Please remember that there are no ads on this page and 100% of our funding comes from your purchases, so if you find this review to be informative, please help us keep the reviews coming by purchasing your next fly reel from us.

Abel is perhaps one of the most storied names in saltwater fishing. Few reel companies have the pedigree that companies like Abel do. While Abel is certainly famous for its cork drags, they’ve come a very long way when it comes to creating a reel that competes with the best of the best modern fly reels. Enter the Abel SDS.


8-Weight Shootout Full Results



It should come as no surprise that the SDS isn’t the lightest reel out there. It did, however, weigh less than Abel stated at 8.9 ounces.





Much of the story of the Abel SDS is about its drag. Like its cousin the Ross Evolution R Salt, the drag on the SDS is HUGE! At 25lbs, the Abel breaks every record we’re aware of in terms of max drag. Please note that in terms of torque, this system is basically the same as the Ross, but just has a smaller arbor. An excellent 10lbs of effective drag, quickly turns into 2lbs at the halfway mark, and .16lbs at the bottom.


Drag Test Graph




The SDS has a nice sound, but it’s definitely not as powerful as I’d like on either the incoming or outgoing, but a touch nicer than the R Salt


Spool & Retrieval Rate

The biggest area of improvement on this reel is in the spool. We’ve seen it time and again, the classic 7/8 size just doesn’t work all that well when compared to 8/9 sizes. The SDS has middle of the road line pickup at 9.4 inches per turn, but things take a turn for the worse as it’s got the smallest spool in the test. Don’t even think about putting Tropical Punch on this reel.


Looks & Ergonomics

As you’ve probably noticed, the Abel SDS and the Ross Evolution R have a lot in common on the inside, this all changes in the look and feel department. Where the Ross is very minimal, the Abel feels like a work of art. The one that we tested was hand painted with a bonefish graphic. It’s very, very cool.

On the ergonomic front, the Abel takes it up a notch as well. It’s got a great, fully machined handle and a more user friendly drag knob than the R Salt.


Finish and durability



The Abel resisted dragging pretty well, with little damage to the paint. It did a little worse on the drops, but not too bad either. The SDS has a ported reel seat. As we’ve seen, these bend when dropped at the wrong angle much more often than non-ported seats, so it lost some points here as well.



Lifetime to the original owner + $20.


Price: $895 for the basic model - $1375 as tested.



The Abel SDS is an epic reel in many ways. Its drag is groundbreaking. It’s one of the prettiest reels you can buy. I have to applaud Abel for taking the tough stride into the world of making modern reels. If only all the classic companies were as progressive. From a functional prospective, you can save a few bucks and get similar drag performance and a better spool in the Ross Evolution R Salt.



Buy it with Free Shipping here.



  • Huge drag
  • Great looks



  • Pricey, with cool options
  • Tiny spool