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 7.9 Specifications
Models: 7.9R-JD (Right) / 7.9L-JD (Left)
Gear Ratio: 7.9:1
Max Drag: 5kg
Line Cap: 12lb-135m / 16lb-100m / 20lb-80m
Spool Diameter: 36mm
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.
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.
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.
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.
Drive shaft of the Daiwa J-Dream
Drive shaft of the Daiwa Type-R
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
The Daiwa Zillion J-Dream vs. Toman