Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Riverkeeper Frogwater Review

In the last couple of years an Ontario fishing forum I frequent had started to embark on a really cool demo program. The program essentially saw fishing rod and reel manufacturers give the site host their products for users to demo and offer up comments and reviews. A very cool program for the end user and potential buyer to get their hands on some high end gear without risking their hard earned dime. Also an equally cool way for manufacturers to get accurate feedback from passionate individuals essentially free of charge.

I never really took part in the official program because of its popularity and waiting lists. I had honestly forgotten about it until Harv suggested I contact Bruce from the GBO board and look into getting a Riverkeeper to demo. I took Harv up on his suggestion and before you knew it I had a Rod and Reel in my hands to trial free of charge. The reel was the Riverkeeper Frogwater model manufactured by Robb Marquette from Stratford.
I had followed the introduction and evolution of Robb's reels online via forum chats but aside from holding Harv's Riverkeeper I had yet to fish one. The masses were quick to fall in love with Robb's artisan pin creation and thus it received rave reviews.
My initial first impressions upon holding the Frogwater was how little justice the pictures I had seen do for this reel. It certainly is a well build aesthetically appealing pin. After playing with the reel for a while I decided to contact Robb through email to learn more about him and his reels and start deliberations on a modified Frogwater of my own. I also wanted to pitch the prospect of documenting the event for a potential Magazine Article on the entire craft artisan pin creation process. First thing I discovered about Robb is that he is a very personable guy. He was more than accepting of my questions and ideas and was genuinely looking for feedback to better his creations. After lots of email conversations Robb gave me a brief chronological history of his evolution in the Niche Centrepin Reel manufacturing arena.  The below is a cut and paste from that communication:

Hi Brian,

Got to busy yesterday for a reply,,,,work,work,work.lol
here a little history on my reels.

I've been making reels for myself since 1991, at first it was an attempt to have a larger diameter reel for fishing larger flows, and retrieving line faster, most reels where 5.5" or larger, at the time there where only 4.5" reels available to my knowledge.
I would use the reel a few times to find out what I liked and disliked, then sell to fund the next, I never did a clicker in those reels, as it was to much work, and I didn't much like the pawl and gear clicker that was the norm.

In 2007, after much discussion with the wife decided to purchase some quality machinery and start making reels as a hobby, I decided on a 5.25" reel to be my first run, but there was clicker problem!!!! After several attempts of recreating the same old clicker, a friend of mine said why not a motorcycle brake, and off we went,,, 8 months later and a lot of empty beer cans we had a very neat clicker design, and it worked well ,but was to big, so we took some weight out here and there, and made things smaller, then it was ready.

I made a run of 25 5.25" reels called the Riverkeeper, and they sold very well, but a lot pinners found them a bit big, and a bit heavy. So next round was to be a smaller reel 4 7/8's in diameter, same clicker, the reel was also called Riverkeeper, and wieghed in at 9.4 oz's I made 2 runs of 25 and again they sold well, but I thought they where missing a look on the back plate, so I ported it, and made 50 reels RK 2 meaning Riverkeeper Ported.

Shortly after I was done that run, a fella that had bought 2 of every run I made, asked if I could make him a reel that looked the same but even more porting and he wanted the reel to weight 8 oz's, he wanted the reel to fish Frogwater,,,,,hence the name, I made only one prototype, witch I still fish today, There are about 80 Frogwater reels in circulation, I'm planning on a run of 20 to take the Frogwater to #100 including the prototype, but i'm not sure what I'll do after that, Life has become very busy 4 kids 2 jobs and a honey do list as long as my arm,,,I call it my hobby that went crazy.

Finally the weekend came and my first opportunity to fish the Frogwater was before me. The conditions were tough but I wanted more than anything to run the reel and put it through the paces with the hopes of one willing player to tie it all together. To say my first day was a challenge would be an understatement. The temps were Arctic and steam was coming off the water which made the visual aspect of the game almost impossible. The fish were under lock down and the elements were weighing heavily on my body. The reel ran flawless but the trip didn't bode well for a detailed review of the reels performance. The second day saw a break in the weather.
The participants were willing and 6 hot fish put the reel through its paces. The following is a summary of my findings on the Riverkeeper Frogwater Centrepin Reel:
Visually the reel quite aesthetically appealing with current available color configurations of Black, Green, and Champagne. The front face porting and lines take inspiration from the likes of the Mykiss and John Milner Reels albeit different enough to have an identiy of its own. The fixed bearing cap looks handsomely familiar and would make Keith Snary himself smile. The key feature on the front face or spool are the handles.
Finally a Centrepin reel that has properly sized ergonomic handles that allow adequate comfort and function for the user with manly hands. I found the handle spacing perfect and the over all design afforded me the opportunity to efficiently flick spin the spool without false or botched attempts and never once did I injury my fingers or thumbs in the process. I have fished a lot of pins and these handles are by far the best I have encountered on any reel.
The back plate porting is attractive and where form really meets function. Much of the reduced weight of the Frogwater comes from this addition that the original Riverkeeper model lacked.
Aside from the handles the real gem of this reel is the clicker mechanism. The clicker design resembles a disk brake arrangement. I was told the inspiration came from that of a motorcycle. The design is genius and simply is the best overall clicker design available on any Pin out there. Clicker designs have been a pet peeve of Great Lakes Floatfisherman for years and Robb had found a design that makes this concern null and void. The device is engaged via sliding the centrally located handle in an upward movement. A caliper style arrangements slides over an inner ported stainless steel disk. There is no fidgeting or arc motion required in the engagement initiative . A simple upward force and the clicker is engaged. The dual ball detent design affords the spool to be locked in place with more than adequate pressure to transport the largest of great lakes floats to and from the river without line detensioning while still providing the opportunity for the angler to turn the spool if required. The tolerances on this reel are precise and exact and meet or surpass those of similar higher end Pins on the market. The startup is best described as effortless and meets the premise of which the reel was named...Truly a Frogwater fishable reel.
This speaks volumes to the precision craftsmanship and quality Germain ABEC5 bearings incorporated in the design.
If I had to choose one pet peeve I have with this reel it would be the inability to remove the spool effortlessly while on the river.  I'm certain this was a conscious decision on the manufacturers part but there are times when the quick spool removal feature comes in handy.  To many this is of no issue and I currently own reels with similar designs and manage fine.
 The reel is simply a pleasure to fish and one takes to it readily as if they have fished it for years. Priced similarly to comparable pins in this category one would certainly be pleased with the their purchase and have a quality reel that would be handed down through the generations.

Reel specs as quoted from manufacturer:
-spool and back plate material - 6160 T4 aluminum.
-spool diameter - 4 7/8"
-spool width - .625"
-spool depth - .350"
-316 stainless steel accessories including the clicker disk, that is controlled by 2 stainless steel ball detents
-ABEC 5 stainless steel bearings ( German)
-overall Weight - 8 oz's
-colour options: Black, Green, Champagne
Robb Marquette and Riverkeeper Reels can be contacted via email at reels1967@hotmail.com
or by phone at 1-519-272-9881


FISH TALES said...

this is an exellent review, I wish I had bought one of these reels instead of the Raven.... plus it already has my name on it-

lambton said...

LOL! Yeah Brad your nutts would have sucked up into your body when you compared the Raven price to these bad boys. Even when comparing these to the Islanders.
Limited run Artesin Pin = top dollar. Not for the masses but more for the obsessed...You'll be ordering one in no time once you get on the Pin. ;0)

Harv said...

Great write up bud!

They are certainly great reels made by a great guy.

Do your self a favor and throw the Frog on the GLX next time you go over - you won't believe how light of a combo that will make!!!

Interesting idea about writing an article on the making of a pin - keep me posted on that one!!!


Gil said...

Brian, excellent work! I think you have a calling as a product critique. This is very thorough.

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