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Enthusiast BFS Reel Preview


JDM Calcutta Conquest for Finesse - The Calcutta Conquest BFS


Date: 1/26/23
Tackle type: Reel
Manufacturer: Shimano
Reviewer: Zander

Introduction: Shimano Japan has been busy this season updating their Calcutta Conquest platforms on both ends of the spectrum. In addition to launching the new MD reels for big bait anglers the company is also introducing a new BFS reel with the proven Finesse Tune Braking system which is designed to deliver lures as light as a single gram.


Shimano Calcutta Conquest BFS Specifications

Calcutta Conquest BFS HG
Calcutta Conquest BFS XG
Weight 195 grams / 6.87 oz. 195 grams / 6.87 oz.
Rated Line Capacity (Mono) Yd.
Retrieve Ratio
Retrieve Hand Right
(Left also available)
(Left also available)
Bearings (S-ARB) 13BB + 1 RB 13BB + 1 RB
Max Drag (Rated)
7.7 lbs
7.7 lbs
Brake Type
Finesse Tune Braking system (FTB)
 Finesse Tune Braking system (FTB)
External Brake Adjustment?
Additional Features Micro Module gearing, X Ship, MGL Spool III, Silent Tune, S-Compact body, Audible drag, S3D spool, S A-RB, Super Free Spool Micro Module gearing, X Ship, MGL Spool III, Silent Tune, S-Compact body, Audible drag, S3D spool, S A-RB, Super Free Spool
Origin Japan Japan
$59,000 yen
(~454 USD)
$59,000 yen
(~454 USD)

Big year for the Calcutta Conquest: Round reels for finesse are nothing new, and Shimano has been in the circular finesse game for a long time. Going back two decades as JDM Conquests and Cardiff 50 sized reels were already being utilized to sling lightweight lures. As BFS expanded in popularity products went from being simply BFS-capable to being designed specifically for the technique.

Shimano Japan refreshes their smallest Calcutta Conquest offering

The new Calcutta Conquest BFS reel is an update to the current version  and will be available in Japan in both a HG (7.8:1) and XG (8.9:1) retrieve configurations. Both of these reels weigh in at 6.87 ounces and come loaded with 13+1 BB. As with previous generation small form factor Calcutta Conquest reels this latest iteration puts a focus on refinement and build quality. The smallest Calcutta Conquest reels have often been called functional works of art by round reel enthusiasts.

The Calcutta Conquest BFS will be available in both HG (7.8:1) and XG (8.9:1) configurations

Compared to the current BFS reel the new Calcutta Conquest bears the same familiar silver color with gold highlights, but incorporates some new angles that give the sideplates a more modern look. The biggest change cosmetically and ergonomically is the reduction in size of the B-Side sideplate to improve palming comfort.

The B-Side sideplate has been shrunken down to improve palming ergonomics

While some previous generation BFS oriented Shimano reels like the Cardiff have made use of DC cast control this new reel was designed with the Finesse Tune Braking (FTB) casting system which is optimized for casting lightweight lures and baitfinesse style fishing. This casting system, combined with the MGL III spool, is what made the Aldebaran BFS so popular, and the system is known for the ability to cast lures as light as 1.5 grams and below.

The FTB system incorporated into the round sideplate of the Calcutta Conquest BFS

When the Aldebaran BFS debuted this combination last year one of the biggest takeaways was how "weak" the brake setting was, and unlike in many other applications a lower amount of magnetic force is a very good thing when the goal is achieving faster spool startups. The FTB allows for a greater range of brake settings by reducing as much mass as possible from the spool and removing the brake unit from the spool. Shifting the components to the inner B-Side sideplate allows for increasing the movable range of the brake unit, and minimizing the unwanted effects of magnetic force applied to the low inertia spool MGL III spool and allowing for easier low trajectory casts. This combination made it easier for anglers to employ the baitfinesse technique, and those proficient in BFS found the new Aldebaran to be excellent for fishing in tight spaces like stream banks with overhanging structure.

The FTB system has a magnetic ring inside the assembly which allows the magnet to be further retracted and reduce the amount of magnetic force on the spool when desired. In this case "weak" force is good

With the success of the Aldebaran BFS it really isn't a surprise to see these technologies now implemented in the new Calcutta Conquest BFS. So why would anglers consider the Calcutta Conquest over the Aldebaran BFS? It mainly comes down to preference, and whether you personally prefer a low-profile or compact round reel. The Aldebaran BFS weighs in at 130g (4.58oz.) while the Calcutta Conquest BFS weighs 195g (6.8oz.), and both reels are available in 7.8:1 and 8.9:1 retrieve ratios. The Calcutta Conquest will feel more solid under load as the cold forged aluminum body and sideplates are more rigid, but the tradeoff is weight.

The MGL III spool achieves ultras low inertia due to reduction of mass both in the thickness and core

The MGL III spool makes use of S3D design which is Shimano's fancy way of describing the machining tolerances in their spool manufacturing. The MGL III spool is 29 mm in diameter and 19 mm wide, and ported to the extreme. When loaded into the reel the spool is further supported by Silent Tune, which describes Shimano's design of applying light pressure to the bearing that holds the spool. The goal of this design is to reduce vibration to the minimum which preserves energy leading to smoother and further casts, and overall quieter operation. Basically these two features work together to further eliminate the issues that effect rotation and castability.

The cast control is adjusted externally. Notice how the back of the B-Side sideplate has been sculpted in a crescent shape, the is to improve palming comfort

The Calcutta Conquest's drag is more about smooth performance and protection lighter lines versus maximum pressure. The reel makes use of a carbon cloth washer that is designed to be very smooth but will max out at 7.7lbs of pressure, which is more than enough for BFS fishing for trout, bass, and other similarly sized freshwater species. The trend on BFS reels is to incorporate an audible drag clicker and the Calcutta Conquest is no different.

The Calcutta Conquest BFS also comes loaded with all the latest Shimano features designed to make it feel smoother and more powerful. This includes the all aluminum body, precisely cut micro module gear, and X-ship which is the dual point support of pinion and gear with bearings. Though this is a tiny Calcutta Conquest this BFS version is still built to be very robust and extra provisions were made to seal out the elements. This includes improving tolerances between the frame and sideplate and the gaskets inside, and the reel is rated for use in brackish and saltwater environments.

From the top you can see the smother edges on the sideplates. Improving ergonomics was just as important as refining the casting abilities of this new reel

Our Quick Take: Shimano Japan is looking to address both ends of the spectrum with new Calcutta Conquest offerings for throwing big swimbaits with the MD and the lightest of lures with the new HG and XG BFS reels. This new reel is designed to deliver excellent rigidity, refinement, and the best lightweight casting performance in a Calcutta Conquest to date. It borrows proven technologies from the Aldebaran BFS and puts them in a beautiful new form factor that improves palmability for those anglers that appreciate circular reels. Like the other Calcutta Conquest reels the changes feel more like an evolution versus a revolution to the design, and for Shimano fans this is a very good thing. Aligned with the "don't fix what isn't broken" train of thought, the fact that new Calcutta Conquest BFS is still instantly recognizable, and that it should perform better than the current offering... the question is whether it is worth the 59,000 Yen ($454 USD) price tag? Let's just say that BFS enthusiasts probably already have their pre-orders in.

Stay tuned as our BFS Editor Hobie-Wan Kenobi will be doing a complete review of this reel later this season.









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