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Reel Review


Shimano SLX Baitcasters Deliver the Features that Anglers Need, at a Price they Demand (continued)

Ergonomics: The minute you handle the SLX it feels both familiar and comfortable in hand. The new reel is a little more than 20% smaller in overall volume than the Caenan, and because the profile is less angular I found it considerably more comfortable to palm. In terms of weight the SLX benefits from a mix of materials between the frame and sideplates and weighs in at only 6.9oz. making the reel one of Shimano’s lighter baitcasters. In comparison the SLX is .5oz. lighter than the Citica (7.4oz), and .7oz. lighter than the Curado 200K (7.6oz.). The long handle on the SLX also channels the Curado, and provide plenty of leverage while the oversized knobs add some additional comfort.

Who wore it better? We fished the SLX on a Favorite Lunkers Defender rod as well

The only downside to the SLX’s ergonomics is that the VBS cast control adjustment, and like many other legacy Shimano baitcasters, must be adjusted internally. Most anglers will simply “set and forget” the VBS brakes, but for those that like to make adjustments in the field popping open the non-handle sideplate is just one extra step that takes time away from fishing.

The knobs are supported with a bushing

Price & Applications: The new SLX baitcasters are a nice leap for Shimano, a company that many anglers believe is often times too focused on the high end market. Previous offerings like the original Caenan were functional, but not very refined, or very fun to fish. The SLX changes that, and not only looks like part of the Shimano baitcaster family, but casts and retrieves more similarly to a Citica Series reel than ever before.

The sideplates are graphite composite

At only $99 dollars the SLX represents a great value. Is it as refined as the Citica? It comes surprising close when it comes to casting and retrieve and it retails for $49 dollars less. How does the SLX compare to the Curado? It doesn’t. While it looks similar to the Curado 200K, with a similar profile and black matte finish, the similarities pretty much end there. The Curado 200K still performs and feels considerably more refined than the SLX in just about every way. Just crank on the Curado 200K and it is obvious how much smoother, and more powerful, the more expensive reel is, especially when there is a big bait or fish on the end of the line.

Even though the main gear is not micro-module it is precision cut and quite durable

Throughout my tests I paired the SLX reel with a variety of rods but nothing looked quite as good as when the reel was mounted on Shimano’s own matching SLX Series rods, which retail for the same price of only $99 dollars each.

With the same black matte finish and bright blue anodized highlights the SLX rods are designed to be the perfect match for the reels in terms of styling and price, and like the SLX baitcasters, they fish a whole lot better than their affordable price would have you believe.

The SLX rods are constructed with 24-ton carbon blanks and make use of a titanium oxide semi-micro guide train to improve overall rod weight and balance.  In total the SLX rod series includes nine casting rods from medium power, extra-fast action 6’10” lengths to heavy power, medium-fast action 7’10” flipping rods, and seven spinning rods including medium-light to medium heavy power in 6’9” and 7’ lengths. This lineup covers most applications up to small swimbaits for value-mainstream oriented anglers.

The SLX is the best $99 dollar reel Shimano has introduced in years, and it basically obsoletes the Caenan with a more compact footprint and superior performance

The SLX pretty much replaces other similar priced Shimano baitcasters, and if you are looking for a value-mainstream workhorse and have been considering a Casitas ($105), Caenan ($99), or Caius ($79), you are better off just scratching those reels off your list, and just going with the similarly priced, and much more solidly built aluminum framed SLX.

Ratings: (We've re-calibrated our ratings standard for 2008 and have included a key at the bottom of the following matrix as a guide):

Shimano SLX Baitcaster Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality The SLX's Hagane body makes use of aluminum to add rigidity, the result is a value-mainstream oriented reel that feels more solid and refined 8
Performance Casting performance was good, retrieve feel was good, drag performance was good, and ergonomics are excellent. A well rounded everyday workhorse baitcaster 8
Price Excellent price for a reel that has the features that anglers want in a sub 100 dollar baitcaster 8.5
Features In some ways the SLX is like a return to what made Shimano's classic workhorse reels so great, an aluminum frame and the ultra-reliable VBS centrifugal cast control system 7.5
Design (Ergonomics) The SLX palms beautifully and comes with a long handle that channels the more expensive Curado K. The only real downside to this more compact reel is that the cast control must be adjusted internally 8.5
Application Anglers that are looking for a 100 dollar baitcaster are likely going to expect this reel to do it all, and in this regard the SLX delivers. It may not be the best finesse reel but it can do everything and is built to handle the complete spectrum of baits and applications 8

Total Score

Ratings Key: 1 = terrible : 2 = poor : 3 = lacking : 4 = sub par : 5 = mediocre : 6 = fair : 7 = good : 8 = great : 9 = excellent : 10 = unbelievable!
For More Details of the updated rating system visit our explanation here


Pluses and Minuses:

                   Plus                                            Minus

+ Solid construction of the reel's main frame - Not as refined as other slightly higher priced Shimano reels
+ Casts the big stuff really well. The VBS cast control system is proven - VBS cast control must be adjusted internally
+ Smooth drag performance that is reliable under load - Drag is reliable but doesn't offer the max pressure of competitors
+ Much better ergonomics than the similarly positioned Caenan  
+ Great value! Makes Shimano a player in the hotly contested sub 100 dollar price point  
+ Attractive reel that anglers will actually enjoy fishing. Pairs very well with the equally aggressively priced SLX rods  

Conclusion: Shimano’s baitcasting lineup just got a lot more well-rounded, and while the company is still a bit top heavy when it comes to high-end offerings (not that avid TackleTour readers are complaining), the company finally has compelling offerings at the lower-end of the spectrum.

The SLX builds on the brand that Shimano biking components are known for, and delivers solid performance at an aggressive price point, ticking off all the right boxes when it comes to features and performance in a mid-range workhorse reel, and all at a price that is easy on the wallet.

The Shimano SLX is what Shimano fans have been waiting for, an aluminum framed reel with the performance and features they want, and all for only $99 dollars!

While the $99 dollar price point is a battleground, the Shimano SLX is a contender worthy of consideration, especially when you figure in the equally aggressively priced SLX rod series. It has never been easier to put together a $200 dollar combo that not only looks and performs better than you would expect, but is actually something that anglers are going to be excited to go out and fish with. The SLX is the finest $99 dollar reel that Shimano has introduced in a long time, and an absolute best value, delivering the features that price conscious anglers need, all at a price that the segment demands. 

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