Do BOCA BEARINGS really make a difference?

In the past years tuning and customizing reels got a voice of it’s own, and starts to change the face of fishing. Faster bearings, lighter and lighter spools, more performant braking systems, out of this world handles, full bearing supported knobs, and lots more can make a reel more than you bargained for.
But the question is: ” Is it all worth it? Are there tangible results? Or is it just playing tricks on us?”

Boca Bearings Orange Seal, ABEC #7

Boca Bearings Orange Seal, ABEC #7

We are trying to find some of the answers in the next test. We have chosen 2 reels for the test to see if Boca Bearings really make a difference: an old and famous reel, Abu Morrum 3601 Mag, and a new Shimano model, Scorpion 1501XT.

Morrum 3601C Mag

Morrum 3601C Mag

Shimano Scorpion 1500/1501 XT

Shimano Scorpion 1500/1501 XT

We tested their performance with their factory bearings, and afterwards, did the same tests with Boca Bearings ABEC 7 Orange seals, throwing 5.5g (3/16 oz), 10g (3/8 oz) and 15g (about 1/2 oz) weights. How noticeable is the difference in casting distance? Is there any difference, or it only makes the reel feel smoother? I guess we’ll just have to find out, won’t we?

Considering we’ll do the testing only for a few hours, we decided to leave the bearings dry… We’ve tested them afterwards, oiled, and actually didn’t feel the difference (using Friction Zero ZPI oil or High Speed Oil from Boca).

The cold was keeping us company

The cold was keeping us company

The rod used for the test is a custom St.Croix SC5 5S68MXF,  6’8”, 6-14 lbs, 3/16 – 5/8 oz, ex-fast action, medium power. Not the best casting rod, but it was the one that loaded the best with all the weights used in the test. In order to draw a conclusion, we did a few accommodation casts with each of the weights, and afterwards did 5 more that were accounted for. In the end, we calculated the arithmetic average of the 5 distances measured.

Exact measurements, no cheating here

Exact measurements, no cheating here

1. Abu Garcia Morrum SX3601C Mag casting distance:

Abu Garcia Morrum SX3601 Mag – Original Bearings
5.5 gr (3/16 oz) 32 m 31 m 30 m 32 m 29 m 30.8 m
10 gr (3/8 oz) 43 m 45 m 46 m 42 m 44 m 44 m
15 gr (1/2 oz) 48 m 47 m 48 m 49 m 50 m 48.4 m
Abu Garcia Morrum SX3601 Mag – Boca Orange Seal Abec 7 Bearings
5.5 gr (3/16 oz) 40 m 40 m 37 m 39 m 39 m 39 m
10 gr (3/8 oz) 47 m 50 m 51 m 51 m 51 m 50 m
15 gr (1/2 oz) 57 m 61 m 63 m 59 m 60 m 60 m

Orange Seal Boca Bearings(OSBB), compared to original, manufacturer bearings:
- 5.5 gr. – 9 m extra with OSBB, meaning +26,6 % gain in “performance”;
- 10 gr. – 6 m extra with OSBB, meaning +13,6 % gain in “performance”;
- 15 gr. – 11,6m extra with OSBB, meaning +24 % gain in “performance” ;

Avarage gain in performance (distance): 21,4 % with OSBB.

With the manufacturer, original, bearings (almost 12 years old, since this Morrum was mada – according to its serial number) Razvan used to cast with the tension know completely untightened, and the magnetic brake set to 5, out of 10.
After replacing the bearings with OSBB, he couldn’t make one cast with those settings. He had to tighten the magnetic brake to the maximum, and make a few small adjustments with the tension knob to be able to cast them. The hybrid Boca’s seem to spin darn fast.

If it matters, with all the braking systems set to zero, the spool spinned 18seconds with the manufacturer, original bearings, and 50 seconds with the Boca Orange Seal’s.

2.Shimano Scorpion 1501 XT casting distance:

Shimano Scorpion 1501 XT – Original Bearings
5.5 gr (3/16 oz) 32 m 34 m 35 m 37 m 36 m 34.8 m
10 gr (3/8 oz) 47 m 48 m 48 m 46 m 46 m 47 m
15 gr (1/2 oz) 49 m 50 m 47 m 50 m 49 m 49 m
Shimano Scorpion 1501 XT – Boca Orange Seal Abec 7 Bearings
5.5 gr (3/16 oz) 41 m 40 m 40 m 39 m 40 m 40 m
10 gr (3/8 oz) 52 m 54 m 52 m 52 m 51 m 52.2 m
15 gr (1/2 oz) 58 m 55 m 62 m 58 m 61 m 58.8 m

Orange Seal Boca Bearings(OSBB), compared to original, manufacturer bearings:
- 5,5 gr. – 5,2 m extra with OSBB, meaning +14,9 % gain in “performance”;
- 10 gr. – 5,2 m extra with OSBB, meaning +11,1 % gain in “performance”;
- 15 gr. – 9,8 m extra with OSBB, meaning +20 % gain in “performance”;

Avarage gain in performance (distance): 15,3 % with OSBB

Settings with the Scorpion 1501 XT, as well as with the Curado 51E are a breeze. In this case, in need of thumb control, for maximum distance, I only pulled out one of the centrifugal brake blocks. A few adjustments from the tension knob here and there, and off we go.

Amongst the 2 reels, it’s the most controllable, as easy as it is with the Curado 51E.

With all the brake blocks deactivated, the spool spun 29 seconds with the manufacturer original bearings, and, in this case (the spool wasn’t filled with line), with the Orange Seal Boca’s it spun 1min and 15 sec.

As you’ve seen the decade old ABU had poor performance with the original bearings, and excelled with the Boca bearings, the difference being the most noticeable. The gain in performance with the Scorpion is less evident, but if you come to think about it, with a 1/2 oz weight, there’s a very visible difference in casting distance, even with this new generation reel, this distance will definitely improve your catching chances, especially on a clear water reservoir, where every foot counts, in this case instead of casting 160 ft (49m) you’ll cast that necessary 33 ft.  (9-10m) further, increasing your chances to catch that spooky fish.

It’s obvious Orange Seal Boca’s are a gain in performance. Is it worth it? That’s for everyone to decide.I’ve changed all my spool bearings to Boca’s, if that’s any consolation:) , and will continue to do so in the future with all my new reels. They are by far the cheapest quality upgrade, excepting the carbontex drag.

Boca's and pike are made for each other

Boca's and pike are made for each other

About Andrei

Professional angler, rodbuilder, lurebuilder, if it's about fishing you name it, he does it. He hates "relaxing", and takes each day as a challange. Whenever he's got a spare moment he's either fishing, cycling, hiking or training his ass at the gym. He's fishing for more than 20 years now. Strictly on artifficial baits from the age of 7, he's always on the look out for the newest stuff and techniques out there.
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  1. FreedomBass
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 4:36 am | Permalink

    I read your review on the Revo MGX and it was a fantastic overview! You said you changed the spool bearings on them. Would you by any chance be able to tell me the spool bearing sizes? I called Abu Garcia and they said they didn’t know the sizes!!! I think its because they want me to buy their stuff. I am by no means an expert at breaking down reels but I want to know the size and order them so I can have a professional install them. Thanks Andrei!

  2. Andrei
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    The size for the MGX are the same as for all of the Revo’s. They are the same size as the Steez bearings as well.

    The set you are looking for, for the spool bearings are: #FR-029C-OS LD.

    Hope this helps!

  3. Patrick
    Posted June 21, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Do I need one or two of these (#FR-029C-OS LD) sets to upgrade my MGX?

    How difficult is it to replace the bearings?

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    How do you maintain these bearings? Do you have to lube it quite often? Do they lose out in performance after a few seasons?

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    when you ran these tests were the original bearings stock from the manufacturer or first cleaned and properly re-oiled?

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    Posted July 21, 2014 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Agree with user who commented about comparison of bearings after being serviced and properly oiled. Different lubricants will yield different results. A thick oil like Phil Wood Tenacious Oil will spin less freely but offers better protection. A thinner oil like a sewing machine oil will spin more freely but offers very little protection. It could be Boca Bearings come pre-oiled with sewing machine oil for free spinning at the cost of durability. Some pro cyclists use light weight oil on wheel bearings for time trials because they spin easier but the bearings need replacing after they’re done with stage. Easy for them since their sponsors provide the equipment for free.

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