Best Shimano Spinning Reel

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The Best Shimano Spinning Reel for the Money

Fishing Reels

Spinning reels were long regarded as easy to use, rookie-focused tackle – the truth is that these reels were never tested for greater endurance until a few reel makers decided to do so, and one of those manufacturers is Shimano.

By incorporating their spinning reels with practical features, Shimano has proven that professional angling doesn’t require expensive bait-casters - good news for both newbies and pros. The catch is that their product line has become so diverse, in terms of both application specific features and price range, that choosing the best Shimano spinning reel can be a chore if you don’t understand their jargon!

I’ve had an attachment with Shimano reels ever since my teenage years, and have kept myself updated on all their product developments. To help you pick the right reel for yourself – I’ve put together this guide that discusses the features and qualities of this celebrated manufacturer’s offerings.

Best Shimano Spinning Reels Comparison

Model

Weight
(oz.)

Build Material

Gear Ratio

Our Rating

Shimano SY500L Symetre FL Spinning Reel

Shimano SY500L Symetre FL

6.1

XTG7 composite / Aluminum

4.7:1

Shimano Baitrunner D BTR1200D

Shimano Baitrunner D BTR1200D

30

Graphite / Aluminum

4.4:1

Shimano Syncopate SC4000FG

Shimano Syncopate SC4000FG

12.7

Graphite / Aluminum

5.1:1

Shimano Sahara 4000FEC

Shimano Sahara 4000FEC

12.5

Graphite / Aluminum

5.8:1

Shimano Stradic C3000HG Spinning Reel Japanese Edition

Shimano Stradic C3000HG

8.3

n/a

6.0:1

Shimano: a short history

Shimano SY500L Symetre FL Spinning Reel

From its inception in 1921, up to the present, Shimano has striven towards precise engineering – a goal reflected in the vision of founder Shozaburo Shimano’s declaration that he would make Shimano’s products the best in the world.

Features that make Shimano products stand out

‘Hagane’ Body and Gear

To ensure maximum rigidity and durability at the core of their medium-to-high end products, Shimano employs a signature cold forging approach to creating the frame and drive gear. No cutting tools or die casting is applied, and the entire design is transformed from precise 3D computer schematics to the real thing by means of cold forging.

The cold forging approach packs the metal more densely, resulting in exceptional structural integrity for the frame, and lasting smoothness for the gear system.

M Compact Body Design

Shimano Syncopate SC4000FG

This is a premium weight reduction approach adopted by the manufacturer for their expensive light-weight spinning reels. It replaces aluminum with graphite to bring the weight down while also maintaining a reasonable degree of rigidity in the structure.

Micro Module Gear

Gear

Reserved for only their best products, this innovation to the standard gear set uses a greater number of smaller teeth for the gears to yield more contact area between the pinion gear and drive gear. This enhances the efficiency of the entire system, so you expend less energy during casting and reeling.

Coreprotect

Again, this is an exclusive high-end feature meant to provide water-protection without making the rotation sluggish. The roller clutch, the line roller and the body are made water-resistant to ensure continued performance even after the reel has been soaked in the surf a few times.

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Dyna-Balance

Shimano Stradic C3000HG Spinning Reel Japanese Edition

Computerized balancing of the rotor to optimally distribute its weight creates smoother spin, and does away with vibrations, which are a prominent issue with cheaper spinning reels when they are stressed. It is worth noting that the manufacturer has implemented this feature in all price segments of their lineup.

X-Ship

This is a design innovation unique to Shimano, where they have supported the pinion gear with a couple of ball bearings to maintain its alignment with the drive gear even under the heaviest of strains. The ball bearings reduce friction between the pinion gear and the spool shaft so you’re able to cast longer and with greater efficiency. This feature is present in medium-to-high end products.

Propulsion Line Management System / ARC Spool

A modified spool lip design has been implemented to improve castability of the line, while also reducing wind-knots and backlashes from developing mid-cast. This feature is present in almost all Shimano products.

Aero Wrap II

A special worm gear oscillation system winds the line downward and upward at different speeds so that it goes around the spool in a precise and even pattern – this brings down line-to-line resistance that can hinder casting.

Varispeed II

In expensive products where they can’t include the Aero Wrap II system, the manufacturer uses an oval oscillation gear to change the speed of rotation of the oscillation cam. This translates into a consistent spool speed and more uniform laying of the line, something that cannot be achieved with a run-of-the-mill circular oscillation gear.

In other words, Varispeed technology enhances castability in the manufacturer’s low-end products, and is a rare example of a manufacturer caring about budget minded consumers.

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Shielded bearings

Ball Bearing

The bearings used in these reels are given shields on either sides to eliminate the ingress of saltwater / debris that could affect their rotation and thereby compromise the performance of the entire drive train.

Super Stopper II

Shimano Stradic C3000HG Spinning Reel Japanese Edition

While the previous Super Stopper technology suffered from complaints that it left play in the handle, the manufacturer has been resolved the issue with an improved version: Super Stopper II utilizes a dedicated one-way roller bearing to eliminate all traces of back-play in the handle which previously led to lost catch and jittery performance.

Many competitors tend to cut costs by leaving out a dedicated anti-reverse mechanisms in their cheaper products, so it is nice to see that Shimano has incorporated it across the board.

Power Roller

Shimano Stradic C3000HG Spinning Reel Japanese Edition

Line twist can be a major problem with spinning reels, especially when you’re using a line with lots of memory. In fact, it is one of the reasons why pros tend to stick with bait-caster systems. However, Shimano’s Power Roller solves this problem through a distinct grooved design, which wraps the line tightly around the spool to prevent twisting and looping that occurs from repeated casts.

Quickfire II

This feature (not available in every Shimano product), auto-aligns the trigger and the line, and keeps them within range of your index finger. This lets you cast single handed with ease.

A consideration with modern Shimano spinning reels

Not to deter from the strict design practices and solid feature-set of their products, but Shimano has started using an increased amount of plastic for creating minor parts of their spinning reels, which may take you by surprise if you’re a veteran angler with decades old metal-only Shimano reels.

The obvious justification is that it keeps the cost down and reduces overall weight, but this also means that you should not stress low-end Shimano reels beyond their quoted drag limits.

Top Shimano Spinning Reel Reviews

Shimano SY500L Symetre FL Spinning Reel

  • Drag Limit / lbs.: 4.4
  • Retrieval Rate / IPT: 20.8
  • Bearing Count: 4 + 1
  • Line Capacity / lbs./yard :
    2/190, 4/100, 6/60 [mono]
Shimano SY500L Symetre FL Spinning Reel

Sporting a super-compact XGT7 M Compact graphite composite frame, the Symetre 500L is an excellent reel to pair with a lightweight rod for some light fishing.

The composite material used for the frame builds on the older XT7 and provides better rigidity and support for the moving components of the reel, while also reducing the overall weight. The aluminum spool has been crafted through cold-forging, which lends enhanced strength to the structure of the reel, and features a modified spool lip design (ARC Spool) to enhance castability and minimize backlash when using thin line.

Given the lightweight construction of the reel, efficiency is the key to its success, and the manufacturer achieves this through innovations such as Hypergear (which uses a precision engineered main gear which converts more of your energy into reeling torque), and X-Ship (which uses ball bearings to connect the pinion gear to the spool shaft for smooth, resistance free operation).

The reel supports a maximum drag of roughly 4.4 lbs., which is perfectly in line with its construction and application. The lowly drag limit notwithstanding, the reel has received a lot of praise for the smoothness of its front drag system. Furthermore, Shimano’s Super Stopper II anti-reverse system makes sure that you don’t lose any fish to a loose handle.

A 4.7:1 gear ratio yields sufficient torque for reeling in light catch, but at a rather sluggish 20.8 inches per turn. Considering the size of the spool, it isn’t surprising that you’re restricted to no more than 190 yards of 2 lbs. line, but thanks to the X-Ship gear design, the reel lets you push to this limit with efficiency and ease. Varispeed II and Power Roller technologies are used to achieve even, uniform line lay that is free of kinks, knots and twists.

While the general opinion about this reel among anglers is quite positive, there have been a couple of complaints pertaining to dragging reel action and twisting, which could stem from the reel being stretched beyond its operating capabilities.

PROS

  • Ultra-lightweight and rigid design.
  • Smooth and efficient castability ensured by top-notch Shimano technologies.
  • Can handle braid quite effectively thanks to modified line laying / casting approaches.

CONS

  • Limited drag / retrieval rate.
  • Somewhat expensive.

Shimano Baitrunner D BTR1200D

  • Drag Limit / lbs.: 25
  • Retrieval Rate / IPT: 37
  • Bearing Count: 3 + 1
  • Line Capacity / lbs./yard :
    12/550, 16/350, 20/265 [mono];
    50/505,65/310,80/230 [braid]
Shimano Baitrunner D BTR1200D

Here’s a spinning reel that can hold its own against powerful fish and corrosive saltwater without charging a premium for its solid features.

Utilizing a graphite side plate and frame, the Baitrunner D is inherently resistant towards saltwater electrolysis, but it also incorporates a waterproof drag system and shielded ball bearings to achieve optimum performance in saltwater situations.

As implied by the name, the reel has a secondary drag system that can be engaged to let the fish run with the bait. After the fish has tired itself out a bit, you engage the powerful 25lbs. drag again and set the brakes on it. It is worth noting that the drag washers are made from carbon fiber so you can expect them to operate smoothly for a long time.

The BTR1200D model is capable of holding a very generous amount of both mono (20lbs. / 265 yards) and braid (80lbs. / 230 yards). In particular has received quite a lot of praise from anglers with the way it handles braided line, but this is to be expected given that it packs Shimano’s Varispeed, Power Roller and Propulsion Line Management System technologies.

The powerful 4.4:1 gear ratio is able to yield more than enough torque for reeling in big catch; combined with the large cold-forged aluminum spool, it is also able to churn out a swift 37 IPT retrieval rate. You can count on the reel’s handle to have zero back play thanks to the SuperStopper II one-way bearing feature.

This is one of those rare reels which manages to get everything right: it is sensitive, durable, and efficient; it offers the best value for your money; and there haven’t been any complaints about its performance or design!

PROS

  • Unbeatable cost-to-benefit ratio.
  • Sturdy and corrosion-resistant construction.
  • Water-resistant internal design.
  • Competent and powerful core performance, even with braid.
  • Bait runner feature for catching especially bothersome fish.

CONS

  • Still not a budget reel.

Shimano Syncopate SC4000FG

  • Drag Limit / lbs.: 13
  • Retrieval Rate / IPT: 32
  • Bearing Count: 4 + 1
  • Line Capacity / lbs./yard :
    8/240,10/200,12/160 [mono];
    15/265,30/175,50/145 [braid]
Shimano Syncopate SC4000FG

Shimano’s Syncopate series caters to the needs of rookie anglers who need more than just a pair of training wheels.

Sporting a lightweight graphite body and rotor, the reel is perfect for snappy one-handed casts and can hold its own in saltwater too. As expected, Shimano has included its QuickFire II system in this reel, which will allow you to make single-handed casts effortlessly, leaving your other hand free for holding your favorite beverage! The Propulsion Spool Lip design eliminates backlashing and knotting issues during casting.

Casting performance is taken beyond the level of average starter reels thanks to the variable speed oscillation gear system and Power Roller II features that ensure optimum line lay, thereby minimizing issues such as looping and slipping which are typical of thinner lines such as braid. Thanks to the one-way roller bearing, all traces of backplay in the handle are also taken care of.

The reel’s 5.1:1 gear ratio is perfectly suited for speed light-to-medium weight fishing applications, being able to output a 32 IPT retrieval rate and a maximum drag of 13 lbs. The aluminum spool can hold a maximum of 160 yards of 12 lbs. mono, or 145 yards of 50 lbs. braid, so you’ll only be able to do fish close to the harbor / shore / boat with this one.

The drag may be somewhat restrictive, but given the lightweight construction of this budget reel, this was perhaps the best the manufacturer could achieve. And while it is not the smoothest reel out there, the SC4000FG still yields one of the most fluid casting / reeling experiences in its price range thanks to the 4 shielded ball bearings incorporated into its drive system.

PROS

  • Cheap.
  • Lightweight, corrosion resistant construction.
  • Allows for efficient one-handed casting.
  • Smooth performance in its price bracket.

CONS

  • Limited drag limit and line capacity.

Shimano Sahara 4000FEC

  • Drag Limit / lbs.: 15
  • Retrieval Rate / IPT: 36
  • Bearing Count: 3 + 1
  • Line Capacity / lbs./yard :
    8/240,10/200,12/160 [mono];
    15/265,30/175,50/145 [braid]
Shimano Sahara 4000FEC

Another reel that incorporates Shimano’s M Compact Body design, the Sahara 4000FEC is geared towards inshore saltwater anglers requiring a manageably sturdy yet affordable medium-tier spinning reel.

The frame, rotor and sideplate of the reel is composed of graphite, so it is able to weather prolonged saltwater exposure with relative ease. But the manufacturer has also made the drag system waterproof – commendable given the low cost of the reel – so you’re able to enjoy a consistently smooth drag in saltwater.

As is the norm with Shimano products, the reel has garnered praise for its fluid and effortless castability. No surprise really, since it packs the manufacturer’s signature Propulsion Line Management System and Power Roller II mechanism for optimum casting, free of twists, knots and loops.

The 3 shielded stainless steel ball bearings eliminate friction, which ultimately means less effort on your part during retrieval and casting. A SuperStopper II one-way roller bearing keeps the handle from developing back-play that can lead to lost catch.

The cold forged aluminum spool means that you can stretch the reel to its 15lbs. drag limit time and time again without it experiencing any fatigue. The 5.8:1 gear ratio is able to produce 36 inches per turn of line retrieve, so you can reel in the catch swiftly enough.

My only complaint with this reel is that the spool can only hold as much as 160 yards of 12lbs. mono line, or 145 yards of 50lbs. braided line, which may restrict you to fish relatively close to the shore.

PROS

  • Lightweight yet sturdy construction.
  • Efficient casting free of typical issues of looping and knotting.
  • Water-proof drag and graphite body allow for extended saltwater use.

CONS

  • Somewhat restrictive drag and line capacity.

Shimano Stradic C3000HG Spinning Reel Japanese Edition

  • Drag Limit / lbs.: 20
  • Retrieval Rate / IPT: 35
  • Bearing Count: 6 + 1
  • Line Capacity / lbs./yard :
    6/230, 8/170, 10/140 [mono];
    10/200,20/140,40/105 [braid]
Shimano Stradic C3000HG Spinning Reel Japanese Edition

Incorporating the manufacturer’s state-of-the-art ‘Hagane’ design, this is an inshore spinning reel that creates an exceptional combination of light weight and endurance.

The cold-forged aluminum frame, in conjunction with X-Ship enhanced drive system, ensures a degree of reliability and fluidity that is rarely seen in such a lightweight offering. The bearings used in the X-Ship system also reduce resistance in the drive system, thereby enabling effortless long distance casting.

Thanks to the high end Aero-Wrap II worm gear system, you get consistent and accurate laying of the fishing line, which translates into improved castability, especially with slippery braided lines. This is further enhanced by the inclusion of Propulsion Line Management and Power Roller II systems that eliminate line twist and knotting problems which can prove banes for many an angler’s score.

The reel’s 6.0:1 gear ratio leans towards speed – but considering the somewhat limited size of the spool (10 lbs. / 140 yards mono tops) – it can only go as high as 31 inches per turn of retrieval. However, the 20 lbs. maximum drag limit is quite commendable, given the low overall body mass.

The externals as well as inner components have been given corrosion resistant coats which make the reel saltwater damage resistant, but not waterproof.

While the general opinion about this reel is quite favorable, it has accrued some criticism for its lack of a manual anti-reverse switch, which is necessary for back-reeling when you’re dealing with a finicky fish. The manufacturer justifies this decision by citing weight reduction and maneuverability, and in that department they have definitely achieved a remarkable feat at 8.3 ounces of net weight!

PROS

  • Exceptionally strong yet lightweight aluminum frame.
  • Smooth, twist free casting and tight reeling.
  • Efficient and durable gear drive.

CONS

  • Slightly pricey.
  • Doesn’t have a manual anti-reverse switch.

Conclusion


Having read my appraisal of the many features packed across the entire Shimano spinning reel line, you’ll have to admit that this is a manufacturer that strives to raise the bar for fishing tackle in all aspects – efficiency, ease-of-use, build quality, economy – they’ve got it all covered.

While many of their products are meant for one or two very specific fishing applications e.g. inshore, freshwater, deep sea, Shimano also offers reels that can serve diverse all-in-one roles. From among the ones that I’ve covered, the Baitrunner D BTR1200D is my pick for the best Shimano spinning reel for the money for this very reason: it is sturdily built, it is corrosion resistant and has a powerful waterproof drag, it can hold plenty of fishing line, and it has a fast retrieval rate in spite of its torque-centric gear ratio.

Shimano Baitrunner D BTR1200D


These qualities will enable the BTR1200D to serve you in a wide range of fishing applications – going from deep water angling to freshwater angling. Its versatility justifies the slightly expensive price-tag, and combined with its exceptional reliability, makes it a tough one to pass over..

About the Author Jimmy Bruce

Loves everything to do with fishing and gear.

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