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Alan Hawk

Shimano Stella SW : The Review

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Hello again


Today we move up to the very high end of the spinning market. An exclusive space reserved only for the finest and most expensive reels available today which are Daiwa Saltiga, Accurate Twinspin, and the reel reviewed today, Shimano Stella.


Before I commence, I'd like to point out that this is not a magazine style review. I tend to get technical and stray into comparisons and histories, and will have to include a brief trip report too. So just bear with me and I promise nothing is too boring or complicated :) Also, a message to those who contact me asking for my address to send reels repairs. You are mistaking me for someone else. I do not fix reels and I never opened a reel for any reason other than exploration or evaluation. I'm just a big fishing and tackle junkie, not at all a pro.


Of course everyone knows what a Stella is. To us fishermen it's what a Rolls Royce is to cars, a James Purdey is to guns/rifles, or a Patek Philippe to watches. They always had this reputation, but in reality it has not always been completely accurate. Many haven't heard of the Stella before 1998, but that was the second (or third depending on how you look at it) generation of Stellas. The very first Stella came in 1992-3. Here is a photo of a vintage 1993 Stella 6000.




Since the beginning, they made the Stella as a fully metal reel equipped with the best technology available at the time without much attention to cost. Daiwa on the other hand was trying to catch up with their top of the range Team Daiwa Z (freshwater) and Team Daiwa X (saltwater). Excellent reels, but they fell short of dethroning the Stella as the finest reels in the world. One of my very first reviews was in 1999 which was a comparison between Stella 16000F and Team Daiwa TDX6000HIA, both over the $550 mark which was really out there by the standards of that time. I fished the Cape with both, and the Stella proved to be tougher, smoother, and to have a better drag. This situation was about to change in 2001 though. Daiwa came up with a new truly revolutionary reel with a sexy name: Saltiga. Die hard fans still would not accept that Stella was no longer #1, but in a review I wrote in 2003, I used my own experience with both Saltiga 6000 and Stella 20000FA (2001 generation of Stella), and concluded that the Daiwa was the new #1.


Saltiga was way ahead of its time. They had "Digigear" which were 3D computer designed and cut to achieve perfect meshing between the drive and pinion gears to the last curvature. That provided unrivalled smoothness, and durability like nothing I've seen before. The gears themselves were made of very strong materials. The pinion was machined stainless steel, and the drive gear was machined from a very tough bronze/aluminium alloy C6191 known as "Marine Bronze". That gearing was incredible. I've worn out the stainless steel gearing of a Fin-Nor Ahab in less than 2 years, and when I sold the Twinspin 30 it had developed a considerable play in the gears from wear, while the Saltiga has been serving me for the past 6 years and the gears show no notable wear. Many don't know that how the gears are made is a bigger factor in their strength/durability than merely the materials. My Saltiga has taken hundreds of hard fighting fish, many were large Groupers literally winched with all the stress this puts on gears, and they held up just fine. The Stella FA had an aluminium drive gear and a brass pinion, which many could tell didn't stay as tight for long. The Saltiga also came with the first ever one piece bail wire, which gave flawless line transition to the roller, and was proof to a notorious problem with the 1998 Stella (F series) which was wires coming off the roller assembly. Saltiga had a mechanical emergency anti-reverse (again, a first in spinners) to kick in if a slippage occurs in the one way instant roller clutch. A smart move and a better idea than putting TWO separate roller clutches as they did in the heavy and clumsy Team Daiwa TDX6000.


The Saltiga had a one piece machined handle which was, well, not exactly one piece. It had a stainless steel threaded tube inserted and secured by a screw to attach to the gear axle. The handle could better be described as a "jointless" handle, which while sacrificing the ability to fold for easier transportation, gives a very solid and positive feel that nothing can rival. And staying there, the reel had the male threads machined in the gear axle itself, while the female threads were placed in the handle.




That was a new one, as in nearly every other spinning reel the gear has the female and the handle has the male axles. What this did was making the gear axle much thinner than usual. This is not hard to imagine: A female tube will always be thicker than the male in order to receive it. So by putting the male on the gear axle, they managed to make it incredibly thin.




Why is it good? Well, the best work transmission and efficiency is found in bevel gears. Bevel gears are gears where the axis of the pinion intersects with the axis of the drive gear as in this illustration.




This efficient arrangement is found on reels we all know like Mitchell 488, Penn 720/722, and Van Staal. The problem here was that those reels could not change handle to the other side because the axis of the main gear could not be extended to the other side of the body because the main shaft was in the way. Pretty simple to understand, just read it again and you'll get it.


In reels with handles that could be attached to both sides, which are the most common today, Hypoid gearing is used. The pinion is a little offset, the axes of both gears do not intersect, hence the axle of the main gear could be extended to the other side of the reel's body to receive the handle. This illustration shows Hypoid gears.




This arrangement is very convenient, but work transmission is not as perfect as in bevel gears. Back to the Saltiga, the use of a very thin gear axle (thanks to it being male, not female) allowed them to lower the position of the gear a few millimetres to be as close as possible to the most efficient position which is of course impossible to achieve here. This offered the best efficiency in any reel that has an ambidextrous handle. Again, read it once more if you don't get it, and you'll have the answer to a question few out of the Saltiga design team can answer: Why is the male part in the drive gear and not the handle? Daiwa called it "minimum offset gear", and it could be felt working when cranking under load. If you've used one enough, you can tell that it has an incredible cranking power. Finally not to stray far, the Saltiga was waterproof,.not just water resistant like the Stella FA.


The only thing the 2001 Stella had over the Saltiga was the drag. Both reels could produce 66# of drag, but at high drag settings (over about 35#), Saltiga's drag had a felt starting inertia, that in some cases led to breakages of the stem of the smaller models, and in at least one documented case a breakage of the bail arm on a large model.




Starting inertia in a nutshell could be explained as follows: Newton says that a static body tends to stay static, and a moving body tends to keep moving. So, a static spool set at 40# of drag will not move at 40# of pull, but it will need a starting pull of anything between 45-55# to start moving, then once mobile it will start giving line at the original 40# until it stops and starts again. The difference between the drag setting and the initial pull required to start it is what makes a good drag and a bad one. Obviously, in the Saltiga a considerably big pull is required to start it moving at those very high settings, which results in a felt jerk. When the braid is too strong and the drag is very high, a breakage could result from this phenomena as illustrated in the photo above. The Stella FA did not have this jerk because it had bigger drag washers on the bottom of the spool as well as on top of it, thus achieving the same braking power at much less stress than in the Saltiga.


Looking at the entire package, and with Saltiga's single weak point exclusive to phenomenal drag pressures and even easily fixed with a cheap set of Carbontex washers, the Saltiga came out as the winner and claimed the throne of the top spinner in the world for 7 years.


In 2008, Shimano unveiled the new Stella. I have contacts all over the fishing world, and was told about a reel being spotted in Australia, then in Oman, and again in Central America being tested in the most secretive manner. I wish I could say I figured it out, but in all honesty I thought Okuma was testing a heavy action version of their domestic market V-Alpha spinning reel, which according to ads should be able to put 78# of drag! :shock: But now I think it was the new Stella SW, although I can't be 100% sure.


Anyhow, in Japan they offer 13 domestic reels in different combinations of sizes and gear ratios. The list is too complicated to explain in whole, so check Shimano's Japanese site for the entire line up and feel free to ask me any specific questions Those Japanese models are named SWxxxxxPG/HG/XG. Where PG is Power Gear (low ratio for jigging), HG is High Gear (high ratio for popping), and XG is Extreme Gear or Extra High Gear (even faster ratio). For the US, they offer only 6 of those models. They are named xxxxxSW with no gear designation expect for a single model called 8000SW PG which is a slower ratio version of the regular 8000SW. For the US, the 5000 reels are the smallest of the series, 8000 and 10000 reels have similar bodies with different spool capacities, and the biggest are 18000 (high ratio) and 20000 (low ratio). These two big reels have the wonderful hyper twin disk drag that works on the top and bottom of the spool, and the line capacity of each is safe enough to go after cow tuna and billfish. My 20K took 650 yards of 80# Varivas Jig max power (PE5), and it's supposed to take 320 of 30# mono, but I did not load it with mono. This is roughly 20% more than Saltiga's biggest capacity models, the Dogfight and the Expedition.


It is important to mention here that even though some will swear that they are different, both US and JDM Stellas are identical except for cosmetics and colour schemes. Rumours are all over the net about the US model being made of inferior materials (!) with crappy gearing (!!!), reconditioned components (!!!!!), and cheap bearings (!!!!!!!). I did a disassembly of a JDM last summer as I mentioned in an earlier thread, then in November I was handed a US model to take apart and put those rumours to rest, and I can assure you they are 100% the same reels internally, made by the same people on the same machines using the same components. Period.


For those interested, here is a list of the external differences: US have different handles with yellow anodising. US come in a different reel pouch. US models have different text on the spool (no "ARC spool"), and the JDM has "Aero Wrap" written on the rear while the US model has "Aero Wrap II" (identical, just marketing). And the JDM has a serial number on the foot for domestic service department purposes while the US does not. I don't have a US model right now so maybe I forgot something, but it's all cosmetics as I said earlier.


This little lady cost me $1310. $1200 for the reel, and the rest is courier shipping from Plat in Japan, who, by the way, are some of the most pleasant people you can deal with. The most expensive spinner I've ever bought was a $900 Accurate Twinspin, so this was a new record for me. And regardless of what you said in this poll, the reel is the most beautiful piece of equipment I've ever seen. In fact it is so gorgeous that after I opened the box and photographed it, I put it back in and hid it in the closet for a whole week before I had the guts to remove the factory protective sealing from the handle and spool and load it up :D Here is a photoshoot session that might change your minds (Or not. What do you know about beauty anyway :p)








The 2001 Stella was not as waterproof as the Saltiga. Thus one of the first things I did was test its water resistance rigorously, and I am satisfied that it's as good as the Saltiga if not a little better because of the new seals and corrosion resistant ball bearings used in this reel. There are even two cuts in the rotor flange to let water out faster as you'll see in photos later.


On the surf, I noticed that the rotor's cast brake is so strong trying to turn the handle with the bail open could give you a hernia! It's true that the larger models (18000 & 20000) do not have a bail trip and their bails can only be closed manually, but the strong rotor brake gives a solid lock that feels good during power casts. I need to mention here that Shimano USA made a mistake in the PDF parts diagram they have on their site for this reel. They describe the cast brake lever as "bail trip lever", which is wrong as this 20k size reel does not have a bail trip.


The other thing I noted on my first use was the casting distance The reel has one of the most talked about features in recent memory, which is the reverse tapered spool lip that was claimed to increase casting distance. I will not lie in here. I admit that I laughed it out as a marketing gimmick and could not imagine how that would work, but I was grossly mistaken. To this moment I still can't comprehend the theory, because the line is supposed to be touching the spool at a single point and it does not know if the lip takes a specific shape or another. But pencil and paper is one thing, and real life testing is something else. The line comes off the spool very tightly and extremely fast, pushing the casting distance by nearly 15-20% in my case. The lip is coated with something that is both very hard and very slippery, and the whole spool is also coated with ceramic coating to resist scratches. That helps much in casting and scratch resistance, but makes it very slippery as well. This is why braid directly on the spool would not work. I tried it, but then I could see a whole 400 yards of tightly wound braid rotate on the spool! The export model comes with stickers to stick braid to the spool, and it works fine. But I'd rather put 20 meters of mono first and it takes care of it.


The reel is both smooth, and very free spinning. There is a big difference between the two terms that people always confuse. Smoothness means no gear sound or whirring that could be heard or felt through the handle, while free spinning means the handle turns easily with nearly no resistance. So, the Saltiga is as smooth as the Stella because there is no whirring or gear noise in both, but rotating the Daiwa's handle feels heavier because of all the seals around the handle knob, main gear, and pinion. People often confuse this and say that Saltiga is not as smooth, but this is not accurate. Stella's flowing motion and easy rotation come from using a different approach to sealing, which I will discuss later. But Stella's free spinning means that retrieving your jigs and poppers will be easier, and at the end of the day you can tell your muscles are not as fatigued as would be if using the Saltiga or TwinSpin. Important also when you have to retrieve a jig from 200m deep water and you don't need the added resistance from the reel's own seals.


Speaking of muscle fatigue, the reel has received a big weight reduction over the older Stella. My 20K weighed 29.62 OZ without line instead of +33 OZ for the older model. The Saltiga weighs 28.74 OZ, so less than an ounce weight difference. They did it smartly and without sacrificing strength, and in my humble opinion even gave it more strength than the older model. An example is the handle: Somehow they managed to take the handle's weight below that of the Saltiga's, although Stella's has a joint, larger steel axle, and a cross pin, all of which were supposed to make it much heavier than the Saltiga's!






To Alphonse Island, Seychelles, 5 of us fished for 5 days, me trying to put as much use on it as possible. If I was not fishing, I gave it to someone who was. Always a welcomed move being the nicest reel we had on board. We had a Dogfight, a Japanese Metaroyal Safari, a TS12, and some other light tackle. I changed half way from Avanti jig Max power to 80# fireline XDS and piared it with on a Carpenter OH55, then later with some generic Daiwa rod for a 250g jig. Heading out we caught good sized bonitos but no drag runs there. Then we popped for GT catching only a single fish about 25#, then -highly disappointed- called it a day. Next morning we split. I stayed on the boat and three headed to wade the flats in St. Francois lagoon after bonefish. I caught three nice BFT and the other guy got more than that but mine were bigger, the best around 80#. Next day the others joined us on the boat but no one got anything worthy of mention, and at some point we changed into trunks and swam for the remainder of the afternoon. Following day we split again, I catch a YFT on a popper and my friend catches a small Dogtooth, then nothing significant afterwards. The others had much better luck with bonefish including a very nice 7# fish, but I'm not really into fly fishing. Last day, we got a word from the guys at the flats that some big GT were venturing the shallows chasing bonefish, but they did not have heavy gear. We headed to them against the captain's advice who'd just heard of nice BFTs over the radio from another boat, but I really wanted to catch a large GT. When we arrived there was nothing. They swore there were many some as large as 70#, but there was nothing to be seen. They spent the rest of the day catching bones while I sat there tanning and drinking beer, prematurely switching off the fishing mode and thinking about the flight out and work waiting for me. Then on our way back to Alphonse (40 minutes trip) I trolled my faithful Magnum Rapala, and 15 minutes into it, I was half sleepy when I got a massive bite and the drag went screaming. Line was going off like mad and I just did not dare to tighten the drag because the fireline snapped on me earlier and I nearly kicked myself then for not spooling the Max Power back. That initial run seemed not to be slowing down, the captain tried to manoeuvre the boat to where the fish was headed, but it became obvious that I was going to hit the thin mono backing soon (the fireline I had was less than 400m so lots of mono was in there). I began palming the spool to slow it down and stroke back trying to change the fish's direction, but a loud crack followed and the fireline laid there in the water snapped. Never knew what it was, and while everyone was trying to make a guess I was wondering to myself if there could be anyone who's lazier than me. Trolling with braid is always a bad idea because of the lack of stretch. I knew it, was too lazy to change to mono, so I should not have trolled at all. I lost many fish before, but I was saddened by the loss of my beautiful Finnish made Rapala that has travelled the world with me for more than a decade. But its all history now.


I knew more about the reel on this trip. Although I heard the drag before, I never noticed until one of the guys told me it sounds like a big game multiplier! Never commented on a clicker sound before, but this reel has a very pleasant one indeed. The drag itself is probably made by aliens and shipped to Shimano on banana shaped space ships :read: I've never seen anything like it. Smooth startup, smooth running, no overheating, and the drag pressure seemed not to be affected by the loss of large amounts of line. Also, under heavy loads the Saltiga's rotor arm flexes towards the spool, and although it does not break, it still makes you feel uneasy. The new Stella does not do this. Everything stays in place and any pull on the line is transmitted cleanly to the responsive drag. Simply perfect, and the drag is easily the best thing about this reel.


To the surgery table, but first, this is how it looks inside the pouch that comes with the JDM. It's designed to fit around the reel while it's mounted on the rod. Nice!






Removing the line




This is my mono backing which -and I repeat- is a must with the slippery ceramic coating on the spool.


The upper drag stack




Here we can see a great engineering feature of this reel. #1 is the drag waterproof seal, but with a twist: instead of using a simple rubber seal, they actually moulded the seal on a metal washer making them a single part. This way the retainer does not put pressure on the rubber seal as rubber is not designed to handle pressure, but rather the pressure goes evenly on the metal washer while the rubber seal moulded onto it works solely to keep water out. There is no finish wear or scuffing on it. It just looks like this because of the combination of metal and rubber in a single piece. Still in the above photo, #2 is the top drag ball bearing (it has two of them) inside its metal housing, and #3 is a pressure cone designed to transmit the drag pressure to the stack underneath the seal without putting any load on the seal itself. Genius stuff!


The above mentioned seal is not the only waterproofing of the drag




A rubber seal mounted on the knob makes it impossible for water to get in even if hit by a massive wave.


The knob itself




The knob is machined metal. Very luxurious looking and a pleasure to touch. The drag of the Stella increases more rapidly than the older model. It has a micro clicker system for fine adjustment, but once you want to go nuts it will increase very rapidly without the need to give it many turns. Achieving high drag does not require much power. The drag gives high pressure with ridicules ease and very small stress due to the large area of the under-spool drag. Speaking of which....




In the above photo you can see the drag assembly cover (#1), made of metal, and #2 are skirt drillings which are both cosmetic and to reduce weight and accordingly inertia of the spool. A great design feature, though exclusive to 18K and 20K, is that the new SW has everything contained inside the spool, perfectly protected from water. This protected assembly contains the lower ball bearing and the spool hub and seal. In the older Stella the bearing was also protected inside the spool, but the spool hub with the seal were fixed to the shaft which compromised the integrity and safety of the seal and its grease each time the spool was removed. In the Saltiga the lower spool bearing stays on the shaft as shown in the following photo




Pointed to by the red arrow is the ball bearing, and the seal is located above it (blue arrow), thus that lower ball bearing has no protection against saltwater. In the Stella, in addition to protecting everything behind the seal inside the spool, this new system leaves the main shaft solid and free of holes. The shaft of the old Stella had a hole to pin down the hub, and the shaft of the Saltiga has two holes, one could be seen in above photo, and the other is just below the hub. This adds strength to the main shaft of the new Stella.


Inside the Stella's drag




#1 is the metal spool hub and you can see the seal at the bottom and an extra seal on the top for extra security. #2 is a metal drag washer and pointed by the red arrow is the drag clicker which creates that big game reel sound. #3 are the two carbon fibre drag washers. The washers are keyed to the spool's body for a very good reason: Drag washers are always sandwiched between two metal washers. A regular washer that is not keyed normally adheres to one of the metal washers thus only one of its two sides acts as a brake. Get it? Imagine holding two metal plates in your hands with a piece of paper between them, then twisting the two metal plates in opposite directions. The paper WILL adhere to one of them and rub against the other, which is what happens with regular drag washers. When they key the carbon fibre washer of the new Stella to the spool, it will remain static and both of its sides will work as brakes against the two rotating metal washers. This way you get the work of two drag washers using only one, which works towards reducing parts and weight in these reels. Extremely brilliant engineering. The whole under-spool drag system provides great heat dissipation qualities as opposed to upper stack only systems that trap heat in the washers inside the spool's spindle. In a long fight good heat dissipation is vital.


Still in the above photo, #4 is the keyed recess of the washers in the spool, and inside it you can see the lower ball bearing held in place by a wire spring. #5 is the toothed ring the clicker clicks on. It is removable so that when it wears you can replace it without having to get a new spool. Before I move away from the drag, I should probably mention what they call "rigid support drag". The drag components are cut and fitted to a very close tolerance that when mounted the spool does not tilt on the shaft like it tilts in the Saltiga and most other reels. This is very important in small freshwater reels because that spool wobble can be fatal for thin lines on medium drag settings. Not as important in heavy saltwater reels, but its presence in the new Stella adds a touch of finesse to the reel: Hold the spool and try to tilt it on the shaft and it won't tilt.


Handle knob




Pointed by the arrow is the seal under the Shimano logo plate.






Two corrosion resistant sealed ball bearings for the handle. In the Saltiga the bearings are regular non-sealed ones, thus they had to put a separate seal between the knob and the shaft to protect them. This seal is one of the reasons why the Saltiga is heavier to wind as mentioned earlier.


Another example




The handle has a seal mounted on it where it goes through the body to meet the drive gear, and there are no seals on either side of the drive gear inside the gearbox. In the Saltiga and TwinSpin there are permanent seals inside the gearbox on both sides of the main gear, therefore in those two reels every time you turn the handle you work against the resistance of two seals. In the new Stella, the seal is mounted on the handle itself and goes with it to the side you want to attach the handle to, while the other side is protected by the screw-in cover. This means that when you turn the handle of the Stella SW you are working against the resistance of only one seal, not two. One more reason why it's easier to wind. Will not mention this again for other sealed areas not to be boring. You got the idea.


Removing the rear shield




The arrow points to the double sealed opening through which the worm gear mounting rods go (you'll see them later). It is sealed here for a good reason




Because there are two holes in the shield itself. Due to the complex shape of this rear shield it's not possible to seal its entire parameter where it meets the reel's body. So these holes are there to drain water out so that saltwater won't be trapped inside and cause corrosion to the body. The water though can't get inside the gearbox because of the rubber seal shown in the previous photo.


Moving in




Removing the nut retainer #1, the main shaft seal is visible #2. They changed from flat seals in old Stella to ones with conical head that give better protection.






Removing the nut, you can see a space between the shaft and the pinion (red arrow). This is for the "floating shaft" system which is a complete isolation of the shaft from the pinion to reduce friction and wear, also giving a smoother winding especially under heavy loads. That ball bearing you can see inside the nut on the right keeps the shaft in the centre of the hole not touching the pinion, and that same bearing also eliminates friction between the rotor and the shaft when the rotor spins. On the other end inside the gear box the shaft is mounted on the oscillation cam not to touch the pinion from that end too. Try this floating shaft when the reel is loaded and you will be surprised by the absence of any roughness/friction and the smooth cranking it gives you.


Removing the rotor




Pointed to by arrows are the rotor guards. I hate them because they are made of plastic. They must be made of plastic because plastic does not dent while metal does, and they are supposed to resist dents in those vulnerable areas. But I just hate plastic even if it was a must. Saltiga has three external plastic parts only, while the Stella SW has 4.






Seen here are #1 the rubber ring that keeps the rotor still during casts, #2 the new screw-in cover that effectively seals everything, #3 the rotor seal, and #4 is the filed areas in the flange to allow water to drain faster. There are similar filed areas on the opposite end of the flange too that can't be seen from this angle.


The side cover screws




This is how you know you are dealing with a fine product hand assembled by the best people. The screws are all on the same side cover, yet you can see that two different types of loctite were used. Blue one for larger screws, and red one for smaller screws that is supposed to hold tighter as the contact area is naturally smaller for smaller screws. They could have used the same loctite for all screws on the side cover, but they wouldn't do this on the high end Stella. Not a big deal, but I like those refining touches that tell me my money was spent wisely.






#1 is the huge main gear, #2 gear's ball bearing, #3 the flange rubber seal, and the arrows point to two steel studs embedded in the cover to give perfect fit on the reel's body. I love this bit and the work that went into it.






That flange seal is such a good idea I had to give you a closeup of it (red arrow).


Where are the ball bearings manufactured?




See for yourselves. The bearings of the Daiwa Saltiga are Made in Thailand. Again not such a big deal, but in the back of my head the origin of the Stella's bearings makes me smile. If I spend $1310 on a reel, I expect only the best and most expensive components, and the Stella delivers.


The second best thing about this reel in my humble opinion: The Drive gear




The drive gear is cold forged duralumin. Cold forging is much better than machining in such applications. Unlike machining, it creates a very dense and solid part, and this is done without breaking molecular bonds as happens with hot forging or casting. Then the gear goes through a 3D computer controlled shaving process in which mating surfaces of the teeth are made to match the pinion teeth perfectly to the tinniest curvature. And afterwards the gear is surface treated with a bronze alloy that penetrates beyond the surface to add even more durability to the gear, while preserving the smoothness and shock resistance qualities of the duralumin. Just imagine going through all this expensive work to create a gear when they could have machined a noisy rattling stainless steel one for a few dollars!! Still in the above photo, #1 is the wire spring that activates the emergency mechanical anti-reverse, and #2 is the stainless steel gear axle to give a dead lock with the stainless steel handle threads.






Arrows and red dotting show the areas on the teeth where metal is visibly dense from the forging process. You know I'm good at this, I already said 6 years ago that Saltiga's gears will last forever and I was right. Now I'm telling you that those gears of the new Stella will even outlast those of the Saltiga. And this is from the same person who bashed the old Stella and called its gears rubbish when they were rubbish.


Speaking of cold forging, the spool of the new Stella is also cold forged for absolute strength. The spools of all other top reels are machined.


Still at the drive gear




The arrow points to an area where they reduced the thickness of the gear's axle so that the gear could be lowered closer to the main shaft, hence pushing it closer to the perfect position relative to the pinion for better work transmission (explained at the beginning for the review). Still not as close as the Saltiga has achieved through its male axle, but a combination of this and the Stella's much larger diameter drive gear gives an end result that I did not expect to see any time soon: The new Stella has more cranking power than the amazing Saltiga. I could feel it fishing, then I did tests with tools and weights and arrived at this conclusion. The larger main gear delivers more torque on the pinion for the same work you do, something the Stella always had over the Saltiga, but when they reduced the gear axle's thickness and brought it closer to the shaft in the new Stella, it finally took over the Saltiga in output cranking power.


The next paragraph could bore you to death, so skip it if you were not mechanically inclined.


****************** Boring***********************


How could they reduce the thickness of the axle in the new Stella but not the older one?


The old Stella had the common system for attaching the handle to both sides. Which is demonstrated in this photo (not a Stella, but an identical system).




In this common system the handle has an axle, and on that axle there are two sets of threads. One set tightens clockwise for right winding, and the other set tightens counter-clockwise for left winding. Convenient, but mechanically imperfect. First problem, the length of the axle must be divided into two halves (for two sets of threads) and only one half of that length will be utilised when the handle is attached to either side. Secondly, one set of threads must be smaller in diameter than the other. In the photo above you can see that set "4" is thinner than set "5". Therefore, when only half length of the threaded part will be utilised at any given moment, and when one set of threads is thinner than the other, the attachment of the handle to the reel in that common system is not the strongest. Also they can't make the drive gear's axle thinner because it has to be thicker than the thicker set of threads.


For the new Stella they made two separate axles for the handle. One for the right side and one for the left. The extra axle comes with the reel in a bag, and if you want to change the handle to the other side you first have to remove a small screw then attach that extra axle to the handle.




This is the extra axle. Not as convenient as the other common system, but its benefits are obvious: The axles for both sides are now of equal diameter and strength because the need to make one thinner (and weaker) than the other is gone, and now the handle is attached to either side using threads on the axle's entire length giving this setup twice the strength of the older one. And finally, they could reduce the thickness of the drive gear's axle because now there is no fat part in the handle's threaded axle. When they reduced the thickness of the drive gear's axle in the Stella SW, they could lower the gear closer to the perfect position, and bang, the Saltiga no more delivers the biggest cranking power of all ambidextrous reels as it did for the past 7 years..


*******************End of boredom*******************


Pinion assembly




The pinion is made from hardened stainless steel as opposed to brass in the old Stella. When it works with the new drive gear, the smoothness is exactly as the older one (and some even say smoother), but gears are much more durable and stronger. #1 is the small ball bearing for the fore portion of the pinion, #2 is the larger ball bearing in its housing for the rear portion of the pinion, and #3 are the two stainless steel gears that will stop the rotor if a slip occurs in the one way roller and the backup mechanical anti-reverse kicks in.


Not that it's likely for the one way clutch to slip




This is the best clutch in any spinning reel out there. Can be seen are the clutch ring #1, the assembly waterproof seal #2 which also is rubber moulded onto a metal washer of the same hybrid type mentioned earlier, and #3 the clutch cover to keep everything where it should be.


Why is it the best?




This is Shimano's own design, not just a clutch you can buy from a manufacturer. It is the best though because it has the best features of both types of clutches. Those who have read my past reviews will find this part repeated, but I'll go over it quickly for those who did not. One way clutches are either spring type and non-spring type. Non spring type lives longer but slips more and gives a tiny amount of back play before it locks the rotor. Spring type does not slip as much and gives a firm lock with no play at all, but the springs are V shaped plastic ones moulded in the cage, thus with heavy use the springs will lose their elasticity and the clutch will start slipping frequently. In this Shimano designed clutch you have a spring type clutch (no slippage or back play), but the springs are actually metal coil springs, not plastic. Therefore they will not wear and they are in fact pretty strong that this is the only clutch I'd recommend using grease on. If you want to see a regular spring type clutch check the Sargus review in my signature, and for non-spring clutch check the Soron review.


Back side of the clutch




Showing the metal retainer and studs that make it only fit in a single predetermined position.


This is a crowded photo




#1 The Pinion, #2 the oscillation drive gear, #3 two stainless steel rods on which the oscillation cam is mounted, #4 the oscillation worm gear, #5 oscillation cam, #6 emergency stop gears, #7 the mechanical emergency stop itself, #8 the other main gear ball bearing, #9 threads for the clutch/bearing assembly cover, and the two Xs show the locations of the tiny ball bearings on which the oscillation system is mounted (shown later).


Rear look




The arrow points to the tiny clearance between the shaft and the pinion. The Shaft does not touch the pinion on either end. Here it is mounted in the oscillation cam #2 which in turn is mounted on the two steel rods #3 leaving the shaft "floating" with no contact/friction with the pinion.


Adult photo. Under 18 don't look please :D




#1 is the naked body of the reel with everything off. #2 is the oscillation worm gear, and you can see a tiny rubber ring on its fore part to stop any play between it and the oscillation drive gear #5. The two stainless steel rods #3 are the cam's mounting rails. #4 are the two tiny ball bearings for the worm gear, #6 main shaft, and #7 is the very expensive Dupont Krytox Teflon grease I use on my most expensive gear.


Good stuff




The tiny oscillation pawl assembly. This is one small area that carries a huge stress and very good care should be given to it. In many cases people would service a Stella and ignore this assembly, causing rapid deterioration of the reel. #1 is the pawl itself, #2 are the ball bearing, washer, and retainer disc, and #3 is the hole in which the 4 parts go. The old Stella did not have a ball bearing here, and the extra smoothness could be felt in the new one.


Closeup on the cam




The oscillation cam is made from a heavy alloy that is stronger than aluminium. The arrows show the holes through which the mounting rods go.


Look at this




The Saltiga is beautiful, but the flowing lines of the Stella make the Daiwa look boxy in comparison. It doesn't hurt the Stella to look beautiful in addition to its world class performance.


The line roller




Wide, beautifully finished in black, and very light to spin.


The bail wire




One piece bail wire that takes the line uninterrupted to the roller. Looks and feels very luxurious, and actually a better design than the Saltiga's. In the Saltiga, when the line clears the one piece bail wire it lands first on an aluminium part of the bail arm reinforcement before sliding to the roller. But in the Stella the line will clear the bail wire to land directly on the waiting roller. The yellow stud is a smart design bit. They sell a small kit to convert it to bail-less, and all you have to do is to remove this stud and insert the pin from the kit, then attach the counter weight from the kit too to the other side, and it becomes a bail-less reel.


Roller disassembled




#1 are the two tiny ball bearings the roller runs on, #2 bearing housings, #3 and #4 different adjusting washers that are very confusing for the less experienced owner, don't know where the hell has #5 gone, and #6 is the line roller itself with its finish described by Shimano as "diamond like coating". That finish on the roller is basically a very hard carbon coating applied using some ultra complicated atom bombardment processes done inside a miniature reactor. I don't care how hard it is, I just love that beautiful deep black colour :D


Bail mechanism




The arrow points to the lever that engages the rubber ring to stop the rotor from moving during a cast.


A close up on that lever




Showing the precise filing done on the curve to guarantee it won't hit anything. How classy is this?


Other side




Counter weight is beautifully disguised as the bail end piece.


And finally, the back of the line roller




Everyone else puts some loctite on a single screw and leaves it there. But here you can see the main screw #1, a metal plate that keeps the screw from moving or getting loose #2, then a tiny screw #3 to hold the plate that holds the screw in place! Masterful work indeed.


In conclusion, a modern reel is simply three things: A drag, an anti-reverse, and strong gears. Stuff such as water proofing, bail locks, scratch protection, etc, all take second place to those three things that make or break a reel. In the past when fish were not biting, we used to get into the eternal Stella vs Saltiga discussion to kill time. It always circled around the lines of "Stella is smoother with a better drag, but Saltiga has stronger gears and cranks better". I do believe that with the new Stella this argument has been put to sleep for good. The new Stella has immensely strong gearing, the best anti reverse available, and that drag is going to change fishing as we know it today. I expect more people to replace their conventional boat reel with Stellas until at one point multipliers will be used only when you are after record big game monsters.


This reel is not for everyone, nor it is something that people won't be able to live without. It's just a beautiful expression of what humans can achieve in absolute refinement, luxury, and engineering perfection when money is not an object, and I simply wanted to share this expression with you.


Hope you have enjoyed this :)


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Thank you. As always your reviews are informative and reasoned, whether everyone will be in total agreement or not with your final conclusions.


The 20000 is not really a surf reel, but smaller Stellas might find their way to surf use -- could you estimate the resistance of the design to sand infiltration which can impede close moving parts even when it does not penetrate the heart of the gears or bearings?


It's hard to imagine any other use for those two holes for the worm gear mounting rods than allowing for easier removal while guaranteeing no slippage on that end when installed. Perhaps like the pin hinges in an auto door, some simple tasks are best done simply.

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wow great read. Looks like I'm making room for a jdm stella now. You mention the jdm and us versions are mechanically identical, does that apply to the seals as well. Additionally is this thing just splash/ wave proof or skish worthy. How familiar are you in terms of 8k sized reels and are they built the same, minus the underspool drag (i assume)


Thanks man

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WOW!!clapping.gifclapping.gifclapping.gif excellent review. This should be moved into the maintenance forum. Do you find the saltiga easier to take apart(maintenance)? Seems like a million parts in the stella.cwm31.gif

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Thanks for that in depth, time consuming review.


I have been looking at the 5000SW for fishing off the kayak. I don't dunk reels, not intentionally but I can be sure they will get at the least splashed. Rebuilding once or twice a season would be the norm for reels while fishing on the kayak and taking splash and exposure to the salt. Thanks for your honesty on what it will take to clean this reel and rebuild. 5 hours for the home reel enthusiast for complete breakdown and rebuild is some serious time.

I prefer reels to be very easy to rebuild just because of what I put them thru all in the name of having a smooth reel. By now I would have had the VS but it's not smooth enough for me.


What is Shimanos commitment for repair and service on the SW? It may be worth it just to send it out, if it's within reason.

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Thanks for taking time to show us in laymans terms what great engineering from a great company has to offer us.


It seems that the "normal" consumer may never get to really appreciate this reel but to those on this board and out there pushing their gear to the limits we now have an upgraded tool to get the job done. Amazing that you can say that spinners will replace the penn intl conventionals (besides going for the record type). It shows that we can be that more confident in this reel for the price we pay.


I can't wait untill daiwa makes their next move.


Either way, as anglers around the globe we win.


Your time is much appreciated.

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Very nice review..looks like the king of spinners in the Ditch will have some company..

Alan if your not on the payroll of any of the big reel manufactures in some sort of consultive fashion..You certainly should be.

It's a tough call cause I would like to see your reviews continue.On the other hand I can only imagine what might transpire with your insight.

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Thank you for such an extensive tear down and review (5 hrs!). I enjoyed the background and history, as well. Whether reviewing a sub 100$ abu or the >1k stella, the time and thought put into your journals/reviews is appreciated and your opinion is greatly valued. wow...

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Alan does it again!!


There's been a lot of buzz all over the net about your upcoming review, and you delivered as promised, uncut and unabashed. Outstanding job my friend!


All the tackle junkies around the world will be experiencing withdrawal symptoms upon reading your review today lol..


The picture of the bearing with "JAPAN" was simply the icing on the cake for me. That pic makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside smile.gif

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Simply Amazing.


When Grand-pop used to make his Secret Sausage & Peppers, we would ask him his secret ingredient.


Grandma used to say 'love'.


Damn, Mr. Hawk, that was some great food!!!


Thank you.

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thanks for the great, and detailed review mate. You do the BEST reviews i have ever seen, bar none.

Think i will lash out on one of these babies, i ve got a date with a a huge GT in Indonesia in about a month, cheers Al, ill have a beer for ya!beers.gif

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As a photographer, I am very impressed with your photography.

As the owner of 3 old stellas, I am rather depressed to find they're outdated, and must be! Great review of a great reel. Thanks!


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Alan..... another home-run.... outta da park...... awesome reveiw... your in depth knowledge and attention to even the smallest detail in a reel is stunning... keep up the good work....

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