Shimano Topwater Sets Reviewed

  • Ethan Neville

A month of easterlies, cyclones, and one-metre plus swells prevented any serious testing of the new Shimano Twin Power 8000HG reel, along with its well-suited companion - the Ocea Plugger Full Throttle S80M rod. In the rare wind lulls, I'd spent time casting with the setup in sheltered areas of the Hauraki, but only one rat kingie had shown any interest. While I hadn't yet landed a fish, these first encounters had proved two things to me: (1) this is an "angler-friendly" setup that takes the pressure off the angler when casting, and (2) it's about as attractive as rod/reel combos get. If you're looking to impress your mates with new kit before you even leave the dock, look no further than the elegant finish of the Twin Power and Plugger combo.

Thankfully, a trip to Whitianga was scheduled in the calendar, so I didn't have to wait long to see how the rod and reel coped when put under a bit of pressure. We cruised to the Mercs on a near-glass Coromandel morning, the Extreme 745 Centre Console eating up the 15-odd nautical miles in next to no time. We slowed our approach as we came to one of the many reef structures around the islands and the signs were good ("good" being a colossal understatement). It was like someone had turned on a washing machine – trevally bubbled, kahawai darted, yellow tails erupted out of the water, and I tripped over myself as I ran for the rod. My first cast went untouched; my second had a following party of the target species, and a couple of the kings were definite trophies (I don’t like to guess weights, but in my humble opinion they were comfortably over 25kg). My third cast was smoked after only one wind of the Ocea Bettyu Hiramasa Flashboost stickbait, and an intense five-minute fight followed before I was reefed.

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I’ve never tied a faster FG knot in my life. A few minutes later I was casting again, and my new stickbait immediately got engulfed. After another ten or so minutes of grunting from me and boat maneuvering from the skipper, we got to see this fish approaching under the boat before it did one final flick and shook the lure free. Sweating and sore, I cast again, and – you probably get it now – hooked up straight away. This one we decided to drag away from the reef before I really got into the fight, and thanks to some good captaining from NZ Fishing Media boss Grant Blair, this fish was landed. With the Surtees team coming around for dinner that night, we decided to take some photos and then throw it on ice. Another hour of carnage followed, but with only one more fish landed – those bigger kings don’t like to be pulled away from their home reef, which is a lesson you only learn the hard way.

So, now you know the story of the day, let’s talk about the gear.

The anticipation levels were getting out of hand when this bait school was spotted.

Twin Power SWC 8000HG reel

Most of you will already be aware of the Shimano Twin Power range of reels, so you’ll know that they are high quality reels made with top of the line components. This particular model was an absolute pleasure to use. It is substantially more compact than other 8000-sized reels I’ve had on board in the past, which means casting over long periods is easier on the angler. The 2021 model also included what Shimano have named “Infinity Drive”, which reduces handle rotation torque by up to 30% from previous models. In other words, this is an angler-friendly reel.

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Another feature of the 2021 model is the upgraded saltwater protection. The combination of Shimano’s X Protect Seal and labyrinth structure enables the reel to achieve an IPX8 waterproof rating. It’s also worth mentioning the 25kg of drag, which means this reel is as at home in the Hauraki Gulf as it is over the reefs of Whitianga, or out wide at places like White Island and the Ranfurly Banks. In short, you’ve got yourself an attractive, high performance product that is one of the more durable reels on the market.

Ocea Plugger Full Throttle S80M rod

Like the Twin Power series, the Ocea rod range is only made from the highest quality components. The Titanium Frame RV Guide (butt part), Fuji DPS seat/Lock nut, and Spiral X and High Power X technology are just some examples of the tech jammed into this 8ft rod. The combined result is a lightweight rod that’s powerful for its size. I particularly noticed this when casting in the Hauraki Gulf over and over again with no result – I was able to cast with accuracy repeatedly, without getting even remotely fatigued. When combined with the Twin Power, you’d be hard pressed to find a more user-friendly combo.

The Twin Power primed and ready.

It also is an extremely fun rod to fight kingfish on. Every head nod and quick dart of the kingfish is transmitted efficiently through the blank, which kept me in touch with the fish the entire fight. I even knew something was slightly off when the hook started gradually pulling out of the kingfish’s mouth (it was only hooked in the lip), which is saying something for a PE5 rod. However, there is always a trade-off when it comes to weight and sensitivity, and that was something I noticed when I hooked a bigger kingfish. The raw power to heave the kingfish off the reef just wasn’t there in this blank. As someone who fishes predominantly in the Hauraki Gulf, this isn’t typically a problem for me, but if you are regularly targeting 25kg plus kings, you might want to opt for the PE6 or PE8 model.

Ocea Bettyu Hiramasa Flashboost Stickbaits

Finally, it is also worth briefly mentioning the stickbaits we were using. Thanks to the inbuilt reflective mirror that creates a continues flash within the body of stickbait, you can’t miss the new Shimano Flashboost range. If you’ve ever seen a wounded baitfish, you’ll recognise that same flashing, which is why these stickbaits are so effective when cast at bait balls. This is precisely where I cast my Bettyu Hiramasa 160mm Flashboost, and as mentioned above, it got absolutely smashed. It only took a few minutes to lose the lure, which unfortunately was the only one I had on board. So while I can’t confirm their durability, I can say kingfish like them. I had also spent time casting this stickbait unsuccessfully in the Gulf, so can also confirm that they’re easy to control on the retrieve and move through the air pretty seamlessly.

The Ocea Flashboost stickbait range is quickly becoming a favourite for Kiwi anglers casting at bait schools.

In conclusion…

Shimano have produced another stylish, world-class combo that’s an absolute pleasure to use. If you’re after an angler-friendly setup to tackle kingfish on topwater, then look no further than the Twin Power SWC 8000HG & Ocea Plugger Full Throttle.


April 2022 - Ethan Neville
New Zealand Fishing News Magazine.
Copyright: NZ Fishing Media Ltd.
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited

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