Best 8 Shimano Spinning Reels (2021 Reviews)

photo of a fishing rod with shimano spin reel attached propped up on dock at lake

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Fishing is a pastime known by all and adored by many. It is as old as humankind itself and while it was once a means of survival, today it is a cherished hobby and sport. An important component to help you have a successful day out on the water is a reel. Most anglers know buying the best Shimano spinning reels give them the advantage needed to be successful. This is because every model is lightweight and responsive, with excellent casting accuracy.

With tons of great Shimano reels on the market, it can be tricky picking the best model for you. Don’t worry though, I have got you covered.

Today, I’m giving you a comparison table and full reviews of each of the 9 best Shimano spin reels for 2021. Expect to find fishing reels for every experience level.

After the reviews, I include a buying guide about how to choose a Shimano spinning reel. For ease of uses there’s a clickable table of contents for you to navigate to a specific review.

We updated this article in January 2021 to meet this years standard for the best Spinning reels from Shimano. For this year one new model made the list! Introducing the replacement for the Stradic CI4+ reel. From freshwater, inshore to monster offshore models. Read on to discover the best 9 Shimano spinning reels in 2021. 

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Table of Contents

Comparison Chart

The Best Heavy-Duty Freshwater Spin Reel

Purple label with gold anchor stating Editor's choice
Shimano Stella FJ
  • Retrieve: Left/Right
  • Gear Ratio: 5.1:1, 6.0:1, 6.2:1 or 6.4:1
  • Use: Freshwater
  • Reel Weight Range: 6 to 9.2 ounces
  • Line Recovery: 25 to 40 inches per turn
  • Bearings: 12 + 1
  • Drag System: Front
  • Max Drag: 7 to 24 pounds
  • Frame Construction: Carbon/Polyamide Inter-fused Body & Cold-Forged Aluminum Long Stroke Spool
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

Shimano Stella FJ Line Capacity Table

Product Code

Weight (oz)

Mono-Line Capacity (#Test/Yd)

Bearings

Gear Ratio

Max Drag (Lb)

Braid Line Capacity (Lb/Yd)

Retrieve Per Crank (In)

STL1000FJ

6

2/270, 4/140, 6/110

12 + 1

5.1:1

7

10/95, 15/85, 20/65

25

STL2500HGFJ

7.2

8/140, 10/120

12 + 1

6.0:1

20

10/150, 15/145, 30/100

35

STLC3000XGFJ

7.4

6/230, 8/170, 10/140

12 + 1

6.4:1

20

10/200, 20/140, 40/105

37

STL4000XGFJ

9

8/240, 10/200, 12/160

12 + 1

6.2:1

24

15/230, 30/180, 50/120

40

STLC5000XGFJ

9.2

10/240, 12/195, 14/165

12 + 1

6.2:1

24

20/260, 30/235, 40/185

40

Stella FJ Reel Review:

My pick for the absolute best of the Shimano spinning reels for 2021 is the Stella FJ. Released at 2018’s Yokohama tackle show the Stella FJ caused an immediate uproar. From the beginning it’s been impressive to look at and feel in the palm of your hand. For those of you who don’t know, this is the flagship in Shimanos’ spin reel line-up.

On first look, the newest Stella reel body is a beautiful mixture of silver and chrome color schemes. Around the spool there are small delicate cut-outs. This 2021 version of the reel is the pinnacle of a refined and luxurious spinning reel.

“Reel Feel”

Using the Stella FJ for the first time is like driving a supercar. Few people can afford to, but those who can love it. I felt this way fishing with it.

At first touch of the body I could sense the near perfection of the ergonomics. Like any high-end Shimano reel, the body to the rotor and spool are in total balance. For buyers of the older models, one area that changes is the handle knob. As of last year, there’s no more T-shaped knob! I like many others found the older knob shape to be a bit cumbersome.

Unbeatable Features Of The Stella FJ

Versatile Model Range

The Stella FJ series offers five models that suit a big range of species and target methods. These models include a 1000, 2500HG, C3000XG, 4000XG, and C5000XG.

For anglers that aren’t aware of Shimanos’ acronyms below are some basic explanations:

  • PG = Power Gear (None for Stella FJ). A reel best suited for cranking and fighting fish for deep depths.
  • HG = High Gear or faster gear ratio. Best for jerk-baiting, stick-baiting and popping.
  • XG = Extra Gear or super fast gear ratio. Made for high-speed spinning, popping, jerk-baiting in swift currents.
  • C = Compact. This reel is the same physical size as the preceding smaller model. The difference is the spool is larger. As a result, the drag pressure and internals are more powerful.

Stella FJ Models At A Glance

The 1000 model.

  • Perfect for light action and light line use with a max drag of 7 pounds. It comes with the 5.1:1 gear ratio and 25 inches (63.5 cm) of line per crank. With an average line capacity of 140 yards of four-pound mono-line and 85 yards of 15-pound braid.

Next, the 2500HG.

  • A swift gear ratio of 6.0:1 while being able to retrieve 35 inches (88.9 cm) of line per crank. This model has a max drag of 20 pounds. For line capacity it holds 120 yards of 10-pound mono/fluoro and 145 yards of 15-pound braid.

Third, the C3000XG.

  • Using the exact body size as the 2500 but with larger line capacity. This delivers flawless performance for deep freshwater situations. Its max drag comes in at 20 pounds. For line capacity it holds 170 yards of 8 pound mono-line and 140 yards of 20 pound PowerPro/braid. Expect 37 inches (93.98 cm) of line per rotation due to a gear ratio of 6.4:1.

The next two models will retrieve 40-inches per crank using 6.2:1 gear ratios. Each deliver a max drag of 24 pounds.

Fourth, the 4000XG.

An extra gear model a bit larger in actual size to the previous model. At 255 grams the 4000 is ultra light that feels spectacular in your hand. It’s line capacity is impressive with 200 yards of 10-pound test mono or 170 yards of 30-pound braid.

Finishing with the C5000XG.

  • This model is identical in physical size as the last model. The difference being it uses a larger spool. Holding 195 yards of 12 pound test mono/fluoro and 200 yards of 30 pound braid-line.

Casting & Retrieving

The first time I turned the reel’s handle I kind of mistook it for an electric reel, that is how smooth it feels. It offers exceptional accuracy and effortless casting. Shimano uses a patented spool design meant to increase casting distance. I will say that real world testing of actual performance is subjective. In my experiences the casting is effortless for hours on end.

One thing I will confirm is the line management system is second to none. Using a one piece bail, the operation is flawless. The bail snaps open with a crisp but near silent “click” sound. Or if you tend to turn the handle to close the bail, it will snap closed with authority.

Next, the retrieving of lures is so enjoyable, due to the MicroModule II gearing and Silent Drive. The transfer of sensitivity from the reel to the anglers’ hands is evident. In turn, you can feel every knock and pause which gives you better control of your lure in darkness.

Hate line twists? I do! To prevent this the Stella FJ has an internal bearing for the line roller. Most spinning reels today have a bearing supported line roller. The bearing helps the line roller rotate which in turn prevents line twists. By placing the bearing inside, the line roller is less susceptible to getting stuck.

Any Downsides?

I found one main downside for the Stella FJ, the cost of it. This is a Shimano Stella, consider it the Rolls-Royce of front drag spin reels. If you want to get your hands on one, expect to pay a little under nine hundred dollars for it. It’s the most expensive reel of its kind in the spinning reel market. For most enthusiasts this is a downside, but if you can afford it, do yourself a favor and buy it.

Verdict: Shimano Stella FJ

If you are an angler who can afford to, buy this reel. Or even if you have to save for it, I recommend doing so, the Stella FJ doesn’t disappoint. Pick the small 1000 model for targeting yellow perch and light rock fish. Choose the 2500/3000 models for all around predator angling. Or if you prefer to target the biggest freshwater predators pick the 4000/5000 models. No matter what model you choose, the Stella will deliver the smoothest fishing experience.

Terrific Offshore Mid-Range Saltwater Reel

Shimano Socorro SW
  • Retrieve: Left/Right
  • Gear Ratio: 4.6:1 or 4.9:1
  • Use: Saltwater 
  • Reel Weight Range: 15.5 to 23.5 ounces
  • Line Recovery: 31 - 40 inches per turn
  • Bearings: 4 + 1
  • Drag System: Front
  • Max Drag: 22 to 27 pounds
  • Frame Construction: Aluminum/Composite XT-7 Body & Cold-Forged Aluminum Spool
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

Socorro SW Line Capacity Chart:

Product Code

Weight (oz)

Mono-Line Capacity (#Test/Yd)

Bearings

Gear Ratio

Max Drag (Lb)

Braid Line Capacity (Lb/Yd)

Retrieve Per Crank (In)

SOC5000SW

15.5

10/240, 12/195, 14/165

4+1

4.6:1

22

20/245, 30/225, 40/175

31

SOC6000SW

15.7

12/265, 16/170, 20/120

4+1

4.6:1

22

30/290, 50/195, 65/140

33

SOC8000SW

22.6

12/345, 16/250, 20/185

4+1

4.9:1

27

40/340, 50/265, 65/215

37

SOC10000SW

23.5

12/500, 16/320, 20/220

4+1

4.9:1

27

50/360, 65/290, 80/215

40

Review of Socorro SW:

The Shimano Socorro SW is a great no frills salt water reel that will get the job done. While it is a basic reel, it does include the strong and reliable Hagane gearing. As well, it has the X-Ship technology that provides a precise and smooth retrieval. This rugged saltwater reel is capable for everything from surf casting to jigging.

Reel Model Range

You can choose from four different models of the Shimano Socorro SW. Each with versatile line capacities and efficient line retrieval per cranks. The two smaller models both have 4.6:1 gear ratios and a max drag of 22 pounds.

SOC5000SW

Starting with the smallest size, this reel can retrieve line at a rate of 31 inches (78.74 cm) per crank. While handling up to 175-yards of 40-pound braid line or 165-yards of 14-pound mono line. Sizing up to the SOC6000SW will retrieve line at a rate of 33″ per crank. It’s greatest line capacities are 140-yards at 65 pound of braid and 120-yards at 20 pounds of mono line.

The next two models are best for anglers using slow action techniques. Especially those who do surf casting or inshore where you need a heavy line capacity.

SOC8000SW

First, this model retrieves line at a rate of 37 inches (93.98 cm) per crank. It can handle up to 240-yards of 65-pound braid or 185-yards of 20-pound mono line.

SOC10000SW

The next model will retrieve at a rate of 40 inches of line per crank, which is great to pull in bigger fish quicker. The reel can handle a max of 215-yards of 80-pounds of braid or 220-yards of 20-pound mono line. Both of the larger models have a decent 4:9:1 gear ratio with a max drag of 27 lbs.

Socorro SW Features:

The Socorro SW Verdict:

You should choose the Socorro SW reel when you need a basic do-it-all saltwater reel. One that is as competent for surf casting as it is for jigging. Some complain that the Socorro SW has a lower gear ratio, but it makes up for it with a higher cranking power. I love that as a saltwater reel it offers the same precision “Hagane” gearing of the Stradic line, but at a lower cost.

New Stradic CI4+ Replacement = Perfect Light Finesse Reel

top marks label in blue with yellow check mark
Shimano Vanford F
  • Retrieve: Left/Right
  • Gear Ratio: 5.1:1, 5.6:1, 6.0:1, 6.1:1, 6.2:1, 6.4:1
  • Use: Freshwater & Inshore Saltwater
  • Reel Weight Range: 4.9 to 7.8 ounces
  • Line Recovery: 25 - 40 inches per turn
  • Bearings: 6 + 1 or 7 + 1
  • Drag System: Front
  • Max Drag: 6 to 24 pounds
  • Frame Construction: Carbon/Polyamide Inter-fused Body & MGL Rotor, Plus Cold-Forged Aluminum Spool
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

Vanford F Line Capacity Table

Product Code

Weight (oz)

Mono-Line Capacity (#Test/Yd)

Bearings

Gear Ratio

Max Drag (Lb)

Braid Line Capacity (Lb/Yd)

Retrieve Per Crank (In)

VF500F

4.9

2/190, 4/100, 6/60

6 + 1

5.6:1

6

5/135, 8/105, 10/65

27

VF1000F

5.3

2/270, 4/160, 6/110

7 + 1

5.1:1

7

10/95, 15/75, 20/65

25

VF2500HGF

6.3

6/200, 8/140, 10/120

7 + 1

6.0:1

20

10/150, 15/145, 30/100

35

VF4000XGF

7.6

8/240, 10/200, 12/160

7 + 1

6.2:1

24

15/230, 30/180, 50/120

40

VFC2000HGF

5.3

6/165, 8/105, 10/95

7 + 1

6.1:1

7

10/140, 15/115, 20/95

32

VFC3000XGF

6.3

6/230, 8/170, 10/140

7 + 1

6.4:1

20

10/200, 20/140, 40/105

37

VFC5000XGF

7.8

10/240, 12/195, 14/165

7 + 1

6.2:1

24

20/260, 30/235, 40/185

40

Vanford F Review

Introduced in 2021 the Vanford is Shimano’s newest spinning reel. At the last ICast, Shimano announces they are retiring the iconic Stradic CI4+ reel. The Vanford series is the upgraded replacement for the CI4+ spinning reel. Upgrades include a Long Stroke Spool and MicroModule Gearing. The goal of these two features is to deliver longer casting and smoother retrieving.

Why End The Stradic CI4+ Reel?

Shimano created the older Stradic CI4+ to provide a lighter version of the main Stradic line of reels. But anglers want more from their reels that just lightweight materials. Thus, Shimano answered this concern by creating two distinct series of reels.

The actual difference between each reel is simply the body material. The Stradic uses the Hagane aluminum delivering a rigid no flex reel. As a result its ideal for freshwater, medium finesse use with mono fishing line.

Whereas the Vanford, has the lightweight carbon body and MagnumLite (MGL) rotor. Which is great for mono-line, but even better for fluorocarbon line with light lures. Due to the CI4+ body this reel is also capable for inshore saltwater environments. Like ice fishing and drop-shot fishing, or stalking tailing fish in the flats.

Shimano Vanford Appearance

Style wise, the Vanford has a stealthy matte black body with red accents. Much different from the flashy finish of the Stradic CI4+ reel. The Vanford has a sleek compact body that weighs 4 oz (151.2 g) less than the already lightweight Stradic CI4+ 2500 reel. In fact, its 1.6 oz (60.48 g) lighter than the Stradic FL reel. Using the MagnumLite Spool also contributes to how lightweight the Vanford is.

Another bonus of the Vanford is using the compact barrel knob, instead of the Stradics T-knob. This grip provides enough tactile surface, and further lowers overall weight. One feature to note, the Vanford eliminates the reverse switch. If you are an angler that prefers this feature, it’s something to be mindful of.

Upgraded Vanford Series Features

Casting & Retrieval Performance

So how does the upgraded Vanford F compare to the discontinued Stradic CI4+? It’s almost the same. New for this reel is the long stroke spool design. Meant to improve casting performance when compared to the previous model.

To ensure you get the full picture, I tried the reel with both mono-line and fluorocarbon. On my first cast with mono-line and 1/2 oz (14.17 g) baits the max cast distance matched the Stradic CI4+ reel. Next, casting with fluorocarbon and a drop shot rig weighing about 1/8 oz (4.72 g). This cast was longer than the Stradic CI4+ but not by a great distance. It’s not bad at casting but don’t expect a massive boost in distance, compared to the model its replacing.

Moving on to where I notice a big difference, retrieval. Comparing the Vanford series to the Stradic Series, the big upgrade is the MGL rotor. Which you get in the Vanford, also constructed of CI4+ material. The plus for using carbon/polyamide on the rotor is to reduce startup inertia. Lower inertia means its faster and lighter to rotate the handle. You also get the MicroModule 2 which increases the precise reel response to angler input.

Ice Fishing & Inshore Saltwater Applications?

Yes! The Vanford F spinning reel use X-Protect to ensure water and corrosion resistance. This waterproofing also maintains system smoothness and longevity in harsh cold environments. It achieves this through a labyrinth of water channels and water repellent grease.

Verdict:

The new Vanford F is a natural successor to the Stradic CI4+ reel. It’s definitely an upgrade as its lighter, has more bearing and gets the MGL rotor. Although for casting the gains are marginal, where it excels is for retrieval. This reel is perfect for ultra light finesse fishing and even inshore salt/ice fishing.

Popular Ice Fishing & Inshore Saltwater Reel

top marks label in blue with yellow check mark
Shimano Twin Power XD
  • Retrieve: Left/Right
  • Gear Ratio: 4.4:1, 4.6:1 or 5.7:1
  • Use: Inshore Saltwater
  • Reel Weight Range: 8.3 to 10.6 ounces
  • Line Recovery: 37 – 41 inches per turn
  • Bearings: 9 + 1
  • Drag System: Front
  • Max Drag: 20 to 24 pounds
  • Frame Construction: Carbon/Polyamide Inter-fused Body & Cold-Forged Aluminum Spool With Titanium Coating
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

Shimano Twin Power XD Line Capacity Table

Product Code

Weight (oz)

Mono-Line Capacity (#Test/Yd)

Bearings

Gear Ratio

Max Drag (Lb)

Braid Line Capacity (Lb/Yd)

Retrieve Per Crank (In)

TPXDC3000XG

8.3

6/230, 8/170, 10/140

9 + 1

6.4:1

20

10/200, 20/140, 40/105

37

TPXD4000XG

10.2

8/240, 10/200, 12/160

9 + 1

6.2:1

24

15/280, 30/170, 50/150

39

TPXDC5000XG

10.6

10/240, 12/195, 14/165

9 + 1

6.2:1

24

20/220, 30/200, 40/160

41

Twin Power XD Review

Searching for a monster of an inshore reel that is luxurious too from Shimano fishing? Do yourself a favor and check out the Twin Power XD, it’s a little powerhouse of a reel. Introduced in 2017 and made in Japan it has become a very popular product for Shimano.

The “XD” stands for (extreme durable). As its name suggests, the gears used in this spinning reel are 70% stronger than the older 2015 Twin Power.

I don’t own or use this model for Shimano fishing reel. Instead of not including it I asked Darren a contributor to Outdoors Informed who owns the C3000XG model to give you his review.

Darren’s Review:

Hey fellow anglers! If you are like me and prefer to use a smaller inshore saltwater reel this is one of the best I own. Think of it as an upgraded Stradic or a “Stella-lite.”

First, if you aren’t experienced with Shimano product codes this is what they mean. The “XD” stands for extra durable; while the “XG” means extra-high gearing (6.4:1).

The “C” stands for compact, but this is a bit of a misnomer. A “compact” reel is the same physical size as the previous smaller model. What’s different is the spool, on the compact reel it’s larger. This means the drag pressure and internal gearing is extra powerful. Keep in mind though, Shimano only offers compact versions for the 3000 and 5000 models.

Function Over Cosmetics

For looks, it’s super slick, but for the money you are spending what’s vital is how tough its construction is. More about that in another section of this review. One thing you will notice is how light and compact this reel feels in your palm, it’s comfortable and rock solid.

On first touch you’ll notice Shimanos well-known lightweight Ci4+ carbon reel body. The single aluminum handle feels secure but rotates smooth. While I find the round EVA grip comfortable, some anglers prefer the paddle shaped knob. An EVA knob is great for instances like it gets wet, unlike other types it won’t get slippery. Shape and comfort is subjective but I never fail to grip with this knob when engaged in a fight.

Another feature I love is how the inner low inertia works via the MGL rotor to allow the handle to move. There is a distinct feeling of fluid movement combined with big cranking power. Plus the single bail has a steady trip closed on every use.

At the top of the spool is the front dray control and it clicks with authority. Below the spool you will see some cutouts, these allow water to exit from the channels of the X-protect.

Durable And Reliable Features

Model Specs: Weight/Max Drag/Line Capacity

Shimanos Twin Power XD series offers three models to suit a many species and cast methods. The models include the C3000XG, 4000XG, and C5000XG.

The C3000XG is the lightest model of the bunch at a puny 8.3 ounces (235.30 g). Don’t let the weight fool you though, it’s more than capable to target red fish. Its max drag comes in at 20 pounds. For average line capacity it holds 170 yards of 8 pound mono-line and 140 yards of 20 pound PowerPro/braid. Retrieve 37 inches (93.98 cm) of line per rotation with the fastest gear ratio available at 6.4:1.

Next is the 4000XG, which weighs in at decent 10.2 ounces (289.17 g). Pick this model if you like to target larger species like bluefish and striper. It has a tough drag system with a max drag of 24 pounds. For line capacity it holds 200 yards of 10 pound mono-line and 170 yards of 30 pound braid. It has a fast gear ratio of 6.2:1 and a retrieval of 39 inches (99.06 cm) per crank.

Third, is the C5000XG another compact model. This one is the heaviest at 10.6 ounces (300.50 g). The extra weight is from the bigger spool. Like the last model its optimal for targeting bull reds, striped bass and other big inshore species. Likewise, it has a max drag of 24 pounds. It holds an average of 195 yards of 12 pound mono line and 200 yards of 30 pound braid line.

Stella Like Features At Half The Price!

I bet your next question is how does it perform? Let me put it this way, flawless. Shimano designed this reel with harsh saltwater environments in mind. But they also included almost all the features found in the double the cost Stella SW series!

The big concept for the Twin Power XD is X-Protect. This is a labyrinth of internal channels combined with a water resistant grease. It’s meant to protect the line roller and clutch and from my uses, it’s been great. Keep in mind though, this reel isn’t waterproof like a Van Staal, but for most anglers it’s more than proficient.

If you open up the reel, you will see that it isn’t a sealed reel. Which isn’t much of a surprise as Shimano has never made a fully sealed reel. This is because the brand focuses on smooth performance and luxury features. Over you being able to dunk the reel for extended amounts of time.

Cast & Retrieve Performance

For such a small reel I was a bit worried my first time out. But no matter how aggressive I cast the body simply doesn’t flex. This is thanks to the Ci4+ carbon and polyamide body, its stiff. Shimano also uses this material for the rotor. Match this with X-Ship and the S-ARB bearing. As a result, it delivers massive improvements over the 2015 Twin Power models.

During retrieves the main improvement I notice is the durable cross carbon drag for better control while fighting fish. Targeting lighter inshore species using soft bait was a breeze. Like the Stella it uses an AR-C spool, 2-speed oscillation and full titanium bail. The sum of these parts makes this reel super powerful and exceeds my expectations. The bottom line, this is my go-to for inshore fishing with lures.

Is It Better Than A SW Stella Or Twin Power?

Well, no it isn’t. While the X-protect works well for inshore I wouldn’t class it the same as the Stella or other “SW” reels. The Stella has greater waterproofing, it’s ideal for off-shore and works for inshore albeit overkill.

Looking at the Twin Power XD as a less expensive version of the Stella or Twin Power SW models, take my advice, don’t. This is an excellent reel for inshore saltwater targeting small to medium species. But when hooking something large it struggles unless you buy the 5000 model. Even with this size some anglers who target strippers feel it’s under powered. Although this is dependent, on personal preference.

Verdict

This is all about fishing experience, by that I mean this is a high-end inshore spinning reel. Anglers who appreciate intense cranking power with luxury features will love it. It’s great light inshore reel but I imagine it’s not as robust as the either of the SW models. All the same, for discerning anglers there is no better option for a light inshore reel.

Excellent Surf Casting Spin Reel

Shimano Ultegra Ci4 XTC
  • Retrieve: Left/Right
  • Gear Ratio: 4.3:1 or 5.3:1
  • Use: Saltwater
  • Reel Weight Range: 15.5 to 19 ounces
  • Line Recovery: 41 inches per turn
  • Bearings: 5 + 1
  • Drag System: Front
  • Max Drag: 33 to 44 pounds
  • Frame Construction: Carbon/Polyamide Inter-fused Body & Cold-Forged Aluminum Spool
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

Shimano Ultegra Ci4+ XTC Line Capacity Table

Product Code

Weight (oz)

Mono-Line Capacity (#Test/Yd)

Bearings

Gear Ratio

Max Drag (Lb)

Braid Line Capacity (Lb/Yd)

Retrieve Per Crank (In)

ULTCI414000XTC

19

12/600, 16/440, 20/330

5 + 1

4.3:1

44

40/550, 50/460, 65/335

41

ULTCI45500XTC

15.5

10/425, 12/315, 16/230

5 + 1

5.3:1

33

30/360, 40/270, 50/220

41

Ultegra Ci4+ XTC Review

Looking for a spectacular reel which handles the surf, salt and the abuse from big fish? Stop, your search is over. This is the reel you want if you are standing on the pier or on the beach and need a super long cast. It’s the Shimano Ultegra Ci4+ XTC surf-casting reel. The line up of this reel includes two power house models, offered in both 5500 XTC and 14000 XTC sizes.

The Looks: Minimal Matte Black

Looks are a subjective matter, but for angler who love minimalist looks this reel nails it. The body including the handle is matte black. It’s lightweight due to the carbon Ci4+ construction of the body plates and rotor. Ci4+ material is light and resistant to flex, while providing all-day fishing comfort. With a weight range of 15.5 to 19-ounces this is in truth a manageable big pit surf reel.

Like other Shimano inshore/surf cast reels it isn’t sealed. But it does have X-Protect which is more than capable to keep out salt spray and debris.

For this review I am describing and using the 14000 model. But both the 5500 and 14000 reels feature large diameter long stroke spools. This spool dominates the reel without looking imbalanced.

A one-piece aluminum handle provides your connection with the reel. It comes with an EVA paddle knob, some anglers like these and some don’t, count me in the latter group.

Next, on top of the spool is the front drag clutch. With this reel you get the much simpler “Hi-Speed drag”. Replacing the older Baitrunner II drag system. Make half a turn to go from free spool to fighting drag. This change is great news to any big pit or surf cast enthusiasts.

Likewise, the bail is a single wire that for the 14000 model is faultless. Yet I have heard of a couple complaints that on the 5500 the bail is a bit weak.

Great Features Of The Ultegra Ci4+ XTC

Ultegra Ci4+ XTC Models

Two powerful models are available for this series from Shimano.

First, the 5500 model.

This is the best surf casting reel for casting, jigging, plugging due to the max drag of 33 pounds. In fact this is the absolute perfect reel for carp. It comes with the 5.3:1 gear ratio and a massive 41 inches of line per crank. With an average line capacity of 315 yards of 12-pound mono-line. Or a respectable 270 yards of 40-pound braid.

Second, the 14000.

Pick this model if you are chucking live bait long distances due to the heavy 40 pounds of max drag. This will hook every large species (shark!) you would want to hook. It has a good fighting gear ratio of 4.3:1 while being able to retrieve 41 inches of line per crank. This model has a hefty max drag of 40 pounds. With its big spool the line capacity holds 440 yards of 16-pound mono/fluoro and 460 yards of 50-pound braid. That’s impressive.

Cast & Retrieve

Both Ultegra Ci4+ XTC models come with the Hagane gearing and “parallel body”. As mentioned the Hagane gears are cold forged to provide smooth casting and reeling. The meaning of “Parallel body” is Shimano hangs the reel 90 degrees to the rod blank. Doing so, decreases line touches against the line guides. Most anglers understand that more friction equals poor casting distances.

The real reason this reel can cast such long distances is the long stroke AR-C spool. This means the spool is taller than others.

On my first attempt casting with the 14000 I was gob-smacked at the average distances I could achieve. Distances of 275 feet (83.82 m) and over are definitely doable depending on your technique. At first cast the thing I see is the super slow oscillation of the spool and the cross-hatch line lay. The real reason this reel can cast such long distances is the long stroke AR-C spool. This means the spool is wider than others and line will pour out of it.

Like most of the other reels in this article, the reel uses X-Ship and five bearings and one roller bearing. The result is butter smooth winding in. Match this with the waterproof and hi-speed drag and you have intense cranking power. With this surf cast reel you have the best arsenal to catch anything you want.

Any Downsides?

For me, the 14000 model is flawless as long as I use it as intended and not for off-shore salt fishing. It’s for fishing off a dock, on the beach or in a canal. For the 5500 model, the main downside is the weaker bail. Which becomes evident if targeting around near 30-pounds of drag.

Why Pick The Ultegra Ci4+ XTC?

Pick the Ultegra Ci4+ XTC if you’re passionate about surf fishing. You get a spectacular reel that holds up to the rigors of salt, sand, spray, and big fish. Fish everything from red drum, sharks, and rays, you’ll find no better option. Bottom line this reel casts a country mile and fights like an ox.

Best Spinning Reel Under $50

green budget friendly label
Shimano Syncopate
  • Retrieve: Left/Right
  • Gear Ratio: 5.1:1 or 5.2:1
  • Use: Freshwater (approved with saltwater)
  • Reel Weight Range: 7.6 to 12.7 ounces
  • Line Recovery: 25 - 32 inches per turn
  • Bearings: 4 + 1
  • Drag System: Front
  • Max Drag: 7 to 13 pounds
  • Frame Construction: Graphite Body & Cold-Forged Aluminum Spool
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

Syncopate Line Capacity Table

Product Code

Weight (oz)

Mono-Line Capacity (#Test/Yd)

Bearings

Gear Ratio

Max Drag (Lb)

Braid Line Capacity (Lb/Yd)

Retrieve Per Crank (In)

SC1000FG

7.6

2/270, 4/140, 6/110

4+1

5.2:1

7

10/95, 15/85, 20/65

25

SC2500FG

9.2

6/200, 8/140, 10/120

4+1

5.2:1

7

10/170, 15/145, 30/95

29

SC4000FG

12.7

8/240, 10/200, 12/160

4+1

5.1:1

13

15/265, 30/175, 50/145

32

Shimano Syncopate Reel Review

The Shimano Syncopate spinning reel is the perfect stepping stone from the Shimano IX. Especially for novices looking to improve the efficiency and distance of their casts.

On first attachment to my rod I noticed how easy it was to secure it. Plus the reel foot & stem feel sturdy & light. The handle made of EVA material feels comfortable, while casting and reeling feels smooth. I also noticed that it has good to great gearing speeds.

For anglers with little experience, gearing speed should take a backseat to ease of casting. Lucky for you because this is an easy reel to cast with due to the “Quick Fire II” trigger. It is simple to use since you can cast and close the bail with one hand. Although on the reel I used, the trigger did feel a little loose which will annoy me over time. Another thing I noted was the bail is a bit stiff, but for a reel under $50 it is comparable to other brands.

Good Drag Management

The drag on this reel is smooth and simple to adjust. Yes, some will complain about the reel lacking an instant anti-reverse lever. But for anglers who are learning it is a good choice to keep your hand on the handle to feel for strikes.

The Shimano Syncopate fishing reel comes in three sizes (1000, 2500 or 4000) with a gear ratios of either 5.1:1 or 5.2:1. Combining the smooth gears and the 4 ball bearings with one roller bearing this is a versatile and fast reel. It will allow you to target species from crappie up to larger inshore species like bass.

Shimano Fishing states that this reel is a freshwater reel. Although many resources I found state you can use it for saltwater. Keep in mind that if you use it for saltwater this reel is for smaller species. Plus you will have to be diligent with cleaning and maintaining it. If you want a capable saltwater reel do yourself a favor and check out the Shimano Socorro SW.

Features Of The Syncopate Reel

Verdict:

If you are an angler searching for a stepped up entry-level spinning reel, this is a perfect pick. It combines affordability, improved speed and durability inside a great little reel. This spinning reel simple to learn, rugged and smooth to operate. This is a versatile reel that will assist you along many levels of angling experiences.

Top Mid-Range Finesse Reel Under $300

top marks label in blue with yellow check mark
Shimano Stradic FL
  • Retrieve: Left/Right
  • Gear Ratio: 6.0:1, 6.2:1 or 6.4:1
  • Use: Freshwater & Saltwater
  • Reel Weight Range: 6.5 to 10.4 ounces
  • Line Recovery: 30 - 40 inches per turn
  • Bearings: 6 + 1
  • Drag System: Front
  • Max Drag: 7 to 24 pounds
  • Frame Construction: Aluminum Hagane Body & Cold-Forged Aluminum Spool
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

Stradic FL Line Capacity Table

Product Code

Weight (oz)

Mono-Line Capacity (#Test/Yd)

Bearings

Gear Ratio

Max Drag (Lb)

Braid Line Capacity (Lb/Yd)

Retrieve Per Crank (In)

ST1000HGFL

6.5

2/270, 4/160, 6/110

6 + 1

6.0:1

7

10/95, 15/75, 20/65

30

ST2500HGFL

7.9

6/200, 8/140, 10/120

6 + 1

6.0:1

20

10/150, 15/145, 30/100

35

STC3000XGFL

7.9

6/230, 8/170, 10/140

6 + 1

6.4:1

20

10/200, 20/140, 40/105

37

ST4000XGFL

9.9

8/240, 10/200, 12/160

6 + 1

6.2:1

24

15/230, 30/180, 50/120

40

STC5000XGFL

10.4

10/240, 12/195, 14/165

6 + 1

6.2:1

24

20/260, 30/235, 40/185

40

Stradic FL Review

The Stradic FL is the replacement for the previous FK model and wow is it an upgrade! Excluding the Stella FJ this is my favorite spinning reel of 2021. It’s without a doubt the top medium finesse applications reel under $300 bucks.

Sleek & Stiff Reel Body

The Stradic FL series is a feature packed ultralight spinning reel. It has a classic silver and blue finish that is compact with a comfortable non-slip grip. Using the same Hagane Body as the last series expect an aluminum body that is super stiff. As a result, it prevents flexing during the hardest fight.

Tons of anglers boast about how light the Stradic FK reels are, well the FL series are lighter. This series only weighs between 6.5 to 10.4 ounces (393.11 g), as such the spinning reel will never feel heavy on your rod. The first time I used the C3000XG model I had a long day out on the water and had no wrist fatigue.

In my palm the reel body is compact but the spool is the big upgrade. The Stradic FL features the same long stroke spool found of the Stella FJ! Using this design makes every cast as long and accurate as possible.

The bail closes fast and the single folding aluminum handle with paddle knob. While for the 5000 size, it comes fitted with a power handle.

Improved Features Of The Stradic FL Reel

Performance Features Like The Shimano Sustain

Inside the Stradic FL is a whole new performance standard for its price point. It’s like they stuffed most of the latest goodies from the Stella or Sustain series into it.

First this reel comes with the lauded MicroModule Gear II. This gear tooth design delivers rotational smoothness and big power transfer. Next the Hagane cold forged gear is 100% more strong as last year. To ensure perfect gear mesh at all times the reel employs the X-Ship pinion gear support.

To help cut vibration and noise from inside the reel the Stradic FL uses Silent Drive. This is a fine-tuning of 11 internal parts, including the drive gear, worm shaft, its pin and gear. The result is silent and fluid retrieval.

For preventing water and salt intrusion the reel use the superior X-Protect system. This waterproofing helps maintain system smoothness and longevity. It achieves this through a labyrinth of water channels and water repellent grease.

Worth mentioning is that the 3000-5000 models come with cross carbon drag washers. These sizes are best if you intend to use the reel for inshore saltwater. A cross carbon drag increases your cranking strength while delivering smooth winding. Plus the 5000 model has Shimanos power handle to further aid in fighting larger targets.

Did I Find Any Disadvantages?

Nope! As of today I haven’t had any complaints nor has anyone I have spoken to. I’m blown away by how this reel fishes. While it isn’t at the Stella level of refinement, it comes close.

Stradic FL Verdict:

This is the best spin reel for anglers who can’t or won’t shell out the cash for a Shimano Stella FJ. It has almost every feature of the Sustain series too. Not only is it a sleek looking reel but also superior in how it performs out on the water. With this reel you will have a solid performer due to all the goodies inside the reel. For an angler wanting a light reel that is superb to use, the Stradic FL is the definitive choice.

Popular Lightweight Finesse Reel

Shimano Stradic Ci4+
  • Retrieve: Left/Right
  • Gear Ratio: 6.0:1 or 6.2:1
  • Use: Freshwater & Saltwater
  • Reel Weight Range: 5.6 to 8.1 ounces
  • Line Recovery: 31-39 inches per turn
  • Bearings: 6 + 1
  • Drag System: Front
  • Max Drag: 7 to 24 pounds
  • Frame Construction: Carbon/Polyamide Inter-fused Body & Cold-Forged Aluminum Spool
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

Shimano Stradic Ci4+ Line Capacity Table

Product Code

Weight (oz)

Mono-Line Capacity (#Test/Yd)

Bearings

Gear Ratio

Max Drag (Lb)

Braid Line Capacity (Lb/Yd)

Retrieve Per Crank (In)

STCI41000HGFB

5.6

2/270, 4/140, 6/110

6+1

6.0:1

7

10/95, 15/85, 20/65

31

STCI42500HGFB

6.7

6/200, 8/140, 10/120

6+1

6.0:1

20

10/150, 15/145, 30/100

35

STCI43000HGFB

6.7

6/230, 8/170, 10/140

6+1

6.0:1

20

10/200, 20/140, 40/105

35

STCI44000XGFB

8.1

8/240, 10/200, 12/160

6+1

6.2:1

24

15/280, 30/170, 50/150

39

Shimano Stradic Ci4+ Review

The Ci4+ was a top marks reel last year, but the Stradic FL pushed it off its perch. It lost marks because it didn’t get the upgrades in internal features of the FL series.

Discontinued as of 2021, the Stradic Ci4+ is a still a good mid-range medium finesse reel. If you want the new version of this model, see my review of the Vanford F.

** What you see for sale are the final models available on the market. **

Build Quality

While the other Stradic offering from Shimano is amazing, the Ci4+ is better in a few key aspects. One noticeable addition of the Ci4+ is how ultra-lightweight it is. This is due to the carbon and poly-amide body combined with the cold-forged AR-C spool. The Ci4+ material is 2.5 times stronger than the other Hagane materials. As a result this reel is ultra lightweight and because it isn’t metal it should be rust proof.

Another feature crucial for long days fishing is creating smooth and easy retrievals. Which is why Shimano includes a key feature with the Ci4+, called the Magnumlite Rotor. Unlike the previous Ci4 designs this is 25% lighter and makes 22% less inertia. Resulting in better balance which takes less force to start and stop your retrieve.

Shimano fishing reels make incredible and smooth drag systems. As such the Ci4+ comes with the great gearing and bearings. Including the lauded Hagane gearing and X-ship, explained in the features section below.

Features Of The Stradic Ci4+

Ci4+ Downsides?

One thing to keep in mind, there is no actual anti-reverse lever on this reel. Some anglers like having this lever to put the spool into “free-spool” mode. Instead, the anti-reverse feature is “on” all the time with the Stradic Ci4+. I suspect they do this because it means one less port of entry for corrosion when used in saltwater.

Why Buy The Shimano Stradic Ci4+

Buy this Shimano fishing reel if you want a lightweight, smooth reel with a strong drag system. As an added plus it is near waterproof and sand/dust proof. I appreciate that the Ci4+ has components that most would only expect from much more expensive reels.

Anyways, for a mid range reel that you can use in fresh or light inshore saltwater, the Ci4+ won’t disappoint.

Most Affordable Rear Drag Reel

green budget friendly label
Shimano IX Rear Drag Spin Reel
  • Retrieve: Left/Right
  • Gear Ratio: 4.1:1
  • Use: Freshwater & Saltwater
  • Reel Weight Range: 8.4 to 11.4 ounces
  • Line Recovery: 19 - 24 inches per turn
  • Bearings: None - Uses Bushings
  • Drag System: Rear
  • Max Drag: 7 to 15 pounds
  • Frame Construction: Graphite Body & Spool
What We Like
What We Do Not Like

IX Line Capacity Table

Product Code

Weight (oz)

Mono-Line Capacity (#Test/Yd)

Bearings

Gear Ratio

Max Drag (Lb)

Braid Line Capacity (Lb/Yd)

Retrieve Per Crank (In)

IX1000R

8.4

2/270, 4/140, 6/110

0

4.1:1

7

10/95, 15/85, 20/65

19

IX2000R

8.6

6/170, 8/120, 10/100

0

4.1:1

7

10/130, 15/100, 20/85

21

IX4000R

11.4

8/240, 10/200, 12/160

0

4.1:1

15

15/265, 30/175, 50/145

24

Shimano IX Reel Review

The Shimano IX is by far the most budget friendly item I have ever reviewed. Not only is it easy to use but it is also a bullet proof little reel. Buying this reel for a beginner or kids proves that a good Shimano reel doesn’t have to burn a hole in your wallet.

The first time you handle the Shimano IX you will feel the graphite body. Graphite is lightweight, inexpensive and durable. This reel uses this material on its spool, rotor, body and side plates. The reel isn’t as light as the others in the article, but for novices it is a great introduction to spinning.

The reel comes in three sizes, either a 1000, 2000, or 4000. Plus every model has a 4.1:1 gear ratio so it is pretty slow. Don’t expect quick retrievals either, as the line retrieve per crank in inches are only 19″ to 24″.

I recommend using the 1000 for little ponds or as a kids first reel. The next step up, the 2000 is great for freshwater fishing. Finally, the 4000 is the best choice for saltwater fishing when targeting smaller species like small striped bass.

All things considered, if you use light spoon lures or are teaching a novice, then this is a very capable Shimano fishing reel.

What Is A Rear Drag Spinning Reel?

Unlike the other reels, the IX is a rear drag which means that the drag system controls are at the rear of the reel. Rear-drag reels are easier to use for beginners because the access is easier to find.

However, it does have some caveats, including not be able to fight large, hard fighting fish. Nor can you achieve super long casts with it. But as a first timer, you should be focusing on casting accuracy over distance anyways.

Features Of The Shimano IX Reel

Is the Shimano XI comparable to another model?

Keep in mind, you shouldn’t compare this reel to $50-$100 dollar reels. Since it doesn’t have any ball bearings nor a similar smoothness during drags. But for the price it’s hard not to justify picking one up either. Think of all have times when you have an extra fisherman around that needs to borrow a reel. Plus the Shimano IX is a good reel to have around when targeting pond carp, channel, and bullhead.

Verdict:

It is not very often that you find a rugged and easy to use Shimano reel with an unbelievable price tag. So do yourself a favor and buy one, the Shimano IX is a perfect pick for anyone who is budget-conscious or new to fishing.

How To Choose Shimano Spinning Reels

Not sure which of the series or models to pick for your fishing needs? The best Shimano spinning reel for you will depend on how and where you fish and some personal preferences. To help you find the best spin reel for you below are nine vital considerations.

Size

Every series of Shimano reels make models that are capable for everything from super light freshwater species to larger off-shore game fish. The numbers in the product code mean the diameter of the spool. Bigger diameter means more line you spool your fishing reel with. For this article the smallest reel size is a 1000 used for light finesse fishing. On the opposite end of the spectrum is a monster coming in at 14000 in size.

Freshwater & Inshore Salt

1000 This size reel is best used with 4 to 8-pound line, for targeting small to medium crappie, bream, walleye, or trout.

2500 – 3000 This size reel is for jumping up to 6 to 15-pound test line. A 2500 size reel is the most versatile size but the 3000 size tend to get less line twists. This size can handle every smaller species and medium fish like large mouth bass.

4000-6000 The actual reel size at 4000 is medium, whereas a 6000 size is bulkier and heavy. These size reels will use 10 to 17-pound test of mono or fluorocarbon line. Use these sizes for big freshwater predators and lighter inshore salt fishing.

Saltwater – Offshore

8000-10,000 These are bigger reels both in physical size and line capacity. Their function is to target big fish such as species that hit the 20 to 30 pounds mark. If you want to target striper, leopard shark or rays these are great size range of reels.

14000+ Anything over the 14000 size is for serious angler who want to catch massive species. This size of reel hold between 16 to 50-pound test of mono or fluoro-line! You hunt sharks with this size of spinning reel.

Line Capacity

It’s important that the reel size you choose matches the type and line size you fish with. Shimano prints line capacity numbers on the side of the reel. The numbers denote the average range of line capacity like this: pound-test weight/length of line. For example: a reel stamped with 8/140 equals 8 pound-test line/at 140 yards. Which means this reel can use 6 and 10 pound lines too.

Drag System

This is the built-in braking system for the reel. You will either choose a front drag system or a rear drag system.

  • Front Drag: Located on top of the spool. It features several drag washers for increased durability and performance. Used in moderate to expensive spinning reels.
  • Rear Drag: Found under the bottom of the reel body. While it’s easier access when fighting fish it isn’t strong. As a result it isn’t great for strong and fast fighting fish. Inexpensive reels like the Shimano IX use the rear drag system.

Max Drag

The maximum drag rating indicates the stopping power a reel offers. In this article the Shimano spinning reels have maximum drags ranging from 7 to 44 pounds (19.96 kg).

  • Finesse Freshwater – Look for 7 to 15-pounds of max drag.
  • Inshore Saltwater – Pick 15 to 20-pounds max drag.
  • Offshore Saltwater – Need 20+ pounds of max drag.

Gear Ratio

Gearing is the internal parts that transmits power via rotation from the handle to the spool. If you want fast retrieves a reaction strikes, opt for gear ratios of 6.1:1 or higher. Whereas if you are using crank baits, spinner baits for heavy cranking, opt of low gear ratio like 4.1:1. If you are in the middle and want a versatile targeting try a gear ratio of 5.1:1 or 6.0:1.

Ball Bearings

Most Shimano Spin reels use shielded anti-rust ball bearings. Their function is to reduce friction when the bail arm and spool rotates. Reels print a set of numbers to state ball bearings like this: “6 + 1.”

The first number (6) means a six ball bearing unit and the second number (1) is one pinion/roller gear.

More high quality ball bearings equal more smooth and durable reel performance. The Shimano “Super Stopper II” pinion gear is what promises smooth hook sets.

Shimano Spinning Reels Construction

Shimano packs their products with industry leading technology which translates into the best quality reels. Features like the Cold forged Hagane gears. Combining with Shimano’s advanced MicroModule Gear II and X-Ship pinion gear-support system. These ensure unflinching smooth control and exceptional durability despite heavy loads.

Using Shimanos Propulsion Line Management System ensures perfect fishing line management. As well as, implementing the AR-C spool on every reel to deliver long accurate casting.

Reel Weight

It should be obvious why reel weight is an important factor. Weight makes a big difference on long fishing excursions. The good news is that Shimano reels come in everything from ultra-lightweight 5.3 ounces up to 12.7 ounces for freshwater/inshore reels. Shimano saltwater reels range from a respectable 15.5 ounces to 23.5 ounces.

High Quality Materials

Reel body and handle materials are crucial as they determine the durability of the reel and weight. Shimano Hagane aluminum and carbon-fiber are the best materials. These are strong, corrosion resistant and lightweight. Shimano’s version of graphite, called X-T7 is rigid and being a composite it won’t rust.

Warranty

It’s good insurance to buy from a brand that covers their products. As a company, Shimano offers a two-year limited warranty. This covers defects in materials and workmanship. Be mindful to read the fine print in a warranty. It’s critical to know what conditions can void a warranty.

Finishing Up: Best Shimano Spinning Reels

As shown above, finding the right Shimano fishing reel doesn’t have to be hard. Most of us want a reel that is lightweight, powerful and has a smooth drag. With your new-found knowledge about the best 8 spinning reels, you will have an easy time picking the reel best suited for you.

Thanks for letting us at Outdoors Informed to help with your research. We do it, to ensure you can spend less time indoors and more time outside hooking fish.

Finishing Up: Shimano Spinning Reels

As shown above finding the right Shimano fishing reel doesn’t have to be hard. Most of us want a reel that is lightweight, powerful and has a smooth drag. With your new found knowledge about the best 8 spinning reels, you will have an easy time picking the reel best suited for you.

Thanks for letting us at Outdoors Informed to help with your research. We do it, to ensure you can spend less time indoors and more time outside hooking fish.

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Last update on 2021-03-01

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