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Reel Review


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


Date: 4/29/24
Tackle Type: Reel
Manufacturer: Shimano
Reviewer: Cal and Zander

Total Score: 8.75 + EDITOR'S CHOICE AWARD

If there is one series of fishing reels that truly pushed us over the edge into the realm of enthusiast, it has to be Shimano's Conquest (the JDM variant of Calcutta). We have been dedicated users of the original Calcutta platform and always admired the Calcutta GTs, but when we unboxed our first Conquest, the 51, back around 2004, it was game over. To put it simply, using that old Conquest 51 is like fishing with a machined piece of art. Fast forward to today and Conquest has since gone through several refresh campaigns, many of which we've written up.


From left to right, Conquest 51, '14 Conquest 101, '23 Conquest 301MD, '21 Conquest 201

Through these refinements, sadly, the 50 size has been abandoned. However, what we've also seen is the palming profile for each size has been improved so that in hand, each reel feels one size smaller as compared to the pre 2014 Conquest (the same change was actually introduced in Calcutta in 2012). In other words, the 100 now fishes similar to the old 50 and so on.


Shimano '23 Conquest 300/301XGLH Specifications

Line Capacity - Rated 0.365mm (~US17lb) / 160m (180yds)
Line Capacity - Spool Volume 28 cm3
Retrieve Ratio
Inches Per Turn (IPT) - calculated
11 - 39
Weight 12.7 oz
Spool Weight 29g
Handle Length 102 mm
Bearings 11+1
Bearings per Knob 2 bearings
Levelwind Bearings 2 bushings
Rated Max Drag ~18 lbs (19.7lbs. tested)
Origin Made in Japan
MSRP $599

Impressions: There have been a lot of different Conquest reels over the years and while many share similarities with their larger saltwater cousins over the years Shimano started introducing smaller and smaller versions for those that liked the classic styling and form factor, but intended for more traditional, and even some BFS applications. Here at TackleTour this is where some of our editor's gravitated towards different ends of the spectrum. Cal leaning towards his enthusiast roots preferred the smaller and lighter Conquests while Zander preferred to use the larger 300 sized Conquests (and classic Calcuttas) for slinging big baits and inshore applications.

Size comparison: the original late '90s Conquest 200 vs '23 Conquest 301MD

For those who share Cal's preference for smaller reels, "300" may be a difficult number to overcome when plucking down close to $500 on a fishing reel. However, as we alluded to earlier, not all sizes are created equal. Similar to clothing, actual sizes vary depending on brand, style, intended audience, and especially application.


Round reels like the Calcutta were originally favored by big game anglers in both fresh and saltwater that required both power and capacity. Anglers that enjoy fishing big and heavy baits gravitated towards the Calcutta series for the ability to cast substantial baits and provide plenty of torque for managing big fish.


Size comparison: Daiwa's Ryoga Shrapnel (a 300 sized round reel) vs '23 Conquest 301MD


The reality is that with the latest form factor the 300 size can appeal to a wide audience as this '23 Conquest 300 feels every bit like a 200 or maybe 250 sized reel. If you're expecting something wide and clunky, this reel is not it. It even looks smaller than a 300 sized low profile reel, but that's not anything new. As mentioned earlier, Conquest has been fishing a size down since the 2014 refresh.

Size comparison: the original Daiwa Pluton (a 200 sized reel) vs '23 Conquest 301MD

What is new in the '23 Conquest compared to the '18 is Shimano's inclusion of the two letters big bait enthusiasts covet, "MD." In Japan, these two letters stand for Monster Drive, but in North America, Shimano has removed that designation and simply uses the letters. The important aspect is not what the letters stand for, but to what improvements they refer. In the domestic reel anglers often assume the "MD" had something to do with the gears. In the Conquest it turns out Shimano is referring to the reel's casting and how the brakes and levelwind have been tuned to cast oversized baits for bigger fish species.

Spooled with line, mounted on Cal's self wrap Phenix Titan Longfall and ready for action

Real World Tests: Before we get to that, first comes the decision of how to outfit the Conquest 301XGLH. Given this reel's larger capacity, our original intent was to install a straight shot of a thick diameter nylon monofilament onto this reel, but when we sat down to strategize which baits we wanted to throw, we changed course. Many larger big baits are of the difficult to acquire variety. Considering their high dollar value and rare availability, we decided to go back Cal's status quo of hollow braid plus leader or a straight braid setup for topwater and wakes. In this case, Seaguar's Threadlock in 50lbs and Sunline's Saltimate System Nylon Shockleader in 40lb, or for topwaters running straight Daiwa J-Braid or Sunline FX2.

Adjustments for the magnetic brake is via this dial on the handle sideplate

However, for the leader setups instead of just a straight shot of hollow braid, we pulled out Cal's previous generation Conquest 301, spooled about eighty to eighty five yards of the hollow braid onto the reel and tied on some thirty pound (30lb) Sunline SuperNatural to top off the spool. We then tied the tag end of the SuperNatural onto the spool of the new Conquest 301XGLH and transferred the line setup. This allowed us to control how much hollow braid we were using and took the guess work out of how much backing to put on the 301XGLH. After that, it was just a matter of installing the Saltimate leader and this '23 Conquest was ready to go.

The external dial moves this magnet in and out to apply additional force during casts

Well, almost, next was the decision of which rod would get the honors. This choice was actually relatively simple. One of Cal's Winter 22/23 projects was to build a rod on a Phenix Rods saltwater blank, the Titan LongFall TJXL710H-B. The goal was a stick to slink some of my larger big baits like those mentioned in my Follow The Leader investigation, namely, a U.F.O. Mothership, Bent Baits Shad, Illude/Lunker Fighters Zombie XL rats, among others. Cal  built 3 of these rods, one for Zander, two for himself. For the ones that he built for myself, he outfitted one with a split rear grip, the other with a full grip. The Conquest 301XGLH was paired with the build featuring split rear grip.

Otherwise, on the spool, it's a return to the mushroom shaped centrifugal brakes

Zander tested the Conquest MD with a variety of off the shelf rods as well as a few soon to launch rods, including the upcoming Baitsanity Explorer rod which is designed to fish glidebaits and full sized wakes. In this particular setup we spooled the reel with 30lb. Berkley Fluorocarbon to test the reel with big baits with faster sink rates.

Testing the right handed Conquest MD on Baitsanity's upcoming Explorer Series swimbait rod

Next Section: The Conquest MD's dual casting system...









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