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Enthusiast Review

What the Finesse : Shimano Japan's Ultegra Advance (continued)

Casting: Spinning reels get a bad reputation as being imprecise machines or difficult reels with which to make precise casts. Line flutters off the spool so easily, it's difficult for beginners and even seasoned pros to control their cast as they can with a baitcasting reel. Most resort to abruptly stopping their cast by using their free hand to cover the spool thereby stopping the line from coming off the reel.

Do you know the proper technique to cast a spinning reel for accuracy?

This method certainly works but is a very crude technique compared to the more proper way of casting a spinning reel. What is the proper technique you ask? Have you heard of feathering? After releasing the line on a cast with your index finger, instead of curling your finger back to hold the rod, keep it extended off to the side of the spool. You'll feel the flutter from the fishing line coming off the spool brushing against your finger. This helps to tame the line and keep the trajectory of your cast at a lower angle. As your bait approaches the target area, close your finger in towards the spool, then stop the cast by touching the spool with your index finger. It takes some getting used to but with enough practice, you can cast with the same precision as you do a baitcasting rod and reel.

The technique is called feathering.

The difference here, from reel to reel, is the distance between the rod and the spool and how comfortable it is for you to reach out with your index finger to feather your casts. The Shimano Ultegra Advance 2500s is set up perfectly for my reach and I was able to control my casts with this reel, matched up with the Rapala Canada Shift rod, just fine.

Top end drag is not as important on spinning reels made for light line as is the smoothness of operation because up to a certain threshold, it's relatively easy to lock down a spinning reel's drag.

Retrieve: The Ultegra Advance 2500s is specified as a 5:1 retrieve reel that equates to roughly twenty seven inches of line pickup per turn of the handle at a full spool. The feel of the reel during the retrieve is as expected smooth as can be. Spinning reels over the last few years have really come a long way and it's getting more and more difficult to tell the difference between reels priced within $100 of one another. The Ultegra Advance is no exception to this rule.

Just the same, we took a look at the Ultegra Advance's drag and verified it's a finesse style, felt washer.

Drag: As with any spinning reel, total lockdown is not very difficult to achieve, and when you're fishing with five pound test line, well, it's even easier to set your drag too tight. What's more important under finesse applications is how smooth that drag may be so you can avoid any unexpected stops and starts when a fish decides it wants to try and make a run on you. The Ultegra Advance performed flawlessly for me at settings appropriate for the very light line I was using, and when I opened it up, I found out why. This reel has a bearing supported drag system - a feature usually reserved for higher end reels.

What surprised us, however, is the bearing support built right into the spool. This feature is usually reserved for higher end reels.

Line Management: I left the Toray HiClass fluorocarbon line on this reel for practically an entire year and to my surprise ran into very few issues of excessive twist in the line. Sure those loose coils and loops are inevitable with just about any spinning reel, but the Ultegra Advance held its own.

Another high end touch on the Advance?

Part of the reason for this is another high-end feature. The line roller for the Ultegra Advance is bearing supported. This reduces across your line as it is being wound back onto your reel and allows it to lay more natural reducing line twist.

Yes, the line roller is also bearing supported.

Availability: The Ultegra Advance is a current production reel for Shimano Japan, at least as of 2010 it was. MSRP for this reel varies depending on the size, but the reel reviewed here, the 2500S runs 15,500 JPY or roughly $195 in today's weakened dollar. There are also 1000S, 2000S, and 4000S sizes available. While not sold in your typical US tackle shops, it can be ordered online via the usual JDM tackle vendors and select shops located within the US that specialize in JDM gear.


Shimano Japan Ultegra Advance 2500S Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality A very solidly built reel 9
Performance It did everything I asked it to do 9
Price Based on the exchange rate, not good, but on its own, still worth close to $200 7
Features Lots of high end features in a midrange reel 8.5
Design (Ergonomics) Very attractively styled, but when you're used to reels like the Daiwa Exist, a tad heavy 8
Application An excellent finesse spinning reel 9

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:


+ Smooth operation - A tad heavy
+ Bearings in all the right places - The current exchange rate makes this reel a difficult play, but even at close to $200, it's a worthy consideration.
+ Attractive finish  
+ Excellent sensitivity  
+ Reasonable price  


Looking for a mid-range Enthusiast reel packed with a lot of features? Put Shimano's Ultegra Advance on your list.


Conclusion: Given the confusing array of product available all with similar specifications, one can assume spinning gear is a big deal over in Japan. With the popularity of finesse tactics in their high pressured waters, this only makes sense for when it comes to casting light baits with light line with the least amount of effort, there's really no substitute for spinning gear. The Ultegra Advance is far from Shimano's top end flagship, the Stella, and given the current exchange rate, it's also a bit pricey for a budget alternative, but if your needs fall somewhere in the middle and you like the idea of fishing with a mid-range reel packed with a couple of high end features, the Ultegra Advance is very worthy of consideration.









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