I posted this over at Zak and my blog and thought I would share it here as well....
Last night I set out to buy a new reel to replace my aging Shimano Stradic CI4 1000 FA. Since Shimano has served me well over the years it was my intent to purchase another CI4, now known as the CI4+ but I could also not resist looking at the next model up in Shimano’s line of reels, the Sustain SA1000FG.
Other than a hoped improvement in build quality to offer longer reliability, the line length retrieval was of serious interest to me. I am the type where I want one crank of the handle to retrieve a stream length’s of line. While that will never happen, the Sustain offers 30”-41” of line retrieval per crank and the CI4+ offers 29”-37” of line retrieval per crank. Not a great difference on paper but makes a noticeable difference when fishing. The Sustain however costs $80 more than a CI4+, would it impress me enough to pull the trigger and spend the extra?
So off to the local fishing store I went and was immediately greeted by an eager sales associate when I arrived, I asked him to place a CI4+ and the Sustain side by side on the countertop. Upon lifting them, the Sustain was slightly heavier, ½ ounce to be exact. You would not think ½ ounce could be felt but with an item that is 6-7 ounces, you do feel the difference.
Next was the spin test, the CI4+ was buttery smooth and effortless, as expected. No different than my current CI4, except that one is now well worn and has a touch of the weeble wobbles. The more expensive Sustain was also buttery smooth but it was not effortless like the CI4+, it felt much more deliberate but controlled.
Now was the bail test. Could the handle make the bail close EVERY TIME. The CI4+, nope!, just like my last CI4. Depending on the position of the handle, the bail would close with little effort but if the handle is in a certain position, you have to crank it hard. While I know many anglers have taken to habit closing the bail manually, this is unacceptable to me. Why would a bail close fine most of the times and then not and always at a time when it seems to be most critical? The habit of closing a bail manually every time is a taught habit by less than perfect equipment. The Sustain however was perfect and closed effortlessly and firmly every time.
Drag test. The Sustain has “Rapid Fire Drag”, it’s a marketing term but what it means is that you can achieve the same result in 3 clicks that would take a CI4+ around 8 clicks. Will it make a difference in my fishing? I doubt it but if I can adjust quicker, it might just help….at the very least, I can be lazier, LOL.
So what was I going to do? Spend an additional $80 or go with old reliable at $219? Flipping back and fourth between reels, opening bails, closing bails and adjusting drag, the Sustain just felt like the better quality reel so I decided to dig a little deeper this time around. As I walked out of the store with my new purchase and smile on my face, there was a thought in the back of mind if I made a good decision or if I would just find myself returning this reel in a week in exchange for old reliable?
Anxious to try out my new weapon this afternoon, I visited a local warm water stocker stream in hopes I could find a few leftovers. I had no real ambitions of catching trout, I just wanted to critique the new reel and if I caught a fish or two, that would be a bonus.
When I arrived I geared up and quickly jumped in to send my first cast flying. I noted earlier how the reeling while buttery smooth was not effortless but deliberate and controlled, this was now revealed why. The handle on the retrieve while exceptionally smooth felt like it was connected to the spinner, I could feel the spinner work. A few more casts and I noticed that I could feel 2” fallfish tapping at my spinner, through the reel and not just the rod, this is the feel I was missing!
I’ve mentioned in other posts that even though I have been chasing wild trout for quite a while now, I have never developed a feel for the bite of a smaller trout. A couple hours into trips the feel comes to me but it is at the expense of missing many before I settle in. This is specific to me but I know other anglers who target wild trout probably feel my same frustration with small trout.
On my 6th cast, I was rewarded with this small bass. While it is not the species I target, the fact that I felt him enough to hook him just screamed that this reel is transferring feel better than my CI4.
After another 20 casts or so and giving scrutiny to the bail closing firmly and effortlessly every time, I made the conscience decision to just fish and stop paying attention to the reel and see if any negatives would come to light. I was soon rewarded with an averaged size stocked brown trout and the fight felt better than ever with the increased line length retrieval making sure I stayed well ahead of the trout to keep constant pressure on him to not lose him.
As I continued upstream and casting to every “trouty” looking spot, I noticed that the Sustain cast farther than my previous CI4. While I was not in the market to cast farther, roughly a 15% increase in distance was noticed. A couple of times it actually went much further than I had intended so that took a little getting used to. I’ll be the first to admit, more string means that more can go wrong when wild trout fishing but after a while it did become kind of fun.
Line twist is a major concern to me and the Sustain promises a 50% reduction in line twist. I cannot comment on this fully as it will take a few outings to prove if it does what it promises but I did notice something I thought odd. I noticed that when resting between casts, my spinner would spin at the end of my tip a few times and then come to rest. I have never noticed this with fresh string before on my old CI4. Could the Sustain be straightening the line when retrieved and pushing the twist to the end so that the lure can spin to unwind the last 6’? Once again, time will determine this but I found it interesting.
As I continued on, the fishing was less than desired with only 2” fallfish tapping my spinner but without fail, the bail closed solidly every time with little effort from a turn of the handle. After about 45 minutes I hooked into this surprise stocked brook trout, once again feeling that he could not get ahead of me.
This stream does not receive any brook trout stockings so I suppose this one managed to get mixed in somehow but it was definitely welcomed. After this guy, I decided that I would call an end to my trial and call it a success. I can you tell you with certainty that this new reel is going to be a great ally on my next wild trout outing and give me confidence that it will do a better job than my previous CI4.
So is it worth an additional $80 over a CI4+? Definitely! I am still new to it obviously but it doesn’t take long to notice differences, especially when the differences are all positive. I know $299 may seem expensive, it is, but like all hobbies, when you get into better equipment, it always costs and I firmly believe it will make the overall experience better than the CI4+.
Here is a pic of the reel.
This is what comes in the box. Reel Shims to shape the spool to your preference, Plastic Strips for smoothing the spool knot (does anyone actually use these?), instruction, maintenance and warranty manuals, a reel boat stand and a nice storage bag.