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Enthusiast Review


Appreciating all of the Curves, Edges, Perfect Imperfections of Shimano's 2021 Conquest


Date: 12/8/21
Tackle Type: Reel
Manufacturer: Shimano Japan
Reviewer: Cal

Total Score: 8.17 - GREAT

Most fishing reel manufacturers these days seem to be on a three to four year update cycle with their product. This gives anglers just enough time to find a favorite, use it to the point of requiring some maintenance, then be faced with the decision to either repair or buy the latest and greatest version. If you're a tackle junkie like me who enjoys sampling the most current iterations, it pretty much kills the practice of having an entire arsenal full of the same reel because by the time you decide you want another three or four of a certain reel, it's back on the drawing board with pending new features. It takes a really special reel to break that cycle.


I've been fishing the Calcutta/Conquest line of reels since their inception almost 30 years ago.


One reel that seems to be on a slightly slower development cycle and has traditionally been one of my favorites, is Shimano's Calcutta Conquest. Formerly two separate versions, Calcutta for the US domestic market (USDM) and Conquest for the Japanese domestic market (JDM), Shimano has simplified the sku and instead separates the updates by size : the 100 and 200 sizes are on one update cycle while the 300 and 400 sizes are on another. The DC enabled versions of this reel have always been separate. 2014 was the last refresh for the 100 and 200 sized Calcutta Conquests of which I was aware, and while I'm a bit fuzzy if there was another in between, 2021 marks the latest. Here's a look at Shimano Japan's 2021 Conquest 201HG.


Shimano '21 Conquest 201HG Specifications

Line Capacity - Rated 12lb (0.330mm)/130yds
Line Capacity - Spool Volume 17.8 cm3
Retrieve Ratio
Inches Per Turn (IPT) - calculated
10 - 22
14 - 30
Weight 8.4 oz
Spool Weight 16 g
Handle Length 84 mm
Bearings 13+1
Bearings per Knob 2 bearings
Levelwind Bearings 2 bearings
Rated Max Drag ~13lbs
Origin Made in Japan
MSRP 56,700 JPY (~$502.50)

2021 marks the latest refresh for the 100 and 200 size Conquest

Impressions: If you're a fan of consistency, Shimano's Calcutta Conquest series of reels is a model there of. Where most low profile reels go through a transformation in some form with regards to their shape and profile with each refresh, Conquest is relatively consistent. After all, there's not much you can do to change the shape of a round reel - either it's round or it's not. As such, this 2021 refresh of Conquest looks and feels the same to me as the 2014 refresh where Shimano Japan actually found a way to reduce the diameter of the non-handle side of the reel.


Since going with this gold motif, Conquest has been a model of consistency


That reduction achieved the result of having each model (100, 200, etc.) palm as if it were the size smaller. In other words, the 100 felt like a 50 when you palmed the reel, the 200 like the 100 and so on. Sadly, that design achievement also saw the end of the Conquest 50/51, one of the gateway reels to my JDM obsession.

The JDM Calcutta XT circa 1991

So if the 2021 Conquest carries with it, more or less, the same outward appearance as the previous generation, what's new? Shimano Japan has, of course, updated the reel with all its latest marketing engineering terms, most notable to me being the manufacturer's coveted MGL tuning. Each reel I have fished from Shimano with this enhancement has been a home run. While it doesn't take much to convince me to try a new Conquest, "MGL" had me anticipating this reel's arrival more than usual.

The Conquest 201HG arrived in the middle of our Rat Rumble themed year

Real World Tests: Thanks to global supply and demand challenges, it took a while to procure this Conquest 201HG and for it to arrive, but once it did, we (as in TackleTour) were in the midst of our #RatRumble themed year. As such, there really was no time to waste. I spooled the reel straight away with about 85 yards of 50lb Seaguar Threadlock Hollow braid and installed a 25 foot leader of 30lb Gold Label fluorocarbon leader. I then paired it with my Leviathan Omega Swimbait 8 foot Heavy fishing rod with the idea of testing its capabilities casting and working Stray Rat Swimbait Company's Rumble Rat. Secondary duty came on board my Kistler Rods KLX7107XXH fishing 22nd Century's Nezumma V-Cut Rat.

Flip this black lever on the bottom to release the non-handle sideplate

Casting: There's a train of thought out there in the big bait world that big baits need to be cast on big reels hence the popularity of 300 and even 400 sized low profile reels. As far as I can tell, the basis for this preference lies in the assumption that because of their size, these larger reels are more robust and able to handle casting duties of big, heavy baits more easily. I've never bought into this particular line of thinking.

The primary factor driving my decision on the size of reel I choose to use for throwing big baits is how much line I can get onto the reel. If I can get somewhere around 60 to 100 yards of my line of choice on the reel, I'm good.

With a handful of exceptions, big baits are not very aerodynamic, and the average distance of one of my casts is probably 80 to 120 feet and 60 yards of line gives me 180. I've cast down to the spool with 100 and 150 sized reels on a cast in the past, but I don't recall ever running out of line on a 200 sized reel - at least not yet.

The sideplate pops up and flips open

If you're using a fishing line that has a disproportionate diameter, then yes, you're going to need a bigger reel to accommodate all that line. This is why we go to the pains we do to measure the diameter of the lines we write up in our reviews. For big baits, something in the range of 0.40 - 0.45 millimeters in diameter (in nylon or fluoro) is what I've found works best for me. This is generally 25 - 30lb test, but some manufacturers produce their 20 or even 17 lb test line at these diameters meaning their 25-30lb line is even thicker. If one of these products is your fishing line of choice, then I can understand the need for those larger reels. Don't get me wrong, I have reels in that size (including a Conquest), but they just rarely see any use these days.

Access to the four SVS brakes is underneath that sideplate

What's allowed me to rely on these smaller reels for big bait duties is the strategy of using braid as my main line with a leader of high quality fluorocarbon or nylon monofilament providing a degree of shock absorption, line concealment, and resistance to abrasion. Elevating that strategy one step more with hollow braid to fluoro, and I find a combination that works really well with most reels including this Conquest.

The Conquest 201HG is a wonderful match with the Kistler KLX7107XXH rod

Back to casting, Stray Rat's Rumble Rat tipped our scales at close to five ounces. This is very close to the upper limit for my Leviathan Omega Heavy swimbait stick, but well within the capabilities of the Conquest 201HG. Big bait duty is certainly not a challenge for this reel. In fact, it felt even more at home on the heavier duty Kistler KLX7107XXH with the equally as heavy 22nd Century Nezzuma Rat V-Cut.

200 sized reels are about as large as I go these days when tossing big baits. There is nothing wrong with going larger but a 200 works just fine for bass applications

The only difficulty I encountered casting with the Conquest 201HG was dialing in the brake settings. My typical setting for Shimano's four brake SVS system is to have two brakes engaged and two off. For the Conquest, I had to have three on and one off to consistently tame the spool. Perhaps even more importantly I found easy casting motions were best with this reel. Any resemblance of a snap cast where the line is suddenly shot out of the reel - especially with the whippy Leviathan Omega Heavy - proved to be problematic. That slow, sweeping casting motion seems to compliment MGL tuned reels the best for me, and all of that is heightened with the Conquest 201HG.

This reel comes with a dis-engaging levelwind

Those familiar with the 300 and 400 sized Conquests will know these reels come with a non-dis-engaging levelwind meaning that levelwind will track back and forth with the line on your spool during a cast. With the smaller, 100 and 200 sized Conquests, this levelwind dis-engages.

There are those who will argue the non-dis-engaging levelwind results in greater casting distances and while this may be true on wider spooled reels like the 300 and 400 sized Conquests, it's overkill on these smaller reels. I did not find myself wanting for more casting distance with this Conquest 201HG.

Handle length is 84mm measured center of knob to center of knob

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