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Best Shimano Spinning Reels Reviewed for 2022

Written by: Pete D
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Shimano is a legendary name in reels. Period.

And while baitcasters sometimes get the most attention, spinning reels deserve their own acclaim. Nothing outcasts and outfishes an excellent spinning reel in the wind, and from bass ponds to deep, blue water, there’s a Shimano spinning reel that’s just perfect for you.

If you want the full run-down on the best spinning reels Shimano has to offer, we’ve got you covered!

Below, you’ll find reviews of the very best Shimano spinning reels, covering the entire line-up and price spectrum:

Best Shimano Spinning Reels Reviewed

Shimano Vanford - The Best Shimano Spinning Reel for Freshwater Fishing

Shimano Vanford Spinning Reel

Available at: Bass Pro

Sizes: 500, 1000, 2500, 3000, 4000, and 5000
Maximum drag: 6 lbs. (500), 7 lbs. (1000), 20 lbs. (2500 and 3000), 24 lbs. (4000 and 5000)
Gear ratio: 5.6:1 (500), 5.1:1 (1000), 6.0:1 (2500), 6.4:1 (3000), 6.2:1 (4000 and 5000)
Retrieve: 27” (500), 25” (1000) 35” (2500), 37” (3000), 40” (4000 and 5000)
Capacity: 4/100 (500), 6/110 (1000), 8/140 (2500), 10/140 (3000), 12/160 (4000), and 14/165 (5000)
Material: carbon-fiber reinforced proprietary
Weight: 4.9 oz. (500), 5.5 oz. (1000), 6.3 oz. (2500 and 3000), 7.6 oz. (4000), and 7.8 oz. (5000)
Bearings: 6 + 1 (500),7 + 1 on all other models

Shimano’s Vanford series of spinning reels are designed around the needs of inshore anglers chasing specks, reds, flounder, blues, and the like, as well as freshwater fishermen who need a reels capable of handling everything from nasty pike to finesse largemouth applications to panfish.

To accomplish this, the Vanford is offered in sizes ranging from a tiny 500 all the way up to a big 5000, covering all your bases with uncompromising Shimano tech. One thing to note, however, the little 500 skips some of the more refined features of its larger relatives, dropping the MGL Rotor, MicroModule Gear II, X-Protect Body and Long Stroke Spool.

Honestly, that’s not a big deal, as cutting vibration, reducing rotational inertia, and increasing casting distance aren’t critical when you’re running a 500-size reel for trout or panfish.

The entire Vanford line-up is equipped with Shimano’s excellent cross carbon drag system, and just as with the Sustain FJ, you can expect legendary performance from its high-quality washers. They produce reliable, ultra-smooth performance at every setting across their range, making them ideal for light lines and hard fights.

The larger models in this series offer 24-pound maximums, allowing you to use very heavy lines if you wish. They’re more than capable of wrangling a big muskie into your net or taming a bull red or massive striper.

On the other end of the size spectrum, the 500 and 1000 have no trouble with settings as light as one pound, making them perfect choices for ice fishing crappie or casting to panfish of all kinds.

The 1000 and 2500 are as good as it gets for finesse applications in freshwater, and the super-light bodies and very low initial spool inertia just scream to be used for drop shots, shaky heads, Ned rigs, and the like.

Whatever you ask this drag to do, it’ll do well.

Gearing is accomplished via precision-cut Hagane teeth that provide remarkably smooth performance while delivering fantastic torque. In the larger sizes, you’ll really notice the steps Shimano has taken to reduce vibration and smooth things out.

Gear ratios vary from size to size, with the 500, 3000, 4000, and 5000 offering remarkably fast retrieval rates. That makes the 500 quite adept for ice fishing, where time spent picking up your jigs will be decreased tremendously. And of course, the 3000, 4000, and 5000 offer the speed you need to keep your lines tight with big, fast fish.

Each size reel wears an excellent spool, but frankly, mono capacities are just OK. Loading them up with braid will go a long way, but I can only suppose that Shimano was more worried about weight and balance than the absolute yardage of line they could pack onto each reel. For instance, size-to-size, you’re not going to be impressed with comparison to Penn’s Pursuit IV.

Is that a deal breaker? Not by a long shot!

The water resistance of the Vanford is on-par with the Sustain FJ, and I wouldn’t worry a bit about saltwater intrusion.

Overall, these are extremely good reels that take smooth, reliable performance to a whole new level, and they’re the best Shimano offers for freshwater fishing.

Pros:

  • Excellent Shimano tech
  • Very rigid body
  • Excellent drag with ultra-smooth performance
  • Excellent gears
  • Excellent torque and power
  • Excellent speed
  • Very water resistant

Cons:

  • Spool capacities are just OK

Shimano Stella SW - The Best Shimano Spinning Reel for Offshore Fishing

Shimano Stella SW Spinning Reel

Available at: Bass Pro

Sizes: 4000, 5000, 6000, 8000, 10000, and 14000
Maximum drag: 24 lbs. (4000), 29 lbs. (5000 and 6000), 55 lbs. (8000, 10000, and 14000)
Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (4000), 5.7:1 (5000 and 6000), 5.6;1 (8000), 4.9:1 (10000), and 6.2:1 (14000)
Retrieve: 40” (4000), 38” (5000), 41” (6000), 42” (8000), 40” (10000), and 53” (14000)
Capacity: 30/180 (4000), 30/225 (5000), 50/195 (6000), 40/340 (8000), 40/340 (10000), and 50/400 (14000)
Material: all-metal Hagane body
Weight: 12.5 oz. (4000), 14.8 oz. (5000), 15 oz. (6000), 22 oz. (8000), 23.6 oz. (10000), and 23.8 oz. (14000)
Bearings: 13 + 1

Shimano’s reels offer legendary performance, but unless you’re willing to reach deep, deep into your pockets, you’ll never know the best they can offer.

“Unbeatable.” “Unbelievable.” “Amazing.”

Those are words that you’ll hear to describe their Stella SW line-up. And every word is true.

Put simply, this is the absolute best spinning reel for saltwater on the market. Bar none.

Available in sizes ranging from 2000 to the massive 14000, these reels are fitted with the best tech Shimano has, no corners cut, no compromises made.

Let’s start with the body. The Stella SW series are equipped with all-metal Hagane bodies that use a proprietary aluminum alloy. This lightens weight while providing outstanding rigidity. No spinning reel you’ve ever fished offers a body like this.

Shimano knows that getting spooled can happen, and long runs against big fish can melt and freeze a drag, leading to a lost fish and broken tackle. To prevent this, they’ve installed the unstoppable Heat Sink drag system, a series of carbon fiber drag washers in contact with a heat sink. This design bleeds excess heat to the outside, preventing the drag from overheating as well as protecting the spool for excessive temperatures.

The combination protects the drag washers as they heat up - eliminating any reduction in drag performance - and it keeps the spool from overheating, protecting your line.

Maximum drag settings vary by size, ranging from 24 pounds to an incredible 55 pounds on the larger models. “Smooth” doesn’t even begin to describe their performance, and “fight-winning” is something of an undersell, too.

If you want to skip a conventional reel for tuna, shark, grouper, sailfish, tarpon, and the like, this is the reel to pick.

Shimano uses its innovative Infinity Drive in these reels, simplifying the drive train and increasing winding torque by 26 percent to provide unparalleled smoothness. In these reels, this tech is paired with Silent Drive, eliminating gear play.

You can really feel the performance the Stella SW series offers with every crank, and from the knob to the handle, strength and torque are the watchwords.

Of course, these reels feature Hagane gearing with the best machining Shimano can manage.

Gear ratios vary across the range, but they all provide plenty of speed for anything you might have on the line.

That said, the 5000, 6000, and 8000 are designed to maximize performance with poppers, the 4000 and 14000 optimize retrieval speeds, and the 10000 is perfect for jigging.

The 4000, 5000, and 6000 can accommodate any line type, while the 8000, 10000, and 14000 are for use with braid only.

We’ve reported spool capacities for braided line across the range, allowing apples-to-apples comparisons. As you can see, these are exceptional numbers.

Finally, Shimano has sealed these reels against saltwater intrusion better than most submarines. Rated to IPX8, there’s simply no worry that grime or salt will make its way into the rotor or guts of these reels.

If you’re looking for the ultimate saltwater spinning reel, you’ve found it.

Nothing else even comes close.

Pros:

  • The very best tech that Shimano has to offer
  • Amazingly rigid body
  • Amazing drag that sheds heat extremely well
  • Amazing gears
  • Amazing torque and power
  • Amazing speed
  • Excellent capacity
  • As waterproof as possible for a reel

Cons:

  • Very expensive!

Shimano Sustain FJ - The Best Shimano Spinning Reel for Inshore Fishing

Shimano Sustain FJ Spinning Reel

Available at: Bass Pro

Sizes: 2500, 3000, 4000, and 5000
Maximum drag: 20 lbs. (2500 and 3000), 24 lbs. (4000 and 5000)
Gear ratio: 6.0:1. (2500 and 3000), 6.2:1 (4000 and 5000)
Retrieve: 35” (2500 and 3000), 40” (4000 and 5000)
Capacity: 6/200, 8/140, 10/120 (2500), 6/230, 8/170, 10/140 (3000), 8/240, 10/200, 12/160 (4000), and 10/240, 12/195, 14/165 (5000)
Material: Hagane aluminum
Weight: 7.4 oz. (2500 and 3000), 9.3 oz. (4000), and 9.5 oz. (5000)
Bearings: 8 + 1

If you’re in the market for an incredible reel that’s just as capable inshore as it is when you’re fishing for pike, muskie, or trophy cats, Shimano’s Sustain FJ might be the right choice for you.

A completely redesigned reel, this new Sustain is simply amazing, and if I were looking for an absolutely top-flight reel for stripers and reds, my search would end here.

Let’s start with the body. Shimano equips the Sustain FJ with an ultra-rigid Hagane aluminum body. That won’t matter when you’re fighting specks or walleye, but when you’re fighting a 33-inch bull red or a 60-pound pike, you'll really feel the rigidity this new body offers. It’s solid, unyielding, and confidence-inspiring, punching above its price point.

Shimano’s excellent cross carbon drag offers the performance for which it’s rightly famous. In the 2500 and 3000, expect a 20-pound maximum. In the 4000 and 5000, you’ll find the drag tops out at 24 pounds.

Whichever is right for you, both drag options allow the use of heavy braid should you wish, and extremely smooth performance across the spectrum of settings. For anglers using these reels on specks, croaker, flounder, or spot, bass, perch, and walleye, have no fear that light lines and useful drag setting will lead to hesitation.

And if you’ve got a big, mean pike or striper on the line, the cross carbon drag has more than enough fight to tame it quickly.

This drag isn’t going to let you down, period.

Shimano has refined the gearing in the Sustain FJ, reducing noise, improving smoothness, eliminating vibration, and cutting precision teeth that are the envy of its competition.

Two gear ratios are offered in this series: 6.0:1 and 6.2:1. Both offer fight-winning torque and fast retrieves for their size. Spool capacity is excellent, as you’d expect, and Shimano has spared no expense in improving casting distance with rotor and spool tech that really makes a difference.

Finally, saltwater intrusion is minimized by gaskets and seals, and while not the equal of the Stella SW by any means, I wouldn’t worry about gunk and salt getting into the Sustain FJ.

Overall, these are amazing reels for the price, outperforming their competition.

Pros:

  • Excellent Shimano tech
  • Extremely rigid body
  • Excellent drag with ultra-smooth performance
  • Excellent gears
  • Excellent torque and power
  • Excellent speed
  • Excellent capacity
  • Very water resistant

Cons:

  • ???

Shimano Sedona FI - The Best Budget Shimano Spinning Reel

Shimano Sedona FI Spinning Reel

Available at: Bass Pro

Sizes: 500, 1000, 2500, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000, and 8000
Maximum drag: 6 lbs. (500), 7 lbs. (1000), 9 lbs. (2500), 20 lbs. (3000), 24 lbs. (4000 and 5000), 22 lbs. (6000), and 24 lbs. (8000)
Gear ratio: 5.6:1. (500), 5.0:1 (1000), 6.2:1 (2500, 3000, 4000 and 5000), 4.6:1 (6000), and 4.9:1 (8000)
Retrieve: ? (500), 26” (1000), 36” (2500 and 3000), 39” (4000), 41” (5000), 33” (6000), and 37” (8000)
Capacity: 4/100 (500), 6/110 (1000), 8/140 (2500), 8/170 (3000), 10/200 (4000), 12/195 (5000), 16/170 (6000), and 20/185 (8000)
Material: ?
Weight: 6.5 oz. (500), 7.6 oz. (1000), 8.6 oz. (2500), 8.8 oz. (3000), 10.4 oz. (4000), 10.6 oz. (5000), 15 oz. (6000), and 21.7 oz. (8000)
Bearings: 3 + 1

Shimano knows that not every angler can afford a reel like the Stella SW, Sustain FJ, or Vanford. And while these reels are unequaled in the Shimano line-up for what they’re designed to do, the Sedona FL will get the job done for a fraction of their price.

And whether your next trip takes you ice fishing for perch or offshore for tarpon, there’s a Sedona FL ready to go!

Of course, at this price point, you can’t expect the same tech that makes all stars like the Stella SW shine. That’s neither realistic nor expected.

But the Sedona FL still provides remarkably smooth cranking, an excellent drag, and enough Shimano know-how to keep a smile on your face eerie time you fish them.

Ranging in size from a diminutive 500 to a beefy 8000, Shimano has everyone from panfish addicts to inshore - and maybe even offshore - anglers in mind with these reels.

Normally, I’d be a bit leery about that range with a series of reels at this price, but Shimano equips them all with their excellent cross carbon drag system. It’s no less impressive on these budget reels than it is on the Sustain FJ, and whether you need to protect light line or fight a tuna, it’s going to tilt the odds decidedly in your favor.

In fact, in this price range, I’d say the only drag competitor is Penn’s HT-100, and that’s really saying something.

The maximum settings on the larger reels are ideal for running heavy lines, especially braid, and they offer plenty of fight for common sport fish like tuna.

Inshore anglers won’t feel outgunned with the 3000, either, and its 20-pound max provides more than enough drag for reds, stripers, and snook.

The 1000 and 2500 are great for finesse largemouth techniques, and the 1000 and 500 easily work panfish, protecting delicate lines.

The entire Sedona FL series sports solid-metal Hagane gearing, providing smooth, powerful performance with every crank. The refinements are missing from this budget series, and you’ll notice this especially on the larger reels where vibration is noticeable.

Something’s got to give, and in this case, it’s speed and capacity.

Expect smaller than average spools and corresponding decreases in speed. Head-to-head comparisons aren’t going to favor the Sedona FL in any size, and reels that cost half as much - like Penn’s Pursuit IV - offer much better capacity and speed with only an ounce or two more weight.

Does that make the Sedona FL a bad pick?

No way!

If you favor a lighter reel, the Sedona FL is a fantastic budget pick that delivers more than enough rigidity, torque, drag, and capacity for any application.

Pros:

  • Excellent Shimano tech
  • Rigid body
  • Excellent drag with ultra-smooth performance
  • Very good gears
  • Excellent torque and power

Cons:

  • Spool capacities are just OK
  • Speed suffers in direct comparisons

Buying Guide: What You Should Look for in a Spinning Reel

Body

On smaller reels, you’re not going to notice body rigidity because the forces involved just aren’t powerful enough to put common materials to the test. But as you turn to inshore and offshore fishing, those forces grow substantially.

The body of a reel does more than simply house its components, it holds the gears in place, creating enormous stresses in hard fights with big fish like bull reds, snook, and stripers. And as you head into deep blue water where you might hook grouper, sailfish, or tuna, you better have a very rigid reel body to prevent failure.

Shimano’s Stella SW provides uncompromising rigidity through an al-metal Hagane body that minimizes flex. You can absolutely feel that difference between it and a Vanford in the same size in an equivalent fight.

The cost of that rigidity for the Stella SW is weight, and it’s hefty for its size - and needs to be given what it’s designed to do.

By contrast, the Sedona FL just doesn’t offer that feel, and there’s no question at all which is the better reel for big fish. The Stella SW is going to last the rest of your life, and there’s no tarpon, grouper, shark, or tuna out there that’s going to stress its body.

Here, rigidity and weight are naturally opposed, and lighter bodies just can’t deliver the goods.

The Vanford attempts to defy this iron-clad rule by switching to carbon fiber reinforced materials that are indeed very, very rigid while still being light. That lightness is why we chose it over the comparable Stradic as we feel that the Vanford is the better freshwater reel, while the Sustain FJ simply outpaces the Stradic inshore.

Drag

Your reel’s drag is perhaps its most important system, and from taming big fish in hard fights to protecting your line from too much stress, it needs to be smooth, consistent, and reliable.

On reels designed for offshore use like the Stella SW, you also need extra protection from heat, as the friction generated by a long run can melt rag washers and cause total failure.

The good news is that Shimano’s drag systems are truly legendary, and from the Heat Sink tech on the Stella SW to the cross carbon drag on the other models on our shortlist, you can rest assured that you’ve got the what many consider to be the best drag in the world in your reel.

Gears and torque

Shimano’s Hagane gears are some of the best in the business, and their precision-cut teeth bite and mesh perfectly, resulting in smooth performance.

On the larger models designed for inshore and offshore fishing, they produce plenty of torque, allowing you to win line from mean fish bent on running the other way. And at the top of the line, the Stella SW offers unparalleled smoothness, vibration dampening, and silky smooth cranking.

Shimano uses excellent gear tech pretty much across the board, and you can count on their Hagane systems to set the bar at any given price point.

Gear ratios and speed

Gear ratios measure how many turns of the spool one turn of the crank creates. Thus, a 6.0:1 gear ratio means that one turn of the crank spins the spool six times.

All other things being equal, which they’re not, higher gear ratios means faster retrieval rates, which really matter when you’re trying to keep your line tight. Higher speeds are also a good idea when you’re jigging deep, reducing the time it takes to pull your terminal tackle up to the surface.

With some notable exceptions, Shimano’s spinning reels aren’t record setters in terms of speed.

To be sure, the models designed for inshore and offshore use are fast enough, and the big Stella SWs are plenty quick enough for anything you get on the line.

Spool capacity

If Shimano can be faulted for anything, it’s small spools.

Probably a choice to reduce weight and improve balance, most Shimano spinning reels offer less capacity than their competitors in head-to-head size comparisons.

Those capacities can be extended substantially by switching to braid, and plenty of anglers do. But these small spools also explain why Shimano reels aren’t the quickest on the market.

Now all that said, SHimano’s spool capacities are acceptable, and I wouldn’t worry about picking up a Vanford because comparable reels offer greater amounts of line. 

Weight

Shimano’s reels are exceedingly light when compared to their direct competition, though beasts like the Stella SW aren’t designed around svelte bodies. Instead, absolute rigidity and strength are the order of the day for offshore fishing.

Inshore and in freshwater, weight matters. Here the Vanford really stands out, as the body and components shed weight like a pro boxer, offering less fatigue over a long day and better balance on your rod. But the Sustain FJ is pretty light, too, easily beating rivals like Penn and Daiwa.

Final Thoughts

Whatever your game, wherever you fish, Shimano has a reel that’s just perfect for you.

And from the unbeatable Stella SW to the affordable Sedona FL, there’s a Shimano spinning reel that matches your needs and budget. We can’t tell you which one that is, but we can guarantee you that any of the reels on our list is a true winner.

For offshore anglers who choose a spinning reel, Shimano offers the Stella SW, an uncompromising reel that packs the very best Shimano tech money can buy. Its ultra-rigid body, incredible drag, and tremendous gearing allow it to fight sailfish, marlin, tuna, and shark without missing a beat, and with regular maintenance, will outlive you!

For inshore fishermen chasing snook, reds, and stripers, or freshwater anglers addicted to the thrill of pike and muskie, the Sustain FJ is an incredible choice. A rigid body, light weight, excellent drag, good speed, and tons of smooth torque are just what you need, and I’m not sure there’s a better spinning reel out there for this kind of fishing.

For freshwater anglers, the Vanford is almost impossible to beat. Ultra-light for their size, offering excellent drag, great casting, and plenty of fight-winning torque, these reels are among the best you’ll find at any price, especially for finesse techniques like Ned rigs, drop shots, shaky heads, and the like. 

Finally, if you need a great reel that won’t empty your wallet, look no further than the Sedona FI. More than competitive at its price point, the Sedona FL delivers the same awesome cross carbon drag that’s at the heart of the Vanford and Sustain FJ, as well as smooth hagane gearing that’s up for anything you want to throw at it.

As always, we’re here to answer any questions you might have, so please leave a comment below.

About The Author
Pete D
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.
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