The Piscifun Viper X spinning reel costs a bit more than the Piscifun Flame spinning reel. What do you get for the additional money? I measure every reel against five criteria to be consistent, especially when comparing different models in different price categories. Following a standard process makes it easier to determine which spinning reel is the best for the price. I used the 3000 series model as the baseline for this review. Any spinning reel brand/model should offer the entire range of sizes for the species you are likely to pursue. The reason is simple. By sticking with the same model, you do not have to readjust and relearn the "feel" as you move up in size. This is huge for maintenance as well. Since the Viper X spinning reel has model sizes ranging from 500 to 5000, it has the options most anglers will use. Look at the saltwater-rated Piscifun Captain spinning reel 6000 or 8000 models if you want to go deep-sea fishing.
Design choices matter! With a slight modification, Piscifun continued the long-cast spool design it introduced in the Flame model. Also called an "X shape spool," this type features an angled top to allow the line to move quickly and smoothly off the reel. I ran a casting test to see if the difference allowed me to achieve more distance. There must be a difference between the two spools since I could throw a one-ounce weight four to five feet farther with the Viper X using the same rod and line (Piscifun Serpent rod, 6'10", medium power, extra fast action) – for a total of fifty-seven yards. If you cast one hundred times on a fishing trip, that means exposing your lure to another five hundred feet of water and, potentially, more fish.
Both reels use aluminum rather than graphite for the spool material. This is a smart choice since graphite might crack and deform as the line tightens through use – primarily if you use monofilament since it may shrink. Unlike the Flame, which features a serrated section, the Viper X has a "grippy" rubberized braid grip that makes it easy to start spooling line onto the reel. I had to use tape on the Flame to get my line started.
As I loaded the reels, I verified that the line started precisely at the base of the spool and ended at the top with similar precision. I was surprised that Piscifun included two small washers with reels to allow the user to make minor adjustments. I never needed to use these on any of the five Piscifun reels I tested. I could detect no wobble around the shaft. This allows the bail to lay a line evenly across the length of the spool to ensure it exits smoothly in a cast.
Like the Flame spinning reel, Piscifun made the Viper X frame from graphite. The critical advantage of graphite is that it is a lightweight material and more corrosion-resistant than aluminum. They upgraded the "guts" of the Viper X with a reinforced, anti-corrosion stainless steel main shaft featuring double bearings and a high-quality zinc alloy drive gear. The handle is larger, easier to grip than the Flame's, and, like the Flame, is made from high-quality EVA. Neither reel is saltwater rated, but the Viper X construction emphasizes features to prevent water and dirt intrusion. Both have a heavy-duty bail and a steel roller.
Continuing with upgrades from the Flame, the Viper X spinning reel adds bearings for smoother action with ten bearings and one anti-reverse bearing. Reels with more than four bearings usually have smooth action. The more bearings, the better. However, the bearings' quality distinguishes a good reel from a poor one. A reel with ten poorly made bearings is not as good as a reel with fewer high-quality ones. Both reels have double-shielded stainless-steel bearings for durability. This is a fine point. Many reels advertise stainless steel bearings; stainless does not mean what we think it means. There are different grades of stainless steel, and while they are resistant to corrosion under normal conditions, they can rust when exposed to chemicals (think cleaning solvents), salt, grease, or even heat. Damage occurs even faster if the stainless steel is made of cheap ferritic stainless (chrome steel).
Another upgrade on the Viper X! The gear ratio for 2000, 3000, and 4000 models is a fast 6.2:1 vs. only 5.2:1 on the Flame. For every turn of the handle, the spool rotates 6.2 times. You can always go slower, but the higher gear ratio on the Viper X allows more rapid and efficient retrieval when that is the appropriate way to work your lure. In addition, the fast ratio enables you to take the slack out of the line quickly after casting.
Another critical aspect of performance is the drag. Is it smooth? Is it made of high-quality discs that will not abrade and dissolve under pressure? Can you make fine adjustments? The drag on the Viper X spinning reel is rated at 22 pounds vs. 19.8 on the Flame and features a larger carbon triple disc system than the Flame for improved performance. Carbon fiber-based systems used on both reels are infinitely adjustable, easy to maintain, will not slip, and rarely get flat spots. In addition to having a larger drag, the Viper X uses an O-ring to seal the drag knob to prevent dirt and grit from entering.
Both drag make gentle clicks that allow you to hear how much you are changing the drag when working a fish. This is an essential feature if you set your drag loosely to allow the fish to pick up your lure or bait without feeling significant resistance but need to activate the drag for the hook-up and retrieval. The clicks on the Viper X are louder than the Flame – an improvement I welcomed.
Of the two reels, the Flame is heavier and weighs 8.9 ounces. The 3000 series Viper X weighs 8.6 ounces. 0.3 ounces may not seem like much until you make a hundred casts during a trip! Also, a lighter reel will balance with more rods; expanding your choices. If you prefer a lighter reel, look at the Piscifun Carbon X II's 7.4 ounces.
Overall, the Piscifun Viper X spinning reel is a higher-end spinning reel than the Piscifun Flame, with upgraded internals, a higher gear ratio, a more advanced drag system, and ten bearings.