TackleTour Shootout : Stella FJ vs Exist LT
Zander feels the Exist LT has just a hair less start up inertia than the Stella FJ. I feel this too - until I switch back to the Stella. I think the actual weight of the Exist LT is affecting this perception. It makes sense given the Exist LT's super light rotor, but what I feel is an advantage in one reel while turning the handle, disappears every time I switch back to the other.
It is that close.
Line management? Both reels feature bearing supported line rollers.
Finally, to make a judgment, I removed each reel from their fishing rods, secured the tag end of the line and clipped it close to the spool so it wouldn't rub against the rotor and switched back and forth between the two spinning the handles with my eyes closed. The Exist LT's lighter weight does factor in to the reel's overall feel, so isolating the rotation of the handle with my eyes closed, I can sense the rotor rotating. Performing the same exercise with the Stella FJ, I feel less of this and more just the simple turning of the gears. This was the toughest call by far but by the gap of a single Micro-Module gear, I had to make a call. Advantage : Shimano
Nearly identical drag stacks.
Drag & Line Management: The drag stack for these two reel is nearly identical, and both reels feature a bearing nestled within the spool, so that aspect is a flat out draw and not worth exploring. As for line management, both reels feature bearing supported line rollers. The only difficulty I experienced with either reel during the course of their head to head or even individual evaluation was something more the result of user error than the reel (detailed in the Exist LT's review), so in the end we're going to call this aspect a draw as well.
Bearings within and underneath each spool.
Weight: My last Stella reel was the FE. Zander owns and tested the Stella FI 2000. My FE was a similar size to the FJ in these tests and weighed in at 8.6 ounces (with line). I was always a little confused how the Stella could be made of magnesium and still weigh so much compared to my old Exist and Steez spinning reels. This is part of the reason why I hadn't bother to upgrade my Stella spinning reel until the FJ appeared and won me over with its aesthetics. When I took it out of its box, I was surprised at how light it was (7.4oz) because
I wasn't expecting it and didn't know Shimano at taken steps to lower its weight.
How about handle design?
When I first held my Exist LT 3000S-CXH, I could tell it was lighter than the Stella FJ, but I was a little disappointed thinking it was heavier than my old Exist reels. Turns out it's the exact same weight as my old Exist 2004 (6.4oz), but a larger size so it's actually lighter!
Both are stunning in their own way.
Out on the water, a lighter spinning reel makes a difference with finesse applications especially because it lessens the pressure you apply with your hand on the grip. The combo of G.Loomis's 820S DSR GLX and Daiwa's Exist LT 3000S-CXH practically floats in your hand by comparison to even the Stella FJ C3000MHG making the entire combo all the more sensitive to fish. Advantage : Daiwa
Back to those knobs?.
Other Ergonomics: One other point of discussion with these two reels is the knobs with which they are equipped. I've stated in both reviews that I pretty much do not like either one. T-Knobs and I just don't get along very well. I just find them too bulky and disproportionate on reels of this size. Having said that, there is one that I dislike less than the other and that's the T-Knob on the Daiwa Exist.
The Exist's T-Knob (right) is ever so slightly more comfortable.
At least Daiwa has made the effort to thin the knob out a little and contour it with a little lip at the outer edge giving you something a little more interesting to hold on to. Both reels are getting new knobs when I finish this shootout. The Stella FJ is getting a leftover Septon knob from one of my older casting reels, and the Exist LT is getting a cork I-Knob. For now its Advantage : Daiwa
Every now and then, one of these would interrupt the decision making process.
Accessories: If you're keeping score, you know at this point we are at a 2 to 2 tie. Basically if you value pure performance, the Stella FJ has a very slight edge. If you value ergonomics, that slight edge goes to Exist LT. Can a shootout of this magnitude come down to simple accessories?
Both reels come with a very elegant bag. The Exist's is slightly more luxurious.
Both reels come with a very elegant bag to house your $700+ reels with handles detached. Both bags have two compartments - one for the reel body, the other for the reel handle. The Stella's reel bag is made out of a durable nylon material with a thin neoprene lining to protect your Stella FJ, a think nylon divider to separate the pockets and a Velcro closing flap. The Exist LT's bag is made of a thicker neoprene overall, with a thick neoprene divider, meshed sides for ventilation, and a Velcro closing flap. The Exist LT's reel bag is much more enthusiast. Advantage : Daiwa
This fish fell victim to the Exist.
Other Tech: I almost forgot to discuss another point and this one is a simple advantage to Daiwa. Their MagSeal bearings are a very intriguing tech and one they've incorporated in the Exist LT. This is probably why they've made the reel so difficult to open up because these bearings are easy to compromise as was evident in my disassembly of the reel's line roller during its individual review.
G.Loomis is owned by Shimano, but the Exist actually matches the 820S DSR GLX better than the Stella.
The bearings are not a performance gain, but more of an important long term corrosion protection strategy. Yes it is based on faith that they will do what they're supposed to, but like my long term faith in Shimano's use of brass alloy gearing versus aluminum, I'm banking on the fact the MagSeal bearings really do work. Advantage : Daiwa
MagSeal bearings is a tech advantage for Daiwa.
So in the end it didn't come down to just a call on the reel bags. Our Daiwa Exist LT had the advantage over our Stella FJ in four of six discussion points. Otherwise, both reels are manufactured in Japan. Both reels feature bearings on the line roller, nestled within the spool, under the spool, have drag knobs with a rubber gasket beneath to prevent water from getting into the metal and felt drag washer stacks, feature magnesium frames, have sick styling, and are outrageously priced.
In the end, Shimano's advantage is engineering...
If I had to summarize, it really came down to Shimano's engineering versus Daiwa's ergonomics. Shimano's Micro-Module gearing is a proven advantage. Daiwa's MagSeal bearings are an assumed advantage. Brass gears are more durable than aluminum, but aluminum gears make your reel lighter and a lighter spinning reel makes your overall combo more sensitive. Both reels have those annoying T-Knobs, but those on the Exist are less bulky than those on the Stella.
... but Daiwa takes the win with better Ergonomics.
Despite all of the above and the four to two score in discussion points, it still does not feel as if there is a clear winner between the two reels. It felt like I reached for my Exist LT more while fishing with both on the boat all day, but when I fished the Stella FJ, I didn't want to put it down. Enough. In the end there can only be one and Daiwa's Exist LT 3000S-CXH wins this TackleTour product shootout, but...