I'm constantly looking for ways to improve my finesse bass fishing. It's not necessarily my favorite technique, so I'm always tinkering with different setups in an attempt to maximize my efficiency with lighter fishing tackle. I try every fishing line and fishing reel I can get my hands on in an attempt to find that "perfect" finesse rig for myself.
There are already a lot of post-spawn bass in my area which, to me, means wacky rigging on spinning gear. I've tried all kinds of different fry-guarding tactics and the wacky rig continues to produce year after year for me. This has given me a great opportunity to try to the brand new Shimano Ultegra spinning reel. I grew up using a lot of the less expensive Shimano spinning reels while I was pond hopping after school but I haven't really tested many of their reels over the $100 price point. Hearing so much hype about the Shimano spinning reels over the years had me really excited to try one out.
After several fishing trips with the Ultegra, I can absolutely guarantee that it will be rigged and ready on the front deck of my bass boat for the remainder of the year... and probably several years after that. I honestly don't know how they made a $150 spinning reel feel like one more than double that price but they definitely have.
I'll run through what I've really liked so far about this reel.
A silky smooth drag
The Shimano Ultegra has one of the smoothest drag systems I've ever tested on a spinning reel. I know that sounds crazy because of the super-luxury spinning reels out there that cost $300 and up but this drag system just feels totally different than most I've tested throughout my career.
Whether I'm fighting a fish in open water or trying to horse them out of cover, this drag system has proven to have an excellent blend of both strength and precision that has thoroughly impressed me. You're also able to make incredibly small adjustments to the drag which has been a big help whenever I'm targeting fry guarders around boat docks. I want the drag to be stout enough to move the fish away from the dock posts on the initial hookset but once I get that fish closer to the boat, I want it to dispense line easily so the hook doesn't pull out of the fish. The adjustability of the Ultegra absolutely allows me to do that without any on-the-fly adjustments while I'm fighting the fish.
One-piece bail is a huge help with line tangles
In addition to the Ci4+ composite body, the Ultegra also has a one-piece bail that allows line to easily travel onto the line roller which, in my experience, really helps reduce those obnoxious line tangles for which spinning reels are known.
Line tangles are the biggest knock I've always had when it comes to spinning gear. Years ago when I first started fishing tournaments as a co-angler, I'd always bring a few extra spools of line in my tackle bag because it seemed like once a day I'd get an enormous bird's nest out of nowhere. They were the kind you couldn't save, if you get what I'm saying. I'd have to rip all the line off and start all over.
I don't have any of those problems with the Ultegra so far. I've been fishing in plenty of windy weather and I've even tested it with fluorocarbon main line and I haven't had a single line tangle yet. I'm not sure of the physics and how Shimano has made this reel's line management so great but heck... as long as it works, I'm all for it.
Lightweight frame but big-time line capacity
This is a beautifully balanced spinning reel. Weighing in at just 7.9 ounces, it's lightweight but still has enough "shoulders" to it to feel like a high-quality reel.
I've tested a lot of spinning reels that, in my opinion, were actually too lightweight for my liking. A lot of manufacturers really focus on the weightlessness of a reel instead of the structural and mechanical integrity. In some of these super-lightweight reels, you'll notice a lot of flex in the frame of the reel when you're fighting fish. I don't like that feeling.
This reel has virtually zero play, even when it's under a load. It's an impressive blend of weightlessness and freakish strength, in my opinion.
I've also really liked the line capacity of the Ultegra. When I first spooled it up, I was pretty surprised to be able to fit an entire 150-yard spool of 15-pound Seaguar Smackdown Braided Line onto the reel. It seems like it's the perfect amount to offer plenty of line without overruns and line tangles.
Sticky handle is a big plus
I supposed I could use a better adjective than "sticky" for this handle but to be honest, I'm not sure what exactly this material is. Regardless, I have really liked this handle throughout my testing. I can handle fish, cull fish, get my hands wet, eat a sandwich... whatever... and still have a solid grip on this handle. For someone who is occasionally a bit clumsy with spinning gear, this has been a well-appreciated feature for me.
I think this is going to be one of those spinning reels of which anglers own multiple. It really is a solid reel and it feels better than some $300-plus reels I've tested in the past. It's a heck of a bargain and I have my name on the pre-order list already. I highly recommend trying one out.