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Enthusiast Review

Cardiff or Conquest? You Choose: A Battle of 50s


Date: 6/08/10
Tackle type: Reels
Manufacturer: Shimano Japan
Reviewer: Cal

Total Score: 7.08 - GOOD

Several years ago in a unique Q&A session in our forum between readers and then Shimano Reels Product Manager, Jeremy Sweet, the topic of DC reels came up. At that time, there existed only the Calcutta/Conquest DC reels in 200, 250, and 100 sizes. Our readers were clamoring for a 50-sized, round DC reel – the panacea of round reels for its combination of ergonomics and that rare, intangible characteristic of inspiring a smile each and every time the reel is held in your hands.

Shimano's 50 sized round reels are an absolute favorite.

Trouble is, the DC technology was never one to lend itself to deep spool designs and the 50 sized Calcutta and Conquest reels were already light enough in line capacity as it stood. Any attempts to port this technology from the larger reels to this miniscule platform, according to Sweet, would result in such limited line capacity, the reel would likely not be very good for much else other than pitching. He never ruled out the possibility entirely, but did admit it was unlikely.

You need to insert one into your palm to understand.

That was in February of 2006 – just over four years ago. As we all know, technology advances at unpredictable leaps and bounds and while DC technology itself has advanced in product available in the States, that 50-sized platform is still not quite here yet. I say “not quite” because last year, over in Japan, Shimano introduced a new reel into their trout lineup that had our discussion board on fire with lust for new product, envy that the product was not available domestically, false pride and belief it was unnecessary, delusions of gluttony for want of several, anger at the cost of said product, and finally, sloth brought about by despair over the inability to capitalize on the opportunity to possess what has long been considered the holy grail of baitcasting reels – at least in the Shimano lineup.

So when news of a 50-sized DC reel broke in Japan, you can bet the TackleTour readership was all over it!

Yes, tackle enthusiasts around the world, it’s old news now, but Shimano Japan has done it. They’ve created a 50-sized platform, digital brake control reel and while this is intended primarily for trout, we’ve been using it as a finesse technique bass reel. Introducing our review of the Shimano Cardiff 50/51DC.

Shimano Cardiff 51s DC Specifications

Line Capacity (lbs/yds) Rated 0.156mm/100yds : Tested 0.26mm/40yds
Gear Ratio 7'0"
Measured Weight 7.1 oz
Measured Max. Drag 5lbs
Number of Bearings 10+1
Length of Handle 70mm
Spool Weight 16 grams
Brake System Shimano Digital Control
MSRP 61,200 JPY (~$689)


Impressions: Anyone who has spent any amount of time in the Enthusiast section of our discussion forum already knows my affinity for the Conquest 51. That reel is easily my favorite Shimano reel followed closely by the Conquest 101DC. Round reels have always held a special place with me because of their classic appearance and feel and the 50 sized platform, well, you just have to mount one on a rod and insert it into your palm to understand – it is just indescribably “right”.

Cosmetically, we still prefer the non-DC Conquest look.

Admittedly, I had no interest in the Cardiff 50/51DC when it was released initially because of one thing – actually a combination of two. I wanted a “Conquest” 50/51DC not a “Cardiff”. In North America, to those almost exclusive to top end gear, the “Cardiff” line is a cast off – good if you’re on a budget, but certainly not Calcutta GT TE material. I was not about to spend top end money ($800) on a “Cardiff” reel. Why in the world would Shimano Japan do that?

The Cardiff 50/51s DC shares the same cosmetics as the Conquest DC series.

Well, evidently something gets lost in the translation because the Cardiff series in Japan is indeed high end and it denotes products reserved for their trout market. This reel was designed for trout, not bass, and thus its place in the Cardiff line, not Conquest. The question remained, did I really want to spend $850 on a DC reel made for trout? You already know the answer to that question because here we are.

The drilled sideplates and top bars of the standard Conquest Series are precision beauty personified.

The Conquest DC and this Cardiff DCs' detailing though more subtle, still has an intrinsic attraction.

Cosmetically, the Cardiff 51s DC is a combination of my two favorite Shimano reels. It is the size of the Conquest 51 with the color and detailing of the Conquest DC series. Where it becomes more dainty and trout-like is in the Daiwa-esque cork knobs and an exquisitely sculpted and detailed dragstar. Sadly, the reel overall is not as exquisite as the Conquest 51 or 51s. The detailing of Conquest Series’ ported sideplate and matching ported, top crossbar is precision machining at its finest, but the Cardiff 51s DC has an intrinsic attraction as well. It is just more subtle.

The dragstar on the Cardiff is exquisite.


As is the cast control knob.

Next Section: Let the field tests for these tiny reels begin!









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