REVIEW: 13 Fishing Concept Z Baitcasting Reel

13-Fishing-Concept-Z-Review Payne Outdoors Chris Payne

13 Fishing Concept Z Review Payne Outdoors Chris PayneI first saw the Concept Z in person at a local tackle shop, Tightlines PFT in Killeen, last week. Having a review for the 13 Fishing Inception in the works I picked it up, gave the spool a spin, scoffed, and put it back down. I think the words I used immediately were, “That sucks. How are they going to sell those if someone actually tries it?” It was different to put it nicely. The Concept Z didn’t free spool much at all. It’s how I’ve gotten an initial feel for reels on the rack for the better part of 20 years. The Z did not impress. I was confused, a bit perturbed I had eaten an ounce of marketing hype, and curious at the same time. I talked with the shop owner and ended up taking it home for further testing. I had to be missing something.  There had to be more. This entire review could fall under a file named, “Don’t Judge a Book” but I think this quote from Henry Ford sums it up better.

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”

13 Fishing Concept Z Review Payne Outdoors Chris Payne

The Concept Z was a puzzle I needed to crack. Were people just enamored with casting distance, Tequila Sunrise colored reels, or something I couldn’t see or feel yet? I found my answers for the most part. I’ll briefly talk about the Concept Zero Bearing (CZB) but I don’t want this to turn into a debate over the technology. Matt Baldwin, a Product Development Director for 13 Fishing has already addressed a lot of that. Here is a quote pulled from a Tackle Tour forum where it was being discussed. When confronted about the claims of zero bearings Matt had this to say:

zero BALL bearings guys….its the steel material, the balls, the races, and the shields that are causing so many issues within your reels. Noise, corrosion, and performance loss over time….these are a large majority of the reasons you need service. The CZB solves the issues while still delivering the performance characteristics you desire. It exceeds performance in many areas as well.

A bearing is a machine element that constrains relative motion to only the desired motion, and reduces friction between moving parts. … The simplest form of bearing, the plain bearing, consists of a shaft rotating in a hole.
Bearing (mechanical) – Wikipedia

Call it a bearing, call it a bushing….no matter. It works, try it…you might be very very surprised. It took years to get this right.

13 Fishing

About the 13 Fishing Concept Z

The Concept Z is a brightly colored (Tequila Sunrise officially) reel from 13 Fishing that weighs in at 6.4 ounces for the model we tested, a 6.6:1 ratioed, right-handed reel. It boasts saltwater protected components using a process called Ocean Armor 2, has a Beetle Wing side plate, 22 pounds of drag, EVA handle knobs, and of course the CZB technology.  I spooled it with 12 pound Seaguar Invisx fluorocarbon and tied on a 1/4 ounce bullet weight and swivel for cast testing.

13 Fishing Concept Z Review Payne Outdoors Chris PayneThe Good

The best news of all is that the spool test doesn’t work on this reel. Normally a free spinning spool means longer casting but it wasn’t the case. Maybe I had a weird experience, got a bad reel, something, but more research turned up a lot of other testers experiencing the exact same thing. In fact, Zander from Tackle Tour said something pretty profound about the whole free spool vs CZB performance conundrum. He states, “13 Fishing has the potential with this reel to lay waste to an ideology … that you can gauge how well a reel will cast by flicking the spool with your finger.”

I had a very similar experience. From a bad shop experience to an impressive casting distance it just didn’t line up.  More and more research the technology started to make more sense. I don’t have an engineer’s grasp of it but I do know it casts a long way. That was as advertised.

The Bulldog Drag with 22 pounds of “nope you’re not spooling me” force is no joke. You might ask why the Hades someone would need 22lbs on the drag. It’s important to note the Concept Z was originally designed for use on the Texas inshore fishing scene. Ever hooked into a 30 inch redfish on bass gear? That’s why you might want (or need) 22#. I used my patented oak tree fish drag test with the 1/4 ounce weight and swivel. The line snapped, no drag slippage, beast. I should also say, I don’t ever fish with my drag all the way down but if you needed to, you should beef up your tensile strength for the Concept Z.

The Beetle Wing is a much-needed addition to this reel. I wish the Inception had it. One other upgrade the Z has that some of the lesser models lack is the Dead Stop Anti-Reverse. The reel only rolls forward. It has no backward play at all, not even at an eighth of an inch turn. This helps to make sure the retrieve isn’t jerky, maintains pressure constantly on fish you fight, and keeps fatigue down on your wrist with a more fluid motion.

13 Fishing Concept Z Review Payne Outdoors Chris PayneRoom for Improvement

I thought for at least 12 hours that I had a bad reel. The Concept Z I had cast a mile but it seemed really loud on the cast. The retrieve was smooth and quiet but on the cast I heard a fairly loud whirring. I sent a video of it to a couple of people. They hadn’t noticed it in their own reels so I was an outlier. Then I started doing some YouTube research. I looked up videos that didn’t have a lot of music in the background to see if I heard the same noise. I did! The reels seem louder than my traditional ball bearing reels.

Here is my example:

You can hear it whirring and it was concerning at first. When I looked up these three videos from folks you know, you can also hear it. It may not be at the same volume but it is definitely there. I have the videos queued up at the casts.

Fluke Master
Dave LeFebre

Most of my reels, including my 13 Fishing Inception, don’t make that noise. I am guessing that is the CZB doing its thing but I don’t know. I just know if I have to listen to that 561 times a day, I’m not going to fish the reel for very long. Does it get better as the reel gets older? If it is indeed the CZB, my understanding is the special polymer will self-lubricate over time and performance will not worsen. Maybe the CZB needs a break in period. Maybe Matt Baldwin can shed some light on it for me.

The only other thing (once you get over the spool test in the shop) is actually cosmetic. I’m not a fan of the orange known as Tequila Sunrise. First, I know Tequila Sunrise to be a purple-hued worm from Berkley Power Bait circa 1992. Secondly, I can’t pull off the orange. It’s not a good look for me. Neither are the Texas Edition seafoam green 13 reels. I like the silver, black, and even white reels. I know they’ll have plenty of fans, I’m just not one of them.

Final Thoughts

I’m still on the fence on the Concept Z. If it weren’t for the noise on the cast, I’d be all about it but it bugs me. A lot. I’ve gotten over the spool test and can definitely say if you want a reel that can throw for distance, this is a good bet and it won’t break the bank. Heck, the Concept Z isn’t even the most expensive reel in the 13 Fishing lineup. If someone from 13 Fishing has some answers about the noise, I’m all ears. Email me at


I did hear back from Matt Baldwin via email. While I don’t 100% agree with everything he mentions (noisy casts from my current reels) I am willing to post what Matt suggests could be a potential fixes and some other things to consider. I appreciate his feedback and taking the time to add some more to the discussion.

The CZBs are completely different, not something you are used to using, and not something you have ever experienced.  You will hear a little noise on the cast, this is normal.  Please compare this noise to your existing ball bearing reels.  I think you might be surprised on how loud your normal reels are when casted.   The major difference is with the retrieve, its dead silent on the Concept Z.  The only thing you will hear is the line coming through the guides.  Gone is the racket of the ball bearings.  The noise is more acute in your mind, because otherwise the reel is so silent.
I watched the attached video with the sound all the way up…and I don’t hear much.  I’m not disputing your hearing a “whirring noise”, just disputing how loud it is.  Its certainly possible that yours makes a “whirring noise” louder than normal, but I can’t tell that from the video and would be happy to take a look to confirm.  I want to be sure your reel performs like it should.  Additionally you adjust a Z a little different than most because of the consistency of the spin, you don’t need as much brake weight or cast-control cap.  So loosen up the cap and set your brakes to 1-2 and let her rip!!!
I think your missing the entire point of the Concept Z, as I don’t see much reference to it in the review.  The Concept Z will without a doubt give you long ultra consistent casting.  Test it against whatever you fish on 10 casts, if you can replicate the casting effort you will see the casts all fall in the exact same place.  This won’t happen with your ball bearing reels because you can’t consistently get all the balls to start up movement consistently.(a little more lubricant on one ball, or a piece of debris as small as sand can keep that from being consistent)
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4 thoughts on “REVIEW: 13 Fishing Concept Z Baitcasting Reel

  1. I just bought 2 concept z reels and I’m not impressed either.. I own 1 concept A and another concept C and both are better reels ( to me ) they cast further than the z and are smoother reeling and spin both with just a finger spin at no resistance.. the z I cannot do that with

  2. Utterly disappointed here….After a 4 month wait and having to see what all the hype is about…..I too have one and this reel whines like a high speed blender when casting. It was fine out the box then after 1 hook set on a 3-4lb bass the reel became noisier than a freight train. Clicking on the reel in of line….and the high pitched whine on each cast. I like others make hundreds of casts during a fishing outing and no way can tolerate that noise. I have 12 other rods with 6 different reels and none of them make the noise on cast as this one….and they only cost in the $80-100 range. Unless I get something better than this mediocre explanation from Fishing 13 then it’s going back.

  3. guess I’ll be the odd ball and say I really like the concept Z! love the compact size and cast great. Liked it so much I upraded my Currado 300 to an A3 lighter and stronger w a ton of control also cast like a dream and yes it is quieter. Like the A3 so much got the Z3 love that one too. I fish on a paddleboard so my casts are over hand, sidearm , backhand you name it the control I get with these reels is fantastic.

  4. I love em, I can pitch farther and more consistently with the z than my other reels. I don’t know about the noise. Will pay more attention next time I go fishing.

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