Classic Coarse - Hardy Conquest Centrepin Reel
Reviewed by Alan Tomkins
Hardy have recently brought one of their old centrepin reels, the Conquest, up to date and into the space age. And they seem to have made a very good job of it. I have to admit to being a bit of a traditionalist where centrepin reels are concerned, liking, mostly, the 12 spoke aerial type reels. But Hardy's new Conquest is an excellent looking reel and I like it very much. I do think aesthetics are important to anglers - many buy centrepins to use for legering for barbel where you hardly need top quality, but they are still willing to pay £400-600 for a reel that is nice to look at when a £50 Speedia will do the job equally well. The new Conquest doesn't fail in the looks department, its modern design not detracting from its aesthetics at all.
On the technical side, it's made from bar stock aluminium. I have to confess that I have never quite known exactly what that is, nor what advantages it confers. I will assume that it is a good point. At first glance I thought the reel ran on ball-races, but actually it doesn't - it is a true pin, though the top of the spindle is surprisingly flat which could mean there may be a little more than minimal contact between the spindle and the grub screw. Apparently the reel uses the "gyroscope" principle to make it free running, dispensing with the need for ball bearings. I'm not convinced about this (any more than I'm convinced about the need for ball bearings - see here for more information on this http://tinyurl.com/6ovm4n ), the major difference being that the conquest has 3 handles instead of the more normal two, and that the handles are offset from the "spokes" (see photo). I'd imagine this might help the balance a little, and possibly give a small gyroscopic effect, but I can't see it being much. >From the box the reel spins well enough, though not as freely as some of my top pins (which definitely don't use the gyroscopic effect!) . This may well improve with use, as on many true centrepins, which can benefit from a period of running in. In fact this reel has improved in a few days after having a drop of Dave Lewtham's "lewlube" dripped onto the spindle. To be honest this business of reels claimed to spin for 10 minutes is a bit over-rated anyway. In most applications they don't need to, & if they do, they will probably get most anglers in more tangles than anything else.
The conquest has a 3 position ratchet lever which I can't quite figure out, as the third position doesn't seem to do anything (except possibly get the lever out of the way to prevent accidental engagement), and there is nothing in the instructions to say what it is for. Somewhat disappointingly, the ratchet lever and mechanism is all made of plastic, when I would rather see brass. I guess time will tell if it's strong enough, but it actually doesn't look out of place. The lever is of the Speedia type, which to my mind is the best, giving easy control of the ratchet while playing a fish. There is no other form of drag other than the ratchet, which incidentally sounds very sweet. I've never been one to play a fish on the check especially on some of the really noisy rasping ones, like that on the Speedia - far too ostentatious in my opinion. But the sound of the Conquest ratchet is subtle, subdued and pleasing.
The reel has a solid line arbour (drilled for lightness) rather than crosspins, which will help minimise the problem of line digging in both on the cast (for those who cast properly) and while actually fishing.
Spool diameter is just under 4 inches with a nice polished rim to facilitate smooth braking and rim control. The backplate is slightly wider at around 4.5inches. Internal spool width is the most useful 7/8inch and without being overdepth is sensibly deep enough to avoid most problems with the line being blown from the spool on windy days. The handles are easily removable should you wish to do so, & if you do, then it is easy to retrieve line by putting your finger between the three metal arms. Counterweights are supplied and can be fitted to maintain the reel's balance should you remove one or more handles. The reel is fitted with a line guard, again easy to remove, as Wallis casters will want to do. Both ratchet & line guard are easily reversible, i.e from left to right hand wind, and the tools to make all these adjustments are included, as is a neoprene reel pouch of the type that you can fit to the reel while it is on the rod. I believe the reel comes in black, as well as the natural finish of this one.
To summarise, this is a lovely looking reel, light, nicely balanced, runs well enough, Wallis casts very well & trots a float down even a slow paced river well too. With an r.r.p. of around £280-300 it isn't exactly cheap, but compares favourably with some of the more expensive centrepins available.
All in all, this has to be one of my favourites of the modern centrepins. What a pity they want it back….
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