Review: Shimano Bantam MGL Baitcast Reel - Major League Fishing

Review: Shimano Bantam MGL Baitcast Reel

Durability and performance come standard in this versatile beauty
Image for Review: Shimano Bantam MGL Baitcast Reel
Shimano Bantam
September 24, 2018 • Kyle Wood • Reviews

When you buy a new reel, you expect it to perform for years to come. No doubt there are plenty on the market that meet those expectations, and one of the newest options that I think has the guts to join the club is the Shimano Bantam MGL.

It’s touted as a smooth, tough reel, which many Shimano aficionados have come to expect, and I got the pleasure of putting one through the paces.

Here are my thoughts.


Built like a rock

There are reels at every price point that just feel flimsy or delicate when you put them in your hand. The Bantam is not one of those reels.

The minute I picked the Bantam up I got the sense that it could handle any abuse I threw its way. I think what makes the reel feel so strong is the Core Solid Body design. In other words, the frame, level-wind guard and B-side plate are all one piece. It’s one of the biggest selling points of the reel and seems like it should help the reel to last for a long time.

Of course, with durability comes some density. The Bantam is not the lightest reel out there, coming in at 7.6 ounces, but it isn’t too much heavier than a lot of 150-size reels. Certainly it’s nowhere near the heaviest. Besides, I’ll take extra tenths of an ounce any day to know my reel isn’t going to fall apart after a few rough boat rides or lots of use.


Easy adjustment

The Bantam has four internal manual brakes on the side that can be engaged or disengaged by clicking them in or out, which is pretty standard with Shimano reels. The nice thing, however, is that with the side plate shut there is a dial on the outside of the reel that lets you fine-tune your adjustments even further.

The brakes were very easy was to dial in when changing baits. When throwing topwaters and switching from plastic baits to lighter balsa, moving the dial from a 2.5 to 2.25 setting made a huge difference in increasing my casting distance. On the flip side, if I was throwing into the wind, rolling the dial up a click greatly reduced the likelihood of a backlash, yet still allowed for good casting distance.


Precise feel

While the Bantam (7+1 bearings) doesn’t have as many bearings as other high-end reels, it didn’t seem to lack in performance. There wasn’t any slop on the retrieve from the gears or handle (which I’ve experienced a few times from comparable reels), which reinforces the sense that the reel is designed to last a lifetime. The Micro Module Gear system likely helps with that. The gears have more teeth that are smaller than others on the market, and as a result, I got an effortless feel when winding all day long.


Spinning reel-quality drag

Sure, smooth reeling and casting are good, but what really impressed me with the Bantam was the drag. The drag system was one of the smoothest I’ve used. I worked on a bunch of smallmouths just to put the drag to the test, and it never missed a beat when a fish charged hard from the boat.

The Bantam offers a maximum of 11 pounds of drag (which is pretty standard), so it’ll do just fine flipping or frogging, but anything in open water or light-line situations seem to be where you get your money’s worth.  


The verdict

Overall, this reel is pretty sweet. For durability, anglers have trusted round baitcasting reels for years, and the Bantam seems to come from similar DNA but in a low-profile package. It fits the bill for pretty much any situation you can throw at it, and having a buttery-smooth drag makes it even more appealing in lighter-line scenarios.   

Of course, price can be a limiting factor for a lot of anglers, and with the Bantam coming in at $349.99, it’s a serious investment. While I wouldn’t go out and buy 10 of them at a time, if you’re serious about fishing, it’s definitely worth saving your pennies to add one or two to your arsenal.



Company: Shimano

Series: Bantam MGL

Available gear ratios: 6.2:1, 7.1:1, 8.1:1

Ball bearings: 7+1

Spool capacity: 110 yards of 12-pound-test monofilament

Weight: 7.6 ounces (6.2:1, 7.1:1) or 7.8 ounces (8.1:1)

Warranty: one-year limited warranty

Price: $349.99