Testing My First BFS Reel: KastKing Kestrel Elite Review

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Written By Russ Egan

Russ is a professional fisherman with over 20 years of experience. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ comprehensively tests and reviews all his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. There is nothing he prefers than heading down to his local tackle store, buying the latest fishing reel, and taking it to the water to test.


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The KastKing Kestrel Elite is the latest BFS casting reel I have tested and is currently my favorite. It is ideal for casting light lures long distances without causing bird nest knots. Its combination of a lightweight spool and adjustable braking systems pairs together well for its single purpose.

Please enjoy this first-hand review of the features of the Kestrel Elite and my experiences, both positive and negative.

If you are a finesse angler looking for a new BFS reel to cast light lures for trout or panfish, seriously consider the Kestrel Elite.

KastKing Kestrel BFS Reel

  • Specially designed for casting light lures and is exceptional at that
  • Great value for money price tag
  • Powerful drag can still handle trophy bass
  • High-speed gear ratio is ideal for fast-moving lures


The KastKing Kestrel Elite is the latest release BFS reel that is continuing to grow in popularity. Anglers all over the world are starting to understand how effective smaller lures are that better match the bait their target fish are feeding on.

The ability to cast light lures long distances is an extremely difficult task, especially for casting reels. I have tried a wide range of baitcasting reels over the years, and the ability to cast light lures is opposed to their main focus of power, line capacity, and drag.

The Kestrel Elite goes in the opposite direction – low line capacity, extremely lightweight design, premium materials, and a highly adjustable braking system.

If you are looking for a casting reel that can cast light lures long distances for targeting panfish or trout, the Kestrel Elite is of the best value for money options.

Kastking kestrel elite bfs spinning reel review

What is a BFS Reel?

BFS stands for Bait Finesse System. Originally developed in Japan for trout, it is a series of technologies designed for casting light lures without birdnesting.

This uses a combination of a lightweight spool, multiple braking systems, and low line capacity spool. All of this is designed for low friction so a light lure can pull as much line off the spool as possible, and then brake appropriately without backlash.

Field Testing Results

First things first, it is time to take the Kestrel Elite out fishing to put it through its paces.

Have a look at this video I published showcasing the results from my field testing:

I always like to have at least 150 yards of line – this allows for long casting distances, aggressive fish pulling line, and the loss of line from breaks and cuts over time. So I ended up spooling it 8 lb braid.

It is worth noting that the feather spool on the Kestrel is not braid ready – so I did need to spool it with a mono backing first with an arbor knot and then connect the braid with a double uni knot.

This is probably a bit aggressive with the Kestrel because of the powerful drag and the size of the fish you are targeting. It has 13 pounds of drag, so there is no possibility that a small fish will be able to pull much line off your spool, even if you have cast long.

I paired the Kestrel Elite with KastKing’s latest Assegai casting rod and took them down to my local freshwater lake to test.

The first thing to note is that you will need to set the tension knob and the brakes frequently, but I will explain that further in the next section.

My takeaway is that the Kestrel BFS can cast light lures further than any other reel I have experienced. I reviewed it using a Rapala Floating trout lure that weighed 1/16 oz. I was impressed with the distance of casting and the smooth retrieve.

The other thing I noted was just how light this rod and reel are – the combined weight of the Kestrel Elite and Assegai rod is lighter than my Shimano Curado reel alone.

Russ Egan holding a KastKing Kestrel BFS and Assegai rod during field testing

How to Set the Spool Tension Knob

The spool tension knob is used to control how quickly the smooth slows down at the end of the cast. If you are experiencing backlash during the first 70% distance of your cast, then adjust the magnetic brake, but if the backlash forms during the last 30%, then adjust the spool tension knob.

Note: The spool tension needs to be adjusted every time you change lures.

To test whether your spool tension knob is set correctly, hold your rod up and release the spool to allow the lure to slowly drop to the floor. If the lure hits the floor and the spool keeps spinning, your tension knob is too loose.

Step 1 – Tighten the spool tension knob until the lure doesn’t move when you release the spool.

Step 2 – Slowly loosen the spool tension knob until the lure starts to drop under its own weight.

Step 3 – If the lure starts to drop and when it hits the floor it forms a birdnest knot, you have gone too far.

Russ Egan showing the spool tension adjustment knob

How to Set the Magnetic Brake

The magnetic brake controls the spool speed during the majority of the cast. The Kestrel Elite has a 10-point magnetic brake adjustment, so you can really fine-tune your casting distance.

The more brake that is applied, the less liklehood of backlash, but the less distance you will cast.

Step 1 – Set the brake to the maximum.

Step 2 – Cast the lure as far as you possibly can.

Step 3 – Adjust the brake down and keep casting until a backlash starts to form.

Step 4 – Adjust the brake up one increment. This gives you the best combination of low birdnest knot possibility and maximum distance.

If you are an experienced angler, you can use less brake and replicate the tension applied with your thumb. I wouldn’t recommend this for beginners.

Russ Egan showing the magnetic brake adjustment of the Kastking kestrel bfs


The Kestrel is specifically designed for casting light lures. This involves a combination of:

  • An extremely light spool that a light lure can spin easily
  • Low line capacity spool to reduce overall weight
  • Low friction line guide to allow line to be cast more easily
  • Magnetic breaking system with spool tension adjustment to prevent backlash

Everything is focused on this single task – casting light lures without backlash knots forming. And for this task, the Kestrel is exceptional.

4.4 oz Lightweight Design

The Kestrel Elite is incredibly light. If you asked me whether a manufacturer can produce an 11+1 bearing baitcasting with multiple braking systems and 13 pounds of drag that weighs under 5 ounces, I wouldn’t have believed you.

KastKing has done this through a combination of design and materials. The frame is made from Magnesium alloy, the main gear is hard anodized aluminum, and the handle is carbon fiber.

Kastking Kestrel Elite sitting on a bench before spooling

Feather Spool

The spool only weighs 5.6 grams and has a wider diameter. It is designed exclusively for light lines that small lures can pull out more easily.

Of course, there are disadvantages to this design. It can’t handle larger lines or high line capacity.

Everything is focused on a lightweight bait to spin the gearing without any resistance.

One thing to note is that the spool isn’t braid ready – it is too smooth. This means that you need to use a mono backing. If you want a longer braid capacity, then wasting valuable space on mono is an annoyance.

Kastking kestrel bfs feather spool close up

Finesse Angling Braking Systems

The Kestrel Elite has two braking systems – a magnetic brake and a spool tension knob. These are vital components of the overall BFS design. The magnetic brake has a wide range of adjustments available.

I still did experience birdnesting and ended up using 6-7 points of braking. The more experience you get with this particular baitcasting reel, the less braking you will need.

You will also need to be continually changing the spool tension every time you change lures. This amount of tinkering can be frustrating, but it is the only way to get maximum casting distance from finesse lures.

Carbon Fiber Handle

I also have to mention the carbon fiber handle. It looks great and the styling matches great with the color of the body and housing. It is extremely lightweight and fits in with the philosophy of the BFS system.

I do want to note that the handle knobs are on the small size – especially with my larger hands. They are noticeably smaller than the handle knobs of the KastKing Speed Demon Elite that I tested in my previous review.

Kastking kestrel bfs carbon fiber handle close up


  • Specially designed for casting light lures and is exceptional even with lures weighing 1/16 oz
  • Great value for money price tag
  • Powerful drag can still handle trophy bass
  • High-speed gear ratio is ideal for fast-moving lures


  • The handle knobs are on the small size for large hands
  • The line capacity is low – it has less than 100 yards of 4 lb mono line capacity
  • The drag is more powerful than the line strength, so you can break your line if you set the drag incorrectly
  • It doesn’t have a braid-ready spool – you will need a mono backing


Gear Ratio8.4:1
Max Drag13.2 lb
Reel Weight4.4 oz
Retrieve Rate (inch per turn)29.1
Ball Bearings11+1
Mono Line Capacity (lb/yard)4/80, 6/65, 8/50
Braid Line Capacity (lb/yard)6/215, 8/160, 10/125
Kastking Kestrel bfs reel in front of the water during field testing by Russ Egan


The KastKing Kestrel Elite is my new favorite BFS reel. Its premium materials and focused design have combined for excellent performance.

I don’t know how KastKing has managed to fit so much technology and features in a 4.4-ounce reel with an affordable price tag.

For any finesse anglers looking for the latest reel to cast light lures long distances, the Kestrel Elite is certainly worth a hard look.

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