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Shimano Sustain FI Spinning Reel Review

I just got back from ICAST and this year’s Winner of the “Best of Category – New Saltwater Reel” was the Shimano Sustain FI.  The Shimano Sustain has been around for a time now but underwent its first modification in seven years this last year to kick this premium reel up a notch.

The Shimano Sustain FI finds itself lodged in between the top of the line Shimano Stella and the Shimano Stradic ci4 given there is a large price gap between the two.

The primary differences between the Shimano Sustain FG, its predecessor, and the Shimano Sustain FI are on the surface small, however, I feel that these differences do make a good case to step up from the Stradic ci4.

New this year to the Sustain FI is the inclusion of Shimano’s Hagane gear technology and body design along with X-Protect, Cross Carbon Washers, and the MGL Rotor.

Keep reading this Shimano Sustain FI review and I will do my best to help you decide if the few extra dollars to step up from the Stradic ci4 spinning reel makes sense for you.

The Bottom Line

  • My favorite mid-tier saltwater spinning reel under $300 for inshore fishing
  • Extremely smooth reel and bail design
  • As close to waterproof as you can get
  • Very strong and stiff Hagane® body design

The Shimano Sustain FI reel is a winner for those wanting a higher-end reel without breaking the bank, it is available HERE.

Features

Hagane® Body design – The Hagane® body is a special design that creates a very stiff body and therefore reduces any body flex.  When this is combined with the Hagane® drive gear, you get a reel that is just going to perform better and have less wear on the gears.

G-Free Body – The center of the mass of the reel has been moved closer to the rod to improve the weight and balance in your hand. What this means is that you can feel the strike better and that you can fight the fish better.

Additionally, you will not tire as easily after a long day on the water = no forearm fatigue.  This design was first utilized in the more expensive Shimano Stella and is also available on the Shimano Stradic FK and Stradic Ci4+

Ultra-hard Hagane® cold forged drive gear – The Hagane precision cold forged gears provide one of the smoothest retrieve experience you will ever have, especially under a load.  The cold forging process uses nearly 200 tons of pressure to instantly create a precision gear without the need to do any cutting.

The advantage of this is that there is less room for error in the manufacturing process.  This proprietary process creates a gear drive system that is both durable and smooth in this shimano spinnig  reel.

Magnumlite Rotor – Magnumlite is a new material that is even lighter than Ci4 and Ci4+ by as much as 30%.  Shimano uses the Magnumlite material to manufacture the rotor reducing more weight in the overall reel while still providing strength where it is needed.

X-Ship pinion gear – X-Ship is a combination of features that work together to create much greater efficiency. By positioning the pinion gear closer to the center line of the oversized drive gear, more power is transferred from the handle directly to the rotor.

The pinion gear is also supported by two Shimano SA-RB roller bearings. This creates more stability and minimizes pinion gear twist and rotor deflection in extreme situations delivering a much smoother experience when the fishing reel is under load.

X-Protect water resistance – We all know that when fishing in saltwater conditions keeping water out of our reel is the most important thing next to catching fish.  X-Protect by Shimano uses a three lipped rubber seal that they describe as a “Labyrinth design” meaning that it is nearly impossible for water to penetrate at the seal.  This is combined with a water-repellent coating and what is referred to as water channeling to minimize water penetrating the fishing reel.

This design that was first introduced on the premium Shimano Stella and also adds grease in between the second and third lips of the ring to keep high-pressure water out and deliver a smooth silky feel.

Cross Carbon Drag system – The cross carbon drag system is infinitely adjustable meaning that you have a series of clicks on the drag adjustment that allow you to dial in precisely the amount of drag you want from almost free spool up to the reels maximum drag capacity.   The Sustain FI 2500/3000 have 20 lbs of drag and the Sustain 4000/5000 have 24 lbs of drag.

8 S A-RB shielded stainless steel ball bearings –  The 8 ball bearings used on the Sustain are in the same family as the normal ARB bearings with the exception that they are shielded on both sides to reduce the likelihood of any salt, dirt or water penetrating and affecting the bearings smoothness.

These are similar to the bearings used on the Stradic Ci4+.

Super Stopper II anti-reverse roller bearing – Shimano uses a one-way roller bearing which they refer to as the Super Stopper II that allows you to instantly set the hook when you want without any back play in the reel.  This gives you a very solid feel in the reel which just screams quality.

 Features at a Glance

  • Hagane® Body design
  • G-Free Body
  • Ci4+ carbon material
  • Ultra-hard Hagane® cold forged drive gear
  • Magnumlite Rotor
  • X-Ship pinion gear
  • X-Protect water resistance
  • Cross Carbon Drag system
  • Cold-forged aluminum spool
  • 8 S A-RB shielded stainless steel ball bearings
  • Super Stopper II anti-reverse roller bearing

The Shimano Sustain FI fishing reel is available in 4 sizes. Model 2500, a C3000 that has the same size body as the 2500 but has a deeper cut spool for more line capacity both with 20 lbs of drag capacity come in a 6.0:1 gear ratio.  Then the models 4000 and a C5000 again with the deeper cut spool for additional line capacity both with 24 lbs of drag capacity come in a 6.2:1 gear ratio.

While the Sustain is a great all around reel that can be used for all of your freshwater fishing, it is especially good for your inshore saltwater fishing and even some smaller offshore species such as dolphin, smaller tuna, bluefish, and stripers.

If you are looking to target larger species such as tarpon, cobia, and bigger billfish, I would recommend that you look at something like the Shimano Twin Power SW, Shimano Saragosa SW or the Penn Slammer III.

What I really like about the Shimano Sustain FI is that it is designed to keep saltwater out of the reel components with the X-Ship technology.  Shimano uses a three groove sealing system in critical areas to keep water channeling away from the reel.  The first ridge of the seal keeps low-pressure water from intruding.  The groove between the second and third ridge is packed with grease to keep water that is under higher pressure from penetrating.  This is what Shimano refers to as their labyrinth construction which is a fancy name for lots of water protection.

All of this combined with the water-repellant coating means that you will have a reel that will last longer and require less maintenance.  As usual, I will say that the 30 seconds it takes to spray your reel with something like Salt-Away and then rinse it after each use in saltwater is well worth the investment of time and product.

For those of you who want all the details, I have provided the chart below.

ModelLine Retrieve (in)Gear RatioMono Cap(lbs/yds)Braid Cap(lbs/yds)Max Drag (lb)Ball BearingsWeight (oz)
SA2500HGFI356.0:16/200
8/140
10/120
10/150
15/145
30/100
208+18.3
SA3000HGFI356.0:16/230
8/170
10/140
10/200
20/140
40/105
208+17.9
SA4000HGFI396.2:18/240
10/200
12/160
15/280
30/170
50/150
248+110.1
SA5000HGFI416.2:110/240
12/195
14/165
20/220
30/200
40/160
248+110.1

Field Test

The field test that I was able to perform has so far been limited to the “On The Water” event at ICAST 2017.  When casting the reel, I noticed that the bail was extremely easy to open and just as easy to flip shut with the crank of the handle.  The micro module gearing that is part of the Hagane® design makes for a very easy start to your retrieve and allows the spool to continue to spin easily when not loaded.

I felt that the GBody design really makes for an extremely well-balanced reel that will go well with something like a St. Croix Mojo Inshore or the new St. Croix Legend Tournament Inshore that just won Best Saltwater Rod at ICAST 2017.

Pros

  • Nearly waterproof
  • Smooth
  • Easy trip rotor

Cons

  • Higher price point

Alternatives

Sticking with the Shimano brand, I would have you take a look at the Shimano Stradic ci4+ that has a number of the same features as the Sustain FI such as the Magnumlite Rotor, G-Free Body, Hagane gears and X-Ship technology.  The Stradic ci4+ will save you a few dollars and is actually a bit lighter weight.  Read the full Shimano Stradic ci4+ Review HERE.

Switching brands take a look at the Penn Slammer III which has an excellent reputation.  The Penn Slammer III was the winner in the category of “Best Saltwater Reel” at ICAST in 2016.  The Penn Slammer III is definitely a heavier reel with a Slammer III model 4500 weighing in at 14.7 oz as compared to the Sustain FI model 5000 weighing in at 10.1 oz.  Read the full Penn Slammer III Spinning Reel Review HERE.

Lastly, I would have you take a look at the offering from Quantum in this category of reels the Quantum Cabo PSTE.  Read the full Quantum Cabo PTSE Review HERE.

In Conclusion

Overall, I think that the newly updated Shimano Sustain FI is a nice reel that is going to prove like other Shimano reels to be a smooth reel that is durable over an extended period of time.  I personally will probably fish the Shimano Stradic ci4+ as it is a lighter weight reel which is what I really enjoy.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Shimano Sustain FI Spinning Reel
Author Rating
51star1star1star1star1star

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