Wednesday, January 23, 2019

KastKing Spartacus Plus –vs- Piscifun Phantom X

Not all fishermen can afford the high dollar prices of fishing reels today.  The top of the line baitcasters will run you $250 plus if you get one with all the bells and whistles.  There are some cheaper models from the big name companies but I’ve found all of them lacking for the price tag of $100 plus you have to pay.  Today there are a lot of new Reel Companies popping up that are offering reels for under $100 that have been getting some really good reviews.  I have read a lot of these reviews and I’m not too sure of the knowledge of some of the reviews.  Not questioning what they have written, just how much experience they have with reels and putting them through their paces.  So what I did was buy two of the more highly rated reels that cost me about $50 each.  Notice I said bought so this review is really on the up and up folks and I don’t owe anything to either of these companies.  Now mind you these are my opinions based on my 50 plus years of fishing baitcasting reels and what I like in my baitcasting reels. So I’m sure that if any of you owns one or both of these reels you might disagree with some of what I say.  That’s alright too as we are all different with different likes and dislikes. 

Now to get started let’s take a look at the 2 reels and their basic specifications.

As you can see from the specs of these 2 reels they are pretty equal.  The Spartacus Plus does have the edge over the Phantom X in number of Bearings, but that doesn’t always equate to a better reel.

I placed these reels on identical Favorite Fishing 7’2” Medium Heavy Defender Rods and loaded them both with K9 Fishing Products 17lb Fluorocarbon line.  I also fished the same bait, a Turbo Bullet 2 Swing Hook from Bounty Hunter Turbo Buzz on both setups.  The baits were different colors and that was the only difference when I hit the water.  With everything as equal as I could make it for this test here is my opinion on these reels.

First Impression out of the Box:
Just like everything else in life that First Impression is very important. 

I received the Spartacus Plus first and wasn’t impressed with what I saw when I opened the box.  The finish on this reel makes it look plastic and cheap.  However the oversized cork crank grips were a very nice touch and they felt very good.  The reel turned smooth and was light in the hand but it was a little bigger in size than the reels I’m use to fishing.

The Phantom X arrived 2 days later and it looked very nice when I opened the box.  The finish is as good or better than that of the high dollar reels.  The crank itself is wider than what you will find on most reels which was nice and the grips were of a standard size, but the material is very nice and slip resistant.   The reel turned smooth and was light in the hand, plus its size was very close to the low profile reels I normally use.

The Phantom X won the First Impression category.

Spooling Line:
You can learn a lot about a new reel by spooling line for the first time.  In this case both of the reels continued to be smooth and really had no issues that I could find fault with.  The Phantom X seemed to spool a bit faster with its larger crank but the oversized cork crank grips of the Spartacus Plus really felt very nice.

They tied in the Spooling Line category.

Initial Setup:
After I spool a new reel I tie on the bait I plan on using, I setup the reel so it will be as close as possible for making that first cast.   Sometimes my initial setup is dead on the money and other times I have to make a few to a lot of adjustments once I get to the water.

The Spartacus Plus was a real pain to get setup.  The Spool Tensioner was the biggest pain during this setup.  This tensioner is where you can tighten or loosen the spool and the tighter you get the less freely the spool will turn.  I generally tighten the tensioner to the point that the bait’s weight alone will slowly pull line from the spool.  Since the Spartacus Plus Spool Tensioner does not have a click type adjustment it is not easy to tell how far you move the tensioner making this part of the setup take longer.  The next step in this setup is to adjust the magnetic anti-backlash to a Mid-Range setting.  The Spartacus Plus has both an internal and external adjustment for the magnetic anti-backlash.  I set it for the mid-range setting on the external adjustment dial and didn’t change the internal adjustment.  The drag setup was quick and easy on the Spartacus Plus with the star having click adjustments.  The drag on the reel seemed to be very smooth.

The Phantom X wasn’t easy to setup either.  Now the Spool Tensioner on the Phantom X does have click adjustments so that part of the setup went very fast.  The magnetic anti-backlash on the other hand did not go as well.  The Phantom X does not have an external adjustment for the anti-backlash.  You have to remove the side plate to make any adjustments which I really don’t like if I have to adjust something when I’m out on the boat fishing.  Anytime you open up a reel there is a chance of parts falling out and ruining your day.  When I opened the side cover on the Phantom X the cover did not freely come off the reel and pulled the spool out with it.  Of course the spool fell and went rolling across the floor.  Once I got the spool back in the reel, I’m not going to tell you everything that I had to do to accomplish this, I set the magnetic anti-backlash to its mid-range setting.  Now I really have my fingers crossed I don’t have to open this thing up when I’m out on the boat!!  The drag setup was quick and easy on the Phantom X as well with the star having click adjustments.  The drag on the reel seemed to be very smooth.

In the Initial Setup category I’m going to give a slight edge to the Spartacus Plus.  Even though the spool tensioner is better on the Phantom X, I didn’t have to open the Spartacus Plus to adjust the anti-backlash.

Final Setup:
The final setup is normally done when you are on the water and start casting the new reel for the first time.   Now I use to do this in my front yard so I’d be ready when I hit the water, but my wife and kids complained about me looking stupid or something out casting in the yard so I stopped that practice.

The final setup of the Spartacus Plus was no less of a pain than the initial setup was.  It took at least 20-25 casts until I got it where it was performing suitably for me to make the casts I wanted to make without having backlash or control issues.  The biggest cause of these issues was again the Spool Tensioner being very touchy and not having any means to know how far I’ve moved it.  So I spent a lot of time adjust both the Tensioner and Anti-Backlash until I got them both set so I could make long casts without backlashing.

The Phantom X needed some tweaking as well for its final setup.  My major concern with this reel was adjusting the anti-backlash where I’d have to remove the cover.  Yes I did have to make an adjustment, but this time when removing the side plate I knew to make sure the spool didn’t come out with it.  Luckily I got it right on the first adjustment so I didn’t have to remove the side plate again.  I did have to make an adjustment to the spool tensioner as well but it was easy with the click adjustment.  In all the final adjust to the Phantom X only took about 5-6 casts.

In the Final Setup category the Phantom X won hands down even though I had to remove the side plate while out on the boat.  The Spartacus Plus just did not seem to react to the adjustments I made like other reels I’ve used in the past and I was just about ready to just call it quits when it started to act right.

The fishability of a reel is the most important aspect.  It doesn’t really make a lot of difference how long it takes to get a reel setup if it fishes very nicely.

I actually caught the first bass of the morning using the Spartacus Plus before I had the final setup complete.  It was a nice 20 inch bass that was almost 5lbs and it told me that I had the drag on the reel set just a tad light.  After getting the reel’s final setup complete it casted nicely to start.  It was a little big in the hand, but not so big to be uncomfortable.  The oversized cork crank grips are really awesome and I think the best part of this reel.  I did catch a second 17 inch bass on it and was feeling pretty good about this reel.  Then two things happened that changed my mind a little bit.  First off I started to feel a clunking as I was cranking the reel.  It didn’t happen on every cast which was odd and it took me a while to figure it out.  What was causing this clunking from time to time depended on which of the cork crank grips I was using.  One of them has a little too much play in it and though I tried to tighten it, it was as tight as it would go.  The second issue was the reel started to squeal at the end of each cast.  I’m hoping that adding a little oil to the spool bearings will fix this issue but I won’t know until I take it out on my next trip.  Once it started to squeal, I put it down and picked up the Phantom X.  Speaking of bass, here are the 2 I caught while using the Spartacus Plus.
The Phantom X did all the heavy lifting on the day as I caught 2 bass in the 6lb class while fishing this reel.  The drag on this reel was perfect with very smooth operations.  As pointed out in the Specs on this reel it is only a 7+1 Bearing reel but you could not tell that from its operations.  It casted smooth as glass and consistently 10-15 feet further than the Spartacus Plus using the same bait.  Its smaller frame fit very nicely in my hand and would make for comfortable fishing all day.  Though the Phantom X is the lighter of the two reels I couldn’t tell much difference from a weight standpoint.  By the time I started fishing with this reel the wind has started to blow pretty good.  The magnetic anti-backlash did a great job even when casting against the wind.  After fishing the oversized cork crank grips Spartacus Plus the grips on the Phantom X felt small to me.  They really aren’t small, but about the average size you will find on reels today.  It really didn’t take too long to get use to using them.  The reel stayed smooth and quiet the whole time I was using it, which was about twice as long as the Spartacus Plus.  Here are pictures of those two 6lb bass I caught on the Phantom X.

Bottom Line:
I’m not going to pass full judgement on the Spartacus Plus until I get it out on the water again after applying some oil to its bearing.  It is not a bad reel for the price, and would likely serve someone that is only fishing weekends very well.  The oversized cork grips on this reel are fantastic, and some of the best feeling I’ve ever used.  However, the Spartacus Plus fell way short of the performance of the Phantom X.  The only thing I don’t like about the Phantom X is that you have to remove the side plate to adjust the magnetic anti-backlash.  Now if you plan to only use the same type and weight of bait this wouldn’t be an issue.  I stated earlier that both of these reels cost me under $50 which is true but I’ve found out that was just an introductory price for the Phantom X.  Its normal price is about $80 so from a price standpoint the Spartacus Plus may be the best reel under $50.  Though it might cost you an extra $30 I really think it is worth the added money for the added performance you get from the Phantom X.  There is also one other thing I should point out about the Phantom X, it is also available in 7.6:1 and 5.3:1 gear ratios.  They have also color coded the different reels so it is easy to tell which gear ratio each have.
In closing I will say that I plan on buying a few more of the Piscifun Phantom X reels.  I know I need a couple in the 5.3:1 gear ratio and at least one in the higher speed 7.6:1 ratio.  To say the least I was impressed by almost everything about this reel. It is not common today to find a fishing reel that cost under $150+ that will perform as well as the Phantom X.  Hope this information will help some of you to decide on your next reel purchase.

Until next time, Tight Lines and Take a Kid Fishing!! 
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Muddog357 said...

"Just like everything else in life that First Impression is very important." and this site leaves a great first impression, full of great info, thanks for the review.

Miro said...

The type of review difficult to find. Not only compilation of manufacturer's info but hands-on report.

Unknown said...

My Phantom X has centrifugal brakes not magnetic brakes. Are you sure you have a Phantom X. The two braking systems are not easy to confuse.