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Reel Review


Great for Finesse, but Capable of So Much More. Shimano's Vanford Spinning Reel (continued)


Casting: It is harder to impact casting distance, and casting feel, on a spinning reel than a baitcaster. For the most part casting on a spinning should be pretty straightforward, at least on a well designed reel, with the line peeling off the spool effortlessly. Manufacturers try and improve casting distance with various spool dimensions, and lip designs, and Shimano is now attempting to further optimize each cast with their Long Stroke Spool.


The Long Stroke Spool increases the total stroke length and is designed to lay down line more evenly, and smoother, on the spool with the goal of enabling the line to flow off more effortlessly and improve overall casting distance. How does this translate in the real world?


The Vanford's spool is relatively shallow and designed to accommodate a very even line lay


I tested max casting distance with a variety of baits with both monofilament and fluorocarbon lines to see how much difference the design makes. Using baits 1/2oz. and mono we experienced little difference in total distance whatsoever versus the Stradic CI4+. Where I did notice a little bit of difference was with fluorocarbon and lightweight baits like ned rigs and drop shot rigs weighing 1/8oz. and less. With these lightweight setups the line did seem to flow very nicely off the spool but overall max casting distance was still pretty similar to the previous gen Stradic CI4+.


While the Vanford CI4+ is a very good caster so was the previous generation Stradic CI4+. The max casting difference between these reels is very similar, and probably less than 5% different, and so close that even a gust of wind could alter a cast more than this delta.


It was hard to distinguish the casting benefits. Actual real world performance is less than 5% but I did notice the reel casts lightweight rigs very well


Though I didn't experience a signifigant increase in casting distance during our tests I am confident in stating that the Vanford casts as well, or slightly better, than the Stradic CI4+. Just don't expect a massive, very noticeable, boost in distance.


The improvements to retrieve are more noticeable. The Vanford starts up very easily, is smooth, and has tighter tolerances


Retrieve: After fishing the Vanford over the last few months I started to appreciate the distinct personality of the reel versus the other spinning reels in the Shimano lineup. Though Stradic and Vanford coexist in a very similar segment but they do feel very different, and this is mainly due to the aluminum versus CI4+ construction.


While the Vanford's CI4+ carbon based material is more rigid than graphite is does not achieve the same rigidity levels as aluminum or magnesium, and therefore while it is lighter the reel's body will not feel quite as solid, and rigid, under high stress as a metal reel like the Stradic FL.


The Vanford is a finesse fishing weapon... but it can be used for the complete range of applications


This distinct difference is also felt with each crank of the handle as the Vanford's MGL rotor is also constructed also of CI4+ material. The advantage of using carbon on the rotor is that it reduces the amount of force necessary to start the turn of the rotor. This makes it feel like a faster startup with a lighter turn of the handle, as though the reel responds quicker to angler input.


The MGL CI4+ rotor feels light on startups


This is a feel that I personally really like about the Vanford. This reel feels lighter, more responsive, and very crisp when initially cranked. However the reel still feels like a composite reel, versus an aluminum one. I'm ok with this feel being a Stradic CI4+ (and JDM Complex CI4+ and Vanquish fan). This is a personal preference, and our Enthusiast Editor, Cal, doesn't like this somewhat "hollow" feel and prefers metal bodied reels which inherently feel more solid. We both agree that for freshwater applications magnesium based reels still offer the best of both worlds, but they also often come with a hefty price premium as well.


Paired with a Megabass Destroyer for a different look


All this doesn't change the fact that the Vanford is incredibly smooth for a reel at this price point. The kind of smooth that we used to only experience at the Sustain level, and yet there is no doubt that this new reel is a smoother more refined reel than even the current generation Sustain FI. After battling a few quality bass, and rainbow trout, I was convinced of the Vanford's ability to provide smooth and consistent performance during normal retrieves, and when under the load of a running fish.


The Vanford casts micro-cranks easily


A subtle, yet meaningful upgrade, in the Vanford is the addition of Micro Module II gearing. The original Micro Module gearing already utilized smaller gear teeth than typical gear constructions in an effort to improve precise alignment. This helps provide anglers with a smoother winding feel during lure retrieves and battles. The cause of the smoother feeling is due to a more solid feeling of the gears as you reel, suffice to say that more gear teeth mesh together helps the gears do their job while producing less vibration. The less vibration a reel produces, especially from the gearing, the smoother and more consistent it feels.


A little trolling action to test the Vanford's drag


After fishing with the Vanford I could tell that Shimano had improved the alignment and tolerances with this new reel and asked Adam to provide more detail about the differences with this new gear revision.

"MicroModule Gear II is that same concept but with further improvement of the gear surface. With microscopic precision, the gears were analyzed, and the gear teeth were even further refined in the construction of the surface to produce a gear that output even less vibration. Such to say that each turn of the handle feels even more buttery smooth than before," Adam stated.


A look at the inside of the Vanford. The gearing consists of both brass and aluminum components


When I heard about MicroModule II gears I imagined tiny gear teeth like the inside of a baitcaster but the teeth in the Vanford's gearing is much larger in thickness...


...the Vanford doesn't have smaller teethed gears that mesh better but focuses on improving the surface of the gears. In the real world tests the reel does feel light on rotation and has remained smooth thus far

At the end of the day I asked myself does the Vanford still feel like a composite based reel? Yes, but I think that the combination of MicroModule II and design changes to improve tolerances between the drive train components has resulted in a more solid feeling CI4+ based spinning reel, but for those that prefer the unmistakable character of aluminum, or magnesium, framed reels the Vanford still doesn't quite get there in terms of feel.


The Vanford's entire frame is made of CI4+. I did find there were more counter positioned screws on both sides of the frame than most spinning reels. These opposite located screws pull the reel's frame together tightly and isolate the gearing. This is even more critical with a material that is less rigid than metal


While very refined the Vanford still feels like a carbon reel and not quite as rigid or refined as a magnesium based one... but it is a lot more affordable than most magnesium reels

Next Section: Better than the reel it replaces?









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