Shimano Bantam MGL Fishing Reel Review

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One of my favorites in the Shimano lineup, the Bantam MGL offers a much improved rigid, solid, tank-like reel for the low profile market. The original Bantam was offered in the 1980s, and not so ironically, this was the first baitcasting reel I bought with my own money in 1988. My father took me and a couple of friends to the world’s first Fishing Fair that year at the then one and only Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Missouri.

More than 100,000 people turned out for that fair and I had my sights set on picking up my first baitcaster as I was getting serious about bass fishing. To that point I had just been pillaging my father’s spinning rods and reels and robbing his tackle boxes to put a hurting on the bass populations on the local ponds in Russellville, Arkansas. I settled on the Shimano Bantam (BKM100) reel and my first thought was how solid it felt in my hands. But even that reel can’t compare to how good the new Bantam MGL feels in my hands.

Great handling baitcasting reel

The Shimano Bantam MGL feels solid in your hands. The best way I can describe how it feels would be to have you envision that you are fishing with a solid round reel but then it was squished down so you could fit it in the palm of your hand. You have that round reel rigidity and durability while having a sleek low profile that is comfortable to fish all day.

The handle feels strong, but what makes this reel feel so solid really comes from the CoreSolid body construction that integrates the B side plate and level wind guard into a one piece aluminum frame. This design allows them to make a solid reel with a much tighter performance and longer life. They say it’s the most solid low profile reel they’ve ever built, and I believe it.

Sports car design for a tank

Shimano made an equally impressive Bantam MGL with strength and handling by building so much rigidity into the reel and then squeezing it down to a palmable size. A fairly impressive feat to be able to accomplish strength like this in such a small form factor.

Easy to adjust

The adjustment system of the Bantam MGL relies on their newer SVS Infinity brakes to control the operation of the reel. Brake weights that use inner friction against the raceway to give you precision casting without overrun. The control knob provides quick adjustment for changes in conditions like wind or just swapping from heavier to lighter lures.

Smooth casting and retrieving reel

Reels made this solid always seem to feel smoother while fishing. I have always been a fan of all aluminum frames. I will take a little more weight to gain that much more in smoother long-lasting performance. Don’t get me wrong, 7.6 ounces is hardly too much weight, but the reel fishes like butter.

I found myself constantly tying different baits on it to see how I liked fishing with it. It’s interesting because the reel feels as good fishing a little jerkbait as it does throwing a big deep diving plug or a frog on braid.

Compact but solid in your hand

I’ve harped on how solid the reel is in a compact frame, but why that matters is not always obvious to people. This reel adds sensitivity to your rod. Because solid frame reels that reduce vibration as much as this one does in other parts of the reel, inherently make it where you can feel your lure better in the reel and not just on the rod.

This reel blows my mind with how much I can feel a crankbait or a Chatterbait in the reel itself. That alone will make you a better angler.

Workhorse reel

This is one of those reels that you wish you could put on every rod. Unfortunately for me, I can’t afford to do that for a bunch of rods with this reel. But I will have a few to alternate between for sure. I like it for too many applications to not have a couple. I would rather save up for one good reel that will last me 20 or more years than go through 4 or 5 beaters in the same amount of time. In the long run you save money.

Will last a long time

This reel is so well made and incorporates so many vibration reducing technologies in the spool, bearings and throughout. That adds to a much longer life for the Bantam MGL.

While that first Shimano Bantam baitcasting reel in 1988 holds fond memories for me from my early years of bass fishing, I’m hoping to build a bunch of memories with these new Bantam MGLs in my latter years.

You can find the Bantam MGL at the following online retailers: