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Shimano Stella SW Reel Review

Shimano Stella SW Reel Review

The Shimano Stella SW Spinning Reel has been called a lot of names, including “The King of Saltwater Spinning Reels” and “The Premier Big Game Spinning Reel on the Market Today”.  With names like that and a reputation that follows comes a high price tag.

In this review of the Stella SW reel, I will try to uncover the truth about this legendary reel and determine if it is really worth the $1,000+ price tag that accompanies it. The Stella SW falls into the category called “Super Spinners” which are aimed specifically at the Big Game market.

The Shimano Stella was first introduced in the spring of 1993 and has always held the position as the flagship of saltwater spinning reels from Shimano.

The Stella is usually the first reel in the lineup to get the newest and best technology, and had new models released in 1998, 2008 and the newest revision in 2013 that represent that.

The most recent version of the Stella SW is available in 8 sizes, ranging from a 5,000 up to the new monster 30,000 and comes in one or more of the three gearing ratios.  HG – High Gear for popping, PG – Power Gear for jigging; and XG – Extreme Gear for the fastest retrieve rate.

The gearing ratio can be found at the end of the model number, for example, STL8000SWBHG.

Now let’s dig into the details and see what makes a Stella SW a Stella SW and if it is worth the money that is commanded for it.


Power aluminum body, X-Rigid rotor, X-Rigid body and X-Rigid handle – These three components are all constructed of metal and reduce the loss of power that can be found in lesser designed reels due to flex.

X-Tough Drag – The X-Tough drag offers between 29 and 66 lbs of drag, depending on the model of Stella SW that you select.  Simply put, this is the toughest drag that has ever been offered by Shimano and is known to provide a very smooth and strong drag to go up against hard fighting fish such as Tuna and Amberjacks that love to run hard.

The drag consists of a top stack of carbon fiber washers, and the bottom stack uses two eared carbon fiber brake washers separated by a metal washer. One nice improvement over the 2008 model is the new seal on the drag knob that sits further outside of the spool and therefore keeps water from penetrating as deep into the spool as the previous design.

New for 2013 is the use of the double-disc drag on the smaller 8k, 10k and 14k models.

X-Ship – As with other Shimano reels that use the X-Ship technology, there are two bearings located on each end of the pinion gear that provide support.  This means that the gears are able to stay in alignment when they are under a heavy load.

When a large Palegic such as a Tuna or Sailfish makes a run, there is a large amount of torque placed on the reel, and it is not uncommon in many reels to feel like it is getting bogged down. This is due to the gears getting torqued out of alignment.

X-Shield & X-Protect  – When these two technologies are combined, they provide the best waterproofing protection available on the market today.  Together, there are a series of o-rings and sealing gaskets located in the most important areas of the reel to keep water, sand, and dirt from penetrating.

While I have not personally tested these reels while submerged, it has been reported by numerous individuals that the reel can be operated while fully submerged and still not have water penetration, which is pretty amazing.

Propulsion® line management system – The propulsion line management system is composed of a spool with a longer stroke design and a new spool lip that allows for your line to easily peel off the spool when casting without any backlashing or wind knots.

Aero Wrap® II oscillation – Aero Wrap is part of the propulsion line management system.  Using a special worm gear oscillation, Shimano is able to assure that the line lays very evenly on the spool.

Of course, you have the ability to shim the spool to control this even more.  Even line lay means that all of the energy that you put into your cast is going to be transferred so that you increase the distance of your casting consistently.

Paladin® gear durability enhancement – Shimano combines a cold-forged aluminum drive gear with a specially hardened brass gear that has proven to provide the very long lasting smoothness that Shimano is so famous for.

Cold-forged aluminum spool – The cold-forged aluminum spool is designed for strength and is much stronger than either a die-cast aluminum or graphite spool.

14 S A-RB® bearings (Shielded A-RB) – The use of shielded anti-rust bearings add to the durability of the reel, especially when it comes to saltwater.

Super Stopper® II – Shimano uses a one-way roller bearing, as do a number of other manufacturers, that allows you to instantly set the hook when you want without any back play in the reel.  This is also referred to as a stopperless design, meaning that the anti-reverse is on all the time and does not require a switch to engage it.

Septon® handle grip – models 10,000 and up – Septon is a specific type of material that the handles are comprised of that has a very sticky or tacky feel to them.  This allows your hand to not slip off of the handle when fighting larger fish.

This is one area where I think that personal preference comes into play, some people will want to replace the handle with a carbon fiber or metal knob.

Fluidrive® II – Fluidrive refers to the cutting process that is used when cutting the gears to get an extremely tight tolerance and thus the gears mesh better and provide a more fluid feel to them.

Dyna-Balance® – Just like when your car tire is out of balance, you get wobble, the same can be said for the rotor on a spinning reel.  Shimano used computers to aid in the balancing of each rotor to fine tune it.

 Features at a Glance

  • Power aluminum body
  • X-Rigid rotor
  • X-Rigid body and handle
  • X-Touch Drag
  • X-Ship 
  • X-Shield & X-Protect 
  • Propulsion® line management system
  • Propulsion spool lip
  • SR one-piece bail wire
  • Aero Wrap® II oscillation
  • Paladin® gear durability enhancement
  • Cold forged aluminum spool
  • Ceramic Coating on entire spool
  • Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) line roller coating
  • 14 S A-RB® bearings (Shielded A-RB)
  • Super Stopper® II
  • Stopperless Design (no anti-reverse switch)
  • Septon®; handle grip – models 10,000 and up
  • Fluidrive® II
  • Dyna-Balance®

One of the things that stands out the most to me with the Shimano Stella SW is the attention to detail when it comes to making this reel waterproof.  This is accomplished by what Shimano refers to as X-Shield, which locates gaskets and o-rings in 12 potential penetration points to keep the saltwater and grime out.

What really makes this reel waterproof is called X-Protect.  X-Protect is a triple-lipped seal/gasket that is located around the rotor.  By using a series of lips, it is nearly impossible for water to enter the rotor.

The first lip is the first line of defense and keeps the majority of water and grime out.  Between the second and third lips, we find grease that will repel higher pressure water when the reel is inadvertently submerged.

While it is not recommended, we have been able to fully submerge the Stella and crank the handle for a period of 10+ minutes, and there was no evidence of water getting into the reel.

The Shimano Stella SW is an excellent reel, as you would expect for the price you pay.  The latest release has several new additions when it comes to technology, such as the coil wave spring that makes dialing in the drag much more precise, especially under the heavier drag settings.

The question that you have to ask yourself is: Is the Stella SW worth the asking price for the few extra bells and whistles you get?


  • Waterproof, well nearly 🙂
  • Mostly high-end construction
  • Improved castability
  • Smooth and Durable
  • Bragging rights


  • High price point
  • Slightly heavier than 2008 version
  • Service port no longer exists
  • Some plastic parts
  • No standout features as compared to the Shimano Spheros SW

Shimano Stella SW Alternatives

Staying with the Shimano brand, I would probably skip the Twin Power SW and settle on either the Shimano Saragosa SW or even the Shimano Spheros SW which are approximately one-third and one-fifth the cost, respectively, with MANY of the same components as the Stella SW.  Yes, that is right; they have parts that are literally interchangeable but they do not carry the Stella prestige.

Read the full Shimano Twin Power SW review HERE.
Read the full Shimano Saragosa SW review HERE.
Read the full Shimano Spheros SW review HERE.

I have not finished my review on the Daiwa Saltiga Saltwater yet but it is going to be a very good and similarly priced alternative.

If you are looking for the larger sizes 20,000 and 30,000 spinning reels for targeting those large offshore Pelagic species, then you definitely want to take a look at the Okuma Makaira, which will run you about two-thirds the cost of the Stella SW and is very similar in terms of quality.  Read the full Okuma Makaira Spinning Reel Review HERE.

In Conclusion

With a $1,000+ price tag – purchasing a Shimano Stella SW the “King of Saltwater Spinning Reels,” is not something that most people jump into lightly.

Yes, it is an excellent reel, Yes, it is smooth and durable, Yes, it is strong.  Yes, it is as close to waterproof as you can get, but is it really worth the difference in price when compared to other high-end Shimano reels or reels from other manufacturers?

For me, I am not going to keep the Stella SW, as I can not see that it offers any considerable advantages over the considerably lower priced Shimano Spheros SW or the Shimano Saragosa SW.

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Friday 17th of July 2020

David, great review section especially for novices. Choosing a proper fishing reel and matching it to a decent rod may be somewhat difficult. I would like to suggest to also include the fishing rods review section. Otherwise a very comprehensive and useful website.