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