Skip to Content

Shimano SLX Baitcasting Reel Reviews

Shimano SLX Baitcasting Reel Reviews

In this review of the Shimano SLX Baitcasting series of reels, we will look at all three versions of this award winning reel.

The SLX and SLX XT were first released in 2018 and the SLX DC was released in 2019 and won Best of Show at ICAST for Freshwater Reel.

If you’re the type of angler who is looking for an affordable and easy-to-use baitcasting reel, you’ll want to look towards the Shimano SLX line of reels. These are lightweight, durable, and great for beginners interested in diving into baitcasting. 

This reel is a workhorse, and it maximizes on Shimano’s technology to provide anglers with a reliable and performance-oriented reel at a price that almost anyone could afford. They have a smaller profile without reducing the line capacity, but they are 20% more compact than the Shimano Caenon. 

When looking at this new line of reels from Shimano, we can see that there are 3 different levels of the reel: the SLX, the SLX XT with an enhanced SVS Infinity braking system, and the SLX DC with the Digital Casting System.

The Bottom Line

  • These are one of the best freshwater baitcasting reels, starting at under $100
  • Very smooth reel with great braking options
  • Three models to get just what you want with features
  • Very lightweight and durable Hagane body

The Shimano SLX series of reels are great and affordable; check pricing HERE.

Let’s take a look at the three different models in detail.

Shimano SLX Baitcasting Reel

If you’re introducing yourself to baitcasting for the first time, you’ll want to go with the original Shimano SLX to get a feel for the changes. Fishing a baitcasting reel requires a bit more experience but the tradeoff is improved accuracy and casting ability. 

The main difference is the use of the thumb bar on top of the spool as opposed to opening and closing a bail when you prepare to cast. 

The Shimano SLX is a great beginner casting reel because its 20% more compact than some of it’s alternatives and it’s at an affordable price range that will allow you to try it out and see if you like it. The Hagane body also provides durability and reduces flexing, which makes it easier to get that perfect cast when you’re learning. 

The Shimano SLX uses centrifugal force instead of magnets to improve casting, and the variable braking system zaps backlashing to improve casting distance and smoothness. 

Shimano SLX XT Baicasting Reel

Shimano took things up a notch with their SLX XT model. This casting reel features all of the great benefits of the original SLX with a few significant improvements. The goal is to keep the reel light using the Hagane body while still maintaining the durability and high performance like the rest of Shimano’s products. 

If you have a little more experience with baitcasters and you’re looking to step up your game, we recommend taking a look at the Shimano SLX XT.  The most prominent upgrade between the two reels comes with their braking system.

They’ve upgraded from a variable braking system to the SVS Infinity braking system. This feature allows anglers to make slight adjustments with an external dial to increase casting distance with a wider range of lures. This feature puts more control in the hands of the angler, which is incredibly important for the best fishing experience.

This technology is one of the newest innovations to brake system technology. SVS Infinity Braking provides easy-to-manage and consistent spool control and brake force. The reel has internal brake weights that provide friction against the raceway during your cast. 

The SVS Infinity Braking controls the speed of the spool to add more precision to your cast. This feature works best for finesse style fishing and using light lures. You get an external adjustment knob for precise adjustments according to conditions or when switching lures. We recommend this reel to anglers who already understand the basics of baitcasting reels because you’ll better understand how to use the customized braking system.

Shimano SLX DC Baitcasting Reel

The final and most recent upgrade to the Shimano SLX is the addition of the Shimano SLX DC, which won an award for the best freshwater reel at ICAST 2019. This reel is the standard of performance in the fishing industry. The primary feature that separates this reel is the addition of a state-of-the art Digital Control braking system (hence the DC in the name). 

For my experienced casting anglers out there, you can go straight towards the Shimano SLX DC for the ultimate in baitcasting. We’re all about smart technology in our homes and in our lives, but never did we think we’d see the day that smart technology comes to our reels. The Shimano SLX DC is as close as you can get to having a “smart reel” in this price range. 

This is the first time that digital controls have ever been offered on a reel at this price point. Anglers get four external braking options that allow you to optimize the performance of your rod based on the type of line, lure, and conditions. The digital control system is waterproof and computer chip controlled.

During your cast, the digital braking system calculates how much braking force you’ll need, and it applies it to provide you with the most accurate cast possible. As this happens, you are maximizing your casting distance, reducing the likelihood of bird nests, and anticipating difficult casting conditions like wind.

The technology charges your cast each time without the use of a power source. Leading up to the cast, the energy is generated by the spool rotation, and it’s stored in the digital control board, so it powers the casts that follow. 

The Shimano SLX DC is like getting yourself a Porsche for the price of a Toyota. The reel caters to anglers of all experience levels, and it carries plenty of premium features for the veterans out there. This reel truly impresses us, and we couldn’t wait to get our hands on it.

The Shimano SLX DC still features the rigid Hagane body with the capacity of a 150-size reel. It still maintains a lightweight and small construction, which makes it easy to hold in your palm. The reel gets manufactured in Shimano’s factory, and they pass the reel through the highest levels of quality checks. This is the freshwater reel to check out in 2019.


Hagane Body – The Hagane compact body screams power, durability, and rigidity. The precision-engineered body results in a smoother reel and less flex. This type of high-quality technology is typically only found in higher end Shimano reels. 

Super Free Spool (SLX XT & SLX DC Models) – The super free spool in the SLX XT and SLX DC is designed to reduce or eliminate friction on the spool shaft. The result here is improved smoothness on the cast resulting in longer casts and more accuracy. With traditional baitcasters, you press down the clutch bar, and the pinion gear is free so it can drag on the shaft. This issue causes excess friction which limits your casting distance.

With super free spools, the pinion gear has ball-bearing support, so when you disengage the clutch, the pinion gear and spool remain aligned. Zero friction means improved casting ability and distance.

Shimano Stable Spool Design “S3D” (SLX XT & SLX DC Models) – In the premium models, you also get the Stable Spool Design. This technology reduces spool vibration by utilizing a thin-walled aluminum constructed spool. The balanced and uniform design creates a smooth feeling during your casts and retrievals. 

VBS Braking (SLX) – The variable braking system in the Shimano SLX model uses centrifugal force as opposed to magnets to control your casting distance. When the system is engaged, the brake weights are forced out at the beginning of the cast, where more backlashes occur. The result is friction, which reduces the speed of the spool. With the slower spool speed, there is less pressure, which allows the spool to continue spinning. The result is consistent speed, which makes casting easier to manage. 

SVS Infinity Braking (SLX XT) – If you pick up a Shimano SLX XT, you’ll upgrade to the SVS Infinity Braking system. This technology is a step up from the VBS in the SLX because it offers easy management and consistent spool control. The brake weights here use friction up against the raceway during your cast.

The result is improved spool speed, which provides more distance and precision to your cast. It comes with an external adjustment knob, so you can adjust the speed with changing conditions or bait. The Shimano SLX XT gives the angler a little more control than the Shimano SLX. 

I-DC4 Braking (SLX DC) – For maximum casting and control, you’ll want to look towards the Shimano SLX DC. This technology is a digitally controlled braking system that is controlled by an internal computer chip. The intelligent braking system uses an externally adjustable brake dial with four different settings.

The technology puts the angler in complete control over their cast by storing energy inside the control circuit board and calculating the amount of braking force you’ll need for the best cast. The digitally controlled system makes it easy to prevent bird nests during challenging casting conditions as well. 

Features at a Glance

  • Hagane Body
  • Super Free Spool (SLX XT & SLX DC Models)
  • Shimano Stable Spool Design “S3D” (SLX XT & SLX DC Models)
  • VBS Braking (SLX)
  • SVS Infinity Braking (SLX XT)
  • I-DC4 Braking (SLX DC)

Shimano SLX Field Test

For our field testing, we took all three of the Shimano SLX reels to our favorite local bass lake to see what all the fuss was about.

Overall, all three of the reels performed very well, with the primary difference being the different braking systems.  We feel that the base SLX model is one of the best under $100 reels on the market.

As we moved from the SLX up to the SLX XT, we felt that we had better control of our casting thanks to the SVS braking system.  Our casting distance improved and it felt like we had better accuracy due to the superior braking control.  We also really like the easy adjustment of the braking system so that we could switch the type of lures and know exactly how much braking to apply.

By far of the three models, we liked the SLX DC the best.  The digital braking system that Shimano has built is really amazing.  We tried and tried to see if we could get the reel to backlash, but we were unable to do so.  We attribute this to the fact that the reel is smart enough to know what is going on and make the appropriate adjustments.

In testing our reels, we decided to pair our STX reels with Shimano’s SLX baitcasting rods. These tournament-level rods offer maximum durability and performance at an affordable price. These rods are built using 24-ton carbon blanks for great strength and sensitivity. The rods contain titanium oxide semi-micro guides, custom reel seats, and comfortable EVA grips.

There are nine different models to choose from, so you can ensure you get the right one for your fishing style. They have sizes ranging from 6’10” to 7’10” with most of them being fast or extra fast. 


  • Advanced braking system for precise casting
  • Hagane body for durability and strength
  • Priced affordably but packed with features


  • The braking system may be challenging for novice anglers


Stacking these reels up against some of its competitors is the best way to make its features stand out. Let’s see how the Shimano SLX line of reels matches up against some other reels in the same price range.

Shimano SLX Alternatives

First, let’s look at the 13 Fishing Inception. This baitcasting reel is priced a little more than the Shimano SLX, but it brings a lot to the table. You get an HD aluminum frame with graphite side plates. It has a 6-way centrifugal braking system, which is similar to the variable braking system used in the SLX.

The Inceptions braking system has six settings that allow you to control the amount of pressure you apply. One of the main advantages of this reel is it’s HD aluminum frame, which allows for saltwater fishing as well. The eight bearing setup is also a step up from the four bearing build on the Shimano SLX.   For the Full 13 Fishing Inception Review, CLICK HERE!

Next , we would have you take a look at the Daiwa Tatula CT.  The Tatula CT debuted to the market in 2016, and it’s Daiwa’s entry-level baitcaster. The reel included a T-Wing line management system, which helps the line flow freely on the spool. This reduces friction to help improve the distance on your cast.

Does it compare to the variable braking system on the Shimano SLX? Not really. The Daiwa Tatula CT does offer a Magforce Z system that helps the line come off the spool quickly in the beginning while applying magnets at the end to reduce the distance and pinpoint accuracy. With this one, you’ll get an eight bearing system, but if you’re looking for saltwater fishing, you might want to look towards the upgraded Daiwa Tatula CT Type R which we look at below.   For the Full Daiwa Tatula CT Review, CLICK HERE!

Shimano SLX XT Alternatives

Here we have another reel from Shimano. The Shimano Curado K offers an ergonomic and compact body, but it’s still a bit heavier at 7.6 oz vs  the Shimano SLX XT’s 7.2 oz. The reel offers a lot of the same primary benefits, including the Hagane body, super free spool, and S3D stable spool system. This one also features the SVS Infinity Braking system to reduce inner friction on the raceway.

So what’s the difference between this reel and the SLX XT? The answer is the price. You’ll get the SLX XT for around 25% less than the Curado K, and it’s still packed with all the incredible benefits. For the Full Shimano Curado K Review, CLICK HERE!

Next, we have the Daiwa Tatula CT Type R. This baitcaster offers a T-Wing System, which reduces some of the most common issues associated with lightweight casting reels. Friction during your cast and uneven line intake during the retrieval are what most anglers experience most often. The Daiwa Tatula CT Type R minimized this with a “T” opening that allows your line to flow freely through the top section of the reel during your cast. The increased gap size reduces friction and helps to distribute your line across the spool evenly.

One feature that falls short on the Daiwa Tatula CT Type R is their magnetic braking system, which doesn’t stand up well to the variable braking system on the Shimano SLX XT. This reel does offer an eight bearing system with two corrosion-resistant ball bearings that provide a better life expectancy and allow for saltwater fishing.  For the Full Daiwa Tatula CT Type R Review, CLICK HERE!

Shimano SLX DC Alternatives

If you’re looking for a premium baitcaster for enthusiasts, the Abu Garcia Revo STX is a great option. The reel is built for durability and reliability with a corrosion-resistant aluminum alloy frame. The frame strength ensures that everything remains aligned to maximize the smoothness of the reel.

The main component that you want to pay attention to is the IVCB-6L Braking system. This upgrade will allow you to get the perfect distance on your cast through the use of a simple-to-operate braking tension control. The side plate on the reel allows you to lock or unlock the six brake arms to tune your brakes based on the condition and the lure you’re using. The main downside is that it’s an “on or off” switch. It doesn’t offer as many variations and options as the Shimano SLX DC. For the Full Abu Garcia Revo STX Review, CLICK HERE!

Lastly, let’s take a look at the 13 Fishing Concept C, which offers a six-way centrifugal braking system so you can adjust the six pins on the braking system to maximize or minimize the distance on your cast. It also offers an arrowhead line guide system, which reduces the likelihood of the line not sitting properly on the spool. One last feature that stands out is the HD aluminum chassis, which eliminates flex and provides the reel with a firm body to improve rigidity and smoothness. The corrosion-resistant bearings in this reel also allow for saltwater fishing. 

While this is a great reel, we really like the automatic adjusting of the Shimano SLX DC.  For the Full 13 Fishing Concept C Review, CLICK HERE!

In Conclusion

The overall theme of this review centers around the primary braking systems of all these reels. When you take a look at the Shimano SLX, Shimano SLX XT, and Shimano SLX DC, you realize that you have three incredibly high-performing reels. The option you choose depends entirely on your level of experience with baitcasters, what type of angler you are, and your budget. 

If you’re diving into casting reels for the first time, the Shimano SLX will work perfectly for you. If you have a little more experience, you might want to upgrade to the Shimano SLX XT or Shimano SLX DC. These reels are designed for anglers who know what they want and understand the importance of a precise and smooth casting reel in their fishing arsenal.

Shimano SLX XT Series Casting Reel | Amazon

Step up to the next level of attainable high-performance baitcasting. The 150 size SLX XT boasts a compact, strong Hagane Body, durable bass gears, and Shimano's reliable SVS Infinity Brake System.

Anglers searching for a true workhorse of a reel are sure to be impressed with the Shimano SLX Casting Reel. Offering tournament-grade performance and durability at a price point that the budget-minded angler can appreciate, the SLX offers serious value to anglers of all levels. Built on a Hagane Body that is 20% more compact than the Shimano Caenan and yet retains the same line capacity, the compact SLX palms exceptionally well while allowing the angler to pack on enough line for long casts. 

Buy on Amazon
“Here at we participate in affiliate programs and may earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.”
Latest posts by David Edwards (see all)