Last updated on March 20th, 2022
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Shimano is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of fishing tackle today, but it did not start out making equipment for anglers. The company was founded in 1921 by Japanese industrialist Shozaburo Shimano in Higashi Minato, Sakai City with the goal of producing the best precision bicycle components in the world.
The company thrived in the bicycle market and quickly became an industry leader. However, in 1970 Shimano added a new wrinkle to their thriving international business by launching its fishing tackle division.
In 1978 Shimano entered the growing and lucrative American bass fishing market with the launch of the Bantam reels series. Since then, the company has grown into one of the world’s market leaders, producing a range of exceptional reels and other fishing tackle to suit both fresh and saltwater anglers.
Over the years Shimano has manufactured many top-quality reels, but their ultimate triumph was to be a spinning reel simply named Stella.
First launched in 1992, the high-end flagship spinning reel moved the bar several notches higher for the industry. It remains, even today, the Rolex of spinning reels, considered the best spinning reel on the market by consensus of opinion among anglers worldwide.
Shimano Stella FJ Spinning Reel
For hardcore offshore spin fishing, there is the Stella SW, the best bluewater spinning reel ever made; but for this post, I’m going to focus on the FJ model for its undeniable quality and versatility, as well as a more attractive price tag.
Released just earlier this year, the Shimano Stella FJ is an upgrade to the very popular Stella FI. The already incredibly popular FJ is, in Shimano’s own words, even smoother and more efficient than the FI reel.
Thanks to the introduction of the upgraded Micro Module ll design combined with Shimano’s Hagane (cold-forged aluminum) technology that has become standard through much of their lineup, the FJ’s gears now mesh with each other with even greater precision.
This ensures near-instant rotation of the gears, with no slippage, virtually no gear noise, very smooth retrieves, and maximum cranking power.
The Stella FJ has also added X-Protect technology to this reel, which makes it is about five times more resistant to water damage than previous models. In fact, Shimano claims on their Japanese website that the FJ’s level of waterproof is equivalent to an IPX8-rating.
Perhaps that is a claim that can only be made for the Japanese domestic market, but it is, nonetheless interesting (we will be looking out for some follow-up from Shimano on this).
For those who follow this sort of spec, you may recall that the only other reels on the market currently boasting IPX ratings (an international standards rating system for water intrusion protection) are the Penn Torque and Penn Slammer 3, both having IPX6 ratings.
Regardless, the X-Protect is in itself important because even after years of use, you are unlikely to notice any ill effects of water on the smoothness and operation of the reel.
The rotor assembly has also been re-designed, giving the reel a crisp bail mechanism, low friction roller clutch, and a specially-coated line roller for reduced friction and smoother action.
The reel’s G-Free Hagane body has been treated with Shimano’s E.I. corrosion-resistant treatment, which further enhances the X-Protect feature to make the FJ more perfectly suited to saltwater fishing than the FI model while also raising its status as one of the best all-around, all-environment spinning reels ever made.
Another feature of this reel worthy of comment is the propulsion line management system. Through hours of test casting and computer simulations, the new propulsion spool lip design now provides longer casting distances as well as a significant decrease in wind knots and backlashing, two enduring banes of sportfishing.
Shimano has also beefed up the main shaft’s spool support. This is significant because when fighting big, powerful fish, the spool is stabilized to eliminate any play, allowing the FJ’s powerful “Rigid Support Drag” to pay out line smoothly and evenly, even under extreme loads.
This reel can handle almost any type of fishing and angling environment, from ultra-light fishing on the lake to targeting saltwater bruisers in the surf or inshore. The FJ’s reel’s main competitor is the Daiwa Exist LT, which we’ll look at soon below.
There are five models in this series from which to choose: Stella 1000 FJ, Stella 2500HG FJ, Stella C3000 XG FJ, Stella 4000XG FJ, and the C5000 XG FJ. All FJ models come with 12 + 1 two-sided shielded stainless steel ball bearings.
All the reels in the FJ series are made to handle both freshwater and saltwater fishing and come with a One-Year Warranty.
*Note regarding Shimano reel warranties: All Shimano reels sold in the USA & Canada are only warranted for a period of one year from the purchase date; 10-year warranties are only for reels sold in Australia and New Zealand.
Key Stella FJ Features and Specs:
- 5 Stella FJ models
- Made in Japan
- 1-Year Warranty
- IPX-8 waterproof rated
- Lightweight: 6 oz – 9.2 oz
- 12 + 1 Shielded corrosion-resistant SS bearings
- Max. drag: 7 lbs – 24 lbs
Shimano Stradic Ci4+ Spinning Reel
Another quality reel to come out of the Shimano stable is the Shimano Stradic Ci4+. The Ci4 has been on the market now for a number of years, but Shimano has overhauled the reel and brought out a totally renewed, more attractive (beautifully done in black, red, and gunmetal) and better performing reel.
The latest Stradic Ci4+ has been released with the newly developed Magnumlite rotor. The highly-touted redesigned rotor is 25% lighter than its predecessor, which makes this Stradic even more suited for extended use, allowing the angler to fish all day with less fatigue.
Another benefit of the Magnumlite rotor is the increase in the reel’s rigidity and strength – even though the reel is actually lighter than the previous model.
The Stradic Ci4+ is manufactured with the same Shimano cold-forged Hagane drive gear – as well as many other components/features – used in its Flagship Stella reels. This is something that only Shimano can produce and it has really helped set them apart from other companies. In simple terms, this gives the reel extreme toughness, smoothness, and durability.
Yet another great feature of this reel is the use of something called X-SHIP, which is really a combination of features that work together to give it greater balance and efficiency.
Shimano has positioned the pinion gear closer to the centerline of the drive gear, meaning more power is transferred from the handle to the rotor. Two A-RB roller bearings have been used to support the pinion gear, giving the reel greater stability.
The bail arm mechanism has been moved to the opposite side of the line roller, giving the reel greatly improved balance, and the reel has also been fitted with an ARC spool manufactured out of cold-forged aluminum. This spool is designed with an angled spool lip, enabling the line to come off the reel with less friction and smaller coils, resulting in longer and more accurate casts.
This is a good reel for bass fishing in heavy cover and even surf fishing – or just about anything else – because of its powerful gearing and drag, lightweight design, and shielded anti-corrosion bearings.
There are four models in the new Stradic Ci4+ series, all sporting 6+1 shielded (on both sides of bearings) stainless steel anti-corrosion S A-RB bearings: 1000FB HG, 2500FB HG (great for bass fishing), 3000FB HG, and 4000FB XG (these 2 larger models are best for near-shore/inshore fishing).
Key Stradic Ci4+ Features and Specs:
- 4 Stradic Ci4+ models
- Made in Malaysia
- 1-Year Warranty
- Magnumlite rotor design
- Ultra-lightweight: 5.6 oz – 8.1 oz
- 6 +1 SS Shielded ball bearings
- Max. drag: 7 lbs – 24 lbs
Since its first spinning reel was released in 1955, Daiwa has grown from strength to strength. Originating from Japan, it was in 1966 that Daiwa opened a small facility in California to handle the increased sales and distribution of products throughout the United States.
From the very beginning, Daiwa’s emphasis has been based upon innovation and quality, a trait that still stands today and is observable in just about everything they put out.
Daiwa Exist LT Spinning Reel
One of the leading premium reels manufactured by Daiwa is the new Exist LT model(Light/Tough). The Exist series was first introduced by Daiwa in 1995, but the latest revamped model is a reel that Daiwa claims to be the most advanced, technology-laden spinning reel they’ve ever made. The newly redesigned flagship Daiwa LT takes direct aim at the Stella FJ.
Right from the start, one major innovation on Daiwa’s part was to manufacture this reel using what they call the Monocoque (means “single shell” in French) body. This is an ultra-light, ultra-strong magnesium body/frame designed with efficiency and durability in mind.
With the Monocoque one-piece rigid body, Daiwa is able to eliminate the need for the traditional multiple side plate screws (has just one sm screw in the body’s underside) and space-robbing screw holes that go along with them, allowing them to use a much larger than normal drive gear (takes up approximately 85% of reel’s body).
For the rotor, Daiwa’s used its proprietary “Zaion” material to create the Zaion Air Rotor that is not only incredibly strong but is also 50 percent lighter than aluminum. This innovation lets the rotor get up to speed quickly while shaving more weight off an already featherweight reel.
The drive gear is the most important component in a spinning reel’s gear case and Daiwa used what it calls its “Tough Digigear” (an improved version of its Digigear concept) in the new 18Exist (number denotes release year) for maximum gear train performance.
At the heart of the Lt’s Tough Digigear is a metal called Duralumin, which is a very hard, lightweight aluminum alloy (composed of aluminum, copper, magnesium, and manganese) used in the defense industry and in making aircraft components.
The gear has been designed digitally and is machine-cut to ensure absolute precision, smoothness, and strength. In addition to exceptional strength and durability, the gear’s design and composition also greatly reduce rotational noise, making the reel virtually silent when fishing on the water.
More on durability. At each stage of the Exist’s design, Daiwa has weighed towards longevity and reliability. To this end, Daiwa employs a proprietary “MagSealed” system that uses a combination of oil and magnets to not only lubricate key reel components but also keep water and other damaging elements from penetrating the reel body.
This special oil has also been added to the roller, bearings, and shaft, translating to greater fluidity and lifespan of the reel. Additionally, each end of the reel’s drive gear uses MAGSEALED ball bearings to keep out water and debris.
Another innovative feature that Daiwa implemented in the Exist is the Automatic Tournament Drag, or ADT as it’s more commonly known. The Exist LT uses a new washer material that has been immersed in a specialized grease that allows the drag to engage faster, apply more consistent and uniform pressure throughout the fight with the fish. and dissipates heat quickly.
There are six reel models in the Exist LT series (both left-hand and right-hand reels), all having 12+1 bearings, making it the perfect spinning reel for many applications, from freshwater finesse fishing to inshore/surf saltwater use.
Key Exist LT Features and Specs:
- 6 Exist LT models
- Made in Japan
- 1-Year Warranty
- Monocoque one-piece body/frame
- 12 + 1 Corrosion-resistant ball bearings
- Extremely lightweight: 5.5 oz – 7.2 oz
- Max. drag: 11 lbs – 22 lbs
Daiwa Certate Spinning Reel
Another standout reel from Daiwa is the Certate series, which uses many of the same components and shares a lot of features with the Exist. For those looking for a more affordable, everyday reel built with premium components and high-performance features, the Certate may just fit the bill.
One of the first things you’ll notice about the Daiwa Certate is its overall feel. You immediately get a sense that this is an incredibly strong reel without the added weight you might expect.
To their credit, Daiwa was able to achieve the desired balance between strength and weight savings in the Certate by combining a superalloy, symmetrical, one-piece “Monocoque” body – that resists corrosion and warping under extreme load – with their proprietary Zaion rotor made from a type of dense carbon fiber (same as in the Exist LT).
Like a lot of Daiwa reels, the Certate is outfitted with the Digigear drive design we see across Daiwa’s other models such as the outstanding Black Gold, or BG spinning series (the BG uses an over-sized Digigear) to produce extra smooth rotation, quiet efficiency, and increased cranking power.
The Certate also utilizes Daiwa’s MagSealed technology to keep out corrosive elements affecting the performance and longevity of its drive gear, main shaft, and line roller.
As previously noted in the Exist description, one of the many benefits of using this gear design is the appreciable reduction in rotational noise for quieter retrievals.
The front ADT drag is where Daiwa has added a new type of washer and applied grease, ensuring heat is dissipated quickly which in turn means instant start-up drag.
The reel’s machine-cut aluminum handle is left/right retrieve interchangeable, as most reels on the market today, and comes with a soft-touch knob.
There are various different models available in the series – all specifically designed to meet the needs of varying anglers – from the small 1003 reel, designed for the LRF fishing side of things, to the 4000 size for the serious trophy hunter.
All Certate reels with the exception of HD models (8 +1 bearings) come with 10 +1 ball bearings of which 5 are CRBB (Corrosion Resistant Ball Bearings).
*Note: You may come across JDM, or Japanese Domestic Market Certate reels (and many other brands/models/products) for sale in the US/Canada. There is nothing wrong with these reels. In fact, JDM reels and other tackle have a big fan base in the U.S. and elsewhere because oftentimes they offer components and/or features, etc. not available in the U.S. versions.
However, possible downsides with JDM products could include service, getting parts, or sometimes the lack of warranty.
Key Certate Features and Specs:
- Several U.S. and JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) versions
- Made in Japan
- 1-Year Warranty
- Built on Daiwa’s Monocoque body and Zaion rotor platform
- 10 + 1 Ball bearings (including 5 anti-corrosion bearings); HD models feature 8 +1
- Weight: 7.2 oz – 14.3 oz
- Max. drag: 4.4 lbs – 17.6 lbs
Abu Garcia started life in Sweden in 1921. They originally started manufacturing watches, taximeters and telephone timers. It was during World War ll that there was a decline in the need for taximeters.
So, in 1941, the founder of the company, Carl Borgström, turned his attention to manufacturing fishing reels. The company is going strong to this day, producing quality fishing products worldwide.
One of Abu Garcia’s most popular reel series is the wildly popular Revo line, which features almost 50 baitcasting and spinning reels. We are going to take a look at 2 of their best-selling Revo spinning reels – the Revo Rocket and the Revo SX.
Abu Garcia Revo Rocket Spinning Reel
One of the most popular reels from the Abu Garcia stable is the Revo Rocket spinning reel which was built on the immense success of the Revo Rocket baitcasting reel.
The Abu Garcia Revo Rocket is an exceptional reel in just about every respect, but one major advantage it has over almost every other spinning reel on the market today is speed. Its high 7.0:1 gear ratio lets you cover more water faster – the line pickup is a lot quicker than with other spinning reels of lower/normal ratios. Blazing fast is one description that immediately comes to mind with this reel.
Speaking of gears, the Revo Rocket’s rugged and optimized gears are kept perfectly aligned on those high-speed retrieves with the help of its lightweight “X-Craftic” alloy gearbox that is integrated into a C6 insert-molded carbon body.
The rotor is also engineered out of C6 carbon for enhanced weight savings and strength, and the reel’s braid-ready spool is machined from lightweight aluminum. The spool lip is designed around the free-flowing rocket design for smoother and longer casts.
The Revo Rocket spinning reel also uses the Rocket line management system, meaning that no matter what line type you use, be it braid, monofilament, or one of the hybrids on the market, you will always have superior control over it.
For fish-stopping power, the Rocket relies on a front drag system that uses Abu Garcia’s Carbon Matrix hybrid system, which is incredibly powerful, smooth, and reliable, allowing you to easily tame even the hardest fighting fish.
The reel handle is constructed out of carbon and comes with a flat EVA knob, which can be fitted on either side of the reel.
The Rocket’s 10 ball bearing system incorporates 9 stainless steel HPCR (high-performance corrosion-resistant) bearings) plus 1 roller bearing which is used for the clutch’s anti-reverse mechanism.
This is a great reel for situations calling for fast presentations but is also suited to many styles and applications including finesses bass fishing, working crankbaits, pitching and so on. It is a good, versatile reel for all types of fishing including light saltwater environments.
Key Revo Rocket Features and Specs:
- 3 Revo Rocket models/sizes
- Made in Korea/China
- 1-Year Warranty
- C6 carbon body/rotor and alloy gearbox
- 7.0:1 Gear ratio for super-fast retrieves
- 9 + 1 SS corrosion-resistant bearings
- Lightweight construction: 6.9 oz – 8.1 oz
- Max. drag: 11 lbs across all models
Abu Garcia Revo SX Spinning Reel
Our final reel is one that should pique the interest of value-minded anglers. The best-selling and budget-friendly Revo SX spinning reel is a bargain, considering its lower price-point for a reel that offers so much.
The Revo SX reel was first introduced on the market in 2010. In 2013, however, it was completely re-designed, making it lighter, more compact, and more powerful while still retaining its competitive price tag.
The first thing you’ll probably notice with this reel is its good looks (just about everyone does). The styling is simply superb, with its predominant black color with a touch of grey and red trim – this reel has some pop to it.
The recent upgrades to the reel make use of many of Abu Garcia’s proprietary technologies (“Rocket “innovations) that are prevalent throughout the Revo series that including the Revo Rocket we just finished looking at.
This includes the use of an insert-molded C6 carbon body and a one-piece aluminum gearbox. These changes significantly cut the overall weight of the reel but at the same time maintain its strength and rigidity.
The SX, while not quite the speedster that is the Rocket, is no slouch either when it comes to speedy retrieves. Sporting the same enhanced gear system as the Rocket, the SX boasts a mid-high gear ratio of 6.2:1 across all 4 models.
The combination of the Rocket spool lip design and “Everlast” bail system will allow your line to lay flat on the spool regardless of technique or lure weight used.
It also has the advantage of greatly reducing the risk of backlashes and wind knots, even when using stiffer materials such as fluorocarbon. On casts, It puts out line smoothly with great distance and accuracy, even when casting into heavy headwinds.
Moving on, the front drag system on this reel uses the “Carbon Matrix” concept we saw in the Rocket, ensuring it remains incredibly smooth, powerful, and reliable, allowing you to work the fish hard.
The main shaft is constructed from stainless steel, with eight stainless steel HPCR (high-performance corrosion resistant) bearings, helping to keep corrosive elements at bay and increasing the longevity of the reel.
The handle can the SX can also be conveniently set up for right or left-hand retrieves.
Overall, this is an inexpensive spinning reel that is versatile, works well will all types of line and can be used to fish a variety of styles, environments, and species, from bass to redfish.
Key Revo SX Features and Specs:
- 4 Revo SX models/sizes
- Made in Korea/China
- 1-Year Warranty
- Attractive color scheme/design
- Rigid one-piece alloy gearbox
- “Everlast” bail system for even line lay
- 8 + 1 HPRC SS ball bearings
- Max. drag: 10 lbs – 17 lbs
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