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Author Topic: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel  (Read 37732 times)

Fishwhittler

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Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« on: November 30, 2012, 12:13:36 PM »

Hey guys,

I've heard a lot of good things about the Mettle and finally decided to get a couple to try out.  They arrived the other day, and the first thing I did with one of them was start tearing it down to see what's inside.  Paying $50 ($30 on sale) for a baitcast reel just doesn't seem like it would end well, but a while back Pro Reel posted that he serviced one of the Mettle reels and was pleasantly surprised by the build quality of the reel.  Since then I've been wanting to see the insides for myself, and I figured I'd post them here while I'm at it.

First pic is just after I got both side covers off


A closer look at the clutch


Handle-side cover


Palm-side cover


Clutch bar


Clutch bar - another view


Drag stack


Drag stack disassembled


As you can see, there was a lot of grease on the drag stack when I opened it up.  The rest of the reel was well-lubricated with a trifle much grease in places, but other than the drag stack nothing was drenched in lube.  That's as it should be, since too much lube can collect dirt and grime and cause premature wear on the reel.

The clutch is very simple and looks to be bombproof.  The clutch bar is cast and so isn't as smooth as a machined bar, but that doesn't appear to be a problem.  The clutch feels smooth and solid when you depress the thumb bar.  As an added bonus, pushing up on the thumb bar reengages the reel.  I like that in my reels, and it's something not every reel manufacturer does.

I'll note here that the only plastic parts inside this reel's gearbox are the pinion yoke, which is made of thick plastic, and the level-wind gears.  The pins the pinion yoke rides on are cast as part of the reel frame, and that design is one of the simplest and toughest I've seen.

The drag stack is simple as you might expect, but the jury is still out for me on that one.  I'm not sure I like the little orange drag washer, but the drags on both of my Mettle's are smooth though somewhat lacking in power at lock-down.  I'd estimate they can generate 6-8 pounds of maximum pressure which is plenty for most bass fishing situations.  I'm going to see if I can find some carbontex washers to replace the stock ones.

The bearings, now, I was very impressed with the bearings in this reel.  The spool free-spun for ten seconds without line on it, and when I spooled up the second one of my reels and tried casting it, the Mettle is a keeper.  The bearings are smooth and quiet and the braking system is dead-simple to use.  The only thing I wish they'd change would be to use bearings with removable shields on the spool shaft.  Bearings with irremovable shields are much trickier to clean, but that's not a make-or-break issue.

The two ball bearings mounted on the crankshaft do have removable shields, and I flushed them though they didn't really seem to need it.

Cosmetics - the Mettle is fairly plain-jane.  The handle and drag star are a little clunky though the handle at least looks to be indestructible.  The plastic drag star feels a little flimsy, but it can be easily replaced with another drag star if necessary.  There are also a few places where the machining/casting process left some rough spots, but there's nothing that affects how the reel functions.  The cosmetics of the Mettle don't bother me in the least considering the price.

I'm going to super-tune this reel and will report back after it's finished.  Based on what I've seen so far the Mettle is a keeper all the way, and there's no way you'll find a better reel at the price point.  The Mettle has an aluminum frame, operates smoothly, and is built like a tank.  The aluminum frame alone puts the Mettle way ahead of other $50 reels.  If you're considering getting a Mettle, I say go for it.

Tight lines!

Ben
« Last Edit: November 30, 2012, 02:53:03 PM by Fishwhittler »
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BassmanRudy

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Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2012, 12:29:22 PM »

Ben,
Thanks for the great breakdown of the reel! And the pics were in great detail to follow the narration with! I buy at academy all the time but haven't bought their reel yet. For that $$ though almost can't resist! I am a huge fan of the Pro Qualifiers partly because of the $$ and this reel is even cheaper! If you or others can do this for other reels that would be AWESUM as we would all get a great look at "what's inside"!! :-)
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pondboss

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2012, 01:15:23 PM »

Glad someone tore the Mettle apart so people can see there is some merit to cheers I and a few others give it.  The only bad thing about the Mettle is it only comes in one gear ratio. 
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scbassfanatic

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2012, 02:43:27 PM »

I like them, although I am only into my 3rd month with them. I bought 2 of them 3 months back. I will admit it took some getting used to as I am used to the DBS system that BPS offers on Pro Qualifiers. THe centrifugal brakes alone took me some time to get dialed in. But since, I have no complaints. SO much that I bought 3 off them on the Black Friday sale. I got 3 mettles for the price of 1 PQ. I can easily see these as my new go to reels. True that they only come in one ratio, but IMO the ratio offered is a good all around ratio to have.
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Fishwhittler

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2012, 02:51:18 PM »

Ben,
Thanks for the great breakdown of the reel! And the pics were in great detail to follow the narration with! I buy at academy all the time but haven't bought their reel yet. For that $$ though almost can't resist! I am a huge fan of the Pro Qualifiers partly because of the $$ and this reel is even cheaper! If you or others can do this for other reels that would be AWESUM as we would all get a great look at "what's inside"!! :-)

Don't resist.  Get one, or two, or three.  ;)

I'm glad you like my review, and I hope it's helpful.  I'd definitely like to tear down some more reels to review, but it may be a while before the next one.  My hit list includes the Lew's Speed Spool, Daiwa Lexa, GenIII Revo (any of 'em), Shimano Citica/Curado G, and the Pro Qualifier is also on there.  But, reels cost $$ and I have to watch how I spend mine.

Glad someone tore the Mettle apart so people can see there is some merit to cheers I and a few others give it.  The only bad thing about the Mettle is it only comes in one gear ratio. 

A few more ratios would be nice, but for $10 more you can get the Manic in all three ratios.  The Manic doesn't have as many bearings as the Mettle, but it has a metal drag star and is lighter by .6oz.  I think I may have to grab a Manic in 7.1:1 sometime.

There's also the Menace in either 5.1:1 or 7.1:1 retrieve speeds.  It has 10 bearings same as the Mettle, but it's .4oz lighter and has an aluminum handle and drag star.

BTW, the other bad thing about the H2O Xpress reels is that they don't come in lefty retrieve.  :'(
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Pferox

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2012, 05:32:47 PM »

I have one an use it all the time, in the salt, and it is holding up very well. Only weak spot is the fiber pressure plate in the "cast control" knob, as they call it. Even with very light pressure it will wear through after a lot of casts.

I don't have the tools now but when I can I'm going to find a piece of the same thickness stainless and cut one out.

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Fishwhittler

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #6 on: November 30, 2012, 06:00:10 PM »

I have one an use it all the time, in the salt, and it is holding up very well. Only weak spot is the fiber pressure plate in the "cast control" knob, as they call it. Even with very light pressure it will wear through after a lot of casts.

I don't have the tools now but when I can I'm going to find a piece of the same thickness stainless and cut one out.

Don't use steel - cut a piece from a plastic milk carton.  I did that in my Pinnacle Producer X after losing the shim, and it works fine.
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Down4ttown

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2012, 03:36:55 PM »

Heads up. This is on sale for $29.99 this week. I recommend a few as they are great replacement reels while servicing other reels or just for beat fishing when you do not want to take the good stuff...(ie Bank fishing at one spot on the river for me).
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bassindude

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2012, 07:43:04 PM »

Great write up!!  I bought 2 last year and havnt been disipoined in the least.  Jim
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LgMouthGambler

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2012, 01:58:47 PM »

Great review, actually enjoyed reading that.
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BassSacker

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2012, 02:09:59 PM »

Great write up!!  I bought 2 last year and havnt been disipoined in the least.  Jim

+1
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fishingram24

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #11 on: December 20, 2012, 06:56:45 PM »

Bought 5 for 30$ each, only problem I've had was giving 2 away as Christmas presents to the son in laws. I think I like them better than the 2 Lew's that I bought 2 months ago for 100$ each. Cast a mile out of the box and if they last a year, I will be happy to buy more next year. So far its money well spent.
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pondboss

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #12 on: December 20, 2012, 09:15:20 PM »

Bought 5 for 30$ each, only problem I've had was giving 2 away as Christmas presents to the son in laws. I think I like them better than the 2 Lew's that I bought 2 months ago for 100$ each. Cast a mile out of the box and if they last a year, I will be happy to buy more next year. So far its money well spent.

They will last longer than that ;)  Everyone says "it's a great reel for a back up", or "it's great for the price", or "it's a great reel to lend to your friends".  Notice the constant in all of those quotes?  The only thing that is bad about them is they only come in one gear ratio, unless you buy the Menace and it costs $20 more.
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Fishwhittler

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #13 on: December 20, 2012, 09:27:45 PM »

They will last longer than that ;)  Everyone says "it's a great reel for a back up", or "it's great for the price", or "it's a great reel to lend to your friends".  Notice the constant in all of those quotes?  The only thing that is bad about them is they only come in one gear ratio, unless you buy the Menace and it costs $20 more.

There's also the Manic with its lower bearing count.  It's only $10 more than the Mettle and the lower bearing count probably won't make much difference.
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pondboss

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #14 on: December 21, 2012, 01:02:26 AM »

There's also the Manic with its lower bearing count.  It's only $10 more than the Mettle and the lower bearing count probably won't make much difference.

I like the black color too.  They feel really smooth just never got one since I could get more bearings for less $. lol
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Down4ttown

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #15 on: December 21, 2012, 08:09:41 AM »

I like the black color too.  They feel really smooth just never got one since I could get more bearings for less $. lol

Honestly, no better deal than a $30 dollar all metal framed reel. I have it set up on my ethos crank rod and can wear them out with rattles or square bills. Can't throw my SSR-5 Shallow Shad Raps right due to how light they are but hey I have a spinning reel for that.
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Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #16 on: December 23, 2012, 06:45:40 PM »

Picked up two while they were on sale.
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Fishwhittler

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #17 on: December 26, 2012, 10:13:50 AM »

Okay, I've finished super-tuning my H2O Xpress Mettle.  Here's the look I was (sort of) gunning for:



My version:











All parts are stock.  The bearings have been flushed and lubed, the drag surfaces have been polished, the spool shaft ends and brake drum were polished, and then I painted it in the colors you see.  I was originally going to paint the frame light pearl gunmetal and do the rest of the reel similar to the Megabass TD-Ito (below), but I ran into some problems with the pearl paint and ended up stripping it down and going with the black frame.

Overall I'm very pleased with how the Mettle turned out.  After the polish the drag is making roughly 10# instead of the 7-8# it maxed out at before, and the spool free-spins for 13-14 seconds empty of line.  Considering the reel with un-flushed bearings and unpolished spool shaft ends free-spools for 10-12 seconds fully loaded with line, that's a marked improvement.

I wasn't able to do much with the clutch assembly.  That beefy chunk of aluminum doesn't lend itself to polishing, so there are really no polishing options other than the spool shaft ends, brake drum and drag. 

So, now all that I need is open water and fish to test it with. ~fff ~cf  Next year I plan on testing the stock and tuned reels side-by-side and seeing how much difference the upgrades make.

Tight lines!

Ben
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pondboss

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #18 on: December 26, 2012, 11:37:50 PM »

Would love to hear how they perform head to head.  Really like the paint job, how did you do it?
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Fishwhittler

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #19 on: December 27, 2012, 01:23:08 AM »

Would love to hear how they perform head to head.  Really like the paint job, how did you do it?

I'll definitely post the results of the shootout when I can.

The paint is Createx airbrush paint—opaque black for the frame, iridescent green with a grop or two each of pearl gold and silver for the side covers, and a pearl pink/purple custom mix for the drag star.  I can't give you an exact formula for the mix because I didn't take notes.

Sand the parts really well before painting for good adhesion.  I also used a file and a dremel tool to grind down some rough spots on the frame and then started spraying.  I don't bother with primer.

I also seal the paint before topcoat with U-40 Color Lock II thread color preserver.  It prevents the topcoat from wrinkling the paint and making a big mess.

Topcoat is Rust-Oleum Stops Rust® Crystal Clear spray enamel.  I put 4-6 coats on each painted part and then let it cure for 3 weeks before reassembly.

Tight lines!

Ben
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pondboss

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #20 on: December 27, 2012, 02:05:34 AM »

3 WEEKS!!!???? Wow I haven't the patients for that. lol  Looks pretty damn cool though, maybe if I ever get an off season.
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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #21 on: December 27, 2012, 06:32:49 AM »

With the ice on the porch that can be seen in the pics, I can surmise he has the time to for the paint to cure.  lo..

Awesome job BTW.
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matdeux

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #22 on: February 08, 2013, 04:17:35 PM »

I know this may be a stupid question, how do i get the palm side of the xpress mettle off?? help?? thanks in advance
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pondboss

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #23 on: February 08, 2013, 04:38:43 PM »

press the button and rotate downward
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Terry G

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Re: Breaking down the Academy H2O Xpress® Mettle reel
« Reply #24 on: November 17, 2016, 10:34:53 AM »

I received 3 of these Reels for fathers day about 3 years ago and I find that they end up on the rods that I enjoy fishing with. They cast and fight as well as any high $ reels I have.
Great buy.
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