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When I asked Kristen Mustad which reel he thought would perform best in our shootout, he replied the XL Max. The X-series replaces the FWX as Nautilus’s lightweight and (more) freshwater oriented reel. That’s not to say that this isn’t a serious saltwater reel, but it’s just not as hardcore as the CCF and NVG.

8-Weight Shootout Full Results


At a mere 5 oz, the XL Max is a ridiculously lightweight 8wt reel. When you look back at previous X-Series reels, they’ve always been known for their lightweight design. Today, we finally have rods light enough to pair with this feathery reel series. The Atlas Signature, for example, would pair particularly well with the XL Max, due to its extremely light swing weight.


The XL Max has 6.3lbs of drag on the top end, which is pretty good, particularly for a reel this light. Unfortunately, most of that drag strength comes in the last quarter turn, so you only end up with about 2.3lbs that are readily accessible – nowhere near what we’ve become accustomed to from Nautilus. At the halfway mark, it drops down to .6lbs, or about 10%.

While these numbers aren’t that bad when you consider the weight of the reel, the XL Max suffers from one other malady: startup inertia. It was one of only 3 reels in our test to have any significant startup inertia. At the top end, this was over 1lb or 17%. Way too high for a high performance reel.

Drag Test Graph


While not my absolute favorite sounding reel, the XL Max sounds great! It’s got a really nice click in both directions.

Spool & Retrieval Rate

One of the difficulties in using one frame for multiple reel sizes is that one of the sizes is going to win, and the other is going to lose. In this case the XL Max borrows from the XL, but they’ve reduced the arbor size in order to increase capacity to accommodate an 8-weight line. As a consequence, the retrieve on the XL is far slower than the other Nautilus reels (only 8.5 inches per turn). It’s nearing mid-arbor territory, but you do get the versatility of switching it out for a high-performing 6/7-weight reel.

Looks & Ergonomics

The design of the X-series reels is truly something to marvel at. Nautilus has managed to take a reel and strip it down to the bare essentials – all while making it look very cool. Sure, there are some downsides to such a minimal frame, but the reel looks undeniably great and you’re getting that same, super high quality Nautilus machining.

While you can certainly add Nautilus’ big game handle to the X, the stock handle isn’t quite as nice as that on the NVG and CCF. The drag knob too isn’t quite as nice as that of the CCF. It’s just a little smaller and more slippery.

Finish and durability

The finish on the XL is solid, but it didn’t fair quite as well in drop tests as some of the top reels with their super hard type-3 anodize. It’s also got a lot of sharp angles, this means that when the reel hits something, it’s going to do so with more force than you’d expect given its size. It did great when dragged!

While the XL does feature a ported reel foot, the reel is so light that it doesn’t really have an impact on its durability.


As of 2023, Nautilus offers a lifetime warranty to the original owner + $0 fee. Note that this warranty does not cover damage caused by accident, misuse, improper maintenance, or modification.

Price: $455


Nautilus switched up the drag materials in the X-series. Unfortunately, this caused a bit of startup inertia, which, ultimately, left this reel out of contention. If that’s not something you really care about, the XL Max offers a super lightweight reel, from a top US-based manufacturer, at a very reasonable price.

Buy it with Free Shipping here.


  • Made in USA
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Interchangeable with XL 6/7 spool


  • Startup inertia