Maxel Armory 15 Reel Review

When you take the Maxel Armory 15 Level Wind out of the box, it has the feel of quality about it.

Turning the handle is almost always the first thing any angler does on picking up a reel, and the Maxel’s smooth, effortless rotation of the handle screamed top-end tackle.

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But it is one thing to fondle such a piece of kit lovingly, but ‘how is it going to perform in the field’ is the true kicker.

Many jig fishers will know Maxel as a name synonymous with their specialist style of fishing, the most popular target species being kingfish and the cellar dwellers – hapuku, bass and bluenose.

Today, Maxel produce reels to cover a wide range of angling pursuits and are recognised for their compact lever-drag systems that match anything Tangaroa can pit against them.

The Armory is the latest off the Maxel drawing board and is available in three different sizes – the 15, 25 and 35 – and several colour options for the fashion-conscious amongst us.

Two of the three Maxel Armory reel colour options.

Two of the three Maxel Armory reel colour options.

I received a 15 and a 35 for this review, matched to appropriate Jig Star rods, from distributor BCS Enterprises Ltd via Kerren Packer, who does their advertising creative. Making the most of a recent break in the weather, Kerren and I headed across the Mangawhai Bar in search of something to pull some string. Snapper on lures was our main target, and the fishing in the area had been good – we were not to be disappointed.

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Deploying slider and inchiku style jigs in the 80-100gm range, we were soon putting some respectable schoolie snapper on ice, along with gurnard and a good john dory. Although there were no monsters, the fish were of a size that pulled enough string to get a feel for the drag capabilities. The real test was to come on a second outing when I had a tug-o-war with a shark which ended in a draw – it let its dinner go, and I ended up with a ‘pre-sashimied’ snapper. The Armory’s dual drag system was faultless over the 20-minute scrap.

The Tai Kabura acid-wrapped rod was an excellent match, but more on that later.

Fitting the Armory 15 LD to the rod, the balance was apparent. Firstly, this is a combo I would be comfortable fishing through an extended session, thanks to its light weight (415g). The ergonomically-designed reel fitted nicely into my left hand, the rod’s trigger grip ensuring I had a good hold on the outfit. With the butt tucked under my arm, I could efficiently work the slow-pitch lures I was deploying. On hook-up, this proved a comfortable fighting position.

I liked the XOS-sized handle. It was comfortable to grip, whether for the slower-paced slow-jig retrieve or the more frenetic mechanical jigging style.

Maxel has introduced the unique ‘Level Plus +’ system, which sees the level wind synchronised with the spool, ensuring there is little or no line angle between the line guide and the spool on either the retrieve or when the hooked fish is pulling string. Maxel calls it the ‘Synchronous Level Wind System’, which adds to the smooth operation. As well as reducing line wear by negating the angles, the system also sees the line laid evenly across the entire spool width.

Maxel’s Synchronous level wind system (Level Plus +) ensures line comes on and off the level wind reel the most efficient way possible.

Maxel’s Synchronous level wind system (Level Plus +) ensures line comes on and off the level wind reel the most efficient way possible.

A second unique feature is the new ‘Sound Plus +’ ratchet system, which allows the angler to hear a ratchet sound when losing line to a fish while remaining silent on the retrieve or deployment of a lure sans fish.

Not too many jig fishers cast their lures until horizontal jigging was introduced, where the lure is cast away from the boat and allowed to flutter unimpeded down through the water column. While the Tai Kabura rod was not designed for casting, the Armory’s magnetic cast control minimised the likelihood of creating a Bob Marley (professional over-run if I do it!), which can be difficult to untangle when fine PE 1-2 braid is used. Nothing can be more frustrating than dealing with a ‘Bob’ when there is a hot bite and you are out of the game!

Drag is a critical element of any reel’s performance. The Armory features Maxel’s dual drag system which can be finely tuned. There are four ‘stop’ positions – freefall, super light, strike and then up to full. Freefall allows the lure to drop unimpeded; super light is spot on for livebaiting when you want just enough drag to hold the bait in position; strike is the pre-set fighting drag; and beyond that, the lever takes you to maximum drag, which in the case of the Armory 15 is a stated 7kg – more than enough to go toe-to-toe with heavyweight snapper or middleweight kingfish. Put over my spring scales, the maximum drag was comfortably greater than that.

It took me a while to get the reel set up to how I wanted it as it has a reasonably steep, aggressive drag curve, but once it was sorted, it stayed that way. Even after dealing with the shark, where it was under sustained pressure for some time, the drag settings remained constant and unchanged.

The Armory 15 comes in three different colour combinations, my preference being the steel grey and gold livery. Regardless of the finish, the reels look as smart as they fish.

Our review efforts concentrated mainly on the Armory 15 combo. The Armory 35 is more of the same with a greater line and double the drag capacity, well suited to fishing greater depths with heavier lures for kingfish. Having said that, Kerren found it to his liking while fishing for snapper in 40 metres.

A size comparison between the Armory 15 and 35 models.

A size comparison between the Armory 15 and 35 models.

Features of both reels:

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• Precision machined, rigid, one-piece tempered aluminium frame

• Super strong, cold-forged aluminium shallow spool

• Precisely adjustable lever dual drag system

• Synchronous level wind system (Level Plus +)

• Small but strong thread guide

• Sound retrieve when line out, silent retrieve when line in (Sound Plus +)

• Dual clutch bearing instant anti-reverse

• Powerful carbon drags deliver a wide range, smooth performance even when wet

• Heavy duty anodising for corrosion protection


Maxel Armory 15



Gear ratio:


Line capacity:

PE/m: 2/250

Max drag:







Black/light gold, Light grey/light gold, Red/light gold

Maxel Armory 35



Gear ratio:


Line capacity:

PE/m 3/400

Max drag:







Matte Black with Cork Handle (limited edition), Black/light gold, Red/light gold, Light grey/light gold

Jig Star Tai Kabura Slow Jig rod:

Manufactured from a new material called Graphene – said to have increased the strength by eight per cent – this acid-wrapped rod has the action to fish conventional, slow-pitch, and micro-jigs effectively.

The Tai Kabura is a rod with plenty of feel due mainly to the exposed ‘skeleton’ blank, which helps detect even the slightest of lure nudges by coming into contact with the angler through their hand and under their arm.

The action is slow, and there is plenty of grunt through the butt section. Being acid wrapped, any blank twist is eliminated as the pull is in alignment with the spine at all times. Fuji Alconite Ks are the guides, and the trigger grip is from the same manufacturer. I would rate this as one of the most comfortable rods of its ilk I have fished, and there have been plenty. Combined with the rounded contours of the reel, the grip fits nicely in your hand – you always feel in control.

There is a spin version of this blank, but for this style of fishing, I prefer an overhead reel as you have more control on the drop, which is often when you get hit, especially when fishing workups.


Jig Star Tai Kabura Overhead Slow Jig Rod



Max jig weight:


Rod length:

6ft 3in

Max drag:





Acid Wrap

Rod material:


Ideal for working slow jigs, slow pitch jigs, and micro jigs



September 2022 - Grant Dixon
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

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