Ask a savvy angler about spinning reels or any other tools used for fishing and Shimano’s products will be answered almost by default. That is how Shozaburo Shimano’s angling must-haves lead the fishing industry, particularly for spinning reels.
It is quite normal for them to release quality products after quality products. They invent, reinvent, and repeat the cycle so they have the best Shimano spinning reels for everyone no matter the setup difference.
Choosing one that perfectly matches your rig will take time. Hence, we collated the best Shimano spinning reels we have tried and reviewed them so you do not have to.
Get ready to spin the reel!
We reviewed the best Shimano spinning reels we had and tried for both saltwater and freshwater. The quick run-down looks like this.
|Saltwater Spinning Reel|
|Shimano Baitrunner D Spinning Reel (4.8:1)|
– Propulsion Line Management System with S A-RB bearings
– Durable and efficient for all fishing presentations
|Freshwater Spinning Reels|
– It has anti-reverse mechanism
– Uses Quick Fire II bail system
– Ultimate spinning reel experience
– Has the smoothest cast, retrieve, and drag systems among our picks
– 24lbs max drag
– Fatigue-free experience
– The lightest spinning reel we tried
– Entry-level spinning reel but built like higher-end Shimano reels
– 6 ball bearings and 1 roller bearing
– Built-in Fluid Drive System
– Sleek, black and silver mix
– Best for beginners
What is a spinning reel?
A spinning reel is an open-face metal device attached to your rod, with a spool and arm (or handle) that feeds your line into the spool. It is used to throw artificial lures, throw both live or dead bait, bobber fishing, ice fishing, and a lot more fishing presentations.
They can be used for lightweight freshwater fishing to heavy bass saltwater angling. Some can do both without any sweat, while you may need to switch into different spinning reels to maximize your rig.
Saltwater vs. Freshwater Spinning Reels
There is a fine line between saltwater and freshwater spinning reels. Using the right spinning reel that is designed for a specific environment will extend your reel’s lifespan and guarantee a fine fishing trip even after days of using your rig.
- Freshwater spinning reels are best when angling in non-brackish waters. It is wrong to conclude that they cannot be used for saltwater fishing because you can use them anywhere!
However, you may find your spinning reel easily corroded if used mainly for saltwater. Occasional uses are fine as long as you rinse them with fresh water, treat them with light oil, and dry them with a cloth after use.
- Generally, saltwater spinning reels can be used universally. They are tailored to withstand harsh salt and weather combinations out in the open sea, but will also work fine even in freshwaters. Plus, they have bigger line capacity so they can weigh in bigger bass than freshwater spinning reels.
If you are contemplating which saltwater spinning reel to buy, read our thorough buyer’s guide on the best saltwater spinning reels we’ve tried.
Baitcaster Reels vs. Spinning Reels — What makes them different?
Both reels are best for their original design, but not so when misused in a different fishing presentation or by another angler. Here are a few things that make bait caster and spinning reels different.
- Intended use — Baitcaster reels handle larger and farther catches. Pro anglers use baitcaster reels when their tackles are bigger. If you are going to use heavier lines and lures, then go for baitcaster reels.
However, if you are still getting to know the sport, a spinning reel is the best place to start. Start with light tackle, master the light lines, manage the occasional backlash, then elevate your game until you can easily switch between both.
Don’t know how to set up your baitcaster reel? Check out this 5-minute guide for a quick fix!
- Position on the fishing rod — As mentioned, baitcaster reels handle heavy loads so the reel is positioned above your fishing rod with a reel seat. It has less mobility compared to spinning reels, as most commercially-available spinning reels are attached below the handle and can be switched from left to right to cater to whichever is your dominant hand.
If a friend borrows your fishing rod with a baitcaster reel, you may find it inconvenient for both of you if the reel does not favor the former’s dominant hand. Spinning reels are best for sharing the fun experience with a friend.
If you’re ambidextrous, then have fun with your spinning reel!
What makes Shimano spinning reels legendary?
When you talk to an angler about Shimano spinning reels, chances are they will recognize it in a heartbeat. If not, then it will slightly ring a bell. Shimano has been producing most anglers’ go-to spinning reels for many reasons.
Shimano = quality.
This brand is known for the smoothness of its spinning reels and the top-notch, if not unparalleled, quality of its item. They have been producing wider selections of mid-range spinning reels and a few in entry-level and higher-end spinning reels.
Spinning reels withstand a plethora of scientific tests and prove their capabilities both for quick and long-time fishing trips.
Nothing is more rewarding than using a rig that does not weigh more than your catch. Shimano’s top-of-the-line spinning reels can match your lightweight gear without lagging in performance.
Everything is also seamless, with the consumers’ comfort in mind. We love plenty of their spinning reels – which we will dive into in a few – because they do not need advanced-level experience or expertise to navigate through the reel.
Tried and True
Pro anglers can attest that Shimano’s spinning reels are one of the best out there. You get the value and quality you want for a comprehensive price. Personally, they have not failed us as far as we have used them so we think Shimano is worth your first spinning reel risk.
What to look for in a Shimano spinning reel?
We want you to own only the best Shimano spinning reel that goes well with your angling style and technique. Here are a few pointers we can share when shopping for your spinning reel:
Every seasoned angler is aware that a spinning reel with poor drag is almost useless, particularly when attempting to capture powerful fish. The smoothness and stopping power of a good drag system are crucial. You’ll need the right drag pressure depending on the size of fish you’re after.
However, if your drag system isn’t smooth, the spikes in line tension could cause your fish to break off. We do not want that slippage to cause trouble.
Most mid-range and higher-end spinning reels can guarantee the best drag system, but a thorough look between entry-level and mid-range reels can be a decision maker or breaker.
Size and Weight
You should get Shimano spinning reels in a size that corresponds to the size of the fish you intend to capture.
For instance, a 500 to 1000-size reel should be plenty if you are aiming for smaller fish. The excess line will only sit idle on your reel and add extra carrying baggage than you will ever want. A somewhat larger reel would be necessary if you choose a heavier line.
Even if the older premier reels are still useful, they are like weights in contrast with the modern, lighter, and more feature-rich variants that currently predominate the stores. Most now add functionality while maintaining stiffness in a lighter package than your old favorites.
Your ideal spinning reels should not weigh much so you can balance your rig for spot-on casting motion or accuracy.
For large loads, slower gear ratios would be 5:1 and 6:1, whereas quicker gear ratios, such as 7:1 or higher, are used for rapidly propelling lures through the water.
These control how quickly fishing reels take up the line. The 6.3:1 gear ratio of a reel indicates that the spool revolves 6.3 times for each turn of the reel handle.
The lack of cutting work on the gears in these reels gives them a distinctive quality. Instead, the entire surface is cold-forged and designed in 3D using technology.
Best Shimano Spinning Reels Reviewed
Best Saltwater Spinning Reel
Shimano Baitrunner D Spinning Reel (4.8:1)
We have not tried a myriad of saltwater spinning reels because this has been our fishing trip buddy for many years already!
This reel is truly a gem, no doubt it is in demand in many markets. It combines Propulsion Line Management System with S A-RB bearings for a fine-tuned performance for every angler. Fish with a live bait anywhere, whether it be for freshwater and inshore species with the new small 4000 size or bluewater species with the huge 12000 size.
It is lightweight compared to most saltwater spinning reels, super easy to handle, and has a 20lb drag and huge line capacity. With a little rummaging here and there, we were able to catch a redfish with no issues!
Although it can be a “little” expensive for budget anglers, we do recommend this if you want a one-time buy that will last your many fishing trips.
Best Freshwater Spinning Reel
For more than half the price of our best Shimano spinning reel in saltwater, this works incredibly well.
They are synchronous with both our medium and heavy spinning rods with amazing balance. We do appreciate the Varispeed technology on this one as we saw how it did not falter whether we caught larger and smaller fish alternatively.
This does not have an instant reverse too, which is helpful for keeping all fishes caught in the bucket instead of seeing them get back to the water. Its Quick Fire II bail system was convenient for one-hand use on whichever hand.
We do recommend this for novice anglers as it is lightweight and valuable for its relatively low price.
Another one of Shimano’s money-maker spinning reels, Ultegra FB proves worthy of the price tag it bears.
The Ultegra line of spinning reels has a couple of variants but we tried this one with a gear ratio of 6.2:1 and size 5000. It’s one of Shimano’s “ult”imate, higher-end spinning reels that are best for experienced anglers looking for next-level adventure.
It can handle both freshwater and inshore saltwater fishing with a very smooth cast, retrieve, and drag systems. The CoreProtect system embedded on the reel keeps it safe against heavy wear and tear and lasts longer than you can expect.
If you are not used to variants laden with extra features, this might be pretty intimidating to use. Once you get acquainted with it, you can expect nothing less from a fishing trip wrapped with goodness.
With a max drag force of 24lbs and excellent line capacity, Shimano’s NASCI FB made it to our selections of best Shimano spinning reels.
It can fair well in both freshwater and inshore saltwater too without disparity in its quality performance. The Hagane gear is also responsible for the seamless retrieve system even when reeling in a heavy catch.
We do love how this spinning reel felt on our hands no matter the water presentation especially when paired with the ideal spinning rod match. You can use this for hours and you will have no trouble handling this for another day.
However, there are times that the spool is not ready for braids, more so heavy braids, and the reel cannot be closed entirely without extra force. This can be quite the trouble aside from the tag. Otherwise, they are ready to try on your angling technique.
You will be shocked to know that this is one of Shimano’s few entry-level spinning reels but has all the Shimano technology that makes it a cut better than other entry-level spinning reels in the market.
If you do not want to bid for the most expensive, you can trust that this one can attest to Shimano’s quality production of spinning reels at a very affordable price.
The G-free body design caught our eye at first glance, but also kept it on top of the list thanks to its strength even when catching heavier baits or reeling in the bigger catch.
Comparing the freshwater spinning reels we have on our trove, this is also by far lighter than the rest, weighing 0.01 pounds lighter.
We have not tried this for ice fishing but judging by the continuous heavy load use, this may not be as effective as you expect in winter.
This is the latest reinvention of Shimano’s Stradic line of spinning reels. You can expect this to be slightly better than the other variants.
It has a built-in Fluid Drive System for precision, smoothness, and accuracy even when casting your line farther than normal while keeping backlashes and other line management issues at bay.
If you are looking for a spinning reel that is pretty flexible for both inshore and offshore action, this could be your best bet.
Although it can only drag 7lbs max, it has 6 ball bearings and 1 roller bearing which we saw was helpful in handling corrosion especially when we use it for saltwater fishing. Reeling was also smoother with this one compared to the others, too.
We love the sleek black design this spinning reel has to offer! Aside from the aesthetics, it is also less than one grand but comes close to how more expensive spinning reels do their job.
Its gear and setup make it suitable for more freshwater fishing than inshore or ice fishing, though it does not lag that much when used in the latter presentations.
Add to that, it only has 1 ball bearing and roller bearing so you may find it a bit hard to maneuver the reel. Quite interestingly though, it has 2lbs more drag capacity than Stradic FX.
This is the best place to start when you are entering the sport using spinning reels. They are inexpensive but designed almost identical to higher-end reels.
Which Shimano reel is the best?
The “best” may be superlative but deciding on which is which always depends on the bearer. Our best Shimano spinning reel may be Baitrunner D and Syncopate FG for saltwater and freshwater respectively, but your unique needs will require rather unique spinning reels.
Most items that made our cut are ideal places to start for beginner anglers, though we most recommend Sienna FE for you, because they were the easiest to handle for us, and a bit outmatched the price tag on it.
Do note that your decision rests on many factors, not only what the best Shimano spinning reel may be for you, but also the fish species you love to catch and the fishing technique you have mastered.
Read more from our beginner’s guides to hone your skills in this sport!