The Shimano Vanford Spinning Reel - Too Good to Be True? Our Exclusive Review Tells All

Reviewed by: John Baltes
Last Updated:

Shimano Vanford Review

shimano vanford reel review
USAngler Rating: 

Overall, the Shimano Vanford is an extremely good reel that takes smooth, reliable performance to a whole new level, and it's the best Shimano offers for freshwater fishing.

As an experienced fisherman and reviewer for USAngler, I've had the pleasure of testing Shimano's Vanford series of spinning reels. Designed for both inshore and freshwater anglers, these reels cater to a wide range of fishing needs, from targeting specks and reds to tackling pike and panfish. The Vanford series offers sizes from a small 500 to a substantial 5000, each packed with Shimano's high-quality technology. While the smallest model, the 500, lacks some advanced features like the MGL Rotor and MicroModule Gear II, I found that these omissions don't detract from its performance, especially for trout or panfish.

The entire Vanford lineup is equipped with Shimano’s cross carbon drag system, delivering legendary, ultra-smooth performance across all settings, which is vital for handling light lines and tough fights. The larger models, with maximum drags of 24 pounds, are robust enough to reel in big muskie or a massive striper. Conversely, the 500 and 1000 models are perfect for lighter applications like ice fishing and finesse angling.

I was particularly impressed with the precision-cut Hagane teeth in the gearing, providing smooth performance and excellent torque. The varying gear ratios across the range adapt well to different fishing styles, with the smaller models being exceptionally efficient for ice fishing.

One area where the Vanford series may not impress is the spool capacity, especially when compared to competitors like Penn's Pursuit IV. However, this didn’t strike me as a significant drawback, considering the overall quality and performance of these reels.

In terms of durability, the Vanford reels' water resistance is on par with the Sustain FJ, ensuring no worries about saltwater intrusion. Overall, Shimano's Vanford series stands out as one of the best options for freshwater fishing, offering a combination of advanced technology, solid construction, and versatile performance. The only downside might be the spool capacities, but for me, that's not a dealbreaker considering the many strengths these reels boast.


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


  • Spool capacities are just OK

Shimano Vanford Spinning Reel Review

shimano vanford spool capacity

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.


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


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.


shimano vanford drag

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.

Gear Ratio

shimano vanford gears

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.


shimano vanford held by angler

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!

Water Resistance

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

Final Thoughts

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.

About The Author
John Baltes
If it has fins, John has probably tried to catch it from a kayak. A native of Louisiana, he now lives in Sarajevo, where he's adjusting to life in the mountains. From the rivers of Bosnia to the coast of Croatia, you can find him fishing when he's not camping, hiking, or hunting.
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments