Shimano has just released the rest of the other sizes for the Stella reel last March, finally completing the range in their top-tier series of reels.
Let’s take a deeper dive into what’s new and what’s left the same with one of the most expensive reels on the market today.
There aren’t many fishing reels that are as revered by fishermen like the Stella range from Shimano.
There isn’t a bigger testament to the reputation of a product than being known by people who have no interest in the subject, and even in the niche world of sport fishing, very few names have the prestige of the Shimano Stella.
These reels have become iconic for their sleek and sexy form, durability, quality, silky smooth drag system and innovative breakthroughs in spinning reel production and design.
Shimano Stella SW 2020 Design
Like all top range reels from Shimano, the Stella SW is made in Japan (which adds to our confidence that the product we’ve bought has gone through stringent quality control measures before delivery) and at first glance you’ll notice that the colors have stayed the same as the previous 2013 model.
This has been the first time that the Stella has kept its color scheme the same and we must say that this is a great move, as the subtle elegance of the deep bluish black and gold combination screams “Stella” all day.
Colors might be the same, but the rest of the reel has undergone innovative changes from body sculpting, down into the internals of the reel. Pretty much everything was changed.
The first obvious change is change in the body shape of the reel. In a successful attempt to lose more weight, Shimano has updated the body shape and made a more compact body than what they achieved in their previous attempt.
Still a full metal reel up to this iteration, the new model Stellas have full metal frames which are made from cast aluminum alloy.
You may also notice that they have ditched the parallel foot to frame design they had previously, and now we are back with the angled foot design. Compatibility issues with some rods led to the reversion to an angled foot.
To briefly explain, the parallel foot design was to help reduce line resistance from the stripper guide during casting to achieve more casting distance. This was a great and effective idea, but only worked on compatible rods with big stripper guides that welcomed this design change.
There were lots of rods that wasn’t compatible with the parallel foot design and voided the improvement of the parallel foot. Stella users noticed this flaw and demanded to bring back the angled foot design.
The parallel foot was a step ahead of its time and we will surely see its return in the future.
The rotor design change is also visually appealing as more aggressive lines has made its way into the ‘elegance’ of the Stella. The rotor has also been made to be lighter and you’ll notice the skinnier side profiles of the rotor arms where the bail is installed.
Since we are talking about aggressive lines, the cuts on the spool, which were intended to reduce even more weight from the reel, have been done so in a very methodical and display different angles and depths, adding to the already sexy lines of this reel.
Due to these larger and more intentional weight reducing cuts from the spool, the “Stella” branding and model names are now printed on the spools vertically.
The intent to lose as much weight was so obsessive that if you pop off the spool and have a look inside, you’ll see more weight reducing cuts that were intentionally cut in a similar methodical way.
Heading back to the rotor, you’ll notice some chunks of the rotor replaced by plastic for more weight reduction. The body of the rotor now has some plastic tops on each side with vents helping to drain water.
Now don’t worry about how the plastic parts may affect the overall strength of the rotor, because it doesn’t actually bear any load. It just prevents the line from wrapping inside the shaft in you get into spool wrapping accidents in the future.
The handles have also changed for the better if I can say so myself. The previous “jointed” handle axle is long gone and changed to a solid non-moving handle axle, which offers users more confidence as there are fewer connecting joints in one of the areas where high torque is placed on a reel. Also gone are the gold handles that identified the reels as PG or HG models. All reels get the same black handles.
The only identifiers on the handles will be the accents on the handles’ hoods. HG models will get gold accents and PG models will get silver. The knobs will be the same rubber egg shaped knobs for the bigger models from 10000 to 20000 sizes and a slightly updated “Yumeya” style aluminum round knobs for the sized 8000 and below.
Most of us will get upgrade handle knobs for the big boys anyways, so the rubber knobs may not be much to talk about.
Key Features and Upgrades
Shimano has stated 25kg of drag on their website and we assure you that 25kg of drag resistance is plenty.
We doubt that this is accurate though, band we don’t have proper equipment to properly and accurately test the drags, but we can say that 20kg of drag pressure can easily be reached by these reels without fully locking the drag knob (personal experience only, and other reels may have different results).
The Stellas achieve this high drag capacity by creating a dual and uniform pressure, from the top and bottom of the drag stack.
The design is very intricate, utilizing special keyed washers that slot into the spool, with matching keyed carbon washers sandwiching another metal washer in the middle, creating a uniform spread of friction, resulting in the silky smooth drag operation that Stellas are known for.
Not much innovation in the drag area as you can’t improve on perfection really.
The 10000 sizes and up get a “HEATSINK” radiator plate connected to the drag assembly. This radiator plate has a plateau in the middle, which skirts outward forming an umbrella shape. The plateau in the middle is what is in direct contact with the last metal washer of the spool’s drag system.
The heat then dissipates outward toward the skirt of this “HEATSINK” which touches nothing at all, allowing maximum cooling via air circulation. To check if it works, get a mate to pull line off you reel with some proper drag set on it for about 60 to 80 meters in a good fast pace.
Feel the spool, and you’ll see that it has not warmed up at all. To further check, pull the spool off and touch the heatsink. This part will be warm to the touch and means that the radiator plate is working. Pulling heat away from the spool and into the heatsink.
The waterproofing on the Stellas have again improved greatly from an already well sealed reel. Starting from the spool’s top lip which covers the drag assembly from the top.
A rubber seal has been added to the top lip which was not present in the previous model. The now fully metal drag knob also has a rubber seal around its rim for further water resistance, like it has had before.
The main shaft, which makes part of the Infinity Gear system also has a bushing type seal that prevents water from getting into the gearbox of the reel. The rotor lip, where it meets the body has also undergone a design change, now having a more intricate lip design which deters water entry under the rotor mechanism.
Even the line roller gets an updated sealed design, protecting the roller bearing inside which ensures a smoother and longer lasting smooth reeling operation. The gaskets or seals along the sides of the frame has also improved, now with a better fit.
Long story short, a lot of places where there weren’t seals are now sealed up from the elements, allowing for a longer service interval. The Stellas have an IPX8 water resistance rating, which means that it is essentially waterproof, but I still wouldn’t recommend dunking your Stellas underwater for more than a few seconds. Just to be safe.
Some of the most proven parts of the reels made by Shimano are their gears. Their cold-forged gears and the refinement put into producing these high wear parts are second to none.
Cut with precision and near perfection, durability and smoothness of operation are achieved consistently. They specialize in some of the world’s best and most intricate bicycle parts.
Yes, they know how to make precision gears, so expect silky smooth operation when using their reels.
A Few Setbacks
However, there were some possible setbacks in the design of the new model of the Stella series. Let’s begin with the removal of the backup anti-reverse. Yes, Shimano has completely removed the backup anti-reverse system.
Do they have complete confidence that the clutch won’t slip at all during heavy use? I believe that a back up system is an essential part of any heavy duty big game saltwater spinning reel, yet Shimano has removed this important fail-safe mechanism on the new Stella.
The obsession with dropping as much weight as possible may be one of the reasons but only actual on water use will tell us if the anti-reverse is worth dropping.
And surprisingly, the new Stellas come with an externally mounted anti reverse clutch, which is encased in a plastic housing. The 2013 models’ anti-reverse clutch mechanism was built-in to the frame, allowing a solid metal to metal connection, which is required for this part of the reel which comes under tremendous stress during fishing.
The downgrade to a plastic housing is a mystery to me and is something that I cannot explain. The possibility of the perfect anti reverse clutch seems a far off dream but maybe the wizards at Shimano have figured it out, in order for them to drop the back up anti-reverse system and downgrading to a plastic housed clutch system.
Despite the possible ‘flaws’ mentioned above, there is no doubt in my mind that the Stella SW 2019-2020 model is one of the best saltwater big game reels in the market today and will be until the next generation comes about.
This is another excellent reel that is reliable and very well built and will surely help you land that fish of a lifetime with confidence while surviving the harsh environments that saltwater big game fishing entails.
For Shimano’s cream of the crop big game saltwater fishing reel, with its success laden history and reputation, the price tag of US$ 1,200 still shocks my socks off. With this price tag, this won’t be a reel for everyone.
Not all are crazy enough to spend that much money on one piece of fishing gear and I won’t tell you to. These reels are more for the anglers that are willing to spend the money to get the best that they can get, for fishing in remote and uncharted destinations, and chasing monsters of the deep.
They have established a reputation of being one of the best reels to use if you intend to catch your fish of a lifetime. To catch your dream fish, you have to trust your gear and throughout the past years of working in the fishing charter industry, I’ve learnt to trust the Stella.