Since it’s last update in 2013, the Shimano Saragosa SW series of reels have been in the running for the best value saltwater big game reel since its inception. Let’s have a look at why this is one of the most recommended saltwater reels out there.
I was honestly a bit disappointed when Shimano didn’t announce an update to the Saragosa lineup in Japan after releasing the Stella 2020 and Daiwa with its 2020 Saltiga, as this is one of the reels that I highly recommend to new anglers. Having been in the fishing charter industry for some time, I’ve had the opportunity to use (and abuse) Shimano Saragosas. I’ve seen these reels dropped, dunked, scraped, dragged and tossed around the boat, marina, equipment room and the back of the ute, yet they survive, and then perform the next day.
With most of its technology being similar as the Twin Power SW and Stella SW, we get high end performance with just a fraction of the cost!
In the previous charter company I worked for, the charter gear we used got tested to their limits and the reels take particular strain as they rarely got the attention they deserved in the maintenance department, and may have gotten serviced about once a year, yet when we open them up and inspect the internals, rarely do we see any saltwater intrusion or damage. Says something about the quality of their construction and design doesn’t it? The wizards at Shimano must’ve foreseen the abuse that these reels may experience throughout their lives and made it, so they are nearly idiot-proof or damn near indestructible while performing extremely well when the fishing is on fire. Disclaimer: This doesn’t mean that you should treat your reels the same way, I actually recommend you guys to do the opposite and care for your equipment as much as you can, and they will take care of you when your fish of a lifetime is at the end of your line.
On the Shimano website it states that the body of the Saragosa is mostly made out of XT7 graphite and the rotor with XGT7 graphite. Did a quick google search and wasn’t surprised to find out that they are just made up fancy names for graphite. But graphite isn’t such a bad thing in the fishing reel world. They are a pretty sturdy material and are quite light. It is good to know that the frame of the Saragosa is made out of aluminum which adds rigidity to the body and prevents flexing during heavy pressure situations when fishing and boy do we experience extreme fishing situations.
My friend and co-guide years ago had a nice peashooter outfit with a Saragosa SW5000 which he brings with him every time he heads out on the water. Apart from catching insane amounts of fish himself, he once lent it to a guest of ours and they managed to land a 52kg dogtooth tuna on this peashooter setup. Again, this setup proved itself well as on another trip, we encountered a yellowfin tuna bust up for the ages and all the boats were hooking up to tuna. All the guests were game and forced everyone to cast a rod. Lo and behold the peashooter Saragosa 5000 setup was the only rod left and I had the pleasure of casting it to 50kg class tuna. I instantly hookup, suffered for quite some time and we successfully land my 30kg specimen, which was foul hooked on the back, while everyone was recuperating after landing theirs. 5000 size to 25000, I can personally vouch for their construction quality.
It is important to note that the rotors of the 5000 – 8000 sized reels are graphite, while the larger 10000 to 25000 reels have machined aluminum rotors to help withstand more torque when battling bigger fish.
Chasing big fish like GT, dogtooth tuna, and other pelagics require you to have sufficient amounts of drag power to stop the fish. The Saragosa has what Shimano calls the Cross Carbon drag which again, the Stellas and the Twin Powers have as well. It basically means that the drag washers are cross hatched, making a “rough” texture for more grip and more ventilation to prevent overheating. The Saragosa’s drag power is nowhere close to the Stellas at only 20lbs max on their biggest reel in the lineup (25000) compared to the Stella’s monstrous 55lb max drag rating, but we’re not comparing apples to oranges here. Having similar drag washers and similar drag system designs means that the Saragosa also offers its users a smooth and consistent drag which can be effectively utilized to stop their targeted fish. Again, my opinions are based through my personal experience, the Saragosas have sufficient drag power to stop sizeable fish with no inconsistent rubbing or “jumping” drag, only smooth and consistent release of line with even pressure at all times.
The lifespan of a reel heavily relies on the maintenance it receives. If a reel is constantly exposed to the elements and rarely get serviced, it may have corrosion issues in its near future. Shimano has what they call X-protect and X-shield technology in the Saragosa lineup, which means they are “almost” fully sealed so you should feel confident even during wet and wild fishing conditions. To describe it as best as I can, the waterproofing of the reels are accomplished by smart design and strategic placement of grease where it’s important. Shimano have prevented water intrusion by designing a series of interlocking lips where the spool and rotor meet, with grease applied at the very last innermost lip preventing water intrusion.
I’ve had my personal Saragosa professionally serviced as it was a great offer (free lifetime reel servicing in exchange for a free guided trip). I described to him how I treat my gear and how much it needed some TLC as I’ve yet to service them on my own. He came back with my reels and said that there was virtually no saltwater intrusion at all, and he didn’t need to do much except for the normal oiling and re-grease. Happy days.
As described earlier, I’ve had the opportunity to use and even own Saragosas but rarely take the time to service them as I’m not that confident with my tinkering abilities (I usually have my co-guide and friend service the reels while having a few beers) and it is amazing to know how well their waterproofing holds after seasons of use and abuse. Although built with a great design, I do implore you to care for your reels and maintain them regularly and clean them thoroughly with fresh water after each use.
The Saragosa lineup can and will probably be able to fulfill all of your saltwater fishing outfit needs. From the peashooter 5000SW size up to the big game 25000SW size reels they offer a size for every application.
5000 size for light casting applications. The 6000 for light jigging applications for shallow water. Size 8000 for some light casting work for smaller GTs and tuna. The 10000 is perfect for medium to heavy jigging. The 20000 and 25000 sizes are great for big game jigging and even fishing for billfish and other large pelagic species.
Probably the most overstated aspect of this reel is its durability. Nothing less can be said and if you take care of your gear, it will definitely last a lifetime. I have a Saragosa that’s been given to me by a friend of mine which he had since 2013. Still using it now to chase GT and Tuna offshore and have experienced no problems with it apart from replacing the line roller bearing once.
The Saragosa is by no means a cheap real and I’ve said a thousand times that you do get what you pay for. They are a quarter of the price of a Stella but can still make your wallet wince, but I do dare say that they might be one of the best reels for the money. High-end performance without the high-end price tag. If you are on a limited budget but want a quality reel that will perform under heavy loads in harsh saltwater conditions, the Saragosa SW range is an excellent choice.