If, like me, you regularly fish with small fixed spools that don't cost a fortune then the Stillwater Rapid HR 300 available from Chapmans Angling and Glasgow Angling Centre is an item worth investigating. Fixed spool reels have come a long way in the last decade and you can get a lot of reel for very little outlay these days if you chose carefully. Available at the knockdown price of just £19.99, and with features synonymous with much more expensive FS reels, the Stillwater Rapid is a good example of quality at low cost.
Suitable for fresh water and saltwater fishing, the Rapid HR300 is the smallest in the Stillwater range that goes to 1200 size for full on beach casting. The 300 model is a not a tiny little reel, and holding 280 yards of 10lb mono / 200 yards of 0.35mm, it would be regarded as medium-sized in the general order of things.
Features/functions include a smooth rear drag, quick release button on the spool, under slung anti-reverse switch, bail arm auto engagement, right or left-hand handle situation, comfortable rubber handle and eight ball bearings that aid a positive and clean retrieve. If there is a standout feature then I would point to the line lay which is impressive for such an inexpensive reel.
I have battered this little reel for several months, regularly using it for flounders, mackerel, wrasse and pollack from the beaches and rocks. And it has even managed a couple of stints on the boat when float fishing for pollack. The HR300 never felt like it was going to buckle or cramp under pressure, and the handle operates without that horrible twisting motion hiccup that so many cheap reels suffer from. Line is recovered just as smoothly as it comes off.
I used the HR300 with 10-12lb mono line for the most part, but my lesser experience using 12-20lb braid was likewise very pleasant. This reel comes with a spare plastic spool, and swapping is done simply and in a blink.
Overall, I was impressed with both the build and general functionality. With the price in mind flaws are difficult to highlight, and apart from potential weakness in plastic handle retaining screw, it is difficult to deduct marks. Will the HR300 last two seasons of regular pollack and wrasse bashing into kelps and boulders? I am certainly confident if not absolutely sure. But at this price, who the hell cares?!
Get a move on if you like what you see as Glasgow Angling Centre and Chapmans Angling only have a few of these reels left. Don't frett though as the brand new Stillwater TSR3000RD reel which replaces the HR300 is reputed to be better still. The TSR300RD is available for £29.99 from Glasgow Angling Centre and will be reviewed here soon. If you mention Planet Sea Fishing when placing your order then the price drops to £25. For the latest details on all reels in the Stillwater range visit the GAC website, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0) 871 716 1670.