A few years ago Shimano started pushing the envelope in the sub-$100 baitcasting reel arena. Offerings like the Caius, Caenen, and Casitas have reinvented what quality for under $100 looks like. The newest offering from Shimano is the Shimano SLX, a $99 baitcasting reel that has a different look and feel than other models. I spent a couple of days throwing lures, catching fish (including a 10-pound carp), and trying all the different variations that an angler might throw in freshwater. My thoughts are below but first, here is some info from Shimano about the SLX.
About the Shimano SLX
The Shimano SLX series is offered in six models in three different gear ratios, including the 6.3:1 SLX150 and left-hand retrieve SLX151, the high-speed SLX150HG and 151HG with 7.2:1 gears, and the SLX150XG and 151XG with extra high speed 8.2:1.
Designed around Shimano’s HAGANE body concept – meaning a solid and precise aluminum frame, the SLX compact body still allows for plenty of line capacity – up to 105 yards of 40-pound test PowerPro braid. Shimano’ proven six-spin style Variable Brake System provides spool and casting control, while the side plate is attached to prevent it from falling off when adjustments are needed with lures and wind condition changes. Each comes with a ‘Curado K type’ long handle with power handle knobs. Even with the aluminum frame and durable brass gears, each reel weighs in at a light 6.9-ounces.
The SLX 150 and 151 pull in 25-inches of line per crank, the SLX 150HG and 151HG retrieve in 29-inches, while the fastest retrieve 150XG and 151XG pulls in 32-inches per crank. Each reel handles from 150 yards of 20-pound to 105 yards of 40-pound PowerPro braid, or from 120 yards of 10-pound to 90 yards of 14-pound monofilament. All six SLX casting reels retail for $99.99 (USD).
Shimano SLX: The Good
With my accidental catch of a large carp, I got a great test of the drag system. The fish was able to pull drag with the drag set fairly tight (hand tight). I could apply ample pressure and the spool would still feed a little as needed and I never had to let the spool free. I’d feel confident handling good sized bass with the SLX.
I also really liked the attached side plate. So many other models use a side plate that isn’t attached and I have heard horror stories of losing them while on the water. With as much banging around as I do in a kayak, I need to make sure I don’t lose parts off my reel.
The VBS system (braking system) allowed different adjustments just like many of the older style Shimano reels. I found that if I set it to no brakes and threw baits at a 1/4 ounce or more, I didn’t have to thumb it very much at all. Lighter applications required a considerable adjustment between the brakes and tensioner knob to get it just right.
In a lot of sub $100 price point reels you don’t get a ton of choices in gear ratios but that isn’t the case with the Shimano SLX. With a 6, 7, and 8 gear ratioed reel in both dexterities, chances are there is an SLX that will work for most of your applications.
At 6.9 ounces, this is one of the lighter reels in its price point. It’s even lighter than many of Shimano’s higher end reels.
Shimano SLX: Points of Improvement
Let’s talk about the name. When you Google Shimano SLX, you get a few fishing reels and a LOT of bike parts. A name change might be in order to make it stand out more. How about Shimano SIX since there are six different versions of the SLX available? Just a thought.
Ideally, in order to throw lighter baits with this reel with minor adjustments, I’d love to see the SVS Infinity system added to the SLX. It is in several of the different Shimano models, including the Casitas (at $119), which the SLX will probably end up swallowing its market share anyway.
I’m still not a huge fan of the ultra matte finish on the SLX. It shows oils and dirt easier than some of the semigloss options like the Curado K. It’s an edgy look, just not for me.
One other thing to be aware of is pitching. If you are pitching while holding your line and letting it loose (basically not letting the reel do all the work), you could catch a loop around the handle. If that happens and you start reeling without noticing, (I phase out when sight fishing sometimes only staring at the water), the gap between the casing and reel handle is plenty big enough to suck the line into the gears. Yes, it’s a bit picky but I would like to see that gap reduced to avoid the problem.
Shimano SLX: Final Thoughts
For me, this is the best reel that Shimano offers under the Curado K price point. It performed better for me than the Casitas, Caius, Caenen, and even surpassed the Citica in my eyes. Though it’s priced at $99, the Shimano SLX performs at a $149 price point in most applications. If you are throwing a lot of finesse baits, maybe go a different direction, but anything 1/4 ounce and up, the SLX will be your Huckleberry.