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A New Benchmark in Rigidity? A Look inside the Shimano Bantam MGL Baitcaster


Date: 4/5/18
Tackle type: Reels
Manufacturer: Shimano
Reviewer: Zander

Introduction: Avid baitcast reel collectors and Shimano fans will remember the original Bantam series reels, the very first low profile baitcaster from the brand. This was one of the reels that started it all. It has been four decades since that original Bantam introduction and a lot has changed not only in the industry, but also for Shimano, who has now firmly cemented themselves as a giant within the industry. At the recent Bassmaster Classic Shimano officially introduced a new generation of anglers to the series with the launch of the Bantam 150 MGL which will be offered in six different models, the Bantam MGL150, 151, 150HG, 151HG, 150XG and 151XG.

Shimano Bantam MGL Casting Reel Manufacturer Specifications
BANTMGL150 Right 6.2:1 7.6 7S A-RB + 1S A-RB 12/110, 14/90 $349.99
BANTMGL150HG Right 7.1:1 7.6 7S A-RB + 1S A-RB 12/110, 14/90 $349.99
BANTMGL150XG Right 8.1:1 7.8 7S A-RB + 1S A-RB 12/110, 14/90 $349.99
BANTMGL151 Left 6.2:1 7.6 7S A-RB + 1S A-RB 12/110, 14/90 $349.99
BANTMGL151HG Left 7.1:1 7.6 7S A-RB + 1S A-RB 12/110, 14/90 $349.99
BANTMGL151XG Left 8.1:1 7.8 7S A-RB + 1S A-RB 12/110, 14/90 $349.99


The newest Shimano reel is the Bantam MGL, an update to a reel series that was first launched 40 years ago

The new Bantam reels channel the original with a focus on a solid metal construction, only with a whole lot more refinement and use of the latest technologies from the Shimano stable. “With the new Bantam MGL reels, we went back to the legacy we built with the original metal construction reels, and took advantage of 40 years of ever-expanding technology,” said Trey Epich with Shimano’s product development staff. “Anglers will discover the entire concept behind the Bantam MGL reel is all about rigid, solid, and sensitive. We incorporate specific design elements and technology to focus on that concept.”


This reel doesn't look like other Shimano baitcasters and it feels incredibly solid, more like a round reel than a low profile baitcaster

From the first moment I picked up the Bantam reel I could immediately tell how solid this new reel felt. In real life they have a much smaller footprint than how they appear in images, and I found the Bantam to be especially comfortable to palm.


This really is a 150 size reel when it comes to form factor. The reel’s silver-nickel finish is simple and elegant, not a lot of bling here, and the colors (or lack of colors) reinforce the fact that we are looking at a solid one piece aluminum platform. Anglers in the US don't have easy access to Bantam Series rods but I was just in Japan last week and if I had any more luggage room would have brought back a JDM Shimano Bantam rod which has a reel seat that matches this nickel finish exactly. For now I'll be testing this reel with Shimano Expride and G.Loomis Conquest rods.


Rotate the brake housing up and it unlocks to provide access to the spool

What makes the Bantam so unique is that Shimano combined multiple parts to integrate the B-sideplate, frame and levelwind guard all into a single solid aluminum unit. This was done to create a reel that is more rigid, much like how round reels feel, but with the enhanced ergonomics offered with a low profile reel. Shimano calls this their “CoreSolid Body design.”


No traditional B-sideplate here, multiple parts of this reel are all integrated into a solid aluminum platform

In the lab we were able to get a closer look at the reel and when it comes to tolerances the Bantam is easily as good as some of the company’s higher end, much more expensive reels. This reel is built with precision and everything from the gear alignment to the levelwind feels more solid thanks to the lack of flex in this solid platform.


The standard Bantam's handle is 84mm in length which feels like the appropriate size for this reel though I certainly wouldn't mind longer


Like higher-end Shimano reels from the Chronarch on up the Bantam is made in the company's factories in Japan, and even though it is relatively heavy for a reel of this size I absolutely love how solid it feels not only in hand but also how connected it feels when cranked. The Bantam feels higher end and a lot more refined than the already very polished Curado K and Chronarch MGL reels.


The drag star is made out of a composite that looks like CI4 and the audible clicker is embedded with a spring within the star's inner diameter


Anglers that fish the Shimano Calcutta D love how solid the reel feels with the integrated design but really dislike not being able to access the spool and brakes easily. The Bantam’s answer to this is a cold-forged aluminum brake adjustment dial housing which is exposed on the palming side of the reel.


A look cold forged brake housing, bearing, and MGL spool which has four brakes that can be engaged or disengaged simply by clicking them into inwards to lock them in fixed position


Next Section: Let's take a look inside the Bantam MGL...









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