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Shimano Stella!!!! ... Wait Again? WT-FE? (continued)

Retrieve: The real magic with the Stella FE happens once you close the bail and begin your retrieve. Shimano worked very hard at a very subtle detail that will no doubt be taken for granted by the majority of customers, especially those not reading this review. It takes very little force to initiate the Stella’s handle into rotation. So little, you can hold the handle lightly between your thumb and forefinger and delicately take up the slack in your line or even move your bait along the bottom slowly while concentrating on feeling that bite with your other hand.

While the rotor rotates and the spool oscillates, the reel itself stays steady and calm thanks to Shimano engineering.

What does this mean? In a word, power. The Stella FE has extreme cranking power thanks to the addition of two more bearings along the shaft that connects your spool to the reel. We've heard stories of folks using the Stella FE for heavy cover fishing because it has more than enough power to pull fish out of the weeds. Unfortunately, with only eight pound test line, we weren't quite equipped to test this scenario out.

Fortunately for me, these knobs are replaceable.

Of course, I do have one gripe. It's that t-shaped knob on the handle - it's much too large for my liking. I like the fact you don’t have to really grip the Stella’s handle to turn it and a smaller “I” shaped knob would enhance this feature. Naturally, that’s just my preference and, of course, that’s what aftermarket parts are for, right?

The line guide for the Stella FE is bearing supported ...

Line Management: This is where we run into a little bit of a dilemma. I like fishing fluorocarbon line on spinning reels. As such, I intentionally sought out the larger, 3000 sized reel for its larger spool. The larger diameter spool means that the fluorocarbon is not sitting on the reel wound as tight as it would be if I were using a smaller sized reel. With this in mind, line management should be less of an issue.

.. as one would expect, but we did encounter one surprise ...

I was using 8lb test fluorocarbon line that by all US standards would probably be called 5 or 6 pound line. Nonetheless, on a spool with a smaller diameter, I’d expect to run into problems. That’s why I went with a 3000 sized reel. Unfortunately, I still ran into some line twist issues. Certainly not as bad as I've experienced in the past, but present nonetheless.

... there are actually two bearings under the line roller!

And yet, as is the issue with spinning gear, we still managed to experience line twist.

One sign that a reel manufacturer is taking the task of managing line on a spinning reel seriously is whether or not they’ve gone through the effort of supporting the line roller with a bearing. In the lab, that’s the first thing we did with the Stella 3000 FE was to check the line roller. We quite expected to find the line roller on this reel supported by a bearing. What we were a little surprised by however, was the fact the Stella 3000 FE’s line roller had two bearings underneath it. Two bearings on a part that most anglers take for granted, of course, what else would you expect from a flagship Shimano reel?

The Stella FE's attractive drag control cap.

Drag: The other dilemma with using light line on a spinning reel, at least as far as testing the reel’s limits, is there’s no good method to test the reel’s maximum drag.  In general though, spinning reel drags are easier to lock down, so the question of how much drag pressure a given reel can endure is kind of a moot point. What’s really important to me in a reel’s drag performance (spinning or otherwise) is how smooth that drag performs.

The Stella 3000 FE has an impressive drag stack and while we were unable to test the maximum drag pressure having only spooled 8lb test on the reel, what's important to us in a reel like this is how smoothly the drag performs. We were not disappointed.

Bearings bearings everywhere, even inside the spool.

The Stella 3000 FE’s drag is made up of a mix of 6 washers. Three of these washers are a standard felt material while the other three are aluminum and feature a mix of ears and tabs. The spool is supported by not one, but two washers. End result? You guessed it, the Stella 3000 FE’s drag is smooth as melted butter being kept warm by a flame.

The Stella FE was equally at home on a Duckett Micro Magic ...



Shimano Stella 3000 FE Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality It's tough to surpass a flagship reel from Shimano 10
Performance Super silky smooth with power 9
Price Tier 1 flagship comes at a cost 6
Features Bearings at just about every critical juncture (A shallow spool option would be nice) 8.5
Design (Ergonomics) Sits a comfortable distance from the reel seat and we've long admired the gunmetal blue finish 9
Application The 3000 size Stella is a good choice for both fresh and saltwater use... this is an excellent multi-species reel 9

Total Score

Ratings Key: 1 = terrible : 2 = poor : 3 = lacking : 4 = sub par : 5 = mediocre : 6 = fair : 7 = good : 8 = great : 9 = excellent : 10 = unbelievable!
For More Details of the updated rating system visit our explanation here


Pluses and Minuses:


+ Weighted right - You want to play with a Stella, you gotta pay
+ Bearings bearings bearings! - No shallow spool option in the US market version of these reels
+ Super smooth performance  
+ Surprisingly powerful  


Conclusion: My last experience with a Stella was a good two generations ago. I missed out on the FD, but I'm still uncertain as to why Shimano decided the Stella needed a makeover after just three short years of existence. However, I am pleased with the result. Weighted just right, and stuffed to the gills with bearings seemingly at every critical juncture, our Stella 3000 FE test subject performed flawlessly at every feathery turn of the handle. Initial results and impressions are indeed very good, and yet, I feel as if my time with this product is still incomplete. In fact, it's found another home on a St. Croix Legend Elite spinning rod that's going through our WTF trials right now.

... as it was on our Megabass Racing Condition Stick. It currently resides on a St. Croix Legend Elite where I have to say, it's just about as perfect a match as you will find.

We were surprised by the Stella's makeover at last year's ICAST. With the same event just around the corner here in 2011, one has to wonder what Shimano has up their sleeve for this year. Are we going to see another unexpected and premature refinement of an existing product or are some of the new DC products in the Japan market going to finally make it to US shores? We will find out shortly. For now, Shimano's flagship spinning reel has earned this Editor's Choice.

Looking for the Shimano Stella? Try Hi's Tackle Box










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