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The Shimano Calais

To say I was a little reluctant to spend $330 for the Shimano Calais Bait Cast Reel when I first saw it is an understatement. I have since discovered that this reel is the definition of the term ďYou get what you pay forĒ. I have been fishing with them for a little over a year without the slightest hint of a problem and now consider it to be one of the best fishing investments I have ever made.

Its 10 stainless steel ball bearings and 1 stainless steel roller bearing make this the smoothest, longest casting, reel Iíve ever used. They also insure that this reel will hold up to the pressure of the150 or so days a year that I fish, for many years to come. The machined brass gears are so smooth when you crank this reel it takes a bit of getting used to. There is not the slightest bit of resistance in the handle whatsoever. Every other reel Iíve ever used has a certain amount of resistant when you turn the handle. Not this one, itís as smooth as silk.

The body of this reel is of a 1pc. die cast aluminum construction with a polished chrome finish. It has a variable 6-pin centrifugal brake system so sensitive you can throw the lightest of baits or the biggest crank-bait in your box without any problem at all. You can set it to free spool and itís perfect for pitchiní those 4Ēlizards with a 1/8 oz. weight that are so deadly in the spring. The instant anti-reverse engages the reel with the slightest turn of the handle and it doesnít allow the spool to turn even a fraction of an inch. The Dartanium drag washers in this reel are by far the smoothest Iíve ever used. The Calais also has a model with magnesium spool for an additional $20, but the ones I use have an oversized aluminum spool.

A couple of very cool features of this reel are the positive ďclickĒ in the spool tension and drag adjustment and an attached access door to the variable brake system. When you adjust the spool tension or drag they have an audible click that holds your setting in place and prevents it from changing due to vibration, bumping it or anything else that usually manages to mess these settings up. The access door to the variable brake system stays attached to the reel when you unscrew it to change settings. This prevents you from dropping it in the lake like you do with other reels with this type of brake system. Not that Iíve ever done that. Okay, I have and it pretty much sucks, but I donít have to worry about that anymore.

They come in left or right hand models, have a 5.0:1 gear ratio and weigh just 9 ounces. I use the left hand models for pitchiní, buzz-baits and anything else that requires me to have immediate contact with the reel handle as the bait hits the water. This prevents me from having to switch it from my right (casting hand) to my left to engage the reel.

The only real gripe I have with this reel is a feature that all Shimano reels have. That feature is a thumb bar that only goes about ĺ of the way across the width of the spool. For some reason Shimano must think that the people using the left-hand models are only casting with their left hand and visa-versa because the gap on the left hand model is on the right hand side of the spool. This really isnít a problem as the gap is only about ľĒ wide or so and just feels a little weird at first. After a while you never seem to put your thumb on that part of the bar or just get used to it because I donít even notice it anymore. The right hand model has the gap on the left side of the spool so it never comes into play if you cast with your right hand. I donít know why Shimano has this feature on their reels, it seems kind of lame, but they all do and itís really not a problem. The only other thing I would change about this reel is I would like to see a model with a larger spool capacity.

The Calais holds 125 yds. of 14lb. line which is plenty for most things but falls a little short for Carolina-Rigging. Most of the time when Iím Rigginí I like to use 12-24 lb. Fusion line and a ĺ oz. weight on a 7í medium-heavy All Star Titanium Series rod and really send that sucker out there. This reel falls a little short of handling that as the spool is almost empty after a cast that long. Other than that this is my reel of choice for every other pattern I fish thru out the year.

I realize the price tag on this reel will prevent many fishermen from ever considering it. It is not the reel for a guy who only fishís every now and then. But for the guy who spends most of his free time on the water and has his yearly tournament schedule planned by the second week in January this reel is the one youíve been looking for. I can honestly say itís worth every cent youíll pay for it. You just donít realize what youíve been missing until you get this reel out on the water. I donít care what kind of reel youíre using now; youíll be amazed at the performance of this one. Itís kind of like comparing a Cadillac to an Escort. Some guys are perfectly happy driving Escortís and thatís cool. If youíre only driving around the block every now and then, the Escort is all youíll ever need. But if it seems like you spend more time in youíre car than at home, the luxury of the Cadillac goes beyond being a convenience and becomes a necessity. If you take this stuff anywhere near as serious as I do, you owe it to yourself to give the Shimano Calais a try. Youíll be glad you did.

See Ya,
Phil