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Low-profile baitcasters tend to be highly specialized, which makes it difficult to find one that’s well suited for all-purpose use. Shimano has been dabbling with solving this problem for years, and I think they’ve found the solution with the 150-size Tranx. The Tranx 150 is just as tough, reliable, and smooth as the larger models, but in a smaller, lighter package. I put this reel through the paces in both fresh and saltwater, and the results left me more than impressed.
Shimano Tranx 150HG Specs and Key Features
- Weight: 6.7 ounces
- Line Capacity: 150 yards of 20-pound braid
- Bearings: 3+1
- Max Drag: 13 pounds
- Gear Ratio: 7.2:1
- MSRP: $220
The SVS infinity brake system is an advanced friction-based braking technology that allows for finely tuned adjustments. Brake weights use inner friction against the raceway during the cast to allow for a smooth, controlled spool speed. The system is easy to adjust with an external knob, and is ideal for quickly shifting lure weights on the water.
Gears and Drag
The Tranx 150 uses a carbon drag system, which Shimano calls Cross Carbon Drag. The carbon drag is smooth and holds up better to long fights than other materials, such as felt. The internals feature S A-RB bearings, a shielded anti-rust bearing that prevents grit from entering. This adds a layer of protection against sand and salt, which helps keep this reel functioning during its intended saltwater use. The gearing is also coated with what Shinano refers to as CoreProtect technology, which is a material that forces liquid to bead up and roll away from the internal components.
Testing the Shimano Tranx 150HG in the Field
While Shimano touts the Tranx 150 as an inshore reel, its size and functionality make it an ideal crossover tool for both fresh and saltwater. With that in mind, I fished coldwater mountain rivers, warm water swamps, and inshore saltwater to see if it could stand up to the all-purpose abuse dished out by hardcore anglers nationwide. Fishing from both boat and kayak I caught smallies, redfish, snook, striped bass, and speckled trout.
Testing the Tranx 150 in Saltwater
While no reel is invincible to the hazards of extended saltwater use, the Tranx 150 has a number of features that make it well-suited to the task. The combination of corrosion-resistant materials in the frame and gearing, sealed bearings, and the CoreProtect coating give this reel a number of formidable defenses against the wear and tear of frequent saltwater exposure. Saltwater corrosion is one of the most concerning elements of using a baitcaster, especially in a kayak. The amount of salt spray and water splashing onto them for extended periods of time can be a death sentence to many otherwise quality reels.
The Tranx holds up to this abuse admirably and maintained its smoothness over several months of hard use with little to no maintenance. A simple freshwater rinse after each use and a light spray of lubricating oil (such as Clenzoil) were enough to keep it going with no major issues. I subjected this reel to several full submersions and days of kayak fishing for redfish. When I hooked into a 35-inch red, the reel’s drag was still smooth, and the 150 had plenty of torque to get that powerful fish to the boat for a quick photo and release.
While being smooth is important, durability and maintaining that smoothness is arguably more so. A reel may be exceptional right out of the box, but if it binds up and grinds after only a few trips, then it probably doesn’t make the grade for most anglers. Durability is something the entire Tranx lineup is famous for, and the 150 size doesn’t disappoint. Its internal components are housed within a rigid metal frame to prevent flex and warping when pushing this reel to its limits. That rigidity was exceptionally noticeable when using the reel in saltwater environments and fighting larger fish. The reel didn’t flex while thumbing the spool to prevent large snook and redfish from getting to cover, which is impressive considering the power those fish have and the force being exerted on the reel while locked down.
Testing the Tranx 150 in Freshwater
In addition to horsing in large redfish and snook inshore, this reel was an excellent option in freshwater for a surprisingly diverse array of options. The Tranx 150 has the remarkable ability to feel equally at home spooled with light line for finesse fishing or heavy braid and stout gear.
I first used this reel in the colder winter months to target smallmouth bass and musky on a local river. Spooled with 20-pound braid and fished on a medium-power rod, it was the perfect choice for throwing small swimbaits and jigs for bass. While that’s not unique among 150 size baitcasters, its ability to be spooled with 50-pound braid and thrown on a heavy rod to fish for musky certainly is unique. Once respooled with the heavier line, I started throwing 10-inch swimbaits with almost no difference in performance.
During the warmer months, I transitioned to using this reel for snakehead fishing in weed and lily pad-filled swamps. I was curious if its relatively light drag would be a hindrance when wrenching these notoriously strong fish from their weedy homes. While the drag did slip more than I’d prefer, once my thumb was on the spool the rigid reel frame held up impressively to the task.
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What the Tranx 150HG Does Best
The Tranx 150 is an ideal combination of durability and smoothness. It’s simultaneously able to handle heavy-duty fishing while being comfortable to throw all day long. Utilizing what Shimano calls “Hagane” body technology, the overall feel of the Tranx is one of extreme balance and strength.
Despite its light weight compared to other Tranx models (almost two ounces lighter than the 200 series) and smaller size, this reel still feels rock solid in your hand. It’s incredibly satisfying to have a comfortable casting reel for freshwater, while still being designed to fight fish in the salt all day, every day. The all-purpose nature of the Tranx 150 makes it an easy choice for every trip, regardless of where you’re heading to fish.
One of the most impressive things about the Tranx 150 is its price point. While $220 isn’t cheap, it’s shockingly good for a reel with this level of quality and performance. It certainly falls lower in price than reels of similar quality.
Shimano also offers a one-year service warranty on reels, including the Tranx. Beyond that year, you can send the reel in for service, and Shimano will usually inspect it and inform you of the costs before servicing. While every individual experience may vary, I’ve sent reels to Shimano countless times over the years and found their warranty and service system to be easy to deal with and accommodating.
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Where the Tranx 150HG Can Improve
While I’ve found the Tranx’s drag to be very smooth, the 13 pounds of max drag is somewhat lacking. It’s not terrible, but it is a little less than one would expect for a reel designed with heavy-duty use in mind. The drag strength is adequate for most inshore applications, but thumbing the spool will certainly be necessary to help keep larger fish from working you over.
More than anything, the drag seems imbalanced with the otherwise intense capabilities of the reel. More than a few times I found myself disconcerted by drag slippage while bearing down on a big fish or dragging it through cover. The reel itself feels so strong and capable that it’s easy to forget that it’s still a smaller reel and not necessarily intended to be used as a tow winch. If your goal is to exclusively target larger fish, I would consider stepping up to the 300 or 400 size, which have 18 to 22 pounds of drag depending on model.
Additionally, while the 3+1 bearing system is smooth enough, it lacks some of the ultra-buttery feel of more finely tuned high-end baitcasters like the Shimano Chronarch G. The difference is only noticeable when using them side by side, but it’s distinct enough to call out. I wouldn’t qualify this as a huge detriment, especially for a saltwater reel, as it still feels smooth and comfortable. However, if you’re a tournament bass angler used to being able to tune a baitcaster like a Swiss watch, the Tranx may not be your cup of tea.
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If you’re looking for a durable, quality low-profile baitcaster that’s comfortable to fish in both fresh and saltwater, you won’t find a much better option than the Shimano Tranx 150. While it lacks some of the featherlight feel of other high-end, low-profile baitcasters, this reel more than makes up for it with durability. Additionally, you get a lot of value for your money with the Tranx.
While the 150 was the focus of this review, the Tranx comes in several sizes, from the 150 all the way up to 500. The larger sizes provide significantly more drag and are great options for expanding beyond light inshore use.