels. I for one am a "don't believe the hype" kinda guy, but I'm also the first in line to give new rods, reels (or any equipment really) a test drive. So, that being said this past off season I picked up a Black Betty combo and have been dreaming of ice ever since.

I'm going to start this test drive off by giving you a little background on 13Fishing, as they are a still a newcomer on the rod market having only opened their doors for the first time back in 2010. They have since exploded onto the scene showing up at ICAST 2012 and on every fishing related board you can imagine.. they even understand the social media side of marketing and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and more. They  bring a fun playful approach to getting their product seen, and so far I like what I see when it comes to their line of Ice Fishing rods.

Ok, enough with the introduction lets get into the test drive.

The Black Betty ice fishing combo is 13 fishing's initiation into the fast growing "straight-lining" market . This is where you would usually expect to see a quote like "this ain't your daddy's reel" but in all honestly, that's exactly what it is. 13Fishing has bucked the trend of over designing their reel trying to catch fisherman and instead and developed a bare bones stripped down reel that feels great in your hands and catches what is was meant to catch.. fish


The Black Betty reel is really a thing of beauty, the longer drop down neck allows you to comfortably pistol grip the reel and it sits perfectly balanced with the rod. The aluminum frame and graphite rod blank make this combo nice and light, yet very durable.. I was not worried about dropping it while making the mad dash for a flag.

13Fishing may have stripped down the innards of this reel, but they made sure they spent the money where it counted. Including an over sized handle know. This is great for those cold days on the ice in which you need to reel with gloves on. Some other reels out there have not yet grasped the importance of this, or if they have, the reel sells at a premium.

The Drag control on the Black Betty will work it's way into both the "Pro" and the "Con" section of this review. On the Pro side, the drag is easy to loosen and gives the Black Betty the best drop rate of any of my 6 straight-line combos. Many of the competitors reels require that you hand pull line off the reel to keep up a good drop rate on your jig or spoon, not the black Betty, it has the ability to almost free-spool down the hole when loosened.

I was a bit weary of the metal (aluminum) body of this reel, but so far I have found that it stays nice and loose even in cooler temps. With less gears, and mechanisms there is less places for water to get in and freeze up while on the ice.

If I was snowboarder they would say that I fish "goofy" which just means that I spent a lot of time reversing the reel direction on every reel I have ever purchased. So for me the ease or making this switch needs to be covered. Statement: the Black Betty was the quickest and easiest change over of any straight-line reel I have owned (nuff said)


Nothing is perfect, and there are a few minor issues with this reel. Lets start off with the obvious, the smooth cork drag will take some getting use to for anglers that have never really used a fly reel or  are use to some of the more expensive straight-lining reels currently available. It took some playing around for me to find my sweet spot, and I still found myself adjusting it while on the ice (trying to get a fast drop but wanting support when the fish hit).

The line guide bar can also mess with your drag if you are not careful. Yes there is a little wrench you can use to tighten/loosen the guide bar, but it is not something I will carry on the ice with me, and again I found that the line guide loosened forcing my to hand tighten which in turn tightened my drag.. (this may be confusing to follow, but if you own one of these I bet you know what I'm talking about)

I'm on the fence to whether or not to include the price point of these combo's into the "con" section of this review. Not to long ago spending more then $30 on your ice fishing rod/reel would mean you were a rich man, but nowadays you can spend upwards of $80 on a rod alone (Thorne Bros) and easily drop another $30 on a matching reel (my wallet agrees with me). But the Black Betty reel is a very stripped down version of what other companies have brought to the table, yet the reel is still priced up with or above some of the competition. Is it worth the $59 price tag, my answer is yes

The Wrap-Up

The Black Betty rod and reel from 13 Fishing has really been a pleasure to fish it, it's stripped down look and feel make it durable and trustworthy even when fishing in some of the nastiest conditions a Canadian winter has to offer.

I spent the majority of the time here focusing on the Black Betty reel, but feel I should also give the rod it's due. I have been fishing with the 24" UL combo and find the rod to be highly responsive yet sturdy enough to hand lighter weight spoons and heavy tungsten jigs. I like the length and it's feel while in my hand. I see some more Black Betty combos in my future


  1. This was a good suggestion that you put up here...dude…..hope that it benefits all the ones who land up here. 

    Fishing Supplies

  2. I hated mine, threw it down the hole.

  3. Just curious, but what type and test line are you using on this reel?

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