Product Review: Allen Kraken XLA Reel

It is time for another review of a great reel from Allen Fly Fishing. These guys continue to put out premium products at half the price of their competitors. I reviewed the Kraken reel in size II (5-6wt) already, which is a fantastic product with sizes to cover pretty much any big game water. But if you are looking for a reel even more effective for large fish then you have to check out the Kraken XLA. XLA stands for Extra Large Arbor. This is a seriously good looking reel, and comes with a powerful sealed carbon disc drag. It is my understanding that this is basically the same drag that they use on their USA made Omega series reels. So you are getting their top drag system on a much cheaper product.

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Here is the description from

For the biggest, fastest fish, the Kraken XLA is the ideal cure. The extra large arbor and repositioned cranking handle provide unparalleled retrieval speeds, while the sturdy sealed drag can put more than ample pressure on trophy-sized targets. We now offer this reel with a reversible retrieve as well, making it ideal for guides, guests, and lodges. The XLA still boasts the advantageous “U”-shaped arbor of its little brother, the Kraken, as well as the weight-saving benefits of a strongly ported design. Equally at home on a single-hander in the salt or a spey rod a couple hundred miles from it, the Kraken XLA represents a surprisingly versatile reel in a very affordable package.


Model Reel Dia Weight Arbor Dia Spool Width Reel Capacity Size Suggestions Price
3 4.5″ 8.75oz. 2.8″ 1.1″ 8wt WFF + 200yd 30lb backing 6wt to 9wt WFF
350gr to 500gr Shooting Heads
4 5″ 9.15oz 3.0″ 1.1″ 10wt WFF + 250yd 30lb backing 9wt to 12wt WFF
500 to 600gr Shooting Heads
5 5.5″ 10.3oz. 3.2″ 1.3″ 12wt WFF + 300yd 30lb backing 12wt to 14wt WFF
600gr to 1000gr Shooting Heads


 My take on the Kraken XLA

I currently use my Kraken XLA on my 10′ 8wt salmon/steelhead setup. The first thing you notice is that this reel has an exceptionally large arbor. The machine work and finish are fantastic. The reel is a thing of beauty. When you get your rig set up and hit the water you may question the size of the reel. It can take some getting used to if you haven’t wielded a large fly reel before. But if you have reservations at first, just give it some time. I think you will realize shortly that the reel isn’t actually overly heavy. It’s is more of a mental issue than anything when it comes to the size. And if you are still doubting your ability to get used to the XLA, I urge you to at least give it a chance to do what it was built to do. When you hook your first large fish, in my case a Betsie River King, you will wonder how you were ever landing fish with a normal large arbor. The incredibly smooth and strong drag slows down the fish as it tears away from you in a blistering run, and the XLA effortlessly picks up the line when the fish inevitably turns back towards you to try to throw the hook.

My final thought on the Kraken XLA is that I only desire one other reel more. The Omega (and soon to release Omega XLA) is Allen Fly Fishing’s premium big game reel. I have had the pleasure of using one for a day of steelheading on the Pere Marquette, and I have to say it was a dream. My favorite thing about the Omega is that it is made in the USA. Actually it is manufactured right here in Detroit, MI. I definitely have a soft spot for “made in the USA” and a real soft spot for “made in Michigan”, so I will be adding an Omega to my lineup at some point in the near future. All that being said, the Kraken XLA will save you over $200 over the Omega. It has a larger arbor, and similar, if not identical, drag. So in this case getting the import is a great value.


The size III reel, which handles line weights 6-9 comes in at $339. This price puts it on the border between upper mid range and premium. It is my opinion however, that between the drag and XLA, this reel can handle large game fish on the same level as pretty much any other reel on the market. The fancy US made sibling, the Omega, is slightly smoother in operation, mostly due to that fine #DetroitStrong machining, but carries a starting price of $575.