December 28, 2022
By Ross Purnell
Wes Seigler isn't just the owner of Seigler Reels, he's a tinkerer, inventor, perfectionist, and the passionate creator behind every Seigler reel. He's been saltwater fishing all his life, but for a big part of that life, he was also an athlete—first as a collegiate soccer player, and later as a professional cyclist competing for more than a decade in the top races in the U.S. and Europe.
Cycling—like fly fishing—is heavily dependent on equipment. If your bike is lighter, more aerodynamic, geared better, or is more durable and dependable, you will get better results on the road and on the track. Seigler learned on the cycling tour that even small adjustments and improvements can make a huge difference over the course of 200 miles. So Seigler began modifying his frames, forks, wheels, shifters, pedals, and shoes, and soon he was designing bikes and components from the ground up.
When he wasn't cycling, Seigler was recreating on the water, and he soon decided that if he could make a better bike, he could also make a better fishing reel. In 2009, Seigler started his own company making conventional lever-drag fishing reels for everything from flounder to billfish. At first he made only conventional reels, but through a series of fortunate connections, he ended up on a fly-fishing trip to Cosmoledo Atoll in the Seychelles. Although he described himself as a very “green” fly fisher at that time, he ran into some GTs that exposed flaws in what were considered the best reels on the market.
When you fish for powerful GTs, there is often a ton of sharp coral around, and you can't let the fish get too far away from you. To stop a GT you need mega drag, but to pull line from the reel before casting, the drag needs to be turned way down. Seigler quickly realized how difficult it is to strip line from your reel frantically when a pack of GTs approaches, dial the drag all the way up to exactly where you want it, and make the cast in a matter of seconds.
When he returned to his machine shop, he went to work designing a fly reel that would take you from almost zero drag to any predetermined drag setting with a quick flip of a lever. He's been perfecting that design for a number of years and in 2022 came out with the Seigler XBF (X Big Fly). While the first Seigler reels were inspired by GTs, the XBF was created specifically for tarpon.
Because tarpon don't approach with the same speed as GTs, you don’t need the lever to quickly engage the drag. Instead, you use the lever to produce consistent, repeatable drag settings for use with IGFA-class tippets. I used the XBF for three days in Key West in June, and realized that when fishing is tough, you frequently switch spots. It's a constant game of hearing “reel it in, let's run,” from the guide, and then jumping back on the platform on a new flat, stripping out line, and resetting the drag. With the Seigler XBF it’s simple and quick to get back to exactly the drag setting you want with a flick of the lever.
The 5-inch reel weighs 13 ounces, and has a dovetail reel seat that isn't just screwed to the frame. The two parts are machined and slotted together for a virtually unbreakable connection—and then screwed together. The dovetail design also puts the reel closer to the rod so there's less torque and a lighter swing weight. The reel has an asymmetrical arbor, with a deep well for backing, and a giant handle so you can crank hard and apply maximum pressure. Here’s maybe the best part: Despite their functionality, Seigler reels are simple enough that you can take them apart in the field and reassemble them using no tools other than a fish hook. Each part is made in the Seigler factory in Virginia Beach, and each part is designed to maximize performance—that's what Wes Seigler has been doing all his life.
$2,000 | seigler.fish