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Reel Review


 

Shimano’s Stella FK Spinning Reel is a Moping Legend

 

Date: 11/19/23
Tackle type: Reel
Manufacturer: Shimano
Reviewer: Zander






Total Score: 8.66 - ULTIMATE ENTHUSIAST AWARD!

Introduction:
The Stella is to Shimano what the NSX is to Honda or the GTR is to Nissan – the pinnacle of engineering, a halo product showcasing the latest technology. Serving as both a flagship for these respective companies and as a brand builder, there are very few spinning reels that can even claim to compete with the Stella. After field testing the latest FK Series over multiple seasons, it's time to assess how this enthusiast offering stands up.

 

Shimano Stella FK 2500 HG Spinning Reel Specifications

Line Capacity (lbs / yds) 4/160, 6/110, 8/140, 10/120
Gear Ratio 5.8:1
Weight 7.4 ounces
Max. Drag 20 lbs max drag (rated), 21.8 max drag (tested)
Number of Bearings 12 S-ARB BB + 1 CRRB
Features InfinityXross, InfinityLoop, InfinityDrive, AntiTwist Fin, DuraCross drag, Micro Module Gear II, HAGANE gears and body, Long Stroke Spool, CI4+ components, X-Protect, X-Ship, Titanium One-Piece bail, bundled protective pouch
Origin Japan
MSRP $799.99


A legend in the making, the Shimano Stella FK spinning reel

Impressions: I fished seriously for over two decades before I finally had the means in which to buy my first Stella. Like so many other anglers I worked my way up through the series, starting with a Sedona, then a Stradic, Sustain, and ultimately pulling the trigger on the Stella FI back in 2015. Back then the Stella FI retailed for $789 and while that is a serious hit to the wallet all thoughts of how expensive the reel was immediately melted away the second that I caught my first fish on the reel.


The Stella FK features a compact body and stresses balance in design

When I finally reviewed that reel in 2017 I mused that the Stella Series has “always been about more than getting from cast to catch, it is all about the journey. This is the best spinning reel in Shimano’s lineup, and hands down the best Stella to date. Packed with the latest features the Stella is more than just an amalgamation of new design philosophies and features, this latest iteration is nothing short of a fishable work of art.”


A look at the aluminum Long Stroke Spool

Cal would review the FJ series just a year later and save for the T-knob design loved everything that the new reel brought to the table, calling the design “absolutely stunning” and the “smoothest spinning reel” that he had ever fished to date. Thus, the bar was set very high with the newest FK Series Stella.  


My first look at the Stella at Bienville Outdoors in Florida

Similar to the FJ Series this latest Stella focuses on clean angular lines and finally does away with any gold highlights. This is the darkest and sleekest looking Stella yet and frankly I’m here for it. Interestingly Daiwa also went a similar route with their Exist redesign and I feel both of these reels ditched the gold anodization and superfluous spool porting in an effort to make a more elegant looking reel.


These are Jeff "Gussy" Gustafson's Stella FK reels that he would first fish at Bienville and go on to win the Bassmaster Classic with at Tennessee River

Every Stella is still made in Japan (as is the Exist) if the country of origin is important to you. There are some anglers that believe JDM manufacturers reserve the best tooling and factories in Japan for their highest end products, and while I’m not sure if that is always the case I think there is an argument to be made that these in-country factories are ideal for making smaller run products where the attention to detail under the watchful eyes of the company’s lead engineers and product managers can be an advantage.

One of the reasons why reels like the Stella are so unique is because they are not only designed in-house, but are produced in the company’s own factories. There are only a handful of reel manufacturers that can claim this, and an even shorter list that are able to do this with ultra-high end products like the Stella.

Real World Tests: I have fished the Stella FK for a few seasons targeting largemouth and smallmouth bass on both coasts. I had the opportunity to fish some of the first Stella FK reels with Pro Angler Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson prior to his Bassmaster Classic 2023 win at Tennessee River. Since then, I have fished the Stella a lot here on my home water of the California Delta and nearby Northern California lakes targeting bass and trout using a variety of techniques, including some of which that I learned fishing with Gussy. Most of my field tests were conducted with the Stella FK spooled with braided line and Seaguar Tatsu leader but over the last three months I also have been experimenting with Shimano’s own fluorocarbon entry, Mastiff FC.


Gussy spools up the Stella FK for the first time

Casting: While it is easier to discern the casting feel and distances between baitcasting reels there are still important nuances that impact casting on spinning reels. Key to how well a spinning reel casts is how well the reel manages the line. The better the line lay the better it will flow off the spool during the cast, and the better the line will hold up over time in terms of memory. Other factors that affect casting distance are the diameter of the spool and the design and material of the spool’s lip.


Gussy typically runs PowerPro braid to Seaguar Tatsu on all his finesse setups

As you might expect Shimano has reserved their best designs and materials for the Stella. The most notable addition to the Stella FK in terms of casting is Shimano’s “InfinityLoop” technology which extends the spool oscillation to produce a more even line lay for better winding shape that results in increased casting distance. Another unique addition is the new “Anti-Twist Fin” which is an elastic polymer fin positioned under the line roller. The way this fin works is it helps maintain line tension to reduce sagging which prevents line from falling off the bottom of the spool or wrapping around the spool unevenly.


Tying a compact and smooth knot is even more important with the Stella FK with the Anti-Twist Fin in play

At the debut of the Stella Gussy and I talked about the fin as we were both curious about how it could potentially affect braid to leader setups. After fishing with the reel with a variety of line combinations I’ve found that the fin works very well when fishing with straight nylon or fluorocarbon lines and does indeed do a good job of preventing line from getting misaligned, reduces loops and dreaded under spool runs.


Gussy points out the Anti-Twist fin under the line roller

When fishing with braid to leader setups the fin still works but depending on the knot size and quality it can adversely affect the lay of the line with a slight bump during the retrieve. If the knot is really large it can even stall the line lay when pinched between the roller and the top of the fin. If you plan on fishing a lot of larger braid to leader setups, I would advise removing the fin completely by pressing down and working it off the arm. In most cases the fin should not interrupt casting and I prefer to leave it in as I find I mainly employ the Stella for light line and finesse applications.  


A look at Gussy's connection knot. This clean knot had no issues with the Anti-Twist fin

The combination of all these technologies all adds up to the Stella being able to manage even stiffer fluorocarbon lines effortlessly, and while it is not immune to blowouts with well used lines, it does an exceptional job casting both braided and fluorocarbon setups with ease.


The combination of Infinity technologies and Long Stroke spool improve line lay and allow for smooth and consistent casts


Next Section: Smooth operator and tough too...

 

   

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