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20957

Just when we thought we’d seen the fastest Zillion in the Type-R, Daiwa yet springs another surprise with the introduction of the Daiwa J-Dream 7.9. Soh Yu Hock reviews this zoom-zoom Zillion.

Daiwa Zillion J-Dream

Daiwa Zillion J-Dream 7.9 Specifications
Models: 7.9R-JD (Right) / 7.9L-JD (Left)
Cm/Rev: 89cm
Gear Ratio: 7.9:1
Weight: 215g
Max Drag: 5kg
Line Cap: 12lb-135m / 16lb-100m / 20lb-80m
Spool Diameter: 36mm
Bearings: 10/1

Given its large 36mm diameter spool, there aren’t many baitcasting reels in the market that can quite measure up to the compactness of the Daiwa Zillion. For this reason alone, the Zillion has been around for the last six years, having undergone periodical facelifts. It is a known fact, however, that even well-regarded Zillions, such as the Type-R with its 19g spool, are more suited for presenting medium to heavy lures weighing 10g or more. Granted, there is an optional I’ZE factory HLC spool that weighs 13g, but the price is rather dear at around SGD150. No doubt the optional spool does improve the overall casting performance but somehow it didn’t quite wow Zillion fans for one reason or another. Daiwa Japan must have been having their ears on the ground as they recently released three versions of the limited edition Zillion J-Dream baitcaster that comes in 5.3, 6.3 and 7.9 gear ratios. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a 7.9 version.

Daiwa Zillion J-Dream Star

First Look
Held in the hand, the lightness of this robust reel caught me by surprise. Other visible differences are the new 100mm skeletal swept handle and the classy, red machined-decorative aluminum ring just below the large drag star. Also noticeable is the cleverly positioned red marking on the cast control knob, which is rather useful to mark your preferred setting. Like the preceding high-end Zillions, the new J-Dream has adjustable clickers on the drag star and cast control knob. In place of the Type R’s helical-cut theme ported frame are two slats on the right of the frame, which somehow, alongside the gunmetal finishing of the reel and skeletal swept handle, gives it a cool, futuristic look.

Daiwa Zillion J-Dream

The proven Magforce Z is still standard on this latest Zillion. The drag pressure on the copy we had maxed out at 5kg as specified, which is good enough for most fishing conditions. The paddle knobs are similar to the ones found on the higher-end Daiwa baitcasters, such as the Pixy 68SPR and Ryoga 1016, which give a nice, silky touch. Engaging the handle, the gears feel smooth, solid and responsive with no back play, as expected of a Zillion.

Weight of the J-Dream Skeletal Handle

The reel weighs only 215g – a whopping 25g lighter than the Zillion Type-R. Most of the weight savings come from three main areas; a newly designed, ultra-lightweight duralumin spool, a lightweight skeletal swept handle and a drive shaft that is made of lighter material which is visibly shorter than the previous model. The effect of this shorter drive shaft can be seen from the flushed handle nut as compared to previous Zillions.

Daiwa Zillion J-Dream Shaft

Drive shaft of the Daiwa J-Dream

Daiwa Zillion Type R Shaft

Drive shaft of the Daiwa Type-R

Daiwa Zillion J-Dream Main Gear

At 7.9:1 ratio, this has to be the fastest and most ‘palmable’ baitcasting reel manufactured in terms of retrieval speed at the time of writing. Amazingly, despite the 7.9:1 gear ratio, the reel feels as smooth as the velvety Zillion Type-R. But above all, the most interesting feature is the new deeper and narrower spool, which weighs approximately 11g (excluding the inductor). A point worth noting is that this new spool has the same line capacity as the older Zillions. Could this possibly be the ultimate Zillion that narrows the gap against Daiwa’s flagship Steez? I begin to fantasize pitching light lures into fishy looking overhangs with the J-Dream.

Daiwa Zillion J-Dream spool

Casting Performance
I loaded the Zillion J-Dream with 30lb Sufix 832 braid and paired it to the fast-action, 6’3” 8-14lb Rapala Predator. The entire setup felt significantly lighter compared to a similar Zillion Type-R combo given the 25g weight reduction. Based on past experience, I never really enjoyed underhand casting and pitching light lures with Zillions fitted with the HLC spool; something seems to be missing when comparing them against the venerable Steez. To my surprise, though not quite yet within Steez’s casting territory, this Zillion totally blew me away with its performance. Not only was the J-Dream able to cast light lures down to 7g effectively, it also enabled a speedy and flat trajectory, sending lures into low-hanging tight cover with ease. In open water, the J-Dream could even launch lures as light as 5g with an overhead or side arm cast with the outfit. Then again, it is definitely more fun to use finesse reels such as the Pixy and matching rods for such work. After all, we need to justify the purpose of owning different reels, right?

Daiwa Zillion J-Dream In Action

Horses For Courses
While the limited edition J-Dream is chiefly targeted at the Largemouth Bass market, it is definitely applicable in a local context. One of the noticeable traits of tropical predators is their occasional love for a fast swimming lure. Not only does the J-Dream 7.9 cast well, its ultra-fast retrieval speed means opening up more possibilities for lure anglers. For example, burning a soft plastic lure along the water’s edge is one of the most effective and spectacular ways of catching Peacock Bass when they are hunting actively around the area. Likewise, saltwater speedsters such as Mackerel and Queenfish can sometimes be extremely finicky and respond only to lures or metal jigs retrieved at breakneck speed. Another advantage of having a reel with a blazing retrieve is the ability to quickly bring in a lure from unproductive zones for a follow-up cast when probing fishy-looking shorelines or in the (unlikely, of course!) event of casting off-target. In such instances, the J-Dream 7.9’s retrieval of 89cm per crank won’t disappoint.

Tested with these lures and Rapala Predator 8-14lb with 30lb Sufix and 14lb Castable Invisiline and 30lb Sufix Superior copy

Speed Bump
Having said that, the Achilles’ heel of high-speed reels lies in the cranking power, or rather, lack of. For this review, I tested the J-Dream 7.9 with different types of lures, ranging from topwater poppers, down to mid-diving crankbaits, spoons and large spinners. While not quite as powerful as a Zillion Crazy Cranker, the J-Dream 7.9 held itself well even against crankbaits such as the Rapala Risto Rap. But then again, I would rather be using the J-Dream 7.9 for basically everything but heavy resistance lures. After all, we could always justify another purchase of the J-Dream 5.3 for crankbait and large spinner applications.

Daiwa Zillion J-Dream

Wrapping It Up
In conclusion, the J-Dream 7.9 is a good candidate if you are in the market for an ‘ultra-hyper’ speed demon for working jerkbaits, surface lures, spoons, jigs and the like, or if you require a reel that’s able to give you flat-trajectory casts via pitching, side or underhand casting when probing the littoral zones of thick tropical rainforests or mangroves. Thanks to the ultra-lightweight duralumin spool, pitching light lures of 7g and up from a Zillion without customization is now a reality. On the flipside, the hefty price tag (between SGD700-800 at time of writing), may not be exactly a crowd puller for an old platform such as the Zillion. Additionally, the new 7.9 gear ratio is uncharted territory for Daiwa; hence the long-term durability of the gears is still unknown at this point. However, for those who can afford it and stick to its intended use, this reel will offer ‘fast actions’ for a long time. After all, the J-Dream 7.9 is the fastest baitcasting reel available in the market as of now.

J Dream 7.9 in action

The Daiwa Zillion J-Dream vs. Toman

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The versatility of the Rapala Jigging Rap goes to show how a lure intended for a particular fishing style can be applied in other parts of the world with deadly effect simply by applying different techniques to work the lure.

Jigging Rap

Originally introduced in 1965 for ice fishing, the Rapala Jigging Rap has since found its usage in warmer waters and is fast gaining popularity in catching a wide range of species. Ice jigging involves cutting a hole in a sheet of ice that has formed over a lake and working a lure vertically up and down every now and then to entice a strike from the fish below. This technique was later adopted by bass, perch, crappie and walleye anglers in warmer months to target deeper holding fish suspended against tight underwater structure where no conventional lures could effectively reach. The Jigging Rap also found a growing fan base of Japanese anglers that had much success targeting bream, rockfish and other inshore species. This craze has since reached Southeast Asia for a select few anglers who have had the opportunity to test out the effectiveness of these lures in our tropical waters. The field reports of fish caught on the Jigging Raps have been astounding.

Jigging Rap Green Tiger

Design
The Jigging Rap’s unconventional design is the secret to the unique actions that can be produced on this lure. The slim, minnow profile of the Jigging Rap is zinc-weighted to enable the lure to sink to the desired depth where fish are suspended or holding. Single hooks are permanently fixed on the front and tail ends of the Jigging Rap while a treble hook is located below the lure’s mid-section to maximize hookup rates at all angles when the lure is vertically jigged or at free fall. A specially designed plastic fin fixed onto the tail end of the lure works together with the slightly front-weighted body and centered tow point to enable the lure to sink tantalizingly in a figure eight-like fashion when worked vertically.

How to Work The Jigging Rap
The Jigging Rap is not a straight-up-and-down jigging lure but you have to get the timing right for it to work well. The trick is to lower the rod tip quickly so that there is slack line between the Jigging Rap and the rod tip. When there is slack line, the lure picks up speed and the flow of water past the plastic tail fin makes the lure move forward as it drops. Since the lure is fished vertically, this forward movement is translated into a circular or figure eight swimming pattern, which can be irresistible to predators.

Temensis on Jigging Rap

While this lure has been designed specially for vertical jigging, it is also a deadly weapon when cast and retrieved. The ‘snap jigging’ technique introduced by American fishing legend Al Lindner involves casting out the Jigging Rap into open water and allowing it to sink all the way to the bottom. Using a fast, snapping motion with your wrist, snap the rod tip upwards and then quickly lower the rod tip to create slack in the line then pausing before repeating the motion. The snapping motion will cause the Jigging Rap to suddenly dart upwards from the bottom while the slack line and pause will cause the lure to sink to the left or right. This sudden ‘dive’ of the lure at the slack can give an illusion of a baitfish dashing for cover especially when working it just over rocks, gravel or rugged terrain. This illusion is particularly effective for cautious fish following the lure but hesitating to bite. The predator’s natural reaction is to strike at the sight of a potential easy meal suddenly dashing for cover.

Extra caution is required when working the lure over these areas as the exposed hooks can easily snag onto the rocks as the lure touches bottom. Using the smaller W3-sized Jigging Rap, this technique is suitable for species that are not usually caught on conventional lures such as members of the Cichlid family and omnivorous fishes such as Pacu, Jelawat (Grass Carp) and Kalui (Giant Gourami). Likewise in the saltwater scene, the bigger W9 jigged slowly off the bottom produced Indian Threadfin and Diamond Trevally. Downunder, the Aussies have been successfully catching bream, whiting, bass, redfin and plenty more!

The third way of working the Jigging Rap effectively is to cast it out, let it sink to a desired depth and twitching the rod tip in between cranks at high speed. This is an exciting way to work the lure and is particularly effective on ferocious predators such as Sebarau, Peacock Bass, Queenfish, Mahi-Mahi and other speedsters. The resulting action is a rapid, side-to-side swaying movement that is not seen in conventional lures today. Conventional lures usually travel in a linear direction while the Jigging Rap is able to dart erratically from side to side in a wide movement.

Mack Tuna on Jigging Rap

It is this unique and ‘unfamiliar’ action that arouses even the instincts of fishes in areas under heavy fishing pressure. Although this technique is to be worked fast, it is important to allow sufficient slack on the line when the rod tip is twitched before following up with the retrieve. The slack is what enables the Jigging Rap’s enticing sway from side to side. You can also try a combination of the above technique with a sudden stop-sink movement. Imagine a panicky baitfish moving in a zig-zag path trying to evade a predator in hot pursuit only to suddenly veer off course and dive for cover under a rock. The sudden dive caused by an abrupt stop after a zig-zag darting movement has been extremely effective during field tests on our local waters.

Jigging Rap Motion

Advantages of the Jigging Rap
The Jigging Rap is a versatile hard body lure to have in any lure angler’s arsenal. It can be fished vertically, worked throughout the entire water column or cast and retrieved at slow and fast speeds. Although lipless crankbaits are equally as versatile, the Jigging Rap has the advantage of the wide, side to side darting action when retrieved and circular swimming pattern when dropped vertically. The uncharacteristic actions of the Jigging Rap can also appeal to fishes that have become familiar to the actions of bibbed and bibless swimming lures in heavily fished waters. Fish strike out of reaction to the unfamiliar movement of the lure if not out of hunger or aggression. Another distinctive advantage is the Jigging Rap’s weight to size ratio. The lure can achieve a considerable casting distance thanks to its zinc-weighted construction in a small, compact body. This is a significant attribute for stalking wary fish that are feeding on smaller prey far beyond reach of most casting lures.

The Jigging Rap is an extremely dynamic lure to complement other existing lures in one’s tacklebox and its potential has yet to be fully explored for our tropical waters.