Whenever a new fishing product comes out, anglers have varying opinions, though few are as polarizing as the new Shimano Stella SWB Spinning Reels. People have had such a strong reaction to these reels, both positive and negative, that for someone interested in buying one the line is blurred as to whether they are good or not. Anglers don’t know if these Stellas are as good as last year’s models. We had a mini-emergency with these reels in the store so Shimano sent one of their top engineers to help us out.
A few days ago a customer came in to look at one of the new Stellas. He held it in his hand, turned the handle and complained that the reel was not smooth. For anyone reading this who is unfamiliar with Shimano Stellas, the expectation is that they are the smoothest reels on the planet. A lot of people use the term “Stella Smooth” when referring to the lack of resistance when turning the handle on a reel. The reels are also $300 more than last year’s version and that did not help in this situation. The perception is that smoothness equals quality > this reel is not smooth >therefore it is not any good plus you want to charge me $300 more than you did last year!
So we turned the handle on the same reel and it felt like there was something wrong with it. The customer was not happy and after throwing some profanities at the reel and Shimano, he walked out. The next logical step was to check the other Stellas to see if they had the same problem. We turned the handle on some of the others and the problem was not as pronounced but there was resistance on the handle and that caused us to start doubting the reels. That snowballed into the theory that all the Stellas were defective and needed to be returned to Shimano.
I had a long conversation with the engineer from Shimano as he looked over all the reels we had in stock. Nice guy. He determined that the Stella that the customer felt was indeed defective. Without taking it apart, he couldn’t determine if it was a bearing issue or a gearing issue but it had some internal problem. He also said that all the other Stella reels (around 20 in total) were in perfect working order.
The engineer was from Japan, so there was a bit of a language barrier, but after a little while going back and forth about smoothness and resistance, I asked him if it was possible that the resistance we were feeling when we turned the handle was due to the o-rings in the handle. The Stella SWB features a waterproof body, which is new for this series of reels and they use gaskets to seal up the places where water could potentially enter the reel. The answer was “yes.” By adding seals to the handle, the energy needed to turn the handle increases. It makes sense because a rubber gasket is going to produce friction, which will slow things down. This is what causes the reels to be a little less smooth when you turn the handle than on the previous model.
When we finally got to the heart of the issue, the engineer said, “Isn’t it more important that the reel be waterproof than it is smooth?” My answer to that was a resounding “no.” In America, Shimano Stellas have been advertised to be the smoothest reels you can find. This has been the mantra for years and years. Stella = smooth. Now you add a feature, an important one, but one that most customers cannot visualize and you don’t explain how they need to change their expectations. Yes the reel is much better than last year’s model but the average customer cannot see and feel that. This is a marketing problem.
The one things that all fishing tackle manufacturers fail at miserably is explaining their products to their customers in an easy and straightforward way. There are a lot of products that you can’t explain in a few words. The new Stellas have several features that fall into this. I think that is why anglers love the YouTube videos we do. They give you a clear understanding of the product in a short amount of time.
The new Shimano Stella Spinning Reels are great. If you are looking for a high end spinning reel to catch big fish with, you will love it! I’ve never had a customer who fished a Stella say that it was terrible. On the contrary, they want to buy more of them! So ignore all the noise from the internet and your preconceived notions about what a Stella should be or was, and embrace what they currently are: A significantly improved series of reels with new features that you might not be able to touch and feel but that you will appreciate when you hook up with a big fish.
Here are a few diagrams from Shimano explaining the new waterproofing system.