New from Shimano is the latest upgrade of their Sustain spin reels. In the hierarchy of Shimano’s lighter saltwater spin reels, the Sustain FI series is second only to the Twin Power.
The Sustain’s aluminium body and gearing are manufactured using the HAGANE cold-forging process where very high pressure (200 tons) is used to compress the metal at room temperature, giving a much stronger product that holds the reel’s components in better alignment, for improved tolerances and performance.
Another key feature, or rather a combination of features, is called X-Protect and is designed to guard against water intrusion and corrosion inside the reel. This is accomplished by a special coating on the reel body, line roller and rotor clutch, and finally, Coreprotect, a series of seals and an internal labyrinth of ridges and grooves that prevent any residual moisture from getting to where it can do any harm. The drag also has seals and is rated as ‘water-resistant’.
The two Sustains on test were the 4000XG and the C5000XG. The XG means ‘Extreme Gear’ (extra high speed) and the ‘C’ on the C5000 means ‘Compact’ – meaning a smaller body with a 5000- sized spool. In practice, it was hard to tell the two reels apart at a quick glance, but they were different.
The 4000 had a line clip and a T-handle while the 5000 had no line clip and a ball handle. The 5000 had a little more line capacity than the 4000, but not a whole lot more. Apart from that, the weight was the same at 285g, the gear ratio was the same at 6.2:1 and the drag output was the same at a massive 11kg.
Matching the test reels were a pre-release pair of sticks from Shimano’s latest rod series, the #KAOS range.
These rods are constructed with Toray graphite using a threestep process Shimano call ‘T-45’. The first part of the process involves a graphite tape, linear-rolled at 45 degrees. This is reinforced by two opposing angled premium quality sheets to create a strong, light and extremely sensitive blank. Add Fuji Alconite spin guides, Fuji graphite reel seats, hook keepers and sculpted EVA foregrips to these blanks and you have the makings of a pretty decent sort of rod series.
However, it is the butt construction that makes these rods stand out. A great many spin/soft-bait rods have followed the fashion for skeleton or exposed-blank butts. These reduce rod weight, but the exposed blank section is easily damaged by contact with rod holders and may even break when a big fish hits an unattended rod with an over-enthusiastic drag setting. Shimano has mitigated this risk by fitting a light EVA tube to the usually exposed section of the blank.
Shimano has taken the butt redesign further by incorporating Winn grips on the top and bottom of the butt section. The Americanbased Winn company pioneered the use of custom polymer grips on sporting equipment, including golf clubs, tennis rackets – and now fishing rods. These brightly-coloured, textured grips make the rods really stand out, but more importantly, provide a comfortable, nonslip grip even when wet.
From a range of thirteen #KAOS models, I chose a pair of 7’2” (2.2m) two-piece spin rods, a 6-15lb (3-6kg) rated for 7-28g lures and a 10-20lb (4-10kg) stick, rated for 14-42g lures. These were a nice match for the two Sustain reels, and with the lighter rod sporting orange butt grips and binding trims as opposed to the bright green of the heavier rod, the two rigs were easy to tell apart.
To give the rigs a solid workout in a short time, I took them on a four-day expedition to the Far North and fished with them almost exclusively. This was not a hardship, as they both proved to be excellent rigs. Our plan was to fish a range of lures (mostly soft-baits and kaburas) for snapper, trevally and the like. A spell of decent weather allowed plenty of on-water time – and plenty of fish action too.
The test rigs got no special care or protection: we just cast them hard all day, leaned them in corners, bounced them around in rodholders, bent them on a whole bunch of decent fish and then hit them with a hose at the end of the trip. There were no breakages or gear failures. The reel tolerances were still rock-solid at the end of the trip and the drags were running perfectly smoothly with no noticeable inertia, even at high outputs. This shows that the HAGANE, Coreprotect and X-Protect features were all doing their jobs.
I think I preferred the ‘ball’ handle on the 5000 a little more that the ‘T’ on the 4000, and the 4000’s line clip was handy, but apart from that, there wasn’t much to choose between the two reels. They both performed perfectly over the test period, delivering snapper up to about seven kilos without raising a sweat.
The #KAOS rods also delivered the goods. Their light weight meant I could cast them all day without getting tired, the end knobs fitted comfortably under my arm when playing fish, the EVA tube on the lower blank protected it from harm, and the Winn polymer grip material was comfortable and is easy to hold on to, even with wet hands.
The rods’ butt assemblies didn’t seem to make it any harder to detect subtle bites when compared to my more ‘naked’ rods, and at times the fish were hitting very lightly indeed. If I have a single criticism, I reckon that the 6-15lb model could do with a stripping (bottom) guide one size bigger for longer casts.
The 7’2” length should suit most anglers and should be just as good at spin-fishing and bait fishing as it is at fishing soft-baits and sliders. The two-piece configuration is easily stowed, and the slipover ferrule design meant no flat spots in the rods’ actions.
Hopefully, Shimano will extend this series. I like my rods a bit longer than most and would love to see versions of both of these sticks with about another 25cm on them.
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