The Daiwa LW20HA reel reviewed

by Des Westmore

Des Westmore recently discovered the joys of using a smaller level wind multiplier reel for his lure fishing and in particular the high speed Daiwa LW20HA which he reviews here.

It’s no secret that for lure work with gear in the 12-20lb class I prefer a multiplier reel that has a levelwind. The trouble is that most, pretty much all in fact, multiplier reels on the market that have a level wind don’t have a particularly high speed retrieve. There are plenty of reels on the market that boast 6:1 or above but try finding one with a level wind; it’s a pretty big ask. Daiwa came to the aid of anglers who want the high speed plus levelwind combo a few years ago when they started to offer the Saltist with a level wind and a 6.1:1 gear ratio. OK it wasn’t quite as fast as the non-level wind version’s 6.4:1 but to criticise it on that point would just be splitting hairs.

Daiwa LW20HA reel

The Daiwa Saltist LW20HA

The Saltist LW30HA has since then become one of my favourite reels for lure work and I have recommended it to lots of anglers. In fact, and again it’s no secret, the original silver-grey star drag Saltist reels, I don’t have a great deal of experience with the newer “BG” range, represent probably my most recommended reels to anglers looking for solid, reliable, value for money performance that you won’t “grow out of” any time soon. Sure, there are better built, stronger reels on the market but these features are “nice to have” and certainly not essential in the UK. Incidentally, while all the other Saltist reels have changed to the new Black & Gold “BG” colour scheme, the level wind versions are still silver-grey.

Daiwa LW20HA reel level wind

Not many reels boast a 6.1:1 gear ratio with a levelwind

Daiwa LW20HA reel hand grip

Despite its small size, the LW20HA boasts a massive handle


The Saltist then, gets the thumbs-up from me. It’s not perfect though; for instance the drag, which is great from new, eventually wears out, but that is certainly not a show-stopper and I’ll return to the fix for this later in this review. I have, however, always thought the LW30HA, which is perfectly sized for deepwater offshore work, was a little bit big for shallow water fishing with lures or bait when targeting bass. I have soldiered on using the ‘30’ sized reel inshore but I needn’t have and it is totally my own fault for not noticing that Daiwa offer a ‘20’ sized reel with 6.1:1 gears and a level wind, not surprisingly designated the Saltist LW20HA. I have to admit now that I didn’t actually notice myself and it was a conversation with Daiwa UK’s MD, Stephen McAveny that alerted me to the reel’s existence. Perhaps I should spend a bit more time looking round Daiwa’s web site?

Daiwa LW20HA reel rear view

Strategically placed drain holes help reliability and the free spool lever is perfectly sized

Daiwa LW20HA reel left sideplate

The left hand side plate is uncluttered and the line-out ratchet is very easy to use


So then what does this reel have to offer? Firstly, it is all metal construction. Unlike more expensive reels like the Saltiga, it is not all machined from solid and the frame and sideplates are cast but that is not important. Secondly, it has, like many more expensive reels, a dual anti-reverse system. That means that the Instant Anti-Reverse one-way roller bearing, which often proves unreliable in many, many reels due to inadequate lubrication at the factory, is backed up by a silent (which always gets extra marks from me) “Ambassadeur style” ratchet and pawl system. Next, despite its compact, some may say small, size the LW20HA features a massive handle with an excellent grip so that you can really generate some serious cranking power with this reel. The star drag wheel is sized accordingly and also features an indexing action to make it more intuitive to adjust.

Those helical 6.1:1 gears are also machined from marine grade Bronze and so are both smooth and strong. Within the reel are four corrosion resisting ball bearings, two on the spool and two on the drive train. Too many bearings are just a liability and four is a good compromise. Finally, a two-pronged centrifugal anti-reverse is fitted at the left hand end of the spool so this is also a great reel for up-tiding or pirk-casting. The weight of the reel is 18.5oz and it has a capacity of 210 yards of 20lb mono and so fits squarely in what is usually called the ‘7000’ class of reel. As per usual, a rod clamp is supplied.

Daiwa LW20HA reel saltwater ingress

Saltists can let in saltwater, as here, but are very good at resisting damage

Daiwa LW20HA reel crabotex drag washers

Stock drag washers are smooth but fragile – an upgrade to Carbontex washers fixes this


That is about it for the facts and figures so what more can I tell you of the Saltist? Well, from the many Saltists that I have taken apart, I can tell you that they can let salt water in but are very good at shrugging off this contamination. Luckily, some strategically placed drain holes do a reasonable job of letting out the water that gets in. As I mentioned, the drag is very smooth from new but the washers are quite fragile, you can tear them with your fingers, and the drag does eventually give up the ghost. This trait is exacerbated in the levelwind reels as they feature a three washer stack whereas the non-levelwind version has a five washer stack.

The best way to fix this is my usual upgrade on any reel; greased Carbontex washers. In fact, if you took a brand new Saltist, stripped it down, replaced the stock washers with Carbontex and reassembled the reel with strategic use of correct lubrication, including repacking the non-spool ball bearings with grease, you would have an incredibly reliable reel that is not going to let you down any time soon.

Daiwa LW20HA reels

Size comparison; the LW20HA is in the front, the LW30HA is at the back

The only other feature I would like to see on this reel is auto-engage of the drivetrain when you turn the handle with the reel in free spool. For me, this would be the icing on the cake and make this reel pretty much perfect. Oh well, there is always something. Despite my disappointment at the omission of the auto-engage, I have to admit that the free spool lever is very big and easy to operate, as is the line-out ratchet which is on the left hand side of the reel.

That is just about it for the Saltist LW20HA. As a multiplier for inshore bass fishing it is excellent, but of course, it will do far more than that. If you’d like to read more about this reel, take a look at but make sure you do a better job than me and don’t miss anything.


On our Facebook page, David Turnbull pointed out that the black Saltist LWH-C available in 20 and 30 sizes outwith the UK has automatic clutch engagement.


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