First let’s start with a story:
I caught my first true adult, big tarpon on a Tibor Riptide (the one pictured below with the “#olefloridaflyshop” nameplate). When I got the reel I had just started working at OFFS in the web development and marketing department, so at the time I thought the nameplate was fitting. Looking back now I should’ve put “function offs()” or something like that since I grew to enjoy the web development side way more and was very happy later on to hand some marketing responsibility off to a friend, you know him as Mike Jr.
I chose a Riptide as my first really good, sometimes called premium, reel because I felt like Tibors had a history engrained in them that was really cool. This history included Billy Pates and (virtually unchanged) Tibor series reels in old pics that hung on the wall in the shop. It included the fact that Andy Mill’s A Passion For Tarpon was littered with Tibor Gulfstream images, and it included the footage I saw of when Ted “Tibor” Juracksic made custom Blue Angel Signature Series reels for Jose Wejebe when he flew with the Blue Angel jets. The fact that the Tibor factory, although I hadn’t been there yet, was around the corner from the shop in Delray Beach may have also influenced my decision.
I was tarpon obsessed. At the time being a “tarpon junkie” seemed like a culture above being just an average fisherman and I wanted every part of. I had caught my fair share of juvies from a canoe, but never rumbled with a big fish yet as I didn’t have a boat to get to them.
In addition to canoeing for baby tarpon, I was beach snook fishing a lot. An old salt named Larry always got to the beach way earlier than I did, so we’d cross paths as he was heading in and I was heading out. We chatted every time. In summary I grew to believe he fished the beach as a way to pass the non prime tarpon season time. He invited me Everglades tarpon fishing in the winter (when the big fish are in).
This was my opportunity to become a man, to graduate, to finally gain the label “tarpon junkie” for myself which I so desperately wanted to feel like I deserved.
I forced myself into believing the first several trips were a test. Nothing worthwhile comes easily and I needed to prove (to whom I’m not sure, probably myself) that I had the mental fortitude to stick with it and earn a bite. Larry turned out to be a die-hard, stripes earned, “tarpon junkie” in the sense that it’s all he thought about. Snook and redfish may have well been extinct for all he cared when he was in full tarpon mode. Our trips involved motoring around to his usual haunts, shutting down, then sitting for a while to see if we saw any fish roll. If not, we motored to the next spot and if the trend continued, home. If so, even if it was just one random roll, we blind casted for what seemed like forever in hopes of a bite. I never got a bite blind casting like that, but Larry did. The truth is I was scared of hooking one. Not so much that I wasn’t physically up for it, but that I wouldn’t know what to do and I’d do something embarrassing or plain stupid. Sometimes I felt like the fish could feel that nervousness in my fly movements and wouldn’t bite because of it.
By the way I was still fishing a cheap Chinese (I think it was called a “Wang”) 10 weight reel that I had picked up at Sting Ray Outfitters in Jupiter way before I even started thinking about working at Ole Florida.
A few things kept me going. Most importantly was just seeing a tarpon roll. The noise, the contrast of the silver body against the dark water, the demeanor in which the fish really didn’t seem to care about us, it all combined to make the scene feel more “real” than anything I’ve ever experienced. I was in their world and wanted to spend as much time as possible there, on a mission to engage with one. The second was again was this “tarpon junkie” thing, passing the test, earning the title, being part of the culture. Larry didn’t help by constantly bringing up how when you hook a big tarpon “every single neuron in your brain fires” making it true that “the tug really is the drug”.
Still big tarpon-less but no less hopeful, I scored the job at Ole Florida. A few months later, still big tarpon-less but no less hopeful, I bought the Riptide. If you can’t guess what happened next, you haven’t been paying attention. It would be really poetic if it happened the next time out since getting the reel, but it was more likely a few trips after if I remember correctly.
I felt uncharacteristically confident that morning. I had my Tibor, I was working in the best saltwater fly shop in the country, I felt like I was in a Will Benson movie. The wind, rain and lack of tarpon in the morning didn’t put any damper on my mood. It’s cliche but it really “just felt good to be out there” and as Larry always put it when we decided to go out in marginal conditions “you can’t catch one from the couch”. I don’t remember looking at the forecast for that day, I was just going. And I don’t remember Larry saying it was going to slick off in the afternoon, but looking back I assume he knew.
It slicked off in the afternoon. The wind and whitecaps slowed, then grinded to a halt. The tarpon, that must’ve been there the whole time, decided it was play time. It started with more rolls, although still kind of sporadic, than I’d ever seen. And it worked itself into hundreds of fish, rolling, tail slapping, killing much smaller organisms, sliding by the boat. “This is what it’s like, this it what it’s supposed to be” was my main takeaway from Larry’s murmuring.
This was in the Everglades where tarpon are supposed to be more bitey. And my first bite was so. The fly landed in the general direction of a rolling fish and he garbaged it in a heart stopping explosion. I don’t think I consciously set the hook, but I’m glad I didn’t unconsciously trout set. I can’t remember thinking anything until the sound of the fish hitting the water after the first jump snapped me back into reality. Then I went to work. Anything I’d seen or read, that made sense to me, I tried. I kept the rod tip low, sometimes in the water, and dug in the opposite direction the fish was heading. Sometimes I tried to keep the fish’s head up when it rolled. Sometimes I tried to keep its head down to prevent it from rolling. In my head I had rehearsed all of this a million times and now was the time to actually do it. Although I’d never tested it, I fully subscribed to the theory that tarpon had to be beat mentally not physically, and also it was better to break a fish off than to fatally exhaust one. So I gave it the nuts. In a time period that I should be proud of for a first-timer, the fish was sideways and boat side. Larry told me I had to grab its face myself. I didn’t expect that, I was trying to come up with a plan, the fish surged and freed itself via bending out the hook. I was relieved and I was shaking. I’d finally done it. Except for my nerves being shot, I was calm. Euphoria was setting in and I really really wanted another, but I was also ok with relegation to poling. Lucky for me I was not very good at poling at the time and I did get another big tarpon that day.
Seven years later, my “tarpon junkie” fad has sailed. I’m now content to chase anything that swims (for some reason I went carp fishing in Ohio last month), and would prefer to do it without labels. But that Riptide still sees action. I still have a special place in my heart for big tarpon and I still use Tibors to tame them.
– Mike Sr.
The simple fact is that when we purchase a fly reel, we expect that reel to perform.
By those standards Tibor delivers on their reels now for generations to come. Let’s discuss the three most popular sizes of our favorite series – the Tibor series – a simple design modified slightly over the years that still holds strong. All three reels (Everglades, Riptide, and Gulfstream) are the exact same reel scaled to proportion. One design, three great reels.
Bonefish, snook, peacock bass, jacks, mackerel, schoolie dolphin, juvie tarpon, redfish, and so much more. In our opinion, based on reliability, “the best in class 8 weight on the market”.
Permit, medium sized tarpon, big snook, albies, medium sized sharks, bull dolphin, blackfin tuna, you get the idea.
A tough reel made for tough fish.
Large tarpon, GTs, and pelagics around the world.
The reel that puts the breaks on almost any fish out there.
|Everglades (8/9)||200Yds 20Lb WF8F|
|Riptide (9/10)||200Yds 30Lb WF10F|
|Gulfstream (11/12)||300Yds 30Lb WF12F|
The construction of these reels focuses on simplicity with as few parts as possible and almost all the internal part enclosed.
The debate has been ongoing about sealed vs non-sealed drag. That is a subject for another time but as far as Tibors go, their drag system has two preventative measures. One is a compression-based method that keeps particles out when positive drag is engaged. The other is grease-impregnated cork that doesn’t allow water intrusion. With these two methods your drag system is protected from damaging substances.
What does this mean for you? A reel with longevity even if you dunk it underwater. A good rinse-off and dry right after – you will be runnin’ and gunnin’ in no time.
A smooth, greased, cork disk provides virtually zero start-up inertia which allows your tippet to survival blistering initial runs. This cork system provides all the stopping power on these reels. You won’t find any cheap one-way bearings in these reels. Drag engagement is extremely positive and audible with the system’s large click-and-paw design. This produces the signature sound that these reels make on outgoing line, ask anyone, there is nothing better than the singing of a Tibor.
The main con we hear people say about Tibor reels is the actual weight. You always want to strive for balance, but perfect is hard to achieve and a slightly heavier reel actually makes for a much lighter feeling swing weight in the tip of the rod. Try it out if you can. Put a super heavy reel and a way too light reel on the same rod and see what you like better at the extremes. Then you’ll know which side you want to error on when you strive for balance.
The second con is the smaller arbor on these reels. This is one area where yeah, I would have liked to see a slightly larger arbor for more line retrieve but who are we kidding – we’re not keeping up with a bonefish, tarpon, or permit swimming at the boat regardless of line pickup per turn.
Fit & Finish
The quality control of Tibor reels is near perfection. When you open the box you know what you’re getting. A reel that has been looked over by professionals with a ton of care put into the craftsmanship and quality. They anodize fully in-house with a close eye. Tibors are fully USA-made and produced products, it shows.