Best Shimano Spinning Reels: Ratings, Reviews & Top Picks

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Are you trying to determine which is the best Shimano spinning reel for your specific fishing needs? There are many options to pick from, so choosing the right reel can be challenging. In this article, we asked our fishing community to recommend their favorites so you can decide for yourself.

shimano spinning reel

7 Best Shimano Spinning Reels

How to Choose the Right Shimano Spinning Reel

man choosing spinning reel
Choosing a spinning reel can be tough.

As you have probably figured out by now, the Shimano brand offers spinning reels that share several noteworthy features. Your choice of the fishing reel should be based on your preferences, style of fishing, the type of fish you’re targeting, and a reputable brand.

Size and Weight

The size of the Shimano spinning reels you get should depend on the size of the fish you want to catch. For instance, if you are targeting smaller fish, a 500 to 1000-size reel should suffice. If your reel is too big for your line size, you will have more lines than you know what to do with, and it’ll be heavy to carry all day.

If you are going with a heavier line, you’d need a bit larger reel. It’d be worth checking out the Shimano Ci4 or FG.

The former is lightweight and made of carbon material that flexes just enough to tackle medium size fish. However, the Stradic FJ is more rigid, which makes it more robust against stronger or bigger fish. 

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Drag System

Every experienced angler knows that a spinning reel with weak drag is basically a useless reel, especially if you are trying to catch strong fish.

The importance of a quality drag system is in its smoothness and stopping power. Depending on the size of the fish you’re targeting, you’ll want the appropriate drag pressure.

However, when you have a drag system that isn’t smooth, you risk breaking off your fish due to the spikes in tension on the line.

Gear Ratio

shimano spinning reel thai

Slower ones would be 5s:1 and 6s:1 for heavy loads, and faster gear ratios, i.e., 7:1 or above, are for moving lures quickly through the water.

These determine the speed at which fishing reels pick up the line. So if a reel has a gear ratio of 6.3:1, that means that the spool goes around 6.3 times for every turn the reel handle makes. 

What makes gears extra special in these reels is that no cutting work is applied to them. Instead, the whole surface is designed using 3D technology and created via cold forging. 

Propulsion Line Management System and Aero Wrap II

Shimano spinning reels feature a Propulsion Management System, one of the best features of which is the Propulsion spool lip design.

It provides a more extended casting range than the standard variety and prevents wind knots and backlashes from forming.

Reels that have the Aero Wrap II feature as well can benefit from optimal oscillation, uniform line lay, and winding shape, which prevents energy loss during casting. In simpler words, with a Shimano reel that has these two features, you can increase how far you cast without exerting yourself. 

Line Capacity

The line capacity you want in your Shimano reel will depend on a few factors including.

  • Size of the spool
  • The line you use on the spool

For example, if you are using a mono line for a Shimano Baitrunner reel, you can get a line that is 265 yds long with a 12 lb test or a 170 yds long line that can withstand a 15lb test.

Similarly, if you prefer braid and are using, say, a Shimano AERO Technium reel, you can get a 60-yds long line that can withstand a 40lb test or a 460-yds line that can withstand a 50lb test. 

Quality Materials and Construction

shimano reel upside down

The Hagane design concept in Shimano reels ensures that they can withstand consistent use and extreme abuse in the toughest of conditions.

The strength and durability of the Hagane gearing, efficient power transmission of the X-Ship technology, and the rigid body of the reel maintain this concept in every reel.

All of these benefits come together to eliminate body flexing, which in turn translates into more cranking power. 

Shimano Warranty

Shimano reels come with a two-year warranty beginning the moment they are purchased. 

It should be noted, however, that this warranty does not cover reels that have incurred damage because of wear and tear or neglect.

Damage that has been inflicted by the end-user is not covered by the warranty, nor is repair, modifications, or improper reassembly. The removal of serial numbers is an absolute no-go and nullifies the warranty no matter the issue.

Shimano USA Headquarters: 1 Holland, Irvine, CA 92618

Shimano phone number: (949) 951-5003

1. Shimano Stella SW

Best Saltwater Spinning Reel

Available in 8 size ranges (from 5,000 to a whopping 30,000), the Shimano Stella SW comes in three gearing ratios. Its power aluminum body, along with an X-rigid rotor handle and body, works together to reduce power loss. Like other Shimano reels, it also features X-ship technology.

This includes two bearings that are situated at either end of the pinion gear and remain in place under heavy load. The Stella makes for high-quality tuna and sailfish reels, which are robust and pull like mad.

We love the aesthetics of this Shimano spinning reel as well as how smooth it casts. However, be prepared to shell out some significant cash for this beauty. The only thing that will put you a bit aback is the price, which is steep. Ultimately, it’s a Stella…you get what you pay for.

2. Shimano Stella FJ

Best Freshwater Spinning Reel

The Shimano Stella FJ spinning reel boasts a smooth drivetrain as well as X-protect. This allows it to resist water damage. The propulsion line management system offers long casting ability and prevents knots from forming in the reel.

The spool support of the main shaft has been strengthened in this model, ensuring smooth drag delivery under heavy loads. 

This reel has MicroModule II gearing and silent drive, which provide the smoothest and quietest operation we’ve ever experienced. Again, the only setback might be the price.

3. Shimano Ultegra XSD

Best Long Cast Spinning Reel

Though not usually in the running for the best reel, you would be hard-pressed to find a reel better than the Shimano Ultegra XSD for its price.

Its instant drag system allows you to switch between fight drag and free spool easily. The Super Stopper II feature also prevents back play and free movement on the handle for smooth line management.

The Ultegra XSD spinning fishing reel’s propulsion line management system features the AR-C spool and a patented angled spool lip, which reduces line friction. The technology reduces drag and increases casting distance.

We love how smoothly this reel casts, but we wish the brand had paid more attention to the aesthetics. The fishing reel looks a bit plasticky at first glance. 

4. Shimano Exsence

If you need one of the best spinning reels that can withstand harsh saltwater conditions, check out the Shimano Exsence. It features an internal labyrinth structure that repels corrosive saltwater even if you are soaked by the heavy spray.

Plus, the X-Ship technology, as well as the Hagane gear and body, ensure smooth winding and increased durability. Also, the G Free Body technology shifts the center of gravity of the reel closer to the rod and, thus, the angler’s hand position. This reduces fatigue and increases casting distance. 

The Shimano spinning fishing reel embodies all of the best features the brand has to offer but in a more rugged and affordable package. There are no cons to this reel that we could see, making this one of the best Shimano spinning reels you can get for saltwater fishing. 

5. Shimano Stradic Ci4

The Shimano Stradic Ci4 boasts a CoreProtect waterproof drag system and is exceptionally lightweight, both of which make it ideal for saltwater fishing.

With striking good looks and a smooth operation that is right up there with more expensive models, it is little wonder why the Stradic spinning reel is popular with anglers.

The EVA grip on the Stradic is a lighter alternative to plastic and does not get as slippery when it gets wet, either. Plus, the cold-forge aluminum spool provides extra strength and durability compared to graphite or diecast aluminum spools. 

The Shimano Stradic Ci4 is so lightweight that it floats, which you will thank the brand for if it is dragged into the water by an overly feisty fish.

However, the size and position of the anti-reverse lever in this Stradic is a problem. It is located right up against the rotor under the reel and is tiny that you may have difficulty using it.

6. Shimano Stradic Ci4+ RA

Shimano Rear Drag Spinning Reel

The Shimano Stradic Ci4+ spinning reel is an advanced version of the Ci4 fishing reel, the only difference being that it is two and a half times stiffer in comparison. This reduces flexibility in the body and rotor even if the rod is under extreme pressure.

Plus, the Stradic Ci4+ has a 6:1 line retrieve gear ratio and Aero Wrap II oscillation for excellent line lay. The power roller also reduces line twists, which will come in handy if you use mono or braid. The Stradic Ci4+ also boasts five Shielded A-RB bearings for a powerful yet, silky-smooth performance.

The Ci4+ Stradic fishing reel’s rapid-fire drag and the fact that it is an incredibly lightweight reel, make it a must-buy. However, like the Stradic Ci4, it also has a tiny anti-reverse switch, which can be challenging to access, especially when you are trying to reel in a big catch.

However, it is one of the best Shimano spinning reels you can get if you are looking for a light yet robust fishing reel.

7. Shimano NASCI

Inshore Spinning Reel

The Shimano NASCI is one of the best Shimano spinning reels for freshwater as well as saltwater fishing. It boasts the Hagane gear technology for a smooth retrieve experience even under heavy loads. The NASCI is available in 5.0:1 and 6.2:1 gear ratio.

The fishing reel also features thick bail wire that prevents it from wrapping, which is only suitable for propulsion line management. 

We love how the NASCI feels in our hands, especially if it is paired with the right rod. The spinning reel can give you hours of easy fishing with little fatigue. However, the spool is not braid-ready, and the reel is not fully sealed either, which can pose a problem.

Frequently Asked Questions

The gears in my Shimano fishing reel feel rough under pressure. What do I do?

This can happen because of a lack of lubrication or damaged gears. Send the reel in for repairs to have this fixed.

What do I do to prevent the line from twisting in the reel?

Wind the line on the spool correctly to prevent this. Use a bucket of water when adding the line to allow the spool line to rotate freely and reduce unnecessary wrapping. Also, if you’re on a boat, you can let your line out while the boat is moving and reel in to uncoil the line.

Which Shimano reel is best?

The reel gives you the performance you need according to the type of fish you want to catch. Some would consider the Stella SW the best reel only because it’s their highest-end model.

What is the best spinning reel for the money?

In our tests, we like the KastKing Sharky III if you’re going from a durability and price standpoint. Overall, a reel from a reputable brand like Shimano, Penn, and others would work, depending on what you’re targeting.

Do pros use spinning reels?

Spinning reels are great for reducing the chance of birdnesting when casting. They also can have solid drag-stopping power. They aren’t the best when it comes to dropping line down deep or trolling.

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing enthusiast. He has over 25 years of fishing experience, and 6 years of spearfishing experience, and is currently learning how to boat. Jon has his Open Water PADI Certification and FII Freediver Level 1 Certification. Jon has traveled the world to fish and dive, most notably in the Great Barrier Reef, Baja Mexico, Thailand, and Malaysia. More Articles
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