FTR In The Field: Shimano

The next installment of the new column, Fishing Tackle Retailer In The Field, sees Ken Duke back at Bienville Plantation, this time around testing out a bunch of great new rods, reels and lures from Shimano. Stay tuned for future installments of this series both here online, as well as in print, as the editorial staff at FTR puts our collective hands on the latest, greatest and most compelling products that you need to know about, and of course add to your inventory.

Just a week after leaving the Berkley media event, I was back on the road to the very same venue (Bienville Plantation) to check out some new rods, reels, and lures from Shimano. Nearly back-to-back junkets is not unusual but going back-to-back at the same venue is different. Luckily, I love Bienville, and it’s just a three-hour drive from home. That’s a short trip for great accommodations, great food, and great fishing.

And the fishing was excellent…for both trips! It helps that I was on the water with outstanding anglers and using excellent gear.

On the rod and reel front, Shimano’s reputation as a top manufacturer is well-deserved, but one of the new upgrades still came as a surprise. They have improved their top spinning reel—the Stella—and the upgrades are not just cosmetic or something that only an engineer would notice. They’re real, they make a great reel better, and if you have customers in a high tax bracket, they’re going to like the new Stella.
My other big takeaways from the trip involve Shimano’s new lineup of hard baits. You may already be familiar with their “World” series—World Minnow, World Diver, World Pop. I saw them at ICAST last year, and their “Boost” technology was eye-catching.

Just so you know, there are three “Boosts”—Jet Boost, Flash Boost, and Scale Boost. No, they’re not new Marvel Comics superheroes. They’re engineering and design features in lures. I won’t do them justice here, but Jet Boost is a weight transfer system that helps the baits cast farther. Flash Boost involves a thin foil or mirror strip suspended on springs inside the bait to give it a lifelike glimmer even when it’s perfectly still. Finally, Scale Boost takes the scale pattern that many baitfish imitations have and makes it 3-D, like a hologram. Together, the Boosts create a remarkably realistic finish on a lure you can cast a long way.

In addition to the World series, I was introduced to the Macbeth lineup of hard baits. At the risk of simplifying things too much, the Macbeths are squarebill crankbaits, and they come in lots of sizes and colors. They run true, even at high speeds, and they catch fish!

Most interesting—at least to me—was the fact that the Macbeth series has been on the market for nearly a decade…in Japan, where they’re very popular. So, if you’re looking for proof of market in a squarebill, you have it with Macbeth. The Japanese bass crowd loves the series, and they’re notoriously demanding.

Shimano’s always been a tad formal with their presentations at media junkets, and this one was no exception. In addition to a showing of the new items, there was a Q&A session with their pro staff anglers—Keith Combs, Alex Davis, Greg DiPalma, Josh Douglas, David Mullins, and Bernie Schultz. I really enjoyed that, and some of my favorite questions had to do with things like gear ratio and rod action selections for specific techniques, like bladed jigs.

Though a few of the pros had similar approaches to the “right” gear for these methods, I don’t recall that any two of them settled on the very same rod, reel, and gear ratio for anything. It was a nice reminder that there are a lot of “right” ways to fish, and maybe not so many “wrong” ways. Each of these successful pros had found his comfort zone, and—not surprisingly—found it within the impressive lineup of Shimano’s offerings.

This story originally appeared in the March issue of Fishing Tackle Retailer.