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Reel Review

Fishing light saltwater tackle with confidence, Shimano Calcutta CT-400



Tackle type:








Total Score: 8.25

Introduction:  The Calcutta series reel from Shimano has been on the market for more than 10 years.  Throughout a decade the Calcutta has continued to be one of the favorites for both freshwater and saltwater anglers.  For those who are not familiar with the legacy of Calcuttas, looking at the 2 ball bearing configuration may turn many away.  Although Calcutta family now contains the “TE” series which stands for Total Efficiency, the original Calcuttas are still the first choice for many anglers.

Shimano Calcutta CT-400 Specifications

Line Capacity

14/260; 17/200; 20/160

Gear Ratio



11.3 (oz)


2BB, 1RB

Additional Features

Forged Aluminum frame, Aluminum spool, Clicker, Super Stopper, VBS



Impressions: The 400 Series of Calcutta comes in two flavors—Levelwind and non-Levelwind.  Casting distance between the two are relatively the same.  But for those of you who are not use to the conventional reels, the Levelwind is very handy.

The one-piece body of the Calcutta is forged aluminum. This kind of construction provides a sturdy frame, and is lighter weight at the same time. The CT-400 comes with the standard baitcast handle, while the CT-700 series sports the live-bait handle.  We like the live-bait handle better because of more leverage on open water, and opted for the $20 upgrade accessory from Shimano.

The Calcutta 400 offers a lot of power on open water fro a reel this small

The Rig: We coupled the CT-400 with the GLoomis HSR932C.  The recessed reel seat of the CT-400 makes a perfect fit to the HSR932C.  We spooled up the CT-400 with 300 yards of 20# Braided Moss Green SpiderWire SpiderLine ending with a uni-knot to about 15 to 20 feet of 20# Mono Berkeley Trilene XL.

Real World Test: We were extremely surprised at the lightness of the whole rig.  Even though we were just fishing for rockfish, but we were more accustomed to rigs that weight in the 4 to 5 pound range.  The CT-400 coupled with the HSR932C weights less than 20 oz.  We chartered the "Stagnaros Sea Stag III" and went out to Davenport for some rockfishing for the real world test.

The Calcutta is made with good materials and the only plastic on the reel is on the level wind

The CT-400 casts very smoothly—hard to imagine that it is a 2 ball-bearing reel.  The close contact between the reel and rod made it very easy to thumb the spool, while the 8 oz jig drops to the bottom 300 feet down.  Even though the weather was choppy, and with moderate swells, I was still able to detect when the jig has hit the bottom instantly.  More often than not, a jig with a treble hook finds itself to be the boat anchor than a lure.  However, with a braided line which has barely any stretch, I can pull out of any potential snag.  Not to say that snags are entirely avoidable, but braided line definitely reduces the headaches.  Also with the 15 feet on Mono we had attached to the end of the SpiderWire—in situations where there is no escape—you do not have to fight 300 feet of Mono.  Fish were abundant, and a bite was felt instantaneously through the SpiderWire to the reel.  Clicking back to gear was effortless on the CT-400 by a slight turn of the handle.  And with a moderate set, I was able to pull up a 2 pound Chili rockfish.

Compare the standard handle to the larger live-bait handle which provides more leverage for larger fish on open water

Cranking the fish back from 300 feet does do a number on your arms.  Gear ratio is also a little low at 4.7:1.  However, with the modified live-bait handle the exertion of power is reduced.  Levelwind performs well but on double hookups where there is more weight on the line we did notice some flex in the levelwind (probably because the Calcutta employs a plastic levelwind rather than a stronger metal alloy).

We didn't have a great chance to test out the drag system on the CT-400, since rockfishing does not require a constant change of pressure on the line—it is mostly just set at about 80% of maximum tension.  Wait for our Spring article for Salmon fishing when the drag system is tested to its limit. 

The heart of the Calcutta resides in the all metal gearing which is housed in the side-plate of the reel



Shimano Calcutta CT-400 Ratings (?/10)


 The Calcutta uses good materials with the exception of the plastic levelwind, but the workmanship is excellent



The Calcutta does everything it supposed to and is surprisingly powerful with the livebait handle option 



 A decent price for a tried and true performer that won't break down even under the harshest conditions



The Calcutta does everything it is supposed to but doesn't have a lot of new features, basic and true to original design specifications


Design (Ergonomics)

 Good ergonomics and the livebait handle option makes this reel more powerful and just as easy to use



 Good for both heavy freshwater and light saltwater applications, this reel is durable enough to handle both


Total Score


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J One-Piece Aluminum

L Only 2 ball bearings

J Light weight

 L Plastic level-wind

J Finesse Construction


J Upgradeable to Live-Bait Handle


Conclusion: With a ten-year legacy it is not difficult to see why the Calcutta continues to be the favorites among the anglers.  Although Shimano has other series of pure saltwater applications, the Calcutta is one of the most refined reels on the market.  The 2 ball bearing configuration performance is unbelievable, and the silky smooth feel of the Calcutta continues to set the bar. The Calcutta continues to be a solid reel that gets the job done.









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