Mako Fly Reel Review (Hands-on Tried & Tested)

Get the scoop on the Mako Fly Reel: a top-rated review covering its features and stellar performance in fly fishing.

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In this Mako Fly Reel review, I’ll discuss how and why this reel has got your back, no matter what size fish you end up hooking. When targeting big freshwater and saltwater species, picking the right reel for the job is critical, and I have learned this firsthand.

Over the last 30-odd years, I have had the chance to use a lot of reels and put them to the ultimate test while guiding guests into the likes of marlin, sailfish, wahoos, and GTs on the fly – seriously, Makos can do things you would not believe.

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A photo of a Fly Rod with the Mako Fly Reel stuck on the side of boat

In this review of Mako Fly Reels, I will through everything you need to know about these amazing reels from the specs and features to my likes, dislikes, and more.

Why Trust My Mako Fly Reel Review?

Anyone can do a Mako fly fishing review, so what makes mine and every IntoFlyFishing review different?

Firstly, we only review gear that we have used and tested ourselves, and I have been lucky enough to use and guide clients with Makos for the last 5 years.

Secondly, you are reading a review written by someone who knows what they are talking about.

It is only through losing amazing fish on the wrong reels that you understand what makes a reel worth owning and whether it is up to the task or not.

Believe me, I have been around the block and learned the hard way – the many fish that got away still haunt me.

How I Fished The Mako Fly Reel

Most of my time using Mako’s has been in Seychelles catching GTs and sailfish, but in the last year, I have also used them to subdue 200+ lb striped marlin in the Galapagos Islands.

Me trying to fish with a Mako Fly Reel

During my time in the Seychelles, we (the guides) had a saying – “Mako says no.” Watching an 85 cm GT go from peeling into the backing to doing a headstand when a Mako is put in full drag is a sight to behold – hence our saying, “Mako says no.”

In hot salty environments when taking on some of the biggest creatures you can have attached to a fly reel, there are very few other reels I would trust in these scenarios. Paired with a 12wt T&T Exocett or Sage Motive with a Rio Flats Pro or Cortland GT line, Makos are simply the best.

What’s In The Box?

There is nothing quite like opening the box when a new fly reel has been delivered. When it comes to Makos, it is a bit like opening up a new Macbook. The packaging is sleek, well designed, and here is what is inside.

Mako Fly Reel

One of the two things inside the box is, of course, the reel itself. When you pick up a Mako for the first time, you immediately think ‘This thing is bulletproof.’ The feel of the smooth, matte-finished aluminum is lovely in your hand. You will also notice that this is a heavy reel – more on this later.

Mako Reel Cover

All Mako reels come with a padded reel cover. The cover is very well padded on both sides, the zip is very smooth, and this ensures you can take your Mako anywhere without any risk of scratches or damage.

Shop The Mako Fly Reel

View the Mako Fly Reel and compare prices on TRIDENT.

A photo of a Fly Rod with the Mako Fly Reel stuck on the side of boat

Mako Review Features & Specs

Next up in this Mako Reel Review is a deep look at all the features and specs. We will look at everything from physical weight to different models available. We’ll also dive into the key things that make a fly reel great to fish with such as drag tension, ergonomics, and more.

We will not take a detailed look into every different Mako model, as a 10-weight Mako Review is pretty much the same as a 12-weight Mako Review, except for little changes like the physical weight of the reel, line capacity, and retrieve rate.


  • Physical Weight: 11.7 oz (331.68 g) to 16.75 oz (474.57 g)
  • Available Weights: 8, 10, 12, 14

Mako fly reels are heavy, much heavier (close to 50%) than their Hatch Reels counterpart, for example. You can feel this as soon as you pick up a Mako. Now, this extra weight does make casting all day with Mako quite tiring.

However, they are all designed for saltwater fly fishing where you are sight fishing 90% of the time, not blind casting all day long. The weight of a Mako comes down to its materials and build quality, which is one of the best on the market – more on this below.

Build Material, Finish & Durability

Makos are made from the highest machined standard aluminum available on the market. They are finished with Type III anodizing and are polished as smooth as can be.

This build-quality leads to immense durability. Mako’s will not rust and you will struggle to dent them even if you drop one on concrete. They are built to last forever.


Makos have a sound both when you wind and when the line is pulled off the reel. It is a lovely clicking sound that is not noisy, it is almost muted, but is still easy to hear and great on the ears.

Drag System

The Mako drag system is one of the best, if not THE best on the market. It is made up of multiple full-contact carbon-fiber discs to provide an incredibly smooth performance. Mako has also added “button technology” which removes start-up inertia, so it is ultra-smooth from the get-go. It is as reliable as they come!

Drag Seal

All Makos have a fully-sealed drag that uses o-rings and carbon-impregnated Teflon lip seals. When you look at the drag system under the spool, you know it is incredibly well sealed and no saltwater is going to get in there. It is one of the best-sealed drag systems in the world.

Drag Knob

The drag knob on the Mako is large and easy to find. It does not poke out of the side of the reel, it sits flush against it. There are slots for your fingers and you can go from minimum to maximum drag in one full smooth turn.

This might be a little fast for some people, but it is excellent in my eyes when you need to get to a higher drag quickly.

Drag Adjustment & Tension

Mako’s have one of the strongest drag tensions on the market, and it is more drag than you will ever need when at full lock.

What I love about the Mako drag adjustment is that it is 100% linear. This means it goes up in level increments – if you set the drag in a certain place one day, the next day that drag setting will provide the exact same amount of tension.

This is incredibly useful when setting the drag on light tippets for big fish – say a 20 lb tippet vs a 100 lb tarpon – as you know your drag is not going to snap that tippet at that particular setting.

Reel Handle

The reel handle is big, wide, easy to find, and fits in your hand very nicely. You will be able to hold it easily when putting pressure on a big fish.

Spool, Arbor, & Retrieval Rate

The Mako spool is excellent. They are narrow so the line lays evenly, and the arbor is super large for a massive retrieve rate so you can get those big GTs and tarpon in a lot faster. The spool also holds a lot of backing – up to 300-400 yards of 50 lb braid, so you are not going to get spooled.

Changing Spools

Changing spools on a Mako is incredibly easy as it is a “taper lock” quick-change spool. With 3 turns on the spool knob, it pops off very quickly. I have had to do this mid-fight with a striped marlin on the end of the line – it is a breeze.

Overall Ergonomics

Overall, the ergonomics of Mako reels are excellent in my eyes. I find using the drag, the reel handle, and changing spools super smooth. However, the drag knob does take some getting used to if you are used to a protruding drag knob rather than a flush set drag knob.

Available Colors

There are quite a few color options when it comes to Makos. There is Digi Camo, Black, Black/Turquoise, Black/Red, and Black/Platinum. The Black/Turquoise is the hottest color if you ask me.


Makos are certainly one of the most expensive fly reels you can find on the market, but you get what you are paying for. They are as reliable as a fly reel can be, have the stomach for any species, and are built to last forever.


All Makos come with a lifetime warranty for the original owner. Mako will repair or replace any of their reels that have a manufacturer defect and result in the reel’s poor performance. This means you pretty much get a reel for life, however, if you damage it, you will have to pay for the repair.

How The Mako Fly Reel Compares

It is very hard to find a comparison to Mako’s reels as they are in a league of their own.

Me holding a fly rod with the Mako Fly Reel Attached

The reels to look at would be the Shilton SL or SR range, the Nautilus CCF-X2 range, and the Abel SDS range. All these reels are excellent Mako alternatives that are lighter and more affordable, but not of the same high quality as Mako.

The Mako, Abel SDS, and Nautilus CCF-X2 reels all have a sealed drag but the Mako’s seal and drag system wins hands down. The Shilton SR drag is excellent, however, it is not sealed but is still reliable.

The drags on the “other reels” are not as linear as Mako’s, nor do they have as much drag tension, and it takes a lot more than one turn to get to full drag on the other reels too.

Mako Review: My Personal Thoughts


  • Incredible build quality and durability
  • One of the best-sealed drags
  • Very smooth and linear drag
  • One rotation from zero to full drag
  • Easy to use and comfortable handle
  • Great retrieve rate
  • Huge line capacity
  • A lovely sound
  • Great ergonomics overall


  • Very expensive
  • Much heavier than other reels

There are three species I have caught with Mako reels – GTs, sailfish, and marlin. They simply made catching fish like these as easy as possible. When it comes to GTs, you can put the heat on a fish and stop it dead in its tracks with one turn of the drag knob if you need to.

When fishing for sailfish and marlin, we use a 20 lb tippet built into a shock leader. The Mako is the only reel with such a linear drag and this lets us set the perfect amount of drag to land these huge fish without breaking the smaller tippet.

I personally do not have any issues with Mako reels. Yes, they are heavy, and if you are blind-casting all day, I can see this becoming a bit of an issue.

FAQs About Mako Fly Reel

Below you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Mako Fly Reels. If you have a question that isn’t answered below or in the article, leave us a comment at the bottom of the page and we will get back to you.

Are Mako fishing reels good?

Yes, Mako fishing reels are good, in fact, they are beyond good. If you want a reel for life that can handle any species and environment on the planet, these are the reels to go for.

Where are Mako fly reels made?

All Mako fly reels are manufactured and hand-assembled in the USA. In fact, each reel is custom-built and takes 3 weeks to be ready from the time of ordering.

Who owns Mako reels?

Mark Vorobik owns Mako Reels and is a private company.

Does fly reel weight matter?

Yes, fly reel weight does matter. The heavier a reel is the more tiring it will be to cast, however, weight is also a sign of build-quality and durability, so it is best to find a balance.

Are expensive fly reels worth it?

The cost of a fly reel is a direct sign of its quality 99% of the time. If you fly fishing often, investing in an expensive fly reel is most certainly worth it.

The Verdict

After reading this Mako Fly Reel Review, what do you think? Is it worth owning a Mako? Here is my verdict. I would have to say that Mako fly reels are built for a very specific niche of fly fishing, and that is taking on serious freshwater and saltwater species.

If you fish for tarpon, giant trevally, billfish, tuna, and other similar species often, then buying a Mako is 100% worth it. Also, if you are the kind of fly angler who wants to fish with the best equipment out there, then Mako reels are the ones for you.

Shop The Mako Fly Reel

View the Mako Fly Reel and compare prices on TRIDENT.

A photo of a Fly Rod with the Mako Fly Reel stuck on the side of boat

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Growing up fly fishing on the sea, streams and lakes of Kenya and the UK, Jamie has traveled the world in search of fishing nirvana. From his time managing bonefish lodges in the Bahamas and running fishing safaris in East Africa, all the way to guiding on the flats of Seychelles and offshore, there are not many species or environments he hasn't experienced firsthand. He has guided for over 12 years and has cast a line almost everywhere including the rivers of Norway and Iceland to the beaches of Costa Rica, the lagoons and banks of the Galapagos, the highlands of Ethiopia, Kenya, the Himalayas and the flats of Mexico, Belize, The Bahamas, and Seychelles.

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