Is Okuma’s Tesoro a Reel for the Generations?

The battle began off the coast of Costa Rica—man versus fish, reel versus the elements. For an hour, they were locked in a fight to the death. And as the gaff sunk its way into a 100-pound yellowfin tuna, man earned the win.

Winning fights like this are what saltwater anglers live for. For many, they’re the stuff of dreams; but faulty fishing tackle can quickly transform those dreams into nightmares. No angler wants to sleep through visions of lost fish, broken rods, and corroded reels. The engineers at Okuma know this, and they’ve just released a new version of their Tesoro reel to keep nightmares at bay.

Okuma says the Tesoro is built for generations. They say it’s made for fathers to pass down to sons. To see if that’s true, we talked to Okuma Director of Product Development John Bretza. Fresh off of a trip to China, FTR lured Bretza out of his Southern California office to see how Tesoro really stacks up.

FTR: Okuma generated a lot of buzz with the introduction of Makaira, a nearly bullet proof lever drag reel for offshore anglers. When you were engineering Tesoro, did you go back to the drawing board or borrow pages from the Makaira’s spec sheets?

Bretza: We built a very good mouse trap with Makaira. That reel has opened the doors for Okuma in the saltwater market, as far as being known as a top-built reel in the industry. So we took a lot from it, and we took that exact same approach with the Tesoro. We’ve built a Makaira-level reel in a star drag package.

Just like Makaira, the Tesoro housing is forged from aluminum, then machine cut.  This process allows us to compress more material into one space, giving the reel more structural integrity. The gearing is the major difference that sets the Tesoro apart from all other star drags on the market with its 17-4 grade stainless steel main and pinion gears. This material is extremely hard, which is why most manufacturers won’t mess with it.  The hardness causes the cutting tools to wear out at a much higher rate.  For example, a brass gear, which is in most star drag reels, can utilize a gear cutter up to 10-times longer than our 17-4 stainless gears, which represents a much larger investment to manufacturer a reel of this caliber.

FTR: Let’s get reel nerdy (pun intended) and talk about corrosion. Fair to say that’s the number one enemy of saltwater tackle in general. How have you guys fortified Tesoro against the elements?

Bretza: Saltwater reels and corrosion are always a problem, even if you are using the best materials in the industry. With Tesoro, we tried to think the entire concept of a star drag reel through, from the performance to the power to the corrosion resistance.

To fight corrosion, the left side plate of Tesoro is actually part of the frame. It’s one piece, so right off the bat you eliminate corrosion points from screws only on half of the reel. On the right side, one creative solution we found was to actually create a channel that promotes water flow away from the side plate screws. It’s a trick we learned from working with our friends at Tiburon Engineering, along with using high-quality stainless steel for the screws.  One final step that we take, which mirrors the Makaira is that all the metal parts get a bath in our CRC or Corrosion X HD process.

Sound complicated? Visualize it with this video:

FTR: At $559.99, Makaira is a serious investment for serious offshore anglers. Where does Tesoro slide into the market?

Bretza: Tesoro comes in three models. We introduced the 10 and 12 last year at ICAST. Those reels have the same footprint, but feature different size spools. They both retail for $319.99. We just introduced a 5 series reel, and it sells for $299.99.

FTR: With that price point in mind, what sort of game are Tesoro buyers targeting in general?

Bretza: People are using Tesoro to troll for king fish and sailfish, using it to catch Mahi or even to bottom fish. No doubt, it opens more doors than Makaira because a star drag reel is so user-friendly.

Being from the West Coast, we optimized this reel for casting. Our saltwater guys are primarily casting live baits 90-percent of the time; and even with jigs you want to get a lot of casting distance. For that reason, many guys gravitate to star drags because the spool is lighter weight.

Tesoro borrows a lot of castability tricks from the special edition Makaira, including the TSI bearing oil that NASA used on the space shuttles. We put that in the spool bearings, and as far as we know, Okuma is the only manufacturer to include that ultra-slick oil in its reels from the factory. And while you can buy it yourself, it’s generally pretty expensive and comes in such large quantities that it doesn’t make sense to purchase for the fractional amount you use in fishing reels.

We don’t just rely on space age oil to improve castability though. If you look at the gearing in Tesoro, you’ll actually notice that it’s slightly different from most reels on the market today. We devised a new gearing system, which gives better alignment and stabilization of the main gear, pinion gear and drag system that offers more precision alignment with the spool shaft.

FTR: You talk about generational appeal with this reel, almost like it’s a future heirloom. Is that accurate?

Bretza: That’s the goal. We want to build a reel that’s not going to last two or three years, but one that’s going to last 10 or 15 years down the road so a father can pass it down to a son. Maybe he’ll have to service the drag or a bearing, but the reel itself should last that long even with constant use.

Tech Specs

Tesoro is currently shipping to retailers. For more information visit