Abel SDS Ported Saltwater Fly Reel Review: Is It Worth It?

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Best saltwater fly reel, the Abel SDS
Abel SDS Ported Saltwater Fly Reel Review: Is It Worth It?
Our Verdict
The best saltwater fly fishing reel out on the market. A beautiful looking reel which the performance is unbelievable. Great drag system and with 3 weights available and can be customized this is all you will ever need for big game fly fishing.
Reel Quality
Value For Money
The Good
Saltwater safe drag
Beatiful looking reel and can be customized
300 yards of line capacity
With 20LBS of drag pressure which will stop any fish
Will last forever
The Not So Good
Only the price! - But this is top of the range
Check Price

If you want to battle with some of the biggest fish species you can catch on a fly rod, then you will certainly need a reel that can handle it. The same goes if you spend your life wading the saltwater flats, as an inferior reel simply isn’t going to last year after year with that kind of punishment. 

Large saltwater fish like Giant Trevally’s and tarpon take poor-quality reels to the cleaners! I have seen reels fall apart due to rust and even experienced them explode when the drag system tries to pin down a big GT and fails miserably. 

If you want to tango with the big boys, you need a reel to match, and the Abel SDS ported saltwater fly reel is a great option. You can match this reel with one of my best choices for fly fishing saltwater rods, and also check out my in-depth review on the top of the range G.Loomis Asquith rod, which is the perfect match for the Abel.

Join me as we do a deep dive into the Abel SDS so you can decide whether it’s the right saltwater fly reel for you. 

Overview Of The Abel SDS Ported Tarpon/GT Reel

The Abel SDS ported saltwater fly reel is one of the toughest and most durable saltwater fly reels ever made.

Simply put, it’s designed to live on the flats and stop the biggest fish you might ever encounter with a fly rod – think 150 lb tarpon, meter-plus length GTs, and even marlin and tuna. 

The components that make up this saltwater fly reel are the best in the world. It’s built from aerospace-grade aluminum, for starters, which is then cold-finished to ensure it doesn’t dent or ding. Add in the sealed carbon/stainless drag system that is ultra-smooth and comes with up to 20 lbs + of stopping power, and you have a reel that fish should be scared of. 

The only downsides are that this stopping power equals a heavy reel and is very expensive. But it does come with a lifetime warranty, so you are getting a reel for life, but chances are you won’t even need to use the warranty; it’s that robust!

The Abel SDS (Sealed Drag Salt) reel is manufactured in Colorado, United States.


  • Built from aerospace-grade aluminum so it will never corrode and will last a lifetime in the salt
  • The hard anodized finish means the reel won’t dent if dropped 
  • It’s about as durable as a reel can be 
  • It comes with a saltwater-safe sealed drag, so you don’t have to worry about it failing
  • The 5-disc alternating sealed drag stack is super smooth
  • With up to 20 lbs of drag pressure, it will stop any fish from GTs to tuna and sailfish 
  • The drag is made from carbon/stainless steel discs that provide drag performance for life
  • Super ergonomic and easy to use with a large handle and easy access drag knob
  • Large arbor for quick line pick up when every wind counts 
  • Excellent line capacity holding up to 300 yards of backing 
  • It’s quite light, considering the build 
  • Provided with a lifetime warranty 


  • It is a very expensive reel 


  • Material: 6061-T651 Cold Finished Machined Aluminum
  • Arbor: Large 
  • Drag: Carbon disc 
  • Sealed Drag: Yes 
  • Line Weights: 7 – 12 
  • Weight: 9.95 oz (12 weight) 

Features Of The Abel SDS Ported Saltwater Fly Reel

What Is The Abel SDS Ported Saltwater Fly Reel Made Of? 

The body of the fly reel is made from 6061-T651 cold finished machined aluminum, which is aerospace-grade aluminum, so it’s never going to rust or corrode. It’s not just the frame or spool that is made with this incredible material; it’s the reel frame, spool, drag knob, and reel foot – so pretty much the entire reel. 

The aluminum is also covered with a hard-anodized finish, which ensures the outer layers of the reel are strong and durable, which means if you drop it down some stairs, it won’t dent, ding, or lose any performance. 

This fly reel truly is one of the toughest and most durable saltwater fly reels on the planet, meaning you will have it for life no matter how much you put it through. 

Is The Abel SDS Light Or Heavy Reel? 

I would say the SDS is about right when it comes to weight, as the 12-weight model weighs in at 9.95 ounces. While this is by no means a light reel, it’s not a heavy one either, and if you look at other reels in the same class by manufacturers like Orvis, this one is lighter. 

You’ll feel the reel hanging on your fly rod a little, and it might tire your casting arm a little faster than others, but considering what it can do, it’s worth a bit of armache. 

How Smooth & Powerful Is The Drag System? 

The drag on the Abel SDS is a sealed disc drag system that uses five alternating carbon/stainless steel discs that provide an immense amount of fish stopping power. These types of discs in this kind of drag system are incredibly efficient and durable and will provide a lifetime of drag performance. 

Being a sealed drag, it’s 100% safe from the effects of saltwater, and with a maximum drag setting of over 20 lbs, there aren’t any fish on the flats that will cause an issue. You can comfortably stop a big GT or tarpon in its tracks if you want to. 

How’s The Retrieve & Line Capacity?

The Abel range comes with a large arbor so you can wind in slack line as fast as possible, making those moments when gaining inch by inch on a big fish as easy as possible. 

You’ll also be able to fill the reel with up to 300+ yards of backing, so you’ll have enough for those blistering runs that sailfish or tuna make. 

What Sizes Does The Abel SDS Come In? 

The Abel SDS comes in every saltwater weight you could want, ranging from a 7 to a 12 weight, across three different models. The 7/8 model is perfect for bonefish and snook, while the 9/10 model is ideal for permit, triggers, bass, and smaller tarpon, and the biggest size, the 11/12 model is reserved for the big tarpon, GTs, tuna, marlin, and much more! 

Is The Abel A Right Or Left Hand Reel?

All Abel reels are ambidextrous; they can be used by both left or right-handers. This avoids the concerns of some anglers when they buy a reel that they have to change from a right to a left reel handle configuration or vice versa.

How Good Is The Warranty? 

Considering this reel costs a tad over $900, you’d expect it to come with a bulletproof warranty, and it does! Abel includes a lifetime warranty that covers the repair or replacement of parts due to defects in material or workmanship.

The only catch is that you can’t transfer the warranty on to whoever ends up with your reel after you’re gone because, chances are, the reel will outlive all of us! 

Abel also offers repairs to their reels, so if something does happen to the reel that isn’t covered by the warranty, you can still get it fixed and ready to be back on the flats for a small fee. 

Is The Abel SDS Saltwater Fly Reel Worth It? 

If you spend some time fishing on saltwater flats every year and have the budget for the Abel SDS, this reel is a great choice. Being a professional fishing guide around the world, this, in my opinion, is the best saltwater fly fishing reel you can buy.

When you own an SDS, you know that you’ll never need to repurchase a saltwater fly reel, that the reel will handle every fish you hook, and it’ll handle the environments you’re fishing in, too. 

Final Thoughts

The Abel SDS Ported Saltwater Fly Reel is right at the top end of the spectrum in fly reels. This can catch anything and everything when you go saltwater fly fishing anywhere in the world. 

I hope that this review gave you all the information that you needed to go out and purchase this awesome fly reel.

You can read more excellent fishing reel articles and my personal recommendations here!

Jamie Melvin