After all of my rambling, I decided to take a chance on the Ross F1 #3 in guide finish (which was made much easier with the good discount I received). I was going to purchase another Hatch Finatic, but after comparing their specs (see below) I thought I would try something new and make a comparison. After all, if I'm not happy with the F1 then I'll have an excuse to get another reel!
Ross F1 #3 (5/6/7)
Width - 1.25" | Diameter - 3.65" | Weight - 6.5oz | Capacity - WF6+150
Hatch Finatic 5 Plus (5/6/7)
Width - 0.925" | Diameter - 3.625" | Weight - 6.5oz | Capacity - (LA)WF6+110; (MA)WF6+180 (These are with 20# Dacron, likely a more similar backing in relation to what Ross used)
Based on these specs, the reels are very similar, the only negligibly difference being that the Ross has slightly better backing capacity for the large arbor due to the extra spool width (though both amounts of backing are superfluous in my opinion).
Having played with the F1, here are my initial thoughts comparing the F1 to my Finatic (which is a 3 plus).
- I ever so slightly prefer the looks of the F1 because of the extensive spool machining, drag and matte guide finish, which makes it a bit more modern. The difference is very slight, however, as I love the looks of the Finatic.
- While the Finatic is a an excellent example of machining, the F1 is actually better. The reel is full of sharp angles and rounded lines, a nice combination of two geometric shapes. The edges are slightly rounded to avoid any sense of sharpness. The Finatic has a more basic 90* machining entry on the fins in the spool and slightly rougher edging. Again, the Finatic is far superior to most reels, just not as refined as the F1. Both reels have very tight and accurate tolerances.
- The F1's matter guide finish is clearly superior in looks to the Finatic. It's hard to tell at this point whether the guide finish will prove more durable that the Finatic's type II anodization. I admit I am partial to a less shiny finish, however, so this may be my personal bias. That said, I expected the guide finish to be a darker shade of grey (perhaps the 51st shade?). It has a little more tan in it than I thought, though it is still a nice look.
- The F1's drag system is impressive. Its adjustment is very smooth and uniform, and the knob is easier to grip than that of the Finatic. The F1's high end seems very stout, though I can't compare it to the Finatic since I have only the 3 plus. Given my tests and the difference in size, I'm fairly certain the Finatic has a stronger drag. I also notice that once the F1's drag is tight enough to engage there is a tiny amount of "slop" between retrieve and drag engagement (perhaps no more than 1* or 2* of rotation, but noticeable). The Finatic has no slop and instantaneously engages. I also prefer the more fully sealed nature of the Finatic. Despite the 10 O-rings on the F1, I don't like that the spool attaches inside the drag mechanism -- which leads to my next categories.
- The Finatic is superior in stability and spool attachment because it screws tight directly to the drag. The F1, on the other hand, attached via a spindle into the drag. This allows a very, very slight wobble when you try to bend the spool. During normal reeling and drag situations, the F1 doesn't wobble and is very smooth. Bear in mind that the wobble isn't significant, but the Finatic's spool is firmly attached the reel frame and can't wobble. In addition, the clicking and smoothness of the Finatic reel is the best I've ever felt. The F1 is among the best, but really is noticeably inferior to the Finatic.
- I prefer the solid metal handle on the Finatic to the carbon fiber on the F1. While the carbon fiber accents are undoubtedly strong, they don't feel as good. I also prefer the engraving on the Finatic because it looks more professional and better matches the overall aesthetics of the reel.
Overall, I can't pick a clear winner between the two reels. I do prefer the feel of the Finatic right now, while I prefer the looks, finish and styling of the F1. I suppose the true test will be on the water, which I hope will be this weekend! In the meantime, I suggest that price is the biggest factor for someone looking at these reels. One can likely get a Finatic for a better price right now. I also believe, however, that the F1's will be reduced due to slow sales.
As a final note, forum members are constantly discussing the weight of the F1 and the Finatic. While I can't speak to preferences, my fully loaded F1 perfectly balances my Scott S4 9' 6wt w/in a half inch of the front of the cork -- and this without line through the guides! For the life of me I can't figure out what all of the ultra-light reel lovers consider being balanced. To each his own!
---------- Post added at 10:53 AM ---------- Previous post was at 10:33 AM ----------
FWIW, here are some pictures of my two reels. Enjoy!