Electric reels are a niche market, but a lucrative one if you get it right. There are even more sales to be had if you can add left-handed versions to your range. German tackle supplier WFT spotted the opportunity – but it still took patience and partnerships to bring its new models to market.
WFT began making electric reels 20 years ago, but it wasn’t until last year that it introduced left-hand models to the market. It was a classic example of spotting a niche waiting to be filled – and a move that has since paid off enormously. “We were one of the first companies to produce them,” says Managing Director Christian Dibisch. “They were not generally available and even now I can’t think of anyone else who makes them. We had plenty of experience in making electric reels and saw a good opportunity to provide left-hand models in the same factory.”
However, it was not an easy decision to make. The investment required to make the project successful financially would have been too much for WFT alone. “It would have been impossible to market the product at a realistic unit price,” explains Dibisch. “Even if we were able to share some of the parts used in the right-hand versions, there were still lots of unique components that required different machining and moulds. Development costs alone were at least $150,000.”
The solution, he decided, was to find a partner willing to share the costs in an agreement that they could sell the reels in other parts of the world. This would also make it possible to supply his factory with the necessary quantity. But again it was not straightforward. “It was five years before we could get the project moving,” he admits. “Then we finally found two companies willing to work with us and, after delays caused by COVID travel restrictions, we were able to bring two different-sized Sea King multipliers to market in October of last year.”
The target market for the reels is made up by anglers fishing for deep water species in the waters of northern Europe, with the best sales coming in Germany, Austria, Finland, Norway and Russia. There has also been high demand in Australia.
The Sea King is designed for fishing in depths of up to 300 metres that make conventional reels unsuitable. Says Dibisch: “They are not made for taking the fishing experience away, but for putting more fish within reach. You can fish places that were not accessible before. It is a question of practicalities. If you are fishing in 150 metres of water you are probably 250 metres away from the bait because of drift. The rig needs to be constantly retrieved because of fish nibbling on the bait, so it makes no sense to use a manual reel in those circumstances. You would spend most of the day winding the handle.”
The Sea King is designed to retain the sporting element of playing the fish. Line is retrieved automatically when a fish is being hauled to the surface, but if it decides to run, the drag function comes into play at the release of a button. “The percentage of fish lost using an electric reel is much smaller,” maintains Dibisch.
All servicing of WFT electric reels is done by the company’s experienced technicians. “These are complex instruments and very difficult to put back together without saltwater getting in,” he warns. “We prefer to take that responsibility.”