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Enthusiast Review


Obsolete Before Its Time? Shimano Japan's SLX BFS


Date: 6/27/21
Tackle Type: Reel
Manufacturer: Shimano Japan
Reviewer: Cal

Total Score: 8.00 - GREAT

If there's one technique or classification there of in bass fishing that does not receive the attention and respect it deserves, it's finesse fishing. As if a rebuttal to the need to resort to such tactics, even our own finesse focused year was a play the expletive inferring acronym, "WTF" (What the Finesse). While a great majority of bass fishermen participate in the various techniques that make up the overall classification, for whatever reason, few are willing to admit to it. It's as if using light line and tiny lures isn't as masculine or cause for as much bravado as yanking a defenseless fish out from beneath a thicket of vegetation or fooling one with a life size replica of a baitfish species.

There's a new SLX in Shimano's lineup but only available in Japan

Perhaps it's the skill and uncertainty involved. After all, you can't skate a four pound bass over the surface of the water on six pound test line. It takes patience and a properly set drag to finesse a fish to the boat on light line. Yet when fishing pressure is high and more aggressive techniques are coming up empty, finesse is often the difference between a successful day fishing and a more disappointing outcome of simply wetting your line.

It is the SLX BFS

I get it. I fall into the same trap. Given a choice, I'd much rather catch a fish - no matter the size - on an eight inch bait than eight pound test fishing line. Part of the deal for me though is efficiency. If I go all casting gear, I can fit one or two more combos on the back of the boat than I can if I bring even just one spinning combo. As much as I adore my Exist, Stella, and MGXtreme reels, spinning combos can be awkward and difficult to manage. But there is an alternative. Dedicated finesse anglers know about it. It's not even new. No, over in Japan, they've been leveraging this approach to finesse fishing for at least two decades now, probably longer. We've written about a lot of the gear, but up until recently most of it has been somewhat cost prohibitive.

For those unfamiliar with the term BFS, it refers to "bait finesse" - casting gear tuned for light line applications

I am, of course, referring to that acronym "BFS." No, those initials don't stand for the latest superstar pop band out of Korea, but they do represent a specific approach to finesse fishing that has seen a slow and steady ascent into relevancy. Bait Finesse is the movement and this year Shimano is lowering the barrier into entry with the introduction of their USDM Curado BFS. Unfortunately, that news somewhat dampens the relevancy of the subject of today's review. Nonetheless, for those seeking a lower barrier to entry to the BFS experience via the JDM lane, Shimano's SLX BFS might just be the ticket. Let's take a look.


Shimano SLX BFS Specifications

Line Capacity - Rated 8lb (0.235mm) / 50 yds (45m)
Line Capacity - Spool Volume 3.8 cm3
Retrieve Ratio
Inches Per Turn (IPT) - calculated
21 - 24
27 - 31
Weight 6.1 oz
Spool Weight 9 g
Handle Length 84 mm
Bearings 5+1
Bearings per Knob 2 bushings
Levelwind Bearings 1 bushing
Rated Max Drag 3.5KG (~7.7lbs)
Origin Made in Malaysia
MSRP 2,4000 JPY (~$207)


Impressions: Prior to their 2021 introductions, Shimano's most accessible BFS fishing reel platform was their 2017 Scorpion BFS. Shimano Japan's Scorpion brand is the equivalent of Shimano of North America's Curado. SLX, on the other hand, is used both domestically and overseas as the brand which sits just below Scorpion and Curado. Therefore, being somewhat unfamiliar with the SLX platform, my expectation was the SLX BFS would simply be a Scorpion BFS with a different color scheme, fewer bearings, and maybe some subtle, internal material differences.


On paper, the SLX BFS appears to be very similar to the 2017 Scorpion BFS


On paper and in hand, these assumptions pretty much pan out. Both reels share the same sized spool, very similar weight, same handle length, and same drag rating. The difference is the SLX is black with blue highlights, while the older Scorpion BFS is gray with red highlights. The price difference between the two reels is 11,000 JPY retail, but of course JDM reels rarely list for retail. The current price difference on JapanTackle is $76 ($207 for the SLX BFS vs $283 for the Scorpion BFS).

I wasn't really able to discern a difference out on the water either

Real World Tests: Given the shallow capacity of BFS tuned reels, I usually choose to go with just a straight shot of fluorocarbon, but I am on a real braid to leader kick with my choice in fishing line these days and spooled the SLX BFS with 16lb YGK G-Soul SS 112 installing a leader of 6lb Seaguar AbrazX tied with a uni to uni connection knot. I don't much care for the diameter of this connection knot, but it is the simplest and most reliable knot I am able to tie with light line.

One thing is for certain, SLX matches Helium as if they were made for one another

For a rod to match with this slick looking BFS reel, those honors were bestowed upon my 2021 vintage, Kistler Helium HE701ML. It's as if the two were made for each other. Even Zander commented, "that's a good looking combo,"

Spooled with the line combo of 16lb YGK G-Soul SS 112 and a leader of 6lb Seaguar AbrazX

Casting: No where is the need to match rod, reel, and fishing line to cast your bait of choice more critical than with a bait finesse setup. With most applications, you can fudge a little here or there with rod ratings, line size, etc., but the lighter you go in lure weight, the more critical all these decisions become. All that being said, not even I push the real limits of my BFS combos. My goal is to simply present what I'd normally fish on spinning gear with a casting combo. These days, that means either a drop shot or ned rig.

A look at the business end of Shimano's FTB brake system for light line applications

Next Section: Time to baitfinesse...









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