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Which Shimano Chronarch is the best choice when it comes to features, performance, and price?

Date: 6/2/03
Tackle type: Reel
Manufacturer: Shimano
Reviewer: Zander

Total Score: 8.83 (Shimano SF)

Introduction: Shimano's Chronarchs are simply the most reliable and refined baitcasters on the market. This top selling family of reels has become an angler favorite, but with three flavors to pick from, standard, Super Free, and Magnesium, which Chronarch is right for you?

Shimano Chronarch 100A Specifications

Line Capacity 10/150, 12/130, 14/110
Gear Ratio 6.2:1
Weight 7.9 (oz)
Bearings 5BB, 1RB
Additional Features Aluminum frame, Graphite Sideplate, Aluminum high capacity deep spool, Super Stopper, VBS
MSRP $194.95


Shimano Chronarch SF Specifications

Line Capacity 10/130, 12/120, 14/100
Gear Ratio 6.3:1
Weight 8.4 (oz)
Bearings 5BB, 1RB
Additional Features Aluminum frame, Aluminum Sideplate, Aluminum Wiffle Spool, Cold Forged handle, Super Free, Super Stopper, VBS
MSRP $229.99


Shimano Chronarch MG Specifications

Line Capacity 10/130, 12/120, 14/100
Gear Ratio 6.3:1
Weight 6.95 (oz)
Bearings 4BB, 1RB
Additional Features Magnesium frame, Magnesium Sideplate, Aluminum Wiffle Spool, Cold Forged handle, Super Free, Super Stopper, VBS
MSRP $299.99

Impressions: Why are Chronarch's so popular for tournament and weekend anglers alike? The answer is the level of refinement and reliability. These are baitcasters that are built to cast just about any bait, and provide the same smooth retrieve after a year of use. Over the years Shimano has made numerous advancements in the lineup leading to the introduction of the SF and MG versions. Many anglers consider the Chronarch to be the best baitcaster that Shimano makes for the US market. The more expensive Calais may look absolutely beautiful, sport 11 bearings, and feature a premium dartanium drag, but many anglers feel it is just too heavy at 9.1oz. All of the Chronarch's are much lighter reels and offer 90% of the features found in the Calais, for less money.

Meet the Chronarch family, from standard 100A to MG

Real World Test:
At first glance the three Chronarch's look almost identical in design, with the only real difference's being in color. But if you examine the three side by side you will begin to identify some very interesting differences...some that make sense, and others that we question. For our real world test we pitted all three of these reels against the mammoth largemouth bass and voracious stripers that inhabit the California Delta.

The standard 100A Chronarch has a graphite sideplate, but makes up for it with a very nice clicker drag adjustment

All three of these reels use high quality machined components. The standard Chronarch is built on a one piece aluminum frame, but incorporates a graphite sideplate into the left side of the reel. While not as durable, the composite sideplate does have one advantage, it reduces the overall weight of the standard Chronarch. The only other major difference between the standard Chronarch and the other two is that it is the only one to use a cheaper cast aluminum handle, while the other two feature an exceptionally rigid anodized cold-forged handle.

The Chronarch SF is completely aluminum and feels the most solid in the palm of hand, the only down side is that it is the heaviest at 8.4, a half ounce heavier than the standard Chronarch. The cold forged handle is well weighted and feels very balanced with each crank.

The Chronarch MG is of course the lightest, being completely molded from magnesium. But the result is a reel that feels somewhat hollow, and not as accurate as the Chronarch SF. The other disappointing thing is that even though the frame and sideplate are magnesium the overall weight reduction in comparison to the standard Chronarch is less than 1oz, .95oz to be exact! You can hardly feel the difference, and you have to sacrifice being able to fish the reel in brackish water as magnesium is highly corrosive. Competing reels from Pinnacle and Daiwa are actually lighter. (Category Winner: Chronarch SF)

The casting of the standard Chronarch isn't up to the level of the other two Chronarch's but does make it a good choice for short distance flipping and pitching

Here's a tough category to judge when all three of the reels have almost the exact same profile in your hand. Suffice to say that the Chronarch's traditional design is still among the best on the market. Comfortable to cast, and palm, the Chronarchs are a great choice for the complete range of baitcasting applications. The simple design is still among the very best when it comes to providing easy thumb access to the spool. (Category Winner: 3 Way Tie)

The Chronarch SF is completely aluminum and takes full advantage of the best Shimano features including VBS, Wiffle spool, and Super Free

Casting: No contest here, the Chronarch SF and MG outcast the standard Chronarch with ease. While the standard Chronarch relies on bearings on the spool, the SF and MG benefit from the very effective Shimano "Super Free" system. The "Super Free" system eliminates a great deal of friction when upon each cast by keeping the pinion gear and spool shaft are kept in perfect alignment once the clutch is disengaged. The result is a huge reduction of chafing on the spool shaft. Both the SF and MG cast the same distance thanks to this proven technology, and use of the faster wiffle spool. Cast controls on all three reels are identical, all utilize the VBS "Variable Brake System" which exploits centrifugal force instead of magnets. (Category Winner: Chronarch SF and Chronarch MG Tie)

Compare the heavier and bearing loaded standard Chronarch spool with the wider and lighter wiffle spool


The Retrieve: All three of these reels feel silky smooth on the retrieve, and the best part is that they all still feel excellent after 3 months of use. Many competitor reels start out feeling incredibly smooth, but quickly lose their velvety retrieve. The Chronarch's seat the spools within very tight tolerances and do an excellent job keeping out even the smallest grainy contaminates. Overall the Chronarch SF feels the most solid and confident on the retrieve. The standard reel is not as well weighted or as smooth, and surprisingly the SF felt slightly smoother than the MG test reel we had. With the SF's perfect positioning, balancing, cold forged handle, and accurate retrieve, it is just as effortless to slow crawl plastics as it is to burn spinnerbaits over Hydrilla. (Category Winner: Chronarch SF)


The Chronarch MG is the lightest and most visually stunning with it's magnesium alloy body and deep anodized cold forged handle


The Drag: All three of the Chronarchs make use of the same traditional Shimano drag washer systems. While all are very effective and can be adjusted quickly, even when fighting fish, it is interesting that only the standard Chronarch features a clicker in the drag control. I'm sure you can make an argument that the removal of the clicker on the SF and MG models results in faster resistance free adjustment of the drag, but the clicker on the standard Chronarch is just plain fantastic. With almost no resistance anglers can make much more accurate drag adjustments on the standard Chronarch. We liked the drag adjustment so much on the standard Chronarch we wished they had carried over this feature into the SF and MG. (Category Winner: Standard Chronarch 100A)


The Chronarch MG is the most ergonomically friendly with use of contoured handles and overall reduced weight


The Ergonomics: While all three reels are a pleasure to fish, the Chronarch MG is simply the most comfortable to employ for a long day of fishing. The lighter weight of this reel is well complimented with upgraded ergonomic grips. When cranking ripbaits for hours in the Delta the standard grips found on the SF and 100A did a real number on my fingertips. The grooves in the handle are designed for better grip but can actually dig into your fingers and become uncomfortable if squeezed too hard, or too long. (Category Winner: Chronarch MG)


Overall when you consider features, performance, flexibility, and price the Chronarch SF is the best choice

The Price: Here's where it all starts to break down. While all three reels are excellent reels the choice becomes a lot easier when price is considered. The standard Chronarch is no longer a good deal at 194.99. Without "Super Free" it is difficult to make a good case for this this reel now that Shimano has introduced the Curado BSF for 149.99 and the new Castaic200SF for 169.99, both of which have advanced features and better casting thanks to super free. Why pay 30-50 dollars more for a reel that may be slightly smoother, but not be able to cast nearly as fast or far.

The Chronarch SF retails for 229.99, only 30 dollars more than the standard Chronarch, but is really the benchmark for quality performance in baitasters. The price is inline with competitor reels, and if Shimano just put a clicker on the drag adjustment this reel would be perfect.

The Chronarch MG retails for 299.99, making it 70 dollars more than the SF, and 100 dollars more than the standard Chronarch. At the 300 dollar price range there are plenty of competitor choices out there that offer the same level of performance. The use of magnesium serves only one purpose, to reduce weight, and with a weight reduction of less than 1oz over the standard Chronarch you have to ask yourself is it worth paying 100 dollars for just 1oz? (Category Winner: Chronarch SF)


Ratings: We rated the best choice reel:

Shimano Chronarch SF Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Excellent construction and quality, great aluminum materials in the frame and spool. Can take a real beating. 9
Performance Performance is excellent across the board. This is the best Chronarch to buy for flexibility. You can fish any type of bait in any type of environment with ease. 9.5
Price A reasonable price for a reel that is near top of line, but offers trouble free performance that sets the benchmark for baitcasters. 9
Features Almost all the features we look for in a tournament ready reel. A more exotic drag material to enhance performance and clicker to improve accurate adjustment would be welcome upgrades. 8
Design (Ergonomics) A fan favorite! It is easy to see why the Chronarch is among the most popular baitcasters on the market today. It is built to be easy to use as well as durable. Wish the SF had more comfortable handles like the MG. 8.5
Application A reel built to fish anything you can throw at it. Just about the most capable reel Shimano makes with the exception of the Calcutta TE's. 9

Total Score


Pluses and Minuses: (Chronarch SF)

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Great Features! L No Drag clicker
J Reasonable Price L Handle comfort
J Super Free  
J Aluminum Wiffle Spool  
J Built to last  

Conclusion: Shimano baitcasters are among the best on the market and these three Chronarch's are perfect examples of why Shimano is the market share leader. While all three Chronarch's won't disappoint, if I had to put my own money down for one of these reels the Chronarch SF would be my number one choice. Of the three reels it is the only one that can cast and retrieve like a championship reel, and be fished in any type of water. With the best tally of features and price the Chronarch SF delivers the greatest balance of performance out of the family. If you want a reel that can do it all, and look good doing it, the Chronarch SF is your preeminent choice from the well bred family of Chronarch's.


Until next time...Tight Lines!

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