The good news for bass anglers is there is equipment at just about every price and experience level. You can nearly spend as much as you want to on a new reel or go for the budget options. It’s up to you. All of them will help you catch fish.
Matt Allen of TacticalBassin is an expert on bass gear (and catching big bass, of course) and he’s always keeping tabs on the latest and greatest in fishing reels and has extensive experience with three Shimano reel options that are across the price spectrum: the SLX, Curado DC, and Bantam MGL. He has found that each of them is worthy of a spot in your arsenal.
Starting with the highest priced of the three at $349, the Bantam MGL is a unique reel in that is made of a solid frame. This allows anglers to better stay in touch with what their lure is doing and a more solid feel overall.
Shimano calls this the CoreSolid technology which integrates the side plate, level wind guard, and frame into one single piece.
When Allen first tried the Bantam MGL, he knew it was a good reel.
“It felt comfortable, and I liked it, but I was looking for the niche where it would be the best for that technique,” he said of his first experience with it. “I’ve found that it is a perfect cranking reel for shallow to deep divers.”
Allen utilizes the 7.1:1 for cranking with the Bantam MGL and that includes everything except the giant crankbaits like the Strike King 8XD and 10XD that he feels need a reel with a slower retrieve speed.
When asked what makes this an excellent cranking reel, Allen said there are several reasons.
“For one, it is has a large line capacity, and it is also an excellent casting reel. I have been fishing them hard, and they are just as smooth as when I got them.
“Since it is a solid one-piece frame, there is no flex at all when you are cranking. This is a technique that a good reel makes a difference,” he believes. “Cranking is hard on a reel, and lower quality reels just don’t last very long.”
While he says it is an excellent cranking reel, he added that it works for just about anything. “It is a great power-fishing reel, and I think it gets overlooked by many anglers,” he said.
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Much has been made of Shimano’s Curado DC with the digital casting control to aid in casting. It is a Curado, so the name is synonymous with quality, and with the added DC technology now available at $279.99, it has quickly become a top-seller.
Allen has found many uses for it but says he finds himself using it most for moving baits like frogs, spinnerbaits, and ChatterBaits.
“It is a great casting reel and helps for techniques like frog fishing where you want more distance, and it still has the power to get them out of cover,” Allen said.
The other thing Allen likes about the reel is the size. “It is a 150 size reel, so that eliminates some techniques where you need a deeper spool and more line, but it fits great in my hands.”
The reel comes in three gear ratios, but Allen mainly prefers the two faster retrieves, the HG (7.4:1) and XG (8.5:1). “I like the XG for topwater fishing, but the HG can do everything. If I need to fish slower for things like crankbaits, I slow down my retrieve,” he shared.
The Shimano SLX rods and reels fit nicely into the budget-friendly category as each item retails for $99, but still offers excellent quality and components.
Allen said he had fished the SLX baitcast reel hard and he still can’t get over how inexpensive it is for a reel of this quality.
“When I started fishing it, I closed my eyes so I could feel the smoothness and take it all in without looking at the reel and being biased. I’m used to fishing all high-end stuff and was completely impressed with this reel,” added Allen.
He couldn’t pinpoint what techniques are best for this reel and instead said it could do it all.
“It is an all-around reel that you can do so much with. I’ve done everything from cranking to finesse fishing with it, and it has performed very well,” said Allen.
Few anglers can match Allen’s attention to detail when it comes to the gear he is using, and he is always willing to share the results of his on the water testing as a guide, big bass hunter, and part of one of YouTube’s most popular fishing duos. The three reels mentioned above all pass his test and are worthy options for your bass fishing needs.