How To Fishing Blogs

New Handles for Ballistic Vanford and Stradic, etc . . . Time to look at AliExpress!

There’s been a good bit of interest in members upgrading, or “up-dressing” their smaller spinning reels to something along the lines of my hopped-up Daiwa Ballistic LT2500D. Just today I received three inquires for a how to article.

Apparently I struck a cord with pix such as this:


I have to admit, it IS kinda cool to fish with something that you’ve modded yourself. And really, its not that difficult at all. It can tax one’s patience a bit – but it certainly isn’t advanced rocket science. Anyone can do it. Plus there’s a bunch of videos on YouTube that cover this exact procedure.

Here’s what you will need:

The knob (Available in three sizes and two colors – blue or red). I used the 34mm version – and I find it to be a perfect fit for my reel’s size:

And the handle arm (if you want the optional, “Carbon-Fiber” look):

And if you want to get really crazy – here’s the reel stand/hook holder, which replaces the handle nut on the side opposite the handle:

This isn’t the exact one I used, but there is certainly no shortage of these things on AliExpress, just pick out the style you like.

Here’s the thing – the knob is universal – it will fit Shimano or Daiwa reels. But the handle and reel stand are specific. You MUST order in the proper one for your reel – be it Daiwa or Shimano – which utilize a completely different handle mounting thread, one manufacturer versus the other.

So, once you receive the handle arm and ball knob, (takes about 2 – 2.5 weeks these days), the first thing you’ll need to do is to get rid of the dopey factory aluminum knob that is attached to the carbon-fiber arm. Unscrew the knob’s cover plate and using a #1 Phillips screwdriver, back out the lock screw in the center of the knob. Be careful, as you will probably be reusing the top and bottom ball bearings, as well as the super-thin bearing shims that are used to remove in and out play of the knob.

Its not a major deal if you lose a shim or two, or even a bearing, as the EKFan ball knob ships with some as well. So now its time to mount the ball onto the handle. First, unscrew the handle cover plate on the EKFan ball knob, so you can see into it. Set it aside for the moment.

Now, slide a shim onto the handle’s aluminum knob shaft. Then a bearing. Next put your knob onto the shaft. Next, drop the second bearing into the center of the knob, and looking down in there, using a fine flat screwdriver or other such implement, maneuver the bearing onto the top of the shaft – and push down, so the bearing seats.

Next try a single shim on the top of that bearing. Same deal, maneuver it so it centers up on the bearing and knob shaft. A light from directly above is most helpful to spy into the knob’s center hole. One you have accomplished this awkward process, take your trusty #1 size screwdriver, dip the end into a blob of reel grease and mount the handle’s lock screw onto the end of the screwdriver. The grease will hold the screw to the screwdriver, so that you can’t drop it.

Insert the screw (using the screwdriver) into the handle knob and screw it in fairly snug. Does the handle knob spin freely? It should. If not, then go back in there and pull the screw out and take off the top shim – then screw it back in and try the spinning knob trick again. Should work fine now.

So next we need to check the free-play in and out of the knob. Is it snug, without any in and out clicky movement? If so you are golden. If not, pull the the screw back out and add another shim under its head (above the top bearing). This is the trial and error process that will eventually result in a free-spinning knob, with nearly zero in and out motion.

Once you achieve the above results, drop a few drops of good reel oil into the top of the knob to lube that top bearing, and put a drop or two at the bottom of the knob, right where it meets the handle shaft. That will keep SW out of that bottom bearing – which is vulnerable on any good reel, let alone this one.

A good policy would be to put a drop of oil there after every trip, in addition to one on the line roller/bail wire interface point and a drop on either side of the bail wire, where it pivots on the rotor’s bail mounting bosses. Make sure you really bear down on that knob center screw – as you do not want it to work lose while reeling in a nice fish. Put a dab of reel grease onto the male threads of the EKFan cover plate and screw it into the female threads inside the knob arbor. Use a nickel or thick washer to tighten it – but do it carefully, so you don’t mar the black anodized finish.

And that’s how its done. Just remember, you do not need the carbon fiber handle arm – this EKFan ball knob will mount directly onto the factory aluminum handle arm on both small Daiwas and Shimanos, in addition to the popular Tsunami Evict series.

Additionally, Gomexus has also released a nice knob – which is both longer and thinner (at 27mm) than the EKFan ball knob. I have that on my good old Shimano Stradic Ci4’s aluminum handle shaft – and its very nice as well. Hey, different strokes for different folks, right?


Gomexus knobs also live on my Abu Gen4 Winch and Daiwa Catalina. They are very nice pieces – and they mount exactly the same way as the EKFan ball knob.


One more point – I am a constant worrier – and I was a bit concerned about the four tiny screws that hold the carbon fiber arm onto its mounting arbor. So I removed them one at a time using a #0 Phillips screwdriver, and put a drop of Loctite blue thread locker on each and then screwed them back in, really, really tight. This will positively eliminate any tendency for the handle arm to work its way loose while in use. Just a extra precaution. I’m all about that sort of issue-avoidance.

Also, If you want to give your reel the “Full Monty” Lep treatment, you can add some extra ball bearings to your Stradic/Vanford or Ballistic-class reels in specific places (VERY optional). I can provide links to Youtube vids that cover those upgrades, if you really want to go there.

Just a really final thought, I do recommend the addition of a pre-configured set of Carbontex drag washers from Smooth Drag in place of the greased felt [email protected] that both Shimano and Daiwa use in their smaller reels. We ain’t a’fishin’ for trout here, no sir-eee.



Feb 8, 2020
North East
Followed suit with Sir Lep… I went with a 50mm Eva knob, added pink for Capt Mike on the Catalina.

Hooked up with some Nantucket Flatties on the Ballistica/ Grappler ML combo and the handle felt good for me.

I will second Lep’s Loctite recommendation , all things AliExpress handle screw wise need to be blue loctited. These handles are a good deal, but after a few years I have a pile to be reassembled after I find appropriate screws washers bearing etc.

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Dec 21, 2018
Greenport, NY
Followed suit with Sir Lep… I went with a 50mm Eva knob, added pink for Capt Mike on the Catalina.

Hooked up with some Nantucket Flatties on the Ballistica/ Grappler ML combo and the handle felt good for me.

View attachment 36578
Reels look great, Low Gear and I'm sure you will find them a nice improvement over the stock handles.
However, remember what I have told Lep in the past...if you bring that pink stuff on my boat you better be wearing a skirt!!:)


Kind of a Big Deal - In My Mind Anyway
Staff member
Dec 19, 2018
40 26.470/73 32.350
Jeez, what a real pink-phobe. (Also a big pinko-phobe, but that's another thing entirely). I heartily endorse the latter phobia, but the former? Eh, not so much . . .


Nov 13, 2019
This was my first time modifying anything on a reel of mine so a big shout out to Lep for that great written tutorial and that added tutelage he personally provided to me after a long day of fishing. Look Lep “I did it” 😂😂😂

Thanks again Pete! , much appreciated


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