Best Shimano Reels
There are just some manufacturers out there who deserve their own buying guides and Shimano just so happens to be one of them. Now, even though the Japanese juggernaut is known for making excellent cycling components, they also have a pretty good knack at making fishing reels. And, today, that is what we want to focus on. After all, when it comes to fishing, the reel is one of the most essential components. Not too many fishermen out there will disagree with this but when it comes to choosing the specific model for your needs, there are several factors you need to keep in mind. With the assistance of this guide and a rundown of the best Shimano reels out there, this process should become easier for you.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 3.5 hrs of research
Constructed of C14 carbon fiber
The drag is exceptionally smooth
It can take a good beating on the ocean
OUR TOP PICKS FOR THE BEST SHIMANO REELS
1. THUNNUS C14
Constructed of C14 carbon fiber
The drag is exceptionally smooth
It can take a good beating on the ocean
Some of you may want a faster gear ratio
Though you will see a lot of models out there comprised primarily of graphite, the Thunnus C14 sports a housing that is made of carbon fiber and this makes it impervious to rust (and ideal for saltwater fishing).Read more
All sorts of features improve the performance here including the signature S-Concept design, Propulsion Line Management System that provides longer casting distances, Varispeed technology for consistent speeds and Dyna-Balance technology to eliminate wobble.
As mentioned, this is constructed of C14 carbon fiber. In addition to the fact that this makes the Thunnus C14 impervious to rust, it can also take a beating out on the ocean.
Various users have raved about the provided power here and have noted they have caught five-foot fish with this bad boy.
The primary reason this has such amazing cranking power is due to the slower gear ratio. Though there are a few sizes available, each gear ratio is in the 4:1 range.
What sums up the Thunnus C14 is the fact that it manages to shed off seven ounces of total weight without sacrificing in the power department. Oh yeah, and the oversized handle makes the overall fishing experience even better.
Seriously, what is there not to like about this option? If your answer is the price then that is fair but understand that the Thunnus C14 is about as good as it gets.
2. STELLA FI
Coreprotect technology enhances the durability
Designed with an entirely new level of smoothness
The drive system handle reduces the wear and tear on critical components
It is not designed with the reverse function
As you can probably gather just by looking at the price of this next model, the Stella FI is a top-end design by just about every meaning of the word. Nearly all of Shimano’s amazing technologies are implemented to perfection.Read more
Part of the reason why this is able to operate with such smoothness is the G-Free body. This places the oscillation system closer to the center and this will enhance the balance overall.
In addition to the high-quality components such as the alloy frame, carbon sideplates, and EVA knobs, the Stella FI is designed with Coreprotect technology. What this does is provides water-resistance.
To better enhance the power, this was engineered with main and pinion gears with micro-teeth. With these, the gear alignment is improved and thus you receive more power and torque.
Most of the modern models have done away with the reverse function on reels and this is another one of them. However, the MicroModule Gear System is nice.
With a model of this durability, it is quite amazing how it manages to minimize the excess weight as much as possible.
Yep, can you see why this is such a high-priced option? If you are a casual fisherman then this may be out of your price range but for serious enthusiasts of the water hobby, this could be essential.
3. STRADIC CI4
It is silky smooth
Does not sacrifice in the power department
The lightweight nature is incredible
Another model that does away with the anti-reverse lever
With a gear ratio of 6.0:1, this is considered “fast”. It also only weighs an astonishing 5.6 ounces and this lends its hand nicely if you plan to go fishing for hours on end.Read more
The best fishing reels on the market are smooth in their performance and the Stradic Ci4 epitomizes that as well as you can. The experience is silky smooth and a joy to be a part of.
Without question, this is built to last with its G-Free body, Coreprotect technology, and Hagane gear system. Yet, in spite of this, some users have had their doubts and have claimed this felt like plastic.
There is plenty of power here with a maximum line capacity of 20/65 (pounds/yards). The maximum dragging force is also seven pounds, for the record.
This is another model without an anti-reverse lever and it means this function will be enabled forever. As for the gear ratio, this sports a 6.0:1 which makes it pretty fast.
The Magnumlite Rotor reduces the overall weight of the Stradic Ci4 and brings it down to a minuscule 5.6 ounces for enhanced comfort.
For most of you, this is going to be a dream in operation. It sports all the tools in the shed, so to speak, as it is silky smooth, has power, and is also lightweight in its construction.
4. NASCI COMPACT
It can be used for left or right-handed retrieve
The drag is very smooth
Designed with X-Ship technology
It has done away with the anti-reverse switch
One of Shimano’s most prominent technologies (X-Ship technology) headlines this ultra-impressive fishing reel. Of course, the incredibly smooth drag and ample provided power are also noteworthy.Read more
To provide smoother movements, the NASCI Compact is designed with Hagane gears that have been cold-forged.
This is where the X-Ship technology comes into play. With this, there are bearings on each end of the pinion gear and they will keep it aligned with the driver gear. This will, in turn, remove the friction between the spool shaft and gear to minimize wear. Oh and this also features Coreprotect technology to shield the body from water.
Due to the maximum line capacity of 20/65 (pounds/yards), this is able to catch larger fish with efficiency. Also, the maximum drag is seven pounds.
The 5.0:1 gear ratio lands this right in the middle of slow and fast. Of course, again, this does not have an anti-reverse switch (much like many other modern models).
In addition to the 7.6-ounce weight (which is not bad at all), this is also compatible for both left and right-handed retrieve for convenience purposes.
At this price range, this is one of the best reels that Shimano (or anyone else) has ever mass produced. It sports several patented technologies so it definitely makes sense.
5. SAHARA FI
It is available in a range of sizes
It is small yet powerful
Designed with a G-Free body for enhanced comfort
Not a powerhouse
There is no anti-reverse switch
If you are looking for an absolute beast then there are better options. Instead, the Sahara FI is a small reel that still packs impressive performance and features for its size and price.Read more
For super rigidity when you go up against aggressive fish, the Sahara FI is equipped with Hagan gears. And, this also does not compromise its lightweight properties.
In addition to being both sealed and water-resistant, this is also engineered with X-Ship technology. This is going to reduce the overall friction of the components to reduce wear.
As mentioned, this is a bit smaller but there are multiple sizes available with maximum drags that range from 7 to 24 pounds. The maximum line capacity is also 10/140 (pounds/yards).
With the 6.0:1 gear ratio, the Sahara FI is quite fast when it comes to reeling. Again, however, no anti-reverse switch has been equipped.
Not only is the handle reversible but the G-Free body is equipped to improve the center of gravity and minimize your hand fatigue as a result.
A lot can be said about why this model is so impressive. But, really, it just goes to show the brilliance of Shimano and how versatile they really can be when it comes to this technology.
6. SEDONA FI
Equipped with a Propulsion Line Management System
The drag power has been upgraded
The overall weight has been significantly reduced
Does not come with a toggle switch to release the spool
One user noted the handle need to be cranked fairly hard
What is so amazing about the Sedona FI is it packs a number of performance upgrades (including cold-forged Hagane gears) but remains affordable to the average consumer.Read more
Though the Sedona FI is equipped with a Propulsion Line Management System for improved casting distances and cold-forged Hagane gears for improved performance, the handle can be a little difficult to crank at times.
The same Hagane gearing system that improves the performance also enhances the long-lasting nature of the Sedona FI.
This model is ideal for light freshwater use to heavier offshore fishing thanks to its double-anodized machine-cut spools. In conjunction with the upgraded drag power, this enhances the line capacity.
For whatever reason, omitted here is a toggle switch to release the spool. So, if your line is under threat of being broken, you will have to fumble around to loosen the drag manually.
To reduce your overall fatigue if you plan on fishing for several hours at a time, this has been made with a significant reduction of weight.
If you can look past the blasphemous omission of a toggle switch, then you can probably accept this for what it is (which is a powerful, smooth and well-built reel).
7. STRADIC HG
It sports an all-metal core
The performance is smooth and quiet
Designed with a sleek G-Free body
The torque could be improved
The drag is a bit slow
As with most Shimano reels, most impressive about the Stradic HG is just the sheer build quality. The top-of-the-line features and technologies do help, however.Read more
There are three main features that all work together to improve the smoothness and performance of the Stradic HG. The features being alluded to are the Dyna-Balance rotor, Fluidrive II system and Propulsion Line Management System.
In addition to the all-metal construction that is present here, integrated is X-Ship technology (to improve the durability of the gears and eliminate the friction of them) and Hagane gearing and a Hagane body for improved longevity.
Admittedly, the Stradic HG can be a bit of a letdown in the power department. Previous users have noted that its torque is not the best and that the drag takes too many turns to change.
The 6.2:1 gear ratio is going to be suitable for most of you as it will deliver an optimal amount of speed.
A Shimano staple is their G-Free body and it is present here to improve the weight balance of the Stradic HG and subsequently reduce your hand fatigue in operation.
The Stradic HG is an absolutely stellar option and it is one that will be extremely compelling to just about everyone. Just keep in mind that previous buyers have been a little letdown by the power.
8. SIENNA RD
It is encased in an M-Compact body
Mostly comprised of graphite
Features a Propulsion Line Management System
The drag does not have enough resolution to it
It is not protected to be used in saltwater
Shimano is fully aware that not all their consumers can afford top-of-the-line fishing equipment. So, to combat this, they designed their Sienna RD and though it is not the best for saltwater use, it holds up well for freshwater fishing.Read more
A lot of the technologies presented here are ones you have already seen on this list. This includes a Propulsion Line Management System, Dyna-Balance technology, and Super Stopper II technology and all of them work to increase the provided performance.
Graphite is the main material of choice for the rotor, frame and sideplate. However, you may want to avoid using this in saltwater bodies of water because the rear drag knob will pretty much prevent salt water from getting out once it gets inside.
Yes, the drag is in the rear as was just alluded to. From the experience of one user, though, they felt that the drag did not have enough resolution to it.
The 5.2:1 gear ratio classifies this closer to a slower gear ratio than a faster one.
Once again, this is another model that is encased in an M-Compact body to improve the weight balance and reduce your hand fatigue as a result.
Again, it needs mentioning that this is not a suitable option for deep sea fishermen or anyone who wants to fish in saltwater. For other uses, however, the Sienna RD can work very well.
9. SPIREX RG
The components are extremely high in quality
The gear ratio is pretty fast
Can be handled with your left or right hand
It is not quite as smooth as others
The weight is a bit high
If nothing else, you can take comfort in knowing that the Spirex RG is built with the highest quality components (such as cold-forged aluminum, graphite and stainless steel).Read more
Overall, the smoothness of this model is not quite as potent as it is for other models. Still, A-RB bearings and other features are integrated to still make the overall performance stellar.
As noted, high-quality components are featured here. This includes the stainless steel bearings (which are shielded), cold-forged aluminum spool, rubber hand grips and lightweight graphite frame.
The maximum line capacity of 12/160 (pounds/yards) needs to be taken into consideration here but, for most, it should suffice just fine.
If you prefer a slower gear ratio then the 5.7:1 gear ratio present here may be a little too fast for you, admittedly.
There is actually a secondary handle equipped onto this model and though convenient in theory, it adds a bit of unnecessary weight for the long haul.
At the end of the day, it is hard to go wrong with an option that is built as well as this is. Then again, there are some design implementations that you may or may not be fond of.
10. SYNCOPATE FD
Features Quick Fire II technology
The drag and retrieve are both very smooth
Sports a Propulsion Line Management System
The quick trigger design is flawed
Not the most durable option out there
For a model in this price range, it is actually quite shocking to feel just how smooth it really is. Though some flaws are present, this can easily be considered a steal.Read more
On the plus side, Varispeed technology and Dyna-Balance technology manage to improve the consistency and smoothness of the Syncopate FD. On the other hand, the quick-fire trigger system requires you to have long fingers as it can be hard to reach otherwise.
Overall, the build quality is admirable but one previous buyer did make mention of the fact that the bottom of the bail wire became unseated on their Syncopate FD.
A few different sizes are available and though none of them will be quite suitable enough for deep sea fishing, the provided power will still be stellar.
The gear ratios (between the available sizes) range around 5:1. Again, this is right in the middle in terms of speed.
The implementation of Quick Fire II technology allows this to be cast with relative ease with only one hand, which is an awesome feature for beginners.
Perhaps this is not ideal for experienced users out there but if you are looking to get your feet wet with this sort of this, the Syncopate FD could be a great start.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
This is what it is all about here and Shimano has special technologies that you need to look out for.
As all of you are probably aware of, nothing can make a fishing experience better than having a reel that is smooth in its operation. Now, when it comes to choosing Shimano reels, there are several different technologies that you need to look out for. All of them, in some way or another, will have a strong impact on the performance. First up, you have X-Ship technology. The reason why this technology improves the smoothness so significantly is that it all but eliminates the pinion gear twist and the rotor flex that are common with other spinning reels on the market. Another common technology you need to look out for is known as Dyna-Balance. By counterbalancing the rotor, this is able to eliminate wobble and enhance the sensitivity and smoothness overall.
Moving on, do not forget about one of the most prominent technologies; the Propulsion Line Management System. With this in play, longer casting distances will be achievable and backlashes will be prevented. Additionally, this will also prevent wind knots from forming. And, lastly, look out for Varispeed technology. The concept here is by using an oval oscillation gear, any model with this technology will have improved consistency in regard to the spool speed.
Do yourself a favor and do not skimp out on the materials.
Without question, you do not want to settle for a fishing reel that is cheaply made. Thankfully, that is not usually the case with Shimano designs but you still need to keep a few things in mind. For starters, you need to assess the main construction. The main body, which is also called the housing, is typically either made out of metal or graphite. Some models are even made with a combination of the two and while graphite is lighter (which is important), aluminum is stronger. And, speaking of aluminum, you may want to look for variations that have been cold-forged as this will enhance the durability and strength even more so.
Now, this is also where you need to assess what type of fishing you plan on doing. In specific, are you going to fish in saltwater? If so then there are even more essential components to analyze. A staple of Shimano reels, for example, is the A-RB bearings that they typically sport. These bearings are treated through a specific process which makes them 10 times more resistant to corrosion than standard stainless steel bearings. Also, this is where a technology known as Coreprotect comes into play. This is another staple and with this in play, it will protect the reel from both water and corrosion.
This section all comes down to two important factors; line capacity and drag.
In this section, let’s talk about two very important aspects of any fishing reel. First off, you need to assess the line capacity of any model that you get. The primary reason why you do is it can dictate the type of fishing you perform and the type of fish that you plan to catch. For example, if you are looking to target larger fish species that are more aggressive then you will need enough line capacity. Otherwise, your line is just going to break off with the force applied by the fish. Now, you will see the line capacity rated as pounds/yards. So, to put in perspective, the first number dictates the weight of the line the reel can hold and the second dictates how much it can hold.
The other important aspect to discuss is what is known as the drag. This is a common term in the world of fishing and it is very important. Basically, the drag system on fishing reels is responsible for applying pressure to a fish when it is hooked on your line. Ideally, what you want is a drag that operates smoothly with enough power to prevent your lines from breaking. And, also, you will either see them in the front or the rear. The former configuration is more effective for larger fish but the latter is a bit more convenient.
Really, most notable here is assessing the gear ratio.
Let’s turn the corner and talk about yet another incredibly important characteristic. Have you ever heard of gear ratio before you came here today? It is okay if you have not but you need to be fully aware of what it is. Basically, in the world of fishing reels, this is going to determine how quickly you can retrieve a line and how much cranking power you will have. Determining what you will need comes down to the type of fishing you will be doing, quite frankly. Gear ratios are labeled X:1. The “1” is referring to a full rotation of the handle, basically. What this means is the “X” is the number of times that the spool will turn every time you crank the handle. Gear ratios from 5.5:1 to 6.3:1 are considered fast but if you want a little more cranking power, you would opt for ratios closer to 4.1:1.
Also, and this has been referenced a few times so far, what about this feature called anti-reverse? Well, basically, this feature is going to prevent the reel from turning backward and engaging the drag. However, most new models do not have this feature and it is for a reason. Some fishermen have felt that this feature is a weakness as back reeling larger fish is never a good idea. As such, some modern designers (such as Shimano) have simply omitted it from their models.
For longer sessions, you better make sure that the model you pick is not extremely heavy.
Do not overlook this section as it can be vitally important if you enjoy fishing for hours on end. Now, a feature that is usually always implemented is the ability for the reel to be used for both right-handed and left-handed users. Past this, you also want to pay attention to the weight. The middle ground that is sometimes hard to achieve for engineers is designing models that are both durable and lightweight. Thankfully, for most of their models, Shimano does this consistently.
Speaking of which, there are also specific technologies from the manufacturer that can enhance comfort. One such example is the G-Free body design which basically places the center of gravity closer to the rod to reduce your hand fatigue over longer sessions.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
To be honest, this is where Shimano truly shines. When you want to assess the performance of any given model from the manufacturer, there will be a number of essential technologies for you to look out for. And, what is amazing is the specific ones we discuss here are just scratching the surface, really. At the end of the day, the word you want to keep telling yourself is “smooth”.
As you probably expected, the build quality for this technology is extremely vital. Even though your intentions may not be to beat up your reel and abuse it, accidents can happen and general wear and tear will persist. In addition to this, if you have any intentions of fishing in saltwater, then you need to look for models that are capable of handling the corrosive nature of it.
This section really comes down to two essential terms; line capacity and drag. If you really want to get the most out of your fishing experience then you need to make it a priority to buy a reel that will possess the power you need. Again, this also comes down to the type of fishing that you intend to do and will be especially critical if you want to tackle larger species of fish.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Why won’t the bail close correctly?
This is one of the few troubleshooting questions that we want to make mention of. If you are fishing and the bail will not close correctly, there are a number of reasons why. For starters, there may be corrosion present on the bail pivot. If this is the case, you will need to apply oil to it to clean the corrosion. Of course, the bail wire may simply need to be replaced if it is bent or out of shape. Oh yeah, and you may also need to replace the bail tip spring as it may simply not be strong enough anymore.
q: Do you need to select a model for a specific rod?
Here is the deal; it is ideal if you match the reel to the size of your rod because this is going to ensure that the line capacity and breaking strength match the action of the rod itself. Of course, this can also make enhance the overall balance of all the components which is essential. Then again, even if you use a reel that is one size smaller than you need it should still suffice.
q: Can you obtain service information for Shimano reels?
There are actually two ways you can go about this. If you do end up having any question or concerns with the model that you ultimately end up buying you can contact the manufacturer via phone or via their parts shop. Now, you can access their phone number on their official website (as well as their parts shop).
q: What do you do if the drag is not smooth?
The obvious answer to this question is the model you bought does not have the smoothest drag. But, let’s just assume that this is not the case and that your current model has merely begun to act up on you. If this happens, you should first assess the status of the washer. It may simply need to be lubricated with grease and oiled but if not, it may need to be replaced altogether. Another potential issue, which goes back to the same concept, is the gears may need to be lubricated as they may be too rough under pressure. Then again, they may be damaged beyond repair also.
q: Is there something wrong if your model is only loading one side of the spool?
There is no need to talk about this question for very long. Have you ever struggled to get a particular piece of equipment started only to figure out that it is not plugged in? It is such a simple thing to overlook and the same concept applies here. This problem of spool loading only on one side can be remedied by keeping the rod and the line parallel with each other.
q: What about an included warranty?
For Shimano, they do have a warranty that comes with their reels. They warrant that you (the original purchaser) will receive a product that is free of any material or workmanship defects. Do note, though, that if the damage is merely caused by user neglect, normal wear and tear, or accidents, they have the discretion to repair it for a specific fee (if you still want it to be repaired).