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Finding a high-performance saltwater fishing reel for $100 or less is difficult, to say the least. Anything marketed toward saltwater fishing is, on average, 10 percent more than the comparable freshwater option. Well, Shimano has made the market just a little bit easier to navigate with the Nasci series. The Shimano Nascis spinning reel sits at the top of the $100 spinning reel market with an impressive list of attributes: it has the feel and durability of a reel twice the price, and it can be used in both fresh and saltwater without worry. From bass to redfish, rainbow trout to snook, the Nasci can — and will — handle it all. 

Shimano Nasci

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Nasci 3000 Specs:

Mono Line Capacity: 6/230, 8/170, 10/140

Braided Line Capacity: 10/200, 20/140, 40/105

Max Drag: 20lbs

Weight: 8.8oz

Gear Ratio: 6.2:1

Retrieve per crank (in): 36

Features list:  X-Ship, CoreProtect, freebody, Hagane Gear, Propulsion Line Management System, Waterproof Drag, Cross Carbon Drag

First Impression

The Nasci reel is a beautiful fishing reel. Once you open the box and remove the plastic, you’ll see there’s no denying that. A gold and gunmetal colored spool and handle really shine against the black body, which is peppered with silver, blue, and gold flakes. It is really slick without being too flashy. The compact size of the reel paired with the minimal amount of porting in the body really give this reel a durable feel. 

The bail spring has a satisfying, solid click and the arm has a nice strong feel with minimal flex. The laser etched specifications on the spool aren’t too eye catching, so they don’t take away from the overall appearance of the reel. When the reel is brand new with no line on the spool, simply holding the reel in your hand will cause the handle to reel down with nothing more than gravity. That is one of the simplest tests of how smooth the retrieve will be. Overall, the Nasci passes the first impression with flying colors. 

Shimano Nasci used to catch smallmouth bass
The author with a nice smallmouth caught using the Shimano Nasci. Grant Alvis Grant Alvis

Testing

I’ve been lucky enough to test the Shimano Nasci extensively over a few seasons. This Shimano reel has been wading for smallmouth bass, stalking the flats for redfish, sight casting to snakeheads in the marsh, and has yet to skip a beat. The free-flow propulsion spool design allows for effortless, long casting while wading and sight fishing. It allows the angler the ability to cover a lot of water and reach out to more fish without having to get too close and spook them. 

I typically fish more finesse presentations for these species with some of the best fishing reels. Weightless jerkshads and small twitch baits are not known to fly very far, but the spool design on the Nasci makes casting these light lures much easier with the reduced drag on the line. Setting the hook on all three of these species brings the drag into play. Smallmouth in clear water typically require a light leader, which means a light but smooth drag to keep constant, even pressure to protect the light line and keep the fish pinned. 

The opposite is necessary for redfish and snakeheads. Reds and snakes require a lot of power in the hookset — power to slow the fish down on their runs, as well as even more power to pull them out and away from cover. The rigid body is also a necessity for all three of these species. When wading for smallmouth, it’s inevitable the reel is going to get banged around a bit, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t  fall a few times, resulting in some rock rash on the frame. This reel can take it and keep going without a hitch. The same goes for the reds and snakes. The hard hooksets can cause quite a bit of flex in the frame of some spinning reels I’ve used and luckily the Nasci shows no signs of frame flex and holds strong.  

Snakehead caught with Shimano Nasci spinning reel.
A reel that’s home in saltwater and the swamps. Grant Alvis Grant Alvis

What the Nasci Does Best

The Shimano Nasci’s best feature overall is the drag. It was the first feature I noticed when fishing this reel for redfish. The quick surging runs of the reds were easily controlled and the feel was buttery smooth. When the fish were running deep into the grass, I tested the strength of the drag horsing them out. There was no sign of that sticky, jerky feel you sometimes get with reels in this price range. This reel feels and fishes like a reel twice its price. Every part of this reel just fits tight. 

There is little to no play in the spool, the bail has no wiggle, the handle doesn’t have any noticeable play, and the drag engages instantly. Another feature that I really enjoy with the Nasci is the reel body size. Shimano has really moved to making their reels more compact in the current generations, and most anglers are going to enjoy the look and feel of a more compact reel. 

Shimano makes one reel body that can hold different spool sizes. For example, the 2500 and 3000 size Nasci, are the exact same reel body. The 3000 size just has a deeper spool to accommodate more line. It also comes with a “T” style paddle handle instead of the smooth, round grip found on the 2500. I find this feature beneficial because it will give anglers a more uniform feel across their arsenal if they were to purchase multiple reels to match up outfits. Lastly, there’s the price. For $99 you get a reel that can easily transfer from freshwater to saltwater, and handle many seasons of hard use. It’s certainly one of the best spinning reels for the money.

Redfish released from shimano nasci spinning reel
The Nasci is one of the best spinning reels for $100. Grant Alvis Grant Alvis

Disadvantages of the Shimano Nasci

The list of disadvantages for the Nasci is minimal. I could see some anglers having complaints about is the weight. At 8.8 ounces, this Shimano saltwater reel is slightly heavy when compared to other comparable reels on the market but not by much. With the modern rod market producing lighter and lighter rods every year, the weight of the Nasci could make it difficult to truly balance a set up. One other feature that didn’t impress me was that this reel does not have a direct drive handle. The handle uses a screw through the reel into the base of the handle rather than what most angler’s prefer: a direct drive screw in style handle. I believe a direct drive handle would make this reel feel more solid and it would be one less part to worry about. The final feature is more of a personal preference than an actual problem. The Nasci range from the 3000 size and up comes with a nice wide “T” style paddle handle while the smaller reels have a small almost round grip that I find to be a little slick. Personally I have always had spinning reels with “T” handles and greatly prefer that feel, so I reach for the 3000 more often than the 2500. 

So What’s the Verdict on the Shimano Nasci?

The best way to describe this reel is a workhorse with flare. Are you looking for a light to medium freshwater and saltwater spinning reel around $100? This is it. After an entire year of use and hundreds of fish in both fresh and saltwater, this Shimano spinning reel still feels like the day it left the box and there’s no signs of it slowing down. This reel is absolutely packed with features that you just can’t find for under $175. From drop shotting to finicky smallmouth bass, stalking inshore flats for redfish, working jerkshads down marsh lines for big snakeheads, and more, the Shimano Nasci reel will handle it all—at a great price. 

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