Fishing reels. No other form of fishing equipment excites anglers like reels do. Some anglers collect them and never use them, some buy every new model that comes out, some only buy premium, some only buy budget and some treat them like a hammer that’s there to get the job done. Regardless of what emphasis an angler places on a fishing reel, we all love them in some kind of way.
This piece is definitely one for the enthusiast as we look at the past ten years of reel development and we pick ten that we believe had the biggest impact on anglers, fishing techniques, value for money and technology. As the editor, it’s hard putting these lists together and I know some people will disagree with the choices.
So it’s important readers know this was a collaborative process. I interviewed Hooked Up contributors and many tackle store owners and staff to get different perspectives. It was actually hard talking to writers, as many of them have been using just one brand for a long time due to sponsorship deals, so I probably got the best results speaking with tackle store staff as they had used the gamut of what’s out there themselves, and dealt with hundreds of anglers on a weekly basis. It must be said that the relationship Hooked Up has with the tackle stores that stock our magazine is a beautiful thing.
I explained to each angler I spoke to that price wasn’t an issue and this wasn’t just about high-end reels. Although many that made the list are high-end, the price span of the final ten ranges from $50 through to $1500. What you’ll notice is that even though some of the reels have been superseded by newer models, which are in fact better reels with newer tech, the list was about how each specific model has positively affected fishing, anglers and tackle. The only exemptions I had were technique-specific reels, so surf reels, electric reels and heavy game reels were not included, but none was mentioned anyway.
Why we chose to do this piece now is because the past ten years have offered some significant advancements in fishing reels, and this year’s Japanese tackle shows have revealed a new era of reel technology that will establish the next ten years of development. The ICAST convention is around the corner and I’m sure we’ll see some great stuff from the USA as well. It’s the end of what was an exceptional era in fishing technology and industrial development and it’s the beginning of a new one. We’re all certainly excited about what the next ten years have to offer.
Any brand could be included in this list, and surprisingly to some – but maybe not others – only two brands made the final 10. The final list was ever-evolving, with many coming in and out, but the final list of ten was almost unanimous.
Read on and enjoy, argue with your mates, yell at the mag and even write in and tell us what you think, good or bad at email@example.com. At the end of the day we just hope you enjoy what’s a light-hearted read and a bit of a history piece that celebrates the wonderful world of fishing reels.
Shimano Stella SW (year – 2008)
If ever there was one reel responsible for kicking spin reels into a whole new world of fishing capabilities and prowess it was the Shimano Stella. It was first released in 1993 and set a new benchmark for what was possible in spin reels. 2008 saw the fourth incarnation of the Stella and it was possibly the most hyped reel ever in the world of fishing. I don’t recall as much talk about a reel or as much keenness from anglers to own one as I do the 2008 SW series. The FI series had just as much hype, but it was the SW series that created the biggest buzz.
Everyone wanted one, those who had them never breathed a bad word about them and they were the Holy Grail of big spin reels for big fish. The 20000 was the big daddy of the line-up and I know of many anglers who bought a 20000 without having a real use for a reel of that size – they just wanted to have one. It wasn’t just because the Stella had established a reputation as a high-end reel, or just a high-end product that could cause envy in all your mates, this reel was ultra-smooth, it operated beautifully in all its functions, it caught many big fish and it looked beautiful. To this day it’s still one of the most iconic-looking spin reels on the planet.
If you talk to any angler who owned both the 2008 and 2013 versions of the Stella, 99 per cent will tell you the 2013 is a far superior reel; however, the 2008 makes it to the list for the sheer excitement it caused and what it did for spin reels and fishing. The new FI has just been released and we predict the new SW will follow shortly.
Shimano Talica 2-Speed (2010)
2010 saw Shimano release one of the most innovative big game reels to hit the world of fishing, the Talica 2-Speed. Never before had a reel been so well built and, more importantly, so well designed to accommodate the modern angler. In a nutshell, what the Talica offers is a relatively small and compact body with enormous line capacity, ultra-smooth and powerful drag, two-speed setting and all built in what is a very good-looking reel. The ergonomics of the Talica, right through the size range from the 10 through to the 50, is outstanding. They fit beautifully onto rods and feel amazing in the hand, whether you’re jigging for kingfish or dropping a bait 600 metres down for a broadbill swordfish .
The switch between the two speeds is effortless and reliable. The handle and lever drag positioning are perfect and the drag is ridiculously smooth. On top of this, the past eight years have proven that the gearing in the Talica is phenomenal; this is a reel that is used for excessive jigging and extreme cranking while under excessive drag pressure. It’s an original design that changed the way anglers can target fish and that’s why it makes this list.
Daiwa Saltiga (year – 2014)
2014 was the year Daiwa blew the minds of anglers everywhere with the new Saltiga platform, which is still the current format. Within the range was the Saltiga, Saltiga Expedition and the Saltiga Dogfight. There are many models in the range and anglers get confused between the three but they are the same reel with different colouring, sizing and gear ratios. The Expedition also has a different drag knob. Essentially the Expedition models offer a 5500H, which isn’t available in standard Saltiga, and an 8000H, which differs from a Dogfight 8000H with colour and the drag knob. Aside from that, they’re the same reel.
The Saltiga was always a much-loved and respected platform of spin reels, designed to tangle with big fish, but this range took it to a whole new level. Never before had spin reels presented as so tough and so refined. They’re built like tanks and perform like a Porsche. The Magseal technology is now implemented not only in the body but also in the bearings to provide a super-smooth feel, corrosion resistance and unparalleled reliability. The new ATD drag system is super-smooth and highly efficient, from the initial strike all the way through to landing a fish.
The Saltiga range looks amazing, has performance to match and has a size and gear ratio to suit any species or fishing application. The past four years have proved just how amazing these reels are, with ridiculous captures ranging from huge black marlin through to enormous dogtooth tuna. The Saltiga is easily one of the best reels of the past ten years.
Shimano Thunnus Ci4 (year – 2010)
The release of Shimano’s Baitrunner system dramatically changed the way anglers could fish spin reels with a free-spool function. Designed by John Dunphy in collaboration with Shimano Japan, the Baitrunner went on to become an international success. 2010 saw a new release of the Baitrunner with the Thunnus Ci4 series. Using Shimano’s new Ci4 body material, the Thunnus took what was a solid workhorse of a reel and gave it finesse, style and grace that separated it from anything else on the market. The Ci4 material greatly reduced the weight and the new body design was now more compact and ergonomic. The metallic blue paint job looks amazing to this day and the addition of power knobs on the handle, a braid-friendly design and ultra-smooth operation thanks to its seven bearings are what make it such an amazing reel.
On top of all this, it’s an ultra-reliable reel with drag, gearing and operation that can withstand multiple seasons of use and exposure to the saltwater environment. Both recreational southern snapper anglers and charter operators use these reels without issue, season after season. They’re an original design, a joy to use, versatile, reliable and that is why they easily make this list.
Daiwa Certate (year – 2016)
While Daiwa may be known for the Saltiga, and anglers drool over its flagship Exist model, the Certate is one reel that countless anglers own and revere. It’s the product that Daiwa has traditionally used to release new technology with and from its first incarnation through to the current model, it has been loved by anglers worldwide. The Cerate Hyper, from 2005, is now the stuff of legend and has a cult following and is highly sought-after on the second-hand market. The latest version was released only two years ago but in that time it has proven itself as the best Certate ever and one of, if not the, best light tackle reels ever made for its price. In my opinion it’s one of the best-looking reels Daiwa has ever made and its performance is simply outstanding.
In the realm of light tackle reels the Cerate is Daiwa’s workhorse; it’s built with an all-metal body to withstand heavy use yet it operates with buttery smooth precision. Yes, it’s heavier than other comparable reels in the Daiwa stable, but it’s built to fish hard in a saltwater environment and keep on performing. Of all the reels in this list, the Cerate was probably the one that was mentioned first and most often when putting this list together. It offers style, class, reliability and finesse, all in an amazing little package. The latest Certate also offers a 3500 and 4000 HD size, which has Daiwa’s new monocoque body. Unfortunately no one at Hooked Up has had a chance to fish with these models as yet so we can’t comment.
Shimano Stradic Ci4 (year – 2008)
Between 2008 and 2010 it was hard to pick up a fishing magazine or go out fishing and not see anglers armed with a Stradic Ci4. It was one of the first reels to implement the Ci4 material and anglers instantly loved the ultra-light weight of it, which was somewhat revolutionary at the time for the drag, and crank ability of a small reel. A cool metallic grey with red aesthetic and its EVA power handle knobs offered both style and ergonomics and it presented as a reel that could handle big fish in a small and tidy package. It seemed as though everyone went out and bought the new Stradic overnight then kept buying them for their outstanding reliability.
They came in a great range of sizes that appealed to a host of fishing styles. Sizes such as the 3000C were – and still are – highly sought-after for their sheer versatility; with one reel you could target snapper, cod jewfish, squid, bass, yellowbelly or salmon. They were a smooth reel for the price and they had an exceptional waterproof drag system that was smooth, responsive and durable. This was the reel that proved to the tackle world you could have a lightweight reel that was smooth, had excellent line management with mono, braid and fluorocarbon and could handle the pressure of fighting bigger fish. This was an easy addition to this list and one that every angler deemed worthy of inclusion.
Shimano Curado K (year – 2017)
The newest reel in this list is the 2017 Shimano Curado K. The Curado has long been one of the most popular baitcasters in the world and Australians have always loved it for barra, cod, bass and yellas. It’s a series that is followed with excitement and reverence and each incarnation is labelled with a letter that enthusiasts will often refer to from years past.
The D and E were much-loved reels but the release of the G series, which didn’t offer the improvements anglers were looking for, was met with indifference (and that’s putting it politely). The I series came out in 2014, offered vast improvements and anglers again fell in love with the Curado for its excellent performance and very fair price. It looked cooler, was more ergonomic, had a cast control system, more bearings, was smoother, tougher, made from far better materials and the world was once again at peace. Shimano listened to its customers and delivered what they were after. The K, which was released at last year’s AFTA show to Australian audiences, has again improved on the I series.
The K series has quite a few new features and Shimano tech, making it far more advanced than its predecessors. Shimano’s Micromodule gearing now provides smooth and effortless fluidity. A much larger gear with finer teeth – and more of them – provides more contact points between the drive and pinion gears, which all aids that ultra-smooth feel. This is further supported by a larger drive gear and pinion gear, which means that fluid winding and a smooth feel is still apparent when the reel is under load and you’re fighting a fish. A Super Stopper anti-reverse bearing aids effortless casting and the new Cross Carbon Drag is responsive and ultra-smooth through various pressures. The K series comes in right and left-handed configurations and three gear ratios of 6.2, 7.4 and 8.5. All anglers interviewed for this article who owned or sold the Curado K insisted it must be included.
Shimano Sienna FD (year – 2013)
By a long, long way the Shimano Sienna is the cheapest reel on this list. You’ve always been able to pick them up for around $50 and most of the time you’ll even get them a little cheaper. It’s essentially a budget reel but one that has defied its low price point with its great durability and great operation for the price.
We’ve chosen the FD series, which came out in 2013, purely because it’s proven itself as a ridiculously good reel for the money. It’s probably the best low-budget spin reel that’s ever been made. Anyone in the fishing business should appreciate a reel like this and what it has done for recreational fishing. For $50 a youngster or someone new to angling is getting a reel that will offer trouble-free operation and keep them fishing, catching fish and progressing. A graphite body, alloy spool, a great anti-reverse system, a smooth drag and a hassle-free 3+1 bearings provide a simple reel that you can spool with mono or braid and go and catch fish.
It is by no means an ultra-smooth reel, or one that can even start to compare to anything else on this list, but countless anglers have thrashed these reels way beyond what ought to be expected of the asking price – and they have delivered.
Daiwa Morethan Branzino (year – 2008
If ever there was a reel that was over-engineered to handle big fish in a compact body, it was the Daiwa Morethan Branzino from 2008. This Branzino had a high price tag but is one of the most legendary reels ever made. The Branzino is Daiwa’s dark knight – Batman in a reel … but the most awesome version of Batman, in his suit ready to fight Superman. It’s built with Saltiga gearing, a Dogfight aesthetic and the exterior and finesse of the Exist.
If someone wanted to just buy one reel that can do it all for inshore fishing I’d suggest the Morethan Branzino. It’s a small compact reel that can catch big fish (snapper, barra, cod, jewfish, small to medium kings and tuna) but also comfortable targeting small fish such as flathead, bream, bass, yellas and pinkies. It could do it all, and for many anglers it’s still going strong. The Morethan Branzino was essentially an even better version of the legendary Hyper Cerate but it was Magsealed and had better and newer Daiwa tech. What really made it so special was the fact it had the Saltiga’s big high-tensile gearing, the Exist’s rotor and the all-metal super-tough body of the Certate.
Just last year it was replaced by the new 17 Morethan, which is equipped with the new Monocoque gearing – which we’re told is a much better system than the Branzino had and is equipped with a host of other improved tech. However, no one we spoke to has had the chance to fish with it for us to include it in the list. We’ll do this article again in 2028 and maybe it will be there. The Morethan Branzino was revolutionary in the sense it changed what small reels could do under immense pressure in the saltwater environment.
Daiwa Tatula HD (year – 2015)
The Tatula HD hit the market in 2015, is still in production and Australian anglers have welcomed it with open arms. It was the reel cod and barra anglers had been waiting for and when talking baitcasters in Australia, it’s pretty much cod and barra anglers – or yella and bass anglers – who are the target market. The Tatula HD is the baitcaster that changed the way northern barra anglers made a purchase decision and the already converted southern anglers now had a better cod reel. What makes the Tatula HD unique is that it’s a compact and ergonomic 200-size reel that received some Heavy Duty upgrades (hence the HD name) usually found in 300-sized baitcasters.
First, and most importantly, is the larger spool capacity. This allowed anglers to fish 30lb and 50lb braids, which are the going line class for barra and cod anglers targeting big specimens. The handle got a 100mm swept handle upgrade and large knobs for better cranking power on those deep-diving lures or big jerkbaits, and provides a more comfortable grip during the fight. A solid frame with a simple dark grey aesthetic got anglers picking them up in store and the ultra-smooth drag and the Magforce Z cast control system had them happy from the first cast and the first run.
The T-Wing System provides excellent line management and is an ingenious little design, although some anglers do prefer an old-school worm drive. Most importantly, the Tatula HD does have heavy duty gearing to withstand fishing styles where cold, hard cranking, both during lure retrieval and the fight, is prevalent. Best of all, you can pick up one of these very sweet reels for under $300 and get many years of use out of it.