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Bob Banfelder

Bob is an award-winning crime-thriller novelist and outdoors writer. "The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water" is endorsed by Lefty Kreh and Angelo Peluso~online at Amazon.

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September 01, 2013

Selecting High Quality Light & Ultra-Light Action Spinning Reels Paired with Matching Rods

by Bob Banfelder

There are an overwhelming number of rods and reels on the market today; many manufacturers and models from which to choose. The problem of selection can be overwhelming. How does one begin to sift through a mountain of information in order to make an intelligent decision? A good deal of research and extensive field-testing were conducted before Donna and I arrived at definitive conclusions. We don't just simply field-test a rod and reel model series for a single outing or weekend; Donna and I own and, therefore, fish with those tools extensively. Consequently, you can count on the fact that such products have been thoroughly handled.

Addressing spinning reels, there are three companies that I recommend within a competitive price range—Shimano, Daiwa, and Penn—and in that order. For that reason, let's stick with my first pick: Shimano. Too, I suggest ordering their catalog or logging onto their Web site at for further information.

Premier rod and reel manufacturers invest big bucks in Research and Development. Such products are constantly being improved upon as new technology is garnered. Accordingly, a model's lettering and/or number designation may change from year-to-year, but not necessarily its appellation. For example, Shimano's Stella, Sustain and Stradic are high-quality spinning reels that I wholeheartedly recommend as featured in several of my articles for Nor'east Saltwater, as well as my new fishing book titled The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook For Salt Water & Fresh Water, covering Medium/Med-Heavy Action and Light to Medium/Med-Heavy Action spinning reels.

In this month's September report, I am going to drop it down a notch and cover strictly Light Action and Ultra-Light Action spinning reels, pairing them with lightweight and ultra-lightweight quality rods (not necessarily Shimano's). These bantam combinations shall prove themselves ideal for light saltwater situations such as targeting snappers, blowfish and porgies. As these latter two species are growing both in terms of numbers and size during the past few seasons in our area, consider a lightweight combination in lieu of the ultra-light weight outfit for starters, keeping firmly in mind that the ultra-light featherweight focus shall be geared mainly for small fry (children) fishing for panfish such as sunfish, perch, fingerling trout, et cetera. Also, keep in mind that ultra-lightweight rod and reel combinations are not solely limited to freshwater fanatics.

Within a model series, you should concern yourself with important considerations such as line retrieve per crank (measured in inches), line capacity (measured in pound test/plus yardage), maximum drag setting (measured in pounds), number of ball bearings and roller bearings, gear ratio, grip shape, weight of the reel (measured in ounces), and price (MSRP). Do not concern yourself with that last entry just yet. I know—easy for me to state—perhaps hard for you to do.

The Stella FE series boasts 14 ball bearings plus one roller bearing; four models from which to choose. However, we'll concern ourselves with light-duty performance for openers. Shimano's Stella STL 1000 FE, weighing in at only 6 ounces, might seemingly be the ticket. But with a price tag of $699.99, which is totally unnecessary to spend for most lightweight applications, I strongly suggest that you opt for the Stradic 1000 FJ. It is the lightest of the FJ series, weighing in at 7.5 ounces, housing 5 ball bearings and 1 roller bearing, a maximum drag of 7 pounds, a 6.0:1 gear ratio, a line retrieve of 29 inches per crank, and for a fraction of the cost of the Stella STL 1000 FE. The MSRP for the Stradic 1000 FJ is $179.99. There is nothing wrong with 5 ball bearings; the reel is positively smooth.

Stradic 1000 FJ

If you wish to go ultra-light, the new Stradic CI4+ 1000 FA has a MSRP of $219.99, housing 6 ball bearings plus 1 roller bearing. The CI4+ 1000 FA model has a gear ratio of 6.0:1, weighing in at mere 6 ounces while exerting a maximum drag setting of 7 pounds. These new reels should be on the shelves or ready to ship this month.

Important Note: The Stradic CI4+ 1000 FA is designed for either braid or monofilament, whereas the Stradic CI4+ 1000 FAML (Microline) is strictly designed for braided line. It is one of the reasons why I suggest the FA model in lieu of FAML.

Shimano continually redesigns their entire line of spinning reels, especially in three key areas: gear durability, casting performance, and line management. So, what is CI4 construction, and what is its advantage? CI4 (Carbon Infusion) construction is a reinforced carbon fiber material that is stronger than steel and lighter than magnesium. The new Stradic CI4+ (plus) replaces CI4 construction in that CI4+ is even lighter and more rigid than its CI4 predecessor.

With Donna's older model Shimano ultra-light action Stradic 1000 MgFB spinning reel, fashioning 1/12 and 1/8 ounce Kastmaster lures, she had landed a 3-pound largemouth bass in sweetwater; a 4-pound bluefish in the suds—not to mention a ton of snappers. With my older model Shimano light action Sustain 1000 FE, using 1/4 and 3/8 ounce Kastmasters, I have tackled scores of schoolie-sized stripers and cocktail-sized blues in the brine, along with my fair share of walleyed pike, pickerel and a bounty of both small and largemouth bass in warm water.

Yes. Light can, indeed, be might.

For preeminent performance, there are three high-end models to keep in mind when selecting any of Shimano's spinning reels: Stella, Sustain, Stradic. Stay high-end and you'll thank me in both the short and long run. Still can't justify spending the kind of monies mentioned? Here's something running along the lines of a rationalization, but one that just may convince you otherwise. It rests in your selection of a lightweight or ultra-lightweight spinning rod to match one of Shimano's finer lightweight or ultra-lightweight spinning reels.

Matching Spinning Rods to Reels

Time and again, I see folks paying way too much for fishing rods, whether it is a fly rod, bait casting rod, or spinning rod. Quite frankly, you're wasting your money if you spend more than $30 to $40 on a spinning rod for the reels just covered for light and ultra-light duty. Shimano, Okuma and Ugly Stick (spelled Stik) rods are rated as the best spinning rods—but not necessarily in that order. However, they are priced in that order from the highest to the lowest cost: Shimano's Cumara–$210; Okuma's Guide Select–$90; Shakespeare's model SP 1100 Ugly Stik–$30 to $40. As you generally get what you pay for, folks automatically get talked into and/or simply reach for the more expensive rods. The fact is that the Ugly Stik is tougher than the other two rods that cost considerably more. Granted, you will gain a bit more sensitivity and wield slightly less weight with the Okuma Guide Select; however, the rod is simply not as strong as an Ugly Stik. The Shimano Cumara is a high-end wand that is also a tad more sensitive and lighter in weight. But it does not have the backbone of the Ugly Stik.

Shimano's Stradic ST 1000 FJ and the Stradic CI4+ 1000 FA spinning reels, coupled to matching Ugly Stik rods, are the two outfits that I recommend for light and ultra-light angling.

Matching Lightweight and Ultra-lightweight Shimano Spinning Reels with Shakespeare's Light and Ultra-light Ugly Stik Rods

Shakespeare's two-piece Ugly Stik SPL 1102 6'6" (1.98m) Action: Light (4–10 lb. Line) 01B12CM ~ matched with Shimano's Stradic ST 1000 FJ spinning reel.

Shakespeare's two-piece Ugly Stik SPL 1102 5'0" (1.52m) Action: UL (Ultra-Light) (2–6 lb. Line) 01K11CM ~ matched with Shimano's Stradic CI4+ 1000 FA spinning reel.

These Ugly Stik rod blanks feature the Howald-Built Process, consisting of graphite for strength and E-glass for flexibility. Blank-through-handle construction wedded to its signature Clear Tip design offers both strength and sensitivity from butt to apex. Super lightweight but durable EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) foam grips add a measure of comfort to every cast. Graphite twist-lock reel seats are standard on these two rods. Guides and tip are constructed from black stainless steel with aluminum oxide inserts. For further information on Shakespeare's Ugly Stiks, log on to Consider these two spinning rod/reel combos for light and ultra-light action; you're good to go.

Whether fishing in salt water or fresh water, remember to lightly wash and rinse your equipment (rods, reels and lures) upon return. If those reels are properly maintained, oiled and lubricated from season to season, they may very well outlast you. In the meantime, let's hear that stentorian cry: Fish On! Keep in mind, too, that these light and ultra-light outfits are for kids from six to sixty-plus.

Robert Banfelder is an award-winning thriller novelist and outdoors writer. He is a member of the Long Island Outdoor Communicators Network and the New York State Outdoor Writer's Association. Autographed and personalized copies of his newest book, The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water, are available for $14.95 plus $3 shipping from 141 Riverside Dr., Riverhead, NY 11901.

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