The Best Fly Reel For The Money: Lamson Liquid Gets Battle-tested

For the sport of fly-fishing to continue to grow, there needs to be low-cost options for equipment to capture a broader market. When I used to work at a fly shop, I was continuously asked what the best fly reel for the money is. My answer was always the same.

The best fly reel for the money is the Lamson Liquid fly reel. At a price point of about $100, no other reel in this price range offers you the same quality of drag and durability. The Lamson Liquid is the perfect reel for the fly fisherman on a budget.

So what makes the Lamson Liquid such a great reel? Below we will dive into the different aspects of the reel and discuss why the Lamson Liquid is such a great purchase. 

Female holding redfish on a boat that was caught with the Lamson Liquid fly reel.

Are Lamson fly reels good?

Lamson was founded in 1995 with a focus on making affordable fly fishing products. While they have since begun manufacturing higher-end rods and reels, their claim to fame was incredible durability at a low cost.

Using a die-cast mold process instead of machining the reels allows Lamson to keep the cost low. Lamson has perfected the method of die-cast molding allowing the reels to be incredibly strong. The durability, paired with their proprietary conical drag system, makes Lamson reels an excellent option for most applications.

Up close view of the Lamson Liquid fly reel.

Is the Lamson Liquid a good-looking reel?

As with any lower price purchase, there are some trade-offs when compared to higher-end models. The biggest difference between a high-end reel and the Lamson Liquid is the amount of detail on the reel’s construction.

 The die-cast mold method used by Lamson limits the amount of detail that can be added to the reel versus hand machining a block of aluminum. While simply a cosmetic difference, many anglers are drawn to the beauty of a reel when making a purchase. 

The low-cost option of the Lamson Liquid also limits the color options of the reel. Currently, the Lamson liquid is only offered in Smoke and Vapor colors. The smoke color is a dark grey that resembles titanium, and the vapor color is dull silver. Both color options have a matte finish on them to increase their durability.

I find both colors to be relatively appealing. However, if you’re seeking a custom color reel, then the Lamson Liquid is not for you. If you are looking for a workhorse reel that will withstand abuse at an affordable price, the Lamson Liquid is the best option.

Where are Lamson Reels made?

Lamson Reels is the able to keep the price point low without outsourcing builds to a foreign country. Nowadays, such a feat is remarkable.

Lamson Waterworks designs and assembles all of its reels in Boise, Idaho. Lamson’s machined reels use components manufactured in the United States. Their die-cast models, such as the Liquid and Remix, use a mixture of U.S. and overseas components. 

It is always refreshing to know that you are purchasing a product that supports employment in your home country. The ability of Lamson to offer U.S.-made products at such an affordable price is remarkable. 

Man holding redfish caught with Lamson Liquid fly reel resting over his shoulders.

Lamson Liquid has adequate drag strength

The most impressive aspect of the Lamson Liquid is the conical drag system. Lamson uses the same drag system in its higher-priced models as well. 

The Lamson Liquid offers the best drag system on the market for a $100 price point. The fully sealed conical drag system can handle most fresh and saltwater species. Additionally, the design makes slight adjustments to drag pressure easy. 

The conical drag system uses a pair of conical elements. This differs from standard discs that are drawn together using spring tension. This method allows for smooth drag adjustments with the turn of the knob. 

One thing you will notice is the lack of clicking when turning the drag knob. This can be a little odd when used to more standard drag systems. Don’t worry, though, the drag is easily adjusted and can apply solid pressure in most applications. The cone design of the drag allows for more micro drag adjustments. Having this feature is great for finding the perfect amount of pressure to fight a fish.

I have used the Lamson Liquid to fish for a variety of saltwater species. The drag was more than enough when I was fishing for redfish, jacks, and even bonefish. The drag system is fully sealed, keeping salt and grime out of the critical components and a simple wash after use is all that is needed to maintain. 

Will the Lamson Liquid hold up over time?

Everyone has that friend who never takes care of their gear. One of my best friends is that type of person. He never washes his reels, throws his rod in the back of the truck, and leaves it outside frequently. If anyone could ruin equipment, it’s this guy.

He fishes the Lamson Liquid exclusively because of its durability. Sure, the finish is starting to peel off the reel, but trust me when I say this reel has been through quite a bit of abuse. I am always quite shocked when I pick up his rod to find that the reel is still as smooth as the day he bought it. In the past, he used higher-end reels that fell apart due to his lack of care. Now, he sticks to the Lamson Liquid because of its durability.

With proper care and maintenance, the Lamson Liquid can last a lifetime and is extremely durable even under heavy abuse. The fully sealed drag system is capable of withstanding harsh environments such as corrosive saltwater.

This doesn’t mean I would recommend abusing the reel, but it is nice to know that the reel can withstand such torture. All reels should be appropriately maintained and avoid being fully submerged in water or placed in dirt. For more information on what to do if your reel is submerged, check out Can Fly Reels Get Wet? Freshwater and Saltwater Affects on Fly Reels.

Captain James releasing a fish that was caught.

What is the best application for the Lamson Liquid?

The Lamson Liquid is found under Lamson’s “All Water” category of reels, making it suitable for both freshwater and saltwater application.

The Lamson Liquid is ideal for targeting small to medium fresh or saltwater species. The drag is sufficient to handle fish up to 30lbs, depending on the size of the reel you purchase.

Although Lamson’s conical drag system is very good, I would not recommend this reel for targeting large game fish such as tarpon. For smaller species, the Lamson Liquid is more than sufficient for bringing fish to hand.

Final Thoughts 

For around $100, you cannot go wrong with the Lamson Liquid. The reel is exceptionally durable, has a great drag system, and is suitable for both fresh and saltwater. For the beginner that’s on a budget, I would highly recommend using this reel as it is the best fly reel for the money.

As with any purchase, there are some drawbacks to going a cheaper route. Do not expect a beautiful and colorful reel when purchasing the Lamson Liquid. This reel is designed to withstand the elements and be a workhorse when targeting fish. 

If you are the type of person who cares more about catching fish than the reel’s looks, then this is the reel for you.