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Every fishing reel brand seems to have, what I like to call, their meat and potatoes reel: the reel from each brand you tend to see the most in its intended market. Penn has the Slammer, Daiwa has the Saltist, and Shimano has the Saragosa. The funny thing is, for the life of me, I can’t understand why Shimano’s meat and potatoes reel isn’t the Spheros SW spinning reel. After testing this saltwater fishing reel in various demanding situations, I really struggled to find anything I didn’t love about the Shimano Spheros SW. It’s certainly one of the best saltwater spinning reels available.

Shimano Spheros SW

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Shimano Spheros 6000SW Specs and Overview

  • Braid Line Capacity: 30/290, 50/195, 65/140
  • Mono Line Capacity: 12/265, 16/170, 20/120
  • Weight: 16.2oz
  • Bearings:  4+1
  • Line Retrieve Per Crank: 33 inches
  • Gear Ratio:  4.6:1
  • Max Drag: 22lbs

X-Ship: X-Ship provides improved gear durability. By supporting the pinion gear on both ends with bearings, the pinion gear maintains precise alignment with the drive gear. This means the gears will stay in the same position under the heaviest loads. The added benefit is that friction between the spool shaft and gear is eliminated, enhancing the casting performance with lighter lures, and allowing for longer casts.

X-Shield: By providing dependable sealing structures and gaskets at necessary points throughout the reel, X-Shield is able to block water intrusion. This protection provides high reliability and durability when Spheros SW is used in extreme fishing conditions.

Shimano CF Gear: To deliver the toughness and performance level required by saltwater anglers, Shimano uses their cold forging technology to deliver a gear with an incredible structural strength that provides the best protection against abrasion and damage.

What Makes a Good Spinning Reel?

Spinning reels have a seemingly endless list of uses in fishing, so what makes one reel better than another is fairly subjective. Most uses for spinning reels are going to require a smooth drag. For example, anything from finesse fishing on light line for bass in clear water to throwing huge poppers for Giant Trevally offshore, spinning reel drags are meant to be tested. 

Another important feature of a spinning reel is a good spool design to aid in casting. Spool design affects the way line flows off of the spool. A well-designed spool will keep the line coming off in a tighter spiral, allowing for less drag in the cast when the line gathers through the first guide of the rod. As with any type of reel, a smooth and effortless retrieve feel makes for a pleasant experience while fishing. Typically, when I have a spinning reel in my hand, I am fishing in a way that requires a lot of attention to detail. The more smooth and comfortable the reel is, the more I can focus on the fishing and not on the feel of the reel. 

The final feature that really brings the reel together is the weight and rigidity. A reel needs to be fairly light weight while still retaining a strong, durable feel. A lightweight reel is going to provide the angler the ability to cast all day long, with the durability and rigidity allowing the reel to withstand whatever nature throws at it. 

First Impressions 

The Spheros SW spinning reel is dressed to impress right out of the box. While not quite as flashy as some of the higher-priced reels in Shimano’s range, the Shimano Spheros SW is still a very sharp-looking reel. The silver spool and handle pop against the glossy black body. When taking the reel out of the box, I immediately noticed a nice, weighty feel. It felt solid, but not heavy. The smooth, soft click of the drag is pleasing to the ear, and the drag knob adjustment is just the same. The large, ball-style handle gives the reel an additional level of comfort and really aids in the reel’s workhorse feel. As soon as I handled this reel, I found myself anxious to get out and put it to the test.   

Flathead caught with the Shimano Spheros SW
The author with a health flathead catfish caught while testing the Spheros SW. Grant Alvis Grant Alvis

Testing the Shimano Spheros SW

Flathead catfish aren’t saltwater species, but I figured they’d still make for a worthy test for this reel. Where we target these flatheads, 40 pound or larger fish aren’t uncommon and they are caught in strong currents. Knowing these fish well, I’m aware of how they can test fishing gear and knew the Spheros had its work cut out for it. The Spheros performed flawlessly. The first thing I noticed was the drag being silk smooth on the powerful runs these fish make. There was no jerky or sticky feeling at all, even after the reel had been dunked underwater a handful of times. 

Not only was the drag smooth, it was also strong. I was able to really power a few of these fish in with this reel, and there was no sign of any stress on the drag at all. The rigidity of the body is another noticeable feature. The body felt strong with no noticeable flex when loaded up on the fish across the current. A few times, when fighting larger fish with the Spheros, I noticed the rod was loaded up nearly to the cork and the reel wasn’t flexing even the slightest bit. I managed to catch a handful of flatheads over 30 pounds, as well as one over 40 with this reel in a few trips. Not once did I feel that I was undergunned. 

The spool design on the Spheros is also fantastic. It allowed for effortless long casts even with the heavy 50 pound braided main line. The line comes off the spool nearly silently and the free flow propulsion spool design really reduces line slap on the rod. The next main species for testing was the cobia, and the Spheros was able to tame a few without even the slightest hiccup. Strong smooth drag to keep the pressure on and whip the fish fast, flawless spool design for easy accurate casts, and again, the rigid frame didn’t show the slightest sign of weakness during the long powerful fights these fish dish out. Overall, the Shimano Spheros SW met my expectations and exceeded them ten fold. It was put up against some big fish that love to test tackle, but the Spheros brushed it all off and handled business like it was nothing.

Shimano Spheros SW review
The Spheros SW excellent for salt and freshwater fishing. Grant Alvis Grant Alvis

What the Spheros Does Best

This reel’s drag is seriously impressive. 22 pounds is nothing to joke about, and from what I felt in testing, it’s buttery smooth all the way across the range. The durability of the Shimano Spheros SW is another feature that really needs to be mentioned. While the body is Aluminum, as opposed to the Hagane material Shimano spinning reels are most known for, the reel is just flat out tough. The Aluminum adds a little more weight but that weight gives the reel a nice strong feel. When I tested this reel, I didn’t notice the slightest amount of flex, even under extremely heavy drag while lifting on fish. As with all Shimano reels, the Spheros has the free flow propulsion spool which if you haven’t tried it, you need too. It’s amazing how something as simple as a smooth angled top to the spool can make such a massive difference in casting. The spool design allows for truly effortless casting. With a short, quick, overhead flick, casting a 1 ounce lure 60 yards or more is a breeze. It’s nothing to load up and throw a 2.5 ounce. jig nearly 100 yards into the wind at a cruising cobia. One small feature that makes a big difference in a reel is the handle. The Spheros from the 5000 size and up has a nice large ball style grip.  When targeting big fish this style handle is great for allowing the angler a little more comfort and strength to the grip. Arguably the best feature of the Spheros is the price. The performance you get from this reel is not often found under the $250 price point. The Spheros does it all and for less than $200 for the 10000 size and down.   

Where The Spheros Struggles

One issue I did have with the Spheros — that isn’t limited to only this model, but most of Shimano’s larger spinning reels — is line capacity. The 6000 size reel only gets 195 yards of 50 pound braid. That is a fairly low number when comparing to other reels on the market, with most other big brands 6000 size reels getting upwards of 250 yards. The main reason for the lower line capacity is the compact size of the reel. It seems like over the last couple generations of reels, Shimano has begun to make their reels slightly smaller but they have made up for it by adding larger size reels into their lineup such as the 20000 size. 

Basically, if you want the line capacity of a typical 6000, you may need to get a 8000 Shimano. The only other issue I have with the Spheros is weight. Yes, it’s a 6000 size spinning reel so it’s never going to be a featherweight but the Spheros is definitely slightly heavier than some comparable reels from other competing brands.  The weight issue is mainly attributed to the aluminum body. While other reels are using some of these new super metals, the Spheros is using tried and true aluminum. That being said, Shimano has the edge at this price point with the aluminum because most other brands at this price point are going to have much more plastic or graphite, which lack durability.     

So What’s the Verdict on the Shimano Spheros SW?

After some rigorous testing — resulting in thousands of casts and quite a few big fish landed — it’s hard to think of this reel as anything other than a steal and one of the best spinning reels out there. The reel performed flawlessly and handled everything I threw at it. From loading up on trophy catfish across class III rapids, to trying to manage big cobia making powerful runs to the bottom in deep water, the reel still feels brand new. The list of features and benefits of this reel is long while the list of disadvantages is nearly nonexistent. Plain and simple, it’s a high-performance reel at a weekend warrior price. If you’re looking for a reliable, workhorse spinning reel to add to your inshore and offshore arsenal, the Shimano Spheros SW reel should be very high on your list. 

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