Van Staal VR Series Spinning Reel Review 2021

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I’m A Van Staal fan. I need to state that up-front, as it will likely become apparent as you read on. 

However, I have no brand loyalty to any fishing reel manufacturer and feel it important to assess any fishing reel based only on its merits, with a complete absence of bias.

By its merits, I mean its actual performance relative to its performance as promised by the manufacturer and its price point. I.e., does it perform as advertised and live up to its price tag.

Let’s have a closer look at the Van Staal VR series spin reels. Is the VR series for you? Is the VR worth its significant outlay?

Van Staal VR Series Review and Verdict

Let’s not leave the punch line to the last paragraph. Here’s my verdict on the VR series. I’ll use the rest of the article to explain why I have come to this conclusion.

The Van Staal VR is a unique reel at this price point. It’s built for a more discerning angler desiring reliability and predictable performance under the toughest of environmental conditions.

Importantly, the reel is designed to maintain its reliability under circumstances that would quickly destroy other reels.

Overall, the VR performs as advertised. The most striking features are the construction materials, design, and quality of build. And these features are very striking indeed.

For many new to Van Staal, the standout feature is the ability to convert the reel to operate without the bail arm. For any spin reel, the bail arm is vulnerable to damage. 

The capacity to operate without a bail arm adds significantly to its resilience.

The crowning glory, however, is the brilliant marriage of phenomenal robust durability with refined performance.

Yes, there are quite a number of reels in the VR price range that have more tech and have a more refined feel and performance. 

However, few, if any, manage to strike the amazing balance of high-end fishing performance, strength, and tank-like durability, with a phenotype that is so unique and appealing.

In my opinion, Van Staal creates military-grade spin reels. If special forces were issued with a spin reel, it would be Van Staal.

The VR has a bail arm so is technically a little more vulnerable than its stablemate the VSX that comes without a bail arm. 

However, all VR sizes except the 50 come supplied with a bailess conversion kit. Even with the bail arm intact the VR still sports the hallmarks of equipment designed for any theatre of combat.

The VR is ideally suited to surf, kayak, and ocean rock applications. It is suited to anglers who might be hard on their equipment, caring less about cleaning and maintenance routines than the next conquest.

The VR suits the adventurer angler, fishing places that will likely see reels exposed to impacts, and submerged in saltwater, sandy-slurry, and mud. 

The VR can take the knocks and filth, brush itself off, then go head-to-head with sharks.

While there are a few criticisms, which we’ll deal with later, they are only minor. Overall, the VR is a weapon of a fishing reel, strong, powerful, and incredibly robust. 

Its rugged-high-tech good looks complete the picture, making the Van Staal a joy for every-day fishing, or essential survival kit come Armageddon.

The Van Staal Series Price Point

I don’t want to get too bogged down on the asking price for a Van Staal VR. Value for money, in many respects, is relative to your access to money. 

I’m no millionaire, and I’m very careful with my fishing dollar. It’s my opinion that the VR, while expensive, is a fair price.

A VR is more an investment. It’s built to last. There’s no doubt that all the components, construction materials, creative design, and ingenuity underpin the price point.

While I can’t say for certain that there isn’t a Van Staal badge premium, my thoughts are, that if there is any brand/badge percentage at all, it’s negligible.

This is unlike such names as Stella and Saltiga, where I’d bet my house that a significant portion of the asking price is badge driven.

For those unfamiliar with what I mean by badge premium, think exclusive brands, where the price reflects the exclusivity of the brand or badge, more than unique performance qualities. Think iPhone.

When a spin reel punches through a certain price point, anglers don’t just want to be told why it’s so pricey, they want to see, feel, and experience the outlay in performance and durability. 

The Van Staal VR series price tag, in my opinion, is an honest price, and you’ll feel it.

Key Van Staal VR Series Features

There are 5 sizes from which to choose. Van Staal have their own size system. Owing to the absence of size standards across all manufacturers, it seems a little pointless to offer comparisons.

Check out the specs below for an indication of size.

Strength, power, capacities, and durability are delivered in equal and ample proportions. Spool capacities are very generous with the largest model, the VR200, holding 500yds of 40lb braid.

Coupled with a whopping 40 pounds of drag, the biggest of the VR series has the capacity to wrestle monsters. 

For comparison, the very popular VR50, has 30 pounds of drag, with the spool holding 360yds of 20lb braid. Even the smallest of the VR’s is a force to be reckoned with.

I found the carbon fiber drag system consistent and predictable under load. It’s certainly smooth enough right from the strike. 25 minutes on a reasonably sized juvenile bull shark also demonstrated a reasonable capacity for heat dissipation.

Internals are housed inside a fully machined 6061 waterproof aluminum body. The spool is also aluminum.

Inside you will find a stainless-steel spiral-bevel gear system and a solid titanium center shaft. 

Everything is supported beautifully by 13 stainless bearings (14 in the 50 & 50B), delivering a silky smooth yet powerful feeling crank.

Despite all the sealing, the crank feels lighter than you would expect. It is tighter than your average reel, granted. But I was expecting to feel restriction. This is not the case and you get used to the tighter feel quickly.

The instant anti-reverse is rock solid – not a fraction of movement and feels great when hook setting.

The body and drag system are sealed and completely waterproof. Yes, the VR will handle being totally submerged. The corrosion and water ingress mitigation are outstanding.

Ergonomics are excellent. The handle size, with its extra-large knob, inspires an aggressive crank. 

Such is the overall strength and rigidity; one feels confident to lay into a larger fish discouraging subsequent long runs.

Fishing a bailess spin reel will take a little getting used to. If for nothing else, you will have automatic movements from engaging manual bail arms for decades.

It will feel strange, but the trick is not to make a fuss and do it without looking. It fast becomes second nature.

The removal of the bail arm certainly adds to the reel’s durability. You might have a few teething issues as you adapt, but it’s worth the effort. 

Bail arms provide visual cues you won’t even realize you used. That’s why getting used to the feel of bailess is best done without looking.

Van Staal VR Series Spinning Reels
  • Waterproof, durable performance
  • Light weight
  • Fast retrieve rates
  • High line capacity

Last update on 2021-02-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Any Cons of the Van Staal VR Series?

To be honest, effectively none. The VR will feel heavier to similar sized reels. But it’s not much, barely noticeable, and the trade-off is phenomenal strength, resilience, and durability.

Some might conflate weight with the tightness of the crank. It’s actually Van Staal’s lightest incarnation. Once you’re used to it (a couple of casts), you will adapt to the feel very quickly.

I had a tip to spool up with plenty of pressure to ensure a uniform line lay. I spooled up with (I can’t remember what braid) at my usual pressure and had no issues at all. I had heard of people having issues, but it was fine for me.

I had also heard that some had issues with wind knots. Again, no issue for me. My spool was filled to the limit but certainly not over-full. 

I was using a long surf rod with pretty big guide diameters. No problem for me.

The only tragic issue for me is that I can’t really afford (or justify) the purchase of 3 of them. 

I’d like to add 3 sizes to my arsenal. Who am I kidding! I can justify it…and find the money. I’ll just have to do it on the quiet. 

Alternative or Comparison Reels

This is the strength of Van Staal. I truly believe Van Staal stands alone. 

I’m not saying it doesn’t have competitors, that’s ridiculous. What I’m saying is there isn’t a manufacturer that does what Van Staal and the VR series does.

Yes, there are reels sealed to within an inch of their lives. Yes, there are bailess reels. 

Yes, there are reels that are incredibly robust and performance-driven. Yes, there are reels that look a little different from the rest.

However, no manufacturer brings all of these aspects together in such an outstanding package as Van Staal. And certainly not at this price point.

Unlike the majority of the big reel manufacturers, Van Staal has a small stable of reel designs and, for the most part, are targeting a more discerning market only. 

Having said that, there are new Van Staal spin models that’s hit the shelves that are more affordable.

Daiwa’s expansion of the monocoque body is starting to show a cosmetic similarity and a greater market uptake of the Van Staal body designs.

The PENN Torque II looks suspiciously like an attempt to compete directly with Van Staal. 

The similarities are kind of striking, but PENN has added its own flavor. The PENN is significantly more expensive too.

If I were offered a Stella or a Saltiga over a VR, it would be a tough choice. I mean, who doesn’t want a Stella or new 20 Saltiga, right? 

Yes, I’d probably take the Japanese reels. However, I’d still head out the next day and buy a VR.

It’s interesting that to find a comparative reel that would tempt me over the VR, we’re talking well over the thousand dollar mark. The VR is half that price.

Having said all of that, have you heard of Visser Reels? Do yourself a favor and check them out. If ever there was a competitor to the Van Staal, it’s Visser. 

Do a little research, and you might find out exactly why Visser reels look and sound so very much like the Van Staal.

Further Notes About the Van Staal VR Series

I gave you the punch line at the start of the review. Clearly, I love the VR. As a specialist surf and rock angler, who is well known for not taking care of kit…I love it even more.

I generally chase a larger class of fish using live baits. I also like to cast big poppers and stickbaits at monsters. 

I usually end up soaking wet, as does my gear. The moment my feet hit the sand, I covered in it, and so is everything I brought with me.

With live baits, I often set my rods on the rocks and on the sand, and they often hit the deck when unattended.

What I’m saying is, Van Staal made the VR for me. I am also aware that there are countless anglers just like me, so the VR has been made in your honor also.

I remember seeing an interview with somebody from Van Staal a few years ago. There was an understandable and much-deserved pride as he discussed their reels. 

I think I saw it on youtube but I couldn’t find it to add a link. Interestingly, or worryingly, Van Staal is now in the hands of corporate giant, Pure Fishing. 

I’m not sure it’s a good thing to have all of these great names in fishing such as PENN Berkeley, ABU Garcia, etc, under the control of one corporate juggernaut. 

Time will tell. However, it may explain the new affordable Van Staal model.

Robert Koelewyn (the man behind Visser as mentioned above) was the founder of Van Staal. 

It would seem he has sold the brand to Pure Fishing. We hope the quality remains the same under the new corporate model.

Van Staal VR Series Spinning Reels
  • Waterproof, durable performance
  • Light weight
  • Fast retrieve rates
  • High line capacity

Last update on 2021-02-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Features and Specifications

  • Fully machined 6061-T6 waterproof aluminum body
  • Sealed and waterproof drag system
  • Spiral-bevel drive gear and pinion
  • Micro-Click drag tuning accuracy
  • Solid titanium center shaft
  • Lightest Van Staal design ever
  • Conversion Kit for Bail or Bail-less at your decision (excludes VR50)
  • Waterproof
  • Bearings 13 (14 on the VR50 and 50B)


  • Retrieve Inches/turn: 37
  • Approx Capacity Braid, 360yds/20lb
  • Weight 8.9 oz. (approx 253 grams)
  • Max Drag: approx 30lbs
  • NOTE: Bailess conversion kit not currently supplied with VR50


  • Retrieve Inches/turn: 31.6
  • Approx Mono Capacity: 340yds/10lb; Braid, 400yds/20lb
  • Weight 15.8 oz. (approx 448 grams)
  • Max Drag: approx 35lbs


  • Retrieve Inches/turn: 34.2
  • Approx Mono Capacity: 360yds/12lb; Braid, 420yds/30lb
  • Weight 16 oz. (approx 453 grams)
  • Max Drag: approx 35lbs


  • Retrieve Inches/turn: 37.6
  • Approx Mono Capacity: 360yds/15lb; Braid, 530yds/30lb
  • Weight 16.5 oz. (approx 467 grams)
  • Max Drag: Approx 40lbs


  • Retrieve Inches/turn: 40.4
  • Approx Mono Capacity: 400yds/15lb; Braid, 500yds/40lb
  • Weight 16.5 oz. (approx 482 grams)
  • Max Drag: Approx 40lbs

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