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Reel Review


SOLID! - The Shimano Bantam MGL Baitcaster (continued)

Reel World Tests: To test the Bantam reels I procured two reels, a standard Bantam 150 (6.2:1 gear ratio) and the faster Bantam 150XG (8.1:1 gear ratio). Both reels exhibit the same basic form factor but the XG has a larger handle and paddle knobs, and weighs in .2oz. heavier. I fished a variety of lines on these reels and made sure to log nearly equal time with both fluorocarbon and braided lines while fishing for largemouth bass. I also paired the reels with a variety of rods including G.Loomis GLX, Megabass Orochi XX, and even an Uribe Riverside M2 spiral wrapped rod to experience the reel’s casting performance on a variety of platforms.

The Bantam paired up nicely visually with just about every rod I tried it on

Casting: One of the coolest things about the Bantam is how the company implemented the external cast control into the solid construction without a traditional takedown sideplate. The SVS Infinity cast control knob is externally adjustable through the cold forged brake housing located within the non-handle sideplate. I found that I was able to adjust the settings reasonably quickly and easily with one hand and like other SVS quipped reels this adjustment makes use of internal brake weights on the spool and friction against the internal raceway during each cast. This system combines with Shimano’s magnumlite (MGL) spool which essentially reduces spool weight to improve inertia startup during casting.

The MGL spool design doesn't disappoint and while casts on the Bantam felt friction free the distances were just inline with other similarly priced reels

When casting a wide range of baits I found that the Bantam was a very respectable caster, and especially good at heavier baits and pinpoint casts requiring quick startup for accurate pitches. In the mid-range I found the Bantam about average when compared with other baitcasters, which puzzled me. I found that when I casted aggressively the Bantam would cast as well as other MGL reels, but on lower momentum lob casts it was just average. I think part of the reason is that the Bantam doesn’t straight up outcast many other reels is due to the position of the line guide which results in some more aggressive angles, and increases friction as the line peels off the spool and passes through the guide. The very kind of friction that designs including Daiwa’s T-Wing system help reduce. Overall the Bantam is a good caster that excels on both sides of the range, but is not as well rounded a caster as some other reels.

A look at the bearing supported MGL Spool

Retrieve: It is during retrieves that the Bantam really started to shine. It didn’t take more than a few minutes cranking aggressively on this reel to start experiencing just how smooth the Bantam is. The Bantam feels more like a machined round reel than it does a low profile baitcaster, and when I started catching fish on it I developed an even greater appreciation for just how powerful the reel feels, especially under the load of working bigger fish.

Where the Bantam absolutely excels is in cranking. This reel is smooth and powerful. Bring on the torque!

There is no give in this reel and the integrated B-Side plate, level wind guard, and frame all come together to give this reel not only greater rigidity but also enhanced sensitivity. Enhanced sensitivity in a reel? The sensation is hard to describe but you can actually detect vibration coming through the reel and into the palm of your hand. When paired with a sensitive rod the combination of the vibration coming through the blank and reel nearly simultaneously makes for a deadly power and contact fishing tool.

Micro Module gearing adds to the smooth and refined feel

The Bantam is a very stable cranking platform but while it is easy to give all of the credit to the Coresolid body Shimano has another feature in the Bantam that plays a part, and that is the X-Ship implementation which supports the pinion gear on both ends and provides better alignment and tolerance between the pinion and drive gear, so that even when fighting big fish the gears stay in position, transferring all that cranking energy seamlessly into the retrieve.

Gear mesh is precise and the tolerances on this reel are excellent throughout

While the Bantam shined in power tests it also proved to be very refined as well, and delivers the kind of smooth retrieve that you expect in baitcaster in this price range. The brass gearing in the Bantam is finely cut with micro teeth providing additional contact points between the drive and pinion gears which reduces the stress on each tooth, and improves that smooth yet connected feel that is quickly becoming a signature of Shimano baitcasters from the Curado K Series and up.

The Bantam is a really fun reel to fish and I found it great for cranking, topwater, pitching, and even fishing lighter swimbaits

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