An observation about fishing spinning reels…


Recently, I decided I needed a new ultralight setup, and decided it was time for a new brand of reel.
My previous ultralight was worn out and had been in use for probably 20 years, and had lived a good life.  That was a Silstar rod and an Abu Garcia spinning real.  The ultralight was not overly light, and the reel was used and abused.  I had purchased a new rod (Fenwick HMXS 49UL-M — I will review this another time) and started research on the reels and decided Shimano deserved a good hard look as my new reel manufacturer for my everyday gear.  (I have a thing for brand loyalty.)
The Shimano line of spinning reels was in contention along with Daiwa, Abu Garcia and Quantum.  I already have a good amount of Quantum gear, including an ultralight and had previously used the other brands listed.  Shimano was a brand I had not yet tried out but got excellent reviews, so I went to the local outdoor shops to get a feel for all the particular small spinning reels in the $100 price range, and am I glad I did!!

Shimano Sahara Fishing Reel ($79)
All of the reels from reputable manufacturers in this price range felt similar in my hand.  While there are some differences, I believe that as long as I had purchased one of these brands at this price point, I would have been happy.  With that said, I pressed on with Shimano, and I found one I really liked.  I sat at Cabelas for probably an hour going between the various Shimano reels in this size, trying to find one that was better than the last, but not noticeably worse than the next and that is how I settled on the price point.  This lead me straight to the Sahara line of reels.  The smallest one was proportionally sized, it was VERY light, it had ball bearings in the right places.  The other good news is it was less than my $100 initial budget, reasonably priced at $80.  Go any less expensive, and they felt cheap and sluggish, go any more expensive and they were a bit better, but not noticeably for the price.  Next up was to grab each similarly priced reel from all the different manufacturers, grab a rod most similar to my ultralight and compare.  I set the Shimano Sahara as the benchmark, and never found one that could beat everything I liked about it, for the same money.

 

Daiwa Exceler Spinng Reel ($75)

 

One of my fishing buddies is a Daiwa guy, and has had the same kind of luck with his Diawa selection as I have had with my Shimano gear.  When using his ultralight, you can certainly tell it is different, his particular reel is a bit heavier, and maybe not quite as smooth, but still very nice.  He fishes quite a bit at the local stocker ponds with his, and I frequently go out on my boat without him, so I would say we have a similar number of casts and hours on both reels, and they both still feel like they are brand new.
Quantum Catalyst ($65)
My second line of fishing gear (for my wife, guests, should I encounter a disaster) I run Quantum in the intermediate price point.  My wife’s ultralight has been excellent when I have used it.  Once again, it is light, super smooth, and a solid piece of equipment.  There are differences however, and if you grabbed each one in sequence, you would notice them.  This does not mean is one is clearly superior, simply different.  With each one of these I believe I could be happy fishing with it each day on the water.
So, my advice for spinning reel shopping is as follows:
When buying a spinning reel, pick a price point and then spend some time at the store using each reel on a rod of similar size to what you will mount it on.  This allows you to get a feel for balance, action, smoothness, and how YOU like it.
It is like what an Audio sales person once told me, we all hear the same sounds differently, so pick a set of speakers that compliments you ear.  So, pick a reel that compliments your hand.
-Excess