As someone who already owns more tackle than I know what to do with, I rarely do any actual shopping while cruising the aisles at the Fred Hall Show. This year ended up being an exception as I picked up several items that caught my eye. The first of those were some reel handle sleeves made by Winn Grips.
The handle sleeves are as simple as it sounds; its a slide on sleeve with an all weather polymer surface that slides over the reel’s paddle handle to bulk it up and offer a better grip.
Having large hands, I’ve always struggled with the small paddle handles that come standard on most baitcasters.
My biggest problem is having the handle slip out of my fingers when getting a bite, so any additional grip sounded like a winner. I made this video showing how to install the sleeves on a reel. Winn has developed and patented multiple polymer compounds that are tackier, more shock absorbent, and more comfortable than traditional cork and EVA foam and they are experienced at improving the grip and function of all types of sporting equipment.
I ended up fishing Long Beach Harbor with Matt Kotch and Jimmy Decker the next day and took the opportunity to give the handle sleeves a test run. All three of us tried a reel with the Straight Sleeve and another with the Barrel Sleeve and while we were split on the preferred sleeve, we were unanimous on the fact that the sleeve makes the handle feel better. Regarding which one to get, if you’ve got normal size hands you might prefer the straight sleeve but if you’re like me, the barrel sleeve is the only way to go.
Along with bulking up the paddle size and adding grip, I was surprised to find that the barrel sleeve’s small amount of give actually made me hold the handle tighter than I normally would. It’s kind of tough to explain without handing you a reel and having you feel for yourself, but the soft foam ring compresses slightly when you hold it and you’ll unconsciously bear down a little harder on it with your fingers. The amount this will cut down on handle fumbling when getting an unexpected bite is well worth the $10 price tag per set.