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Reel Review

 

SOLID! - The Shimano Bantam MGL Baitcaster (continued)

Drag: When it comes to drag design the Bantam makes use of Shimano’s simple yet very reliable Cross Carbon Drag system which sandwiches the main brass gearing with a combination of carbon and steel washers to deliver 11 pounds of rated drag under max pressure. In the lab we were able to achieve 12.2lbs. of drag in our tests which is no surprise considering that Shimano often conservatively rates their drags.
When fishing the Bantam reels I found the drag to be very smooth when fighting fish with any plastics or jigs but it was only when I started fishing swimbaits on braided line did I understand just how smooth the drag really is. Even with line without stretch the drag was able to dole out drag pressure smoothly, absorbing the initial strike and set, and effectively keeping fish pinned on treble hooks during extended runs.


The Cross Carbon drag just makes use of a few washers which make it simple and reliable but not the strongest when it came to max drag pressure

When we first examined the drag construction in the lab we noted that while there were various materials being used in the Bantam’s drag there wasn’t all that much surface area within the entire drag stack. This simple construction helps make the system smooth and reliable but is also one of the reasons that the max drag pressure tops out just over 11lbs., which for modern day baitcasters is just average. When fishing for largemouth bass the drag performed well but with other harder fighting and larger species, like Striped Bass, more top end drag pressure would certainly be a welcome addition.


The Bantam sits nice and low which helps make it even more comfortable to palm

Ergonomics: As indicated throughout our tests the Bantam is definitely a high performer across a number of categories, and when it comes to features Shimano has certainly packed a lot into this reel which only adds to the performance and refinement that the Bantam showcases in spades. The only real penalty of all of this comes with the total weight. The Bantam feels solid but it also feels heavy for a reel of this size, and while it balances out well with many rods it never feels light in hand.
There was a time when any baitcaster under 8oz. was considered light but modern day reels need to be under 7oz. to be even considered in the lightweight conversation. The Bantam has a small footprint but weighs in similarly to Shimano’s other mainstream baitcasters including the Curado 200K (7.6oz) and over an ounce more than the more affordable Chronarch 150 MGL baitcasters (6.5oz.).


Though no lightweight the Bantam gets back some points in ergonomics with the small profile

While the Bantam MGL reels offer anglers a unique experience, and a retrieve feel that is unlike any other reel in the Shimano lineup, all of this comes at a weight premium. Anglers will have to ask themselves whether or not that compact profile, smooth and powerful retrieve, and solid feel are worth the weight penalty. For me that answer is a resounding yes.

Between the various Bantam reels my favorite ergonomically is actually the heavier Bantam 150XG, and I felt that the extra .2oz. was a worthwhile sacrifice for the faster retrieve, larger handle, and bigger more tactile knobs.


Palming just feels natural and the solid design adds to overall sensitivity

Price & Applications: The styling on the Bantam is a little polarizing, but I will say that in person the reel looks a lot better than it does in pictures, mostly because the angles are less extreme when looking down at the reel and because it has a smaller footprint than many other baitcasters. I personally like the way the Bantam looks and feels in hand, and the more I fished it the more I appreciated how the reel palms.


The Bantam is a very interesting reel, one that blurs the line between a round reel and a low profile baitcaster

The Bantam comes at an interesting time, and over the last four decades I think that baitcasters have actually become more similar than different. Have you noticed how so many baitcasters are starting to look the same? There are a surprisingly few number of actual factories out there and today many brands share OEM assembly lines, and even some components. There are just a few companies out there that are willing to do something different, and have the resources to run their own design centers and manufacturing lines, and this short list includes both Shimano and Daiwa. Shimano takes some chances with the Bantam, which is refreshing, and the payoff is mostly there.


The quality of the construction is excellent. This reel is built to last

Next Section: Where the Bantam excels...

 

   

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