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Reel Review


There's No Way A-Round It, Shimano's Conquest MD is Legit (continued)

Casting: With the exception of the DC and BFS variants, Calcutta Conquest has traditionally been equipped with a braking system reliant upon centrifugal brakes. From the old school SVS through the SVS Infinity, these brakes have provided trouble free performance - at least for me. With this new MD variant, Shimano has returned to the old school, mushroom capped centrifugal brakes, but are now supplementing that system with magnets. If you're familiar with Cal's previous write ups, you'll know he is not a fan of these dual brake systems. However, leave it to Shimano to offer a new take on the idea.

Trouble is, access is via this tiny window beneath the non-handle sideplate

The reason Cal is not a fan of dual brake systems is, up to this point, all the implementations he has fished have had centrifugal and magnetic brakes that were powerful enough to stand alone. Yes, each system affects your cast at different times, but to Cal it was just overkill. It's almost like driving your car with your emergency brake on. As a result, he would end up backing off entirely on one of the systems rendering it useless. Zander has been more open to the idea of dual braking systems complementing each other, and considers this more like the addition of regenerative braking to traditional brakes on a car, but agrees that in many cases the addition of that second system, while adding detail in adjustment, can add unnecessary complication and weight to reels.

The distance between the levelwind and the spool is constrained on round reels leaving the potential for sharp angles of your line coming off the spool as it funnels through the levelwind

What Shimano has done with the Conquest MD dual brake system is to install a single magnet located on the handle side of the reel and adjustable via an external dial. The affect is subtle and works like your thumb just lightly feathering your spool during the cast. What we don't like about this system, ironically, is the centrifugal brakes, or more accurately, access to those brakes. Yes, the non-handle sideplate conveniently, and easily flips open and rotates out of the way, but there's just a very small window where you can access two brakes at a time. It is the old school set-it-and-forget-it system, but setting is very inconvenient. Access to the entire spool is even more difficult, but more on that later.

For the Conquest MD (and the previous generation 300 and 400), Shimano rememedies this with a synchronized levelwind

Cal ended up just fishing the Conquest 301XGLH stock while Zander made constant adjustments both on the boat and in between trips. Cal opened up the sideplate with the thought of adjusting the brakes a few times, but each time, couldn't be bothered, because he felt that access was so difficult. he did play with the magnet dial and in the end, fished it with the magnet all the way off. While he liked this implementation, in practice, he didn't notice any affect with overhead or sidearm slings. Just the same, he felt the '23 Conquest 301 casts better and more consistently than its previous generation counterpart.

Click that handle over after a cast, and the Conquest 300/301 MD is as refined as they come

While Zander played with the various settings more than Cal he ultimately found a happy medium between the two cast controls by setting half of the centrifugal weights on and then using the magnetic braking control for fine tuning when making bait changes. He felt the ability to make these changes quicker than previous non-DC version Conquests a big improvement. 

Zander is a big fan of outfitting Conquests with aftermarket handles like the DRT Varial which increase the length and stroke of the handle as well as handle ergonomics. With the Conquest MD the stock handle eliminates the need for a handle swap/upgrade

The reel's synchronized levelwind is a carryover from the previous generation 300 & 400 sized Conquest, so while not new, is a welcome accompaniment to this new brake system. A synchronized levelwind follows the position of your line as it comes off the spool during a cast reducing friction and therefore contributing to better distance on reels with wider spools. This is especially helpful with round reels where the levelwind is closer to the spool. With low profile reels, you can position that levelwind further from the spool to reduce the angle departure created by a non-synchronized levelwind.

Zander employing a handle swapped Conquest DC 200 for fishing wakes and crankdowns

While the new Conquest MD is a very smooth and confident caster that same synchronized levelwind causes the reel to sound a bit louder than other round reels as the gears are required to do some extra work as line peels off the spool, and is a worthwhile tradeoff for the distance and excellent line management.

Big bait fishermen will appreciate the stock handle measuring 102mm from center of post to center of post

Retrieve: Click that handle over to re-engage the spool following our cast and all is right in the world. Conquest is about as smooth and connected as a reel gets. For right handed aficionados, the 300 comes with two handle options: a ninety millimeter length handle with standard, I-knobs, and a one hundred two millimeter length handle, with oversized, round-ish knobs. The left handed version is only available in the latter. Considering how good my 301 feels with this longer handle, we are not sure why Shimano even bothers with the shorter variant. Rate of retrieve is identical through all variants at 7.5:1 giving you anywhere from roughly eleven to thirty nine inches of line pick up per turn of the handle depending up on how much line is out on your cast.

The Conquest MD's gears are micro-module

Power: There's another component in evaluating a reel's power other than how easily (or not) it is to pull whatever might be at the end of the line back to your position. It has to do with how efficient that reel feels in your hands when you're turning that handle. Is there any play in the handle? Does the reel's frame seem to flex? Is there any wasted energy distracting your efforts to turn that handle and collect more line in your tug of war with the fish or even your lure? This is where reels like the Conquest shine.

With the Conquest MD's fully machined body and sideplates, there's no room for flex or distortion of any kind. Well, at least none that most anglers can introduce using the reel for its intended purpose. The Conquest is about as efficient at transferring your effort in turning that handle to the desired outcome as there is in the bass fishing world. Employ the Conquest MD in some inshore and big game applications and that may put more stress on the reel's gearing, but based on the MD's excellent build quality we wouldn't hesitate to use it in the salt.

The dragstack is rated at 18lbs max pressure and tested in our lab at nearly 20lbs.

Next Section: A Legit Round Reel for Big Bait Enthusiasts...









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