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Reel Review

Balanced features and solid saltwater performance with Shimano's Charter Special

Date: 11/24/03
Tackle type: Reels
Manufacturer: Shimano
Reviewer: Zander

Total Score: 8.75

Introduction: There are many anglers who yearn for a powerful saltwater reel but still prefer the convenience of an easy to operate drag mechanism and a reliable levelwind. It is for these anglers that Shimano builds the Charter Special. Designed to take a beating, this reel offers plenty of performance and easy to use features all with a very reasonable price tag.

Shimano Charter Special (TR2000LD) Specifications

Weight 17.1oz.
Gear Ratio 4.2:1
Bearings 4 Ball Bearings
Line Capacity (lb/yds) 14-480 / 17-400 / 20-300
Additional Features Lightweight Graphite frame and sideplates, aluminum spool, lever drag, counter balanced handle, clicker, and non disengaging levelwind
MSRP $134.99

Impressions: The Charter special comes in two sizes and we decided test the wider of the two, the TR2000LD, in a series of trolling and casting applications. Regardless of size both the 1000 and 2000 Charter Special reels share the exact same gear ratio and MSRP of $134.99. The Charter Special may not be as flashy or feature rich as some of the other reels in the Shimano lineup, but it continues to be a popular for saltwater anglers looking for a straightforward to operate and trustworthy levelwind reel. The most noticeable element of this reel is that it employs a lever rather then a star drag.


Meet the Shimano Charter Special, a heavy duty saltwater reel with the rare combination of a lever drag and levelwind


Materials: The majority of my saltwater fishing is done with Calcutta's or Daiwa Millionaires for light saltwater, and Penn Internationals or Shimano Tiagra reels for the tall orders. I have always preferred the weight and refinement of aluminum reels over graphite. So when I was challenged to fish the Charter Special I really wasn't sure what to expect. The Charter Special's frames are reinforced graphite, but the spool is constructed out of aluminum. The pill shaped handle is made out of plastic, and is curved on both ends to sit comfortably in the palm of your hand. Overall the reel actually feels quite light, weighing in at only 17.1 oz, but it still appears remarkably solid.


The base of the reel boasts a heavy bracket that can be used with a reel clamp


The Field Test: To test the Charter Special we fished on the coast of Northern California for late running Salmon using both trolling and mooching methods, as well as used the Charter Special to cast diamond jigs for Ling Cod.


Complete Testing Rig for Charter Special Field Tests

Rod GLoomis Saltwater Series
Reel Charter Special TR2000LD
Line 17 lb. Trilene Big Game


The lever can be pulled back to reduce drag pressure for counting down line, or a complete freespool

Casting, mooching, and even trolling requires the Charter Special to be set into freespool. This is done by pulling the lever drag all the way back towards you. When the lever reaches the 9:00 position the reel clicks into freespool. Once in freespool the reel casted exceptionally well in our tests, and handled heavy jigs with no difficulty at all. By thumbing the spool it is possible to toss jigs without any fear of backlashes. One of the reasons that the Charter Special casts as well as it does is because the reel features a non disengaging levelwind, this means that when the reel is set in freespool the levelwind continues to remain engaged. With the levelwind tracking back and forth during the cast, the line angle friction is greatly reduced versus the friction normally generated if the levelwind had remained stationary. This simple feature allows anglers to cast weighty lures farther with less effort.


The Charter Special's pill shaped handle feels comfortable in your hand


Retrieving: One of the problems I have encountered with several graphite reels is a hollow feel during swift retrieves. This is usually caused by frames that flex under the pressure of sizeable fish that hook up over 100ft below. I was pleased to note that during all our tests the Charter Special felt both reasonably solid and fantastically rigid during the retrieves. The only complaint is that when retrieving at high speed the reel does not feel as smooth as many of the other Shimano offerings.


The Charter Special features a counter balanced handle. This extended shank features an integrated counter weight on the opposite end of the handle to reduce the amount of wobble during high speed cranking. As simple as this feature is, it absolutely works. With a 4.2:1 gear ratio the Charter Special does a fine job bringing up fish from the depths promptly.


Pushing the lever all the way towards you will engage the freespool


Power: Power in the Charter Special is supplied through enlarged gearing that is sealed well beneath the Charter Special's graphite sideplates. This is a fantastic reel for saltwater novices, as it can supply plenty of power combined with the ease of use afforded by a levelwind. That way when the fish hooks up the angler can focus on hauling in the catch, rather then laying line back onto the spool. This reel sports an oversized gear to support it's heavy duty levelwind. Designed to bear enormous pressure this levelwind is designed never to jam under the load of your catch. While the handle is not as ergonomic as the Trinidad power handles, it is comfortable in your hand, and offers plenty of surface area in which to grip during fights with sizeable fish.


The lever drag is easy to use and will always exert the pre-set drag pressure no matter how much you play with the lever


Drag: Now we get to the part where the Charter Special really shines...the lever drag. Why would an angler look to a lever drag rather then a star drag? The answer lies in ease of use, accuracy, and pure speed. On the Charter Special's right side there is a round knob which allows anglers to adjust the drag. Once the drag is set to a certain pressure it cannot be altered by accident. No matter how you adjust the drag your chosen drag setting will always remain once you set the drag lever to the 12:00 position. On the reel this is clearly marked as the "strike" position. What happens if you hook a fish that is bigger then you planned for, and suddenly you require supplementary drag pressure? Rather then go back and adjust the knob in the heat of battle you can simply depress a small blocking button in front of the lever and increase drag pressure. To reduce drag pressure back to your setting all you need to do is pull back on the lever and return it to the "strike" position.


Internally the Charter Special boasts enlarged sealed drags that do an excellent job exerting evenly distributed pressure, producing plenty of fish stopping resistance. It takes only seconds to adjust the drag settings. This reel is also an excellent choice for charter boats as the deckhand can easily adjust the proper drag settings for everyone, and anglers not need worry about accidentally altering their settings. The larger Shimano TLD and Tiagra reels offer similar lever drags, but if you want the lever drag combined with a levelwind the Charter Special is your solitary choice.


The Charter Special cast jigs surprisingly well, and didn't even break a sweat hauling in Lings from over 80ft down


Durability: Graphite continues to be a popular choice for saltwater reels because it is light, corrosion resistant, and durable. The Charter Special can take a lot of abuse and still deliver concrete performance. The frame is very thick and well reinforced so as not to flex or feel hollow. During our tests we caught a number of nice Lings, and on one occasion after bringing one extremely lively fish onboard I neglected to put the rod properly in a rod holder while trying to regain control of the fanatical fish that was vaulting back and forth the deck. Within seconds the rod and reel fell flat on the deck and slid forward. I was afraid to see what kind of damage the reel incurred, but to my happy surprise the Charter Special only acquired a few minor scratches on the sideplate.


Overall durability of the frame is impressive, and the graphite deals with saltwater contaminants with ease; simply spray and wipe away the grime after each trip. But most notable of all is the enlarged levelwind gearing which is designed to handle the hardest fighting fish. The Charter Special dealt with Salmon and Lings without even breaking sweat, and it is feasible to use this reel for much more vigorous species including Albacore tuna.



Shimano Charter Special (TR2000LD) Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality The employed graphite materials are good quality, and the aluminum spool and metal components help balance out this solid performer. The quality of the levelwind and gearing are excellent 9
Performance Performance is solid across the board, and I was surprised how good this reel performed for a variety of different fishing methods and applications. The lever drag is superb. The only complaint is the smoothness of the retrieve 8
Price With a MSRP of only 134.99 the Charter Special is a excellent deal for a high quality saltwater reel built with all the refinement and quality you would expect from a Shimano offering 9.5
Features Experienced saltwater anglers will likely prefer Shimano's heavier lever drag offerings without levelwind, but this combination is perfect for more novice anglers. There are always times when anglers can benefit from the speed and ease of use a levelwind offers. Rockfishing is one such example. Overall this reel offers a decent balance of features, but is designed to be a workhorse among all else 9
Design (Ergonomics) The Charter Special is easy to use, but can benefit from a even more ergonomic handle option 8
Application The reel shines in a variety of offshore applications ranging from lure tossing, mooching, jigging, and trolling. The reel is small enough to justify use on rockfish, while still robust enough to tackle small tuna 9

Total Score


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Quality construction L Graphite not for everyone
J Nice combination of lever drag and levelwind L Smoothness of retrieve
J Handles multiple applications  
J Great price  

Conclusion: The best way to describe the Charter Special is that it is a solid reel, with a sound design, and well thought out feature set. This reel boasts a combination of a levelwind with a quality lever drag, at a price that is especially aggressive. There are fancier saltwater reels out there, but how many offer such ease of use, reliability, and performance for just over a 100 dollars? The levelwind is both easy to use and convenient, and allows the Charter Special to be used for a much wider variety of applications. Experienced saltwater anglers will find pleasure in it's reliability and balanced features, while beginners will be able to enjoy the thrill of catching fish without having to hand lay line back onto the spool. Whether you are mooching for salmon, jigging for rockies, or trolling for albacore, the Charter Special will deliver a superior performance.


Until Next Time...Tight Lines










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