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Enthusiast Reel Review (Comparison)

Going neck and neck in a enthusiast shootout - Shimano Antares AR VS Daiwa TD-Z Type R+

Date: 12/30/04
Tackle type: Enthusiast Reels
Manufacturers: Shimano & Daiwa Japan
Reviewer: Cal

Introduction: How do you make a flagship fishing reel better? Well, if you’re Daiwa Japan, you modify the inner workings allowing for greater casting distances and overall smoother performance. On the other hand, if you’re Shimano Japan, you not only follow suit, but you downsize the reel making it easier and more ergonomic to palm. Lastly, if you’re a TT Editor, you replace the short 70 mm handle on the Shimano reel with an 80 mm carbon cranking upgrade. The result? A super tuned shootout between the Daiwa TD-Z 103ML Type R+ and Shimano Antares AR!


Daiwa TD-Z 103ML Type R+ Specifications

Line Capacity 12/100
Gear Ratio (actual retrieve) 5.7:1 (22 inches per turn)
Weight 5.9oz
Bearings 11BB, 1RB
Additional Features MagForceV Cast Control, GIGAS Spool, Type R+ Limited Edition Super Tuning
MSRP ~$550


Shimano Antares AR Specifications

Line Capacity (lb/yds) 10/110
Gear Ratio (actual retrieve) 5.8:1 (22 inches per turn)
Weight 8.5oz
Bearings 10BB, 1 RB
Additional Features Weight-Reduced SVS, Duralumin Spool, ARB Bearings
MSRP ~$360.00
Upgrades 80mm ZPI Carbon Handle
Upgrade costs $70.00

Impressions: These two reels are polar opposites when it comes to appearance and heft, yet both are breathtaking at first glance. Cosmetically, the Daiwa TD-Z 103ML Type R+ is a very understated reel with only one real distinguishing feature – its metallic red drag star and spool tension knob. The Shimano Antares AR, on the other hand, is a very shiny and flashy reel with it’s ion plating, mirror-like finish reflecting its surroundings at every angle of view. Holding the Daiwa in your hand is truly astonishing - it is so light, it almost floats away in your palm while the Shimano feels so solid and anchored one might mistaken it for a sophisticated, highly engineered Swiss carpenter’s tool rather than a top end fishing reel.


Just when you thought the Daiwa TD-Z was the pinnacle of refinement, the TD-Z Type R+ brings supertuning to a whole new level

The Real World Test:
For our real world tests, we spooled both reels with 15lb Seaguar Carbon Pro fishing line and mounted them on identical, one piece, G.Loomis MBR843C GLX fishing rods. We tied a range of identical lures to each setup to compare casting and pitching performance.


The Shimano Antares AR is breathtaking with superbly sculpted fluid lines


Freespool: The typical reaction when holding a fine piece of machinery such as one of these reels in your hand is to click the reel over into freespool, spin the spool, and watch how long the spool spins before coming to a stop. As unscientific as this may seem, this reflex-like test is one way we reassure ourselves about the quality of the reel in our hand – a long spinning freespool infers long, smooth, effortless casts. Needless to say, both of these reels perform this test remarkably well, spinning anywhere from six to eight seconds on repeated tests. Not satisfied, we decided to carry it one step further by setting each reel up on a rod, stringing the line through the rod, adjusting the tension knob on the reels up to the point where the side to side play on the spools goes away, and tying on a series of weights to see what it would take to get the spools turning. Surprisingly, both of these reels were limited only by the friction created by the line in the guides as a single glass bead was enough to pull line out of each reel in freespool.

Both reels pair nicely with a wide range of rods, the Antares AR provides the added benefit of being able to be used in light saltwater applications where line capacity is not an issue

Casting/Pitching: Scope out a spot on the water or a distance you want to hit, load up and fire with either setup and you’re likely to outcast your mark. Both of these reels are that good. For those not accustomed to reels of this ilk, casting performance is simply “un-reel”. Like two NBA superstars participating in a mythical contest of horse, our field test revealed neither reel would accept being outperformed by the other with effortless casting and pitching performances all around. If any advantage is to be had, the Daiwa requires slightly less effort to cast and pitch due to its more than two ounce weight difference over the Shimano and is easier to fine tune on the water with its simple, and easily accessible external brake control dial.

While both reels seat nicely the Daiwa's weight and position feel ergonomically more comfortable

Retrieving: Supporting a broad range of lure types and presentations, both reels offer the very versatile line retrieve rate of twenty-two (22) inches per turn of the handle. The Antares AR is buttery smooth without sacrificing sensitivity and while the TD-Z Type R+ is also very smooth, it lacks the buttery feel of the Shimano. The standard length handle on the Daiwa is a definite advantage over its shinier counterpart from Shimano, but in our test case, these variables were neutralized with the TT enhancement of an 80mm ZPI carbon handle on the Antares. The Antares definitely feels more powerful and consistent with the longer handle rather than the stock 70mm version. Of interesting note is the small amount of backplay discernable on the Antares AR in low drag settings. Holding the spool with your thumb, you can move the handle of the reel back and forth at middle to low drag settings. This seems to be a typical symptom with Shimano reels. The Type R+ has no such play in the handle no matter the drag setting and is actually, surprisingly solid in this regard.


Drag: Both of these reels come equipped with a confidence inspiring five pounds of maximum drag pressure (2.25kg) both of which are also very smooth and easy to startup. The Dartanium drag system on the Shimano is quite possibly the best drag system of any reel this size and receives extra credit for super, silky smooth performance.

What sets the Type R+ apart from its conventional TD-Z sibling is the unique weight reducing slots and distinctive red highlights

Ergonomics: Of the two reels, the Daiwa is the more comfortable to palm. It sits back in the reel seat maybe an eighth of an inch further than the Shimano providing a position, in relation to the trigger on the underside of the fishing rod, that is just slightly more comfortable. The vertical position of these reels is practically identical but the Daiwa feels lower due to a slightly sloping top plate. Couple those two factors with the extreme light weight of the Daiwa, and the external brake control dial, and the Daiwa just edges the Shimano in this department.


Design: Though understated with its matte silver finish, the Daiwa TD-Z 103ML Type R+ reel is far from common. From thirty feet away, one can spot this reel by its distinctive red highlights. Clutch the reel in your hand, turn it over and you find such attention to detail as a cut away foot to reduce weight. Even the reel’s original handle has a cut away groove down the center for more weight savings design.


The Antares AR, with its mirror-like ion plating finish, is an elegant machine to say the least. Smooth, seamless design is evident at every angle of view. One can just as easily imagine seeing this reel magnified in size several thousand times and speeding down the freeway at ridiculous speeds.


The Antares AR's ion plating finish looks like liquid metal and is exceptionally durable, in terms of smooth feel this reel is hard to beat

Price and Availability: The Shimano Antares AR is readily available in the US as the Calais 100a. Both reels are identical save for their names and the fact that the Calais 100a is not available in left hand retrieve. As with all imports, the Antares AR is harder to locate than the Calais 100a.


The Daiwa TD-Z Type R+ line of reels, on the other hand are available exclusively as import models and are 2004 limited production and limited availability reels. These reels are not intended for the masses and their exclusivity is reflected in the reels’ price tags. In all, there are three casting models and one spinning model ranging in current market price of $500 to $900. Once sold out, the reels will be increasingly difficult to find in brand new condition and will no doubt command a premium at or above original price.


Daiwa TD-Z 103ML Type R+ Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Solidly crafted and top notch quality but the finish’s durability is questionable 9
Performance They don’t make them any more perfect than this. All factors from weight, to ergonomics, to tuning come together to inspire a giddy smile with each cast and retrieve. 10
Price & Availability Limited edition, limited production reel with a premium price but a plus for collectors. 7.5
Features Standard 80mm length handle, super tuned GIGAS spool, MagForceV externally adjustable cast control system, light weight magnesium frame, micro-click adjustable drag and spool tension knob, 5lbs max pressure drag. 10
Design (Ergonomics) Refined and understated, with key details to highlight the reel and minimize weight. Super low position on the rod to maximize comfort and an externally adjustable magnetic brake system. 10
Application Suitable for just about any freshwater application from small, ultra light lures, to offerings up to an ounce in weight, the only thing this reel cannot handle is salt or brackish water. 9

Total Score



Shimano Antares AR Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality This reel is as solid as they come 10
Performance When Santana and Rob Thomas collaborated on the 1999 Grammy Award winning tune, “Smooth”, their inspiration may very well have been this reel! 10
Price & Availability Widely available but at a semi-premium price  8
Features Super tuned Duralumin spool, reduced weight SVS braking system, micro-click adjustable drag and spool tension knob, 5lbs max pressure dartanium drag, ARB bearings. If the standard handle were only 80 mm in length or more. 9
Design (Ergonomics) Flashy and refined with its ionized mirror-like finish, this reel stands out in a crowd. Very comfortable to palm with the only detraction being overall weight and cumbersome SVS brake adjustment through covered sideplate 9
Application Suitable for both fresh and saltwater applications where line capacity is not a concern. 9.5

Total Score


Pluses and Minuses:

Reel Comparison Pluses and Minuses

Daiwa TD-Z 103ML Type R +

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Super light weight reel L Suitable for freshwater use only
J Limited production, limited availability for the true enthusiast L Limited production, limited availability at a premium price
J Ergonomics are unmatched L Questionable durability on finish
J MagForceV cast control system  
J Stock, standard length handle  

Shimano Antares AR

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Solid construction inspires confidence L Short, stock handle
J Smooth, flawless performance L A little heavy for a reel of this diminutive size
J Durable and attractive finish  
J ARB Bearings suitable for use in both fresh and saltwater  

Do you recall the old Mc Donald’s commercial featuring Larry Bird and Michael Jordan playing a game of horse? With each iteration of the commercial, their called shots would become more and more outrageous (e.g. over the parking lot, through the window, one bounce, nothing but net). Those that actually remember the careers of these two hall of fame NBA stars knows that each brought different intangibles to the game, yet both were as dominant in their eras as any player in history. Such is the case with these two uber-reels from the Japanese divisions of Daiwa and Shimano. Name a spot on the water and each reel will hit the mark with relative ease limited only by the ability of the angler. Picking a clear winner, as reflected by their scores above, is not as easy as this editor had thought. The limited availability and exclusive price of the Daiwa reel is an immediate disadvantage, but once held in your hand, all those pains go away and the smile on your face while fishing this reel is undeniable. The Shimano reel inspires true confidence from the start with its flashy finish and the solid feeling it gives you in your hand – a feeling partially attributed to its overall weight which some may find excessive. Still, given the nature of this article, a winner must be declared and the true enthusiast in this editor gives the nod to Daiwa. Special attention was put into the design of the Type R+ line of reels. Their limited production and availability are intended to maintain and inflate the resale value of these reels. Combine these intangibles with top of the line performance and you have a true collector’s item. But even without these factors, the weight to performance ratio of this reel and smile inspiring giddiness it produces is simply too difficult to deny.










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