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Reel Review


The world's first digital low profile baitcaster, the Shimano Calais 4x8 DC (continued)
 

Ergonomics: Though it sounds strange, the best way to describe the Calais DC’s unique profile is “sexy.” While the lines are not as clean as a standard Calais CL200A, the new reel looks much more hi-tech with the spiral drag star and finely detailed knobs. Unlike the Antares DC the Calais DC has a full sized handle, complete with Power Grip II septon knobs. These oversized knobs and the longer handle make sense when you consider the reel’s blazing fast gear ratio. While they increase the overall weight of the domestic version they also help make the reel more ergonomic, especially when it comes to wrist and finger mashing high-speed retrieves.

 


The Calais DC looked right at home on our Megabass test rod


Adjusting the cast control systems is easy, and even though anglers will have to open the sideplate to change modes Shimano’s quick access design makes this a no brainer. We found the quick access design on the Calais to be more secure than the one first offered on the Chronarch B. Once the plate is open making adjustments to the mode settings takes but a split second, and fine tuning the setting with the external switch can be done without even looking down at the reel. The only area where the Calais gets negative marks in terms of ergonomics is sheer overall weight. The Calais DC looks like a solid piece of metal, and there isn’t mush plastic on this reel inside or out. In addition the forged handle is even larger than the import version, and as a result the reel weighs in at 9.5oz.

 

The Calais DC pitches quite a bit better than the Calcutta DC

 

Angler’s may not realize to what extent Shimano actually went to refine the settings on the Calais DC, in fact we didn’t fully appreciate it until we broke each component down and inspected them on their own. For example, the drag star is supported on a spring mechanism so unlike other reels where altering the drag setting changes the distance between the star and the handle the ported swept star on the Calais DC always remains directly against the handle, making it effortless to make adjustments at any time. The cast knob features a red highlight to make it easier to identify ultra fine adjustments. The reel features asymmetrical design on the spool window to optimize comfort and access to the spool. All of these are examples of the lengths in which Shimano went to design and build their flagship baitcaster.

 


Testing the "A" (Accuracy) mode with short pitches

 

Price & Applications: In terms of performance the Calais is just about as good as we have ever seen. Shimano’s precision engineering coupled with their leading edge technology helps push the Calais well into “Enthusiast” territory. But all of this does come at a price, and that price is $649.99 per reel. This is not a cheap reel, in fact it’s the most expensive baitcaster available from any of the Tier 1 reel manufacturers. While the price tag is a hard pill to swallow for even hardcore anglers the reel does offer something unique. In terms of technology the reel is unbeatable, there is nothing else like it on the market. But not only that…the reel is a true “flagship” in every sense of the word, and represents the “Rolex Yachtmaster” of not only the Shimano lineup, but all the world’s baitcasters. While the 650 dollar price tag is going to be prohibitive to many anglers, those that are looking for a product that stands apart from the competition will undoubtedly still find the Calais DC irresistible. The Calais DC is shipping now, and will be available just about everywhere Shimanos are sold.

 


The red marker on the spool tension knob helps anglers make minute changes to their settings

 

Warranty & Service: Shimano prides itself on providing industry leading service and support to customers, but wants to go even further when it comes to premium products like the Calais DC. What Shimano doesn’t know is we tested their service hotline with two covert test calls. The first time we called we played the newbie role and asked extremely basic questions about operation, service, and tuning. The second time we called we played the role of the veteran angler and pretended to have a problem with the cast control system. In both cases the representatives were extremely friendly and in both cases they offered us the option to have the reel sent in for further examination. We felt the customer service representatives were equally courteous and knowledgeable, but best of all we felt they were empowered by Shimano to really take care of the customer.

 


The Calais DC was born to be a bass reel, and 3lb largemouth felt like nothing on the HEG gearing

When you purchase a reel that cost’s as much as the Calais DC it better come with the best warranty in the business. When you register your reel you are enrolled in Shimano’s “Platinum Premier Warranty” plan. This gives you a two year warranty against manufacturer defects, which is twice the industry average. As an added bonus Calais owners will receive coupons for discounted maintenance ranging from half price all the way to free. To keep anglers on the water Shimano guarantees a 48 hour service turnaround (shipping excluded) so that you will never be without your reel for more than a single week at a time.


The Calais DC was extremely fun to fish with, and the new modes are a welcome addition. Simply put the technology in this reel "works!" and this is the first domestic baitcaster that speaks to hardcore tackle enthusiasts stateside


Ratings:

Shimano Calais 4x8 DC Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality This is as good as it gets. The Calais DC surpassed our expectations when it comes to build quality. It felt as if we were looking at a true enthusiast reel...and we love the fact it is available here in the US! The quality of the reel is just superb 10
Performance If casting and retrieving is your game, technically flawless. If you're looking to present finesse baits the Accuracy mode is just a tad aggressive for our tastes 9
Price The most expensive, full production low profile baitcaster of which we know of...but it still is a lot of reel for the money...yes, it's that good 7.0
Features FINALLY! DC in a low profile baitcaster....need we say more? 10
Design (Ergonomics) The only area where the Calais falls short in ergonomics is sheer overall weight. This reel is somewhat heavy, but in terms of operation the reel is cleverly designed and easy to fish with. The little details are phenomenal throughout 9
Application This reel can be used in both fresh and saltwater and is built to last a lifetime. Best used for topwater, jerkbaits, and power fishing applications...but good to know that it can be also employed for some serious surf casting 9

Total Score

9.0

  
Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Incredibly innovative cast control system L High cost of ownership
J Tank-like construction L Overall weight is higher than standard Calais A
J Super stout drag!  
J Exceptional in the wind, beat the elements and keep fishing
J HEG gearing shines, great balance of speed and power  
J A true "flagship" reel with Enthusiast appeal  

Conclusion: Shimano proves yet again that when it comes to unifying technology and innovation into reel design they lead the pack. What I like best about the Calais DC is that Shimano didn’t simply port the Calcutta’s digital circuit into the Calais 200. Instead they built a next generation circuit that directly addresses the applications that a serious baitcast reel would address. The multi-modes available in the Calais do a great job covering the spectrum, and the ability to further fine tune the settings in each of the four modes gives anglers unprecedented control over their casting. Shimano didn’t stop there…they also addressed the raw mechanics of the Calais series and made some serious performance enhancing tweaks. Improvements like the Magnumlite spool and tapered titanium levelwind insert also help maximize casting distance. Some anglers will find it strange that the Calais DC is actually a great baitcaster for beginners as the “Wind” mode all but eliminates everyday backlashes. On the other side the “X-Treme” and “Accuracy” mode give experienced anglers the ability to cast farther or with more precision. The design elements on the Calais are striking, and I absolutely love the cast control knob and ported star drag star. The flagship Calais DC is the first domestic reel to ever win the TackleTour “Ultimate Enthusiast” Award, and while Shimano’s primary goal is to build the best reels possible, there is no doubt in my mind that the Calais DC is the first domestic reel from the company that addresses the enthusiast tackle segment head on. Now that Shimano has integrated the digital circuit into a baitcaster where is there to go from here? We for one would love to see an ultralight DC reel, perhaps a magnesium based Chronarch DC…or possibly even a new series? The sky is the limit with this new technology, who knows, with reels as elite as these dads might just pass down a self charging DC instead of that Rolex.

                                  

 

 

   

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