SOLID! - The Shimano Bantam MGL Baitcaster
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
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.
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
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...