The Hardy Ultralight MXT is a lightweight reel suitable for moderate saltwater fishing action. Smaller than other reels in the class, the Ultralight MXT worked well in pursuit of bonefish and sea-run cutthroat. But it is marginal when matched against more powerful fish like Permit and Salmon. The small arbor resulted in slower line retrievals, and less backing – just 125 yards of 20 lb back as opposed to the 200+ available on others in the class.
The Hardy Ultralight MTX boasts a unique design to reduce weight while boasting frame strength: The body of the reel features a blend of aluminum alloy and carbon fiber composite materials. The result is a very lightweight reel, that proved well suited for handling fish like sea-run cutthroat and small bonefish. But when matched to an ultra-fast-action rod and targeting bigger, stronger fish (such as permits or salmon), the reel shows its limitations: It is too light to properly balance those stout rods and lacks the size and line-capacity to efficiently work those stronger fish.
Weight & Balance
The Hardy Ultralight MTX design incorporates aluminum alloys and carbon fiber components. That helps minimize weight while boasting the structural strength of the reel. To further trim weight, Hardy keeps the arbor size modest at 4-inches, and somewhat narrow. As a result, the Ultralight lives up to its name. But in saltwater fishing, lighter isn’t always better. The Hardy reel leaves most fast- and ultra-fast-action rods feeling a bit unbalanced — tip heavy — during casting since those rods were designed to feature stouter, heavier reels affixed to the butt. With a medium-fast action rod and targeting smaller saltwater species such as bonefish and sea-run cutthroat, the Ultralight MTX is a great tool to use.
Spool size and line retrieval
The compromises that help achieve the lightweight that gives the reel its name has the downside of restriction of the Ultralight’s line capacity, as well as it’s line retrieval speed. The Ultralight MTX can carry just 120 yards of 20-lb backing (significantly less than the 200+ yards that fit on the Sage and Orvis reels). And the spool diameter is the smallest in this class, making it the slowest in terms of line retrieval, too.
Though lightweight, the Hardy Ultralight MTX is a tough little reel. The blend of carbon composites and metal alloys give the light reel good structural strength, so breakage is not much of a concern. But because the light reel is faced rugged use in harsh conditions — immersions in murky cold Puget Sound saltwater, drops onto sandy beaches, and tumbles on volcanic shores — the Ultralight MTX did develop more than a few scratches and even serious nicks in its surface. One tester put a deep gouge into the spool’s rim as he scrambled out a ledge of volcanic rock on Maui’s southwest shore, and then proceeded to slice his palm on that sharp edge when he tried to slow the run of a big reef fish he hooked.
Hardy’s sealed carbon-fiber disk drag system is a highlight of this reel. The drag allows minute adjustment, and the system stays exactly where you set it — after weeks of use, there were no reports of ‘drag-drift’ from any tester on the team. The system dials in the exact tension desired, and then stays there through all forms of use and abuse.
Fit and finish
The Hardy Ultralight MTX is a very attractive reel and is solidly made. It’s composite and alloy construction gives a modern styling. The slate-gray color, with burnt orange highlights, matches well to any rod color, and the four split-spoke design drew praise from every tester — and many other anglers we encountered — for its attractive look.
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HOW WE TESTED
Testers used a selection of salt-water reels fitted with 8-wt lines in a variety of conditions. The reels were used in pursuit of bonefish and permits in Belize, Mahi Mahi and assorted reef fish in Hawaii, and salmon, steelhead and sea-run cutthroat in Puget Sound. We loaded the reels with 30-pound backing and fished both weight-forward floating lines and sink-tip lines.