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Product Insight

A Question of Access in Shimano's New Calcutta (continued)

USDM Calcutta D: With my excitement in check, the Calcutta 12 101 was placed in my “I’ll get to it eventually” pile of product to review. Then right before launch, Zander acquired the USDM Calcutta 201D from Shimano and posted an inside look of the reel. I was so disappointed in how my Calcutta 12 101 palmed, I didn’t even inspect the reel any further before putting it away. That form factor means everything to me with this reel.

Calcutta 12 101 on the left, Calcutta 201 D on the right.. notice any differences?

So when I saw the news about no sideplate access to set the Calcutta’s brakes, my response, literally, was “whatever”. The original Calcutta had this same design, but back then, Shimano provided two screws that you could loosen and tighten with your finger tips. Open those screws up, and you were able to pull out the gear case housing to access the spool and set the brakes. Yes, no loose gears.

The Conquest 51's side plate flipped open with easy access to the spool's SVS brakes.

The new Calcutta D has to be opened with a screw driver and all the gears are loose, so on the fly adjustments are pretty much out of the question. We contacted Shimano to ask why. Their official response is through years of research and leveraging what they see in their repairs department, most people set and forget the casting brakes on their reels and make on the fly adjustments with the cast control cap. Each Calcutta D is shipped with 3 brakes on covering 80% of applications, so the need to adjust is minimal. So, if this is indeed the case, why provide the ability to adjust the brakes in the first place if access is going to be so difficult?

Another design and ergonomic consideration, the line guide for the new Calcutta 12 and D sticks out quite a bit further than the former Conquest.

Preliminary On the Water Tests: I finally got over my disenchantment over this product, spooled up the reel and took it out on the water. Zander and I had agreed to bring the reels out, approach things with an open mind (because that is what we do), and compare reels and notes out on the water. I mounted my Calcutta 12 101 on a new, Megabass F4.5-711GTZ cranking stick and we headed to Clear Lake, California. There were obvious benefits about the X-Drag design but during the course of fishing, I tied on a different style crankbait, made a couple of casts, and thought about adjusting the brakes. I was about to let loose some expletives for Zander’s benefit when I turned my Calcutta 12 101 on its side and saw a little knob reminiscent of the double knobs on the original Calcutta.

Another look at the Calcutta 201D left vs the Calcutta 12 101 on the right... now do you see the difference?.

I loosened it, and sure enough, the non handle sideplate flipped open! What?! I immediately picked up Zander’s Calcutta 201E and inspected it closely. Nope, it did not have the same knob. I spun the reel around in my hand pulling on this, pushing on that, all in an effort to pop that non-handle sideplate – all to no avail. It really does not open. We were in disbelief. Did Shimano actually manufacture this reel with two different sideplate options and exclude the North American market from having the flip open access or was this just a feature of the 100? To verify, I contacted our good friend and TackleTour contributing editor, Hideki Maeda who high tailed it over to his local tackle shop to help us verify. All they had in the store were the 100 and 200 size reels, but he was able to confirm, the JDM Calcutta 12 does indeed have the same, flip open sideplate in both the 100 and 200 sizes. Correspondence later with Jun Sonada at JapanTackle re-verified Hideki's findings.

The JDM Calcutta 12 has a flip open sideplate to access the brakes

So the next task was to call Shimano. We spoke with Kenichi Iida, brand manager of Shimano reels and asked for an explanation. The reasoning behind the non-flip open sideplate on the USDM Calcutta D? It's to maximize rigidity in such a compact reel. Similarly, no quick access screws are provided to break down the reel to access the brakes all in an effort to maintain the same, compact scheme of the reel. Additionally, by providing the quick breakdown screws, you run the risk of scraping your fingers during a retrieve because the handle has been pulled in closer to the reel's frame.

So if the JDM version has this feature, why not the USDM?


Conclusion: Forgive my skepticism over the explanations, but I cannot put into words my disappointment and disbelief over the design decisions to not make the access version available to the US market. In this era of global economies and markets do they really think consumers will not discover the difference? Do they think anglers will overlook a feature such as this that has become so common place? Even in the Calcutta 12, although you can access the spool’s brakes to set them in or out, what happens if you accidentally pop one of the brakes off? You still have to take the reel apart to get to the spool! Not the best design either. but at least there is access. When Shimano debuted the original Calcutta nearly twenty years ago, for them, it simultaneously launched a new era bass fishing gear. Is the Calcutta D a sign of things to come? After the transitions with the Citica, Curado and Chronarch Series reels perhaps we are already in the midst of the new era where cost is king.


Is the JDM Calcutta really the one to get? Our full review of the series is still to come.


We are more than 75% of the way through the testing of both the Calcutta 200D and JDM Calcutta 12 101 and while there is no doubt there are some innovation implemented on the new reel there are also questionable design decisions which definitely impact anglers. We will wait to complete all tests to make a final judgment, but suffice to say the lack of ability to make adjustments to the brake settings on the fly on the 200D is grating to say the least, especially when the feature is available across the pond. Each time we compare the 200D and JDM Calcutta 12 101 side by side and I flip open the access plate to make quick adjustments I look over to Zander who simply shakes his head. Stay tuned for our complete review...











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