Henry Gilbey
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Shimano Exsence C14+ 4000XGS spinning reel review - around £230 here in the UK

I first saw an earlier version of the Japanese domestic market (JDM) Shimano Exsence spinning reel a few years back out in Morocco when our guide for the week was using one for his fishing, and he loved the reel. It was a stunning looking bit of kit that of course I wished we were seeing here on our market, and now we are, albeit it’s the newest version, the Shimano Exsence C14+ 4000XGS. My understanding is that over in Japan there are four models in this Exsence C14+ range, and Shimano UK are making the C14+ 4000XGS (retrieve ratio 6.2:1) and the smaller C14+ 3000HGM (retrieve ratio 6.0:1) available here - the other two models we are not getting have slightly slower retrieve ratios, or rather that is all I can tell from the Shimano Japan website here.

Anyway, I have been fishing for a while with this rather stunning and obviously nice and lightweight Exsence 4000XGS, and first off, yep, I absolutely love that big round, chunky handle. It just feels right in my hand, and whilst it’s obviously not going to catch me any more fish, I do like a nice reel handle - this one floats my boat.

I did actually envisage using this Shimano Exsence C14+ 4000XGS spinning reel on the outstanding Shimano Dialuna XR 900ML lure rod (review here), but this combination didn’t feel that well balanced in my hands - so I put a smaller reel on the 9’ Dialuna rod and it feels much better, and I have been fishing this Exsence C14+ 4000XGS reel on some slightly longer lure rods where I think it feels more at home. Bear in mind that this is merely what feels right in my hands, and as much as I like that big handle, I do think it creates a slight feeling that the reel is a smidgen bigger than it actually is. A minor point perhaps, but it’s something I have noticed. I have picked up but not fished with the smaller Shimano Exsence 3000HGM, and it has a smaller handle if that is any help.

I do hear some anglers talk about shying away from a spinning reel with a faster retrieve, and whilst in some respects I understand this, why not just slow down if needs be? Sure, my own adrenaline levels can sometimes go through the roof when fishing goes off, but I like to think that I can adjust my retrieve speeds these days to better suit how I am fishing. Can I really though? Well I have not found a problem lure fishing with this 6.2:1 Exsence C14+ 4000XGS, and I also haven’t found a problem lure fishing with the mighty fine Penn Clash 4000 either (review here), and that’s got what is generally accepted to be a fast retrieve as well.

So what’s this Shimano Exsence C14+ 4000XGS like to fish with? Well that’s an easy one, and I am sure you know exactly what I am going to say here - yes, it’s beautifully smooth, and yes, it’s just a pleasure to turn that handle and watch the braid wrap around the spool in that Shimano sort of way. The drag feels great, but as always with bass fishing especially here in the UK and Ireland, I would question our obsession with uber-smooth drags when these magnificent fish ain’t exactly going to put a reel’s drag system under much pressure anyway. Nice to have it of course, and for sure we expect it on a reel at this price, but am I that concerned with braid coming off the drag as smoothly as a snow leopard purring? (If they do actually purr of course). Nope.

The one thing I can’t tell you as per usual with spinning reels is how long this one might stay as sublimely smooth as it is right now. Shimano UK were kind enough to let me have a play with this reel a few months back and I am not sure for how much longer I will have it here, but I will keep fishing with it and report back if anything untoward happens while I have got my mitts on it. I can’t help but be reminded of the Sustain 4000FG spinning reel when looking at this Exsence C14+ 4000XGS, and as much as I love my Sustain, as per here I had issues with it not staying smooth enough for long enough. I am going to assume though that a JDM spinning reel from Shimano’s (sea bass) Exsence range has been built for hard saltwater use so I am hoping that this 4000XGS is going to stay the course. For the moment this is one awesome lure fishing reel and when compared to other reels that I have had personal experience of I think it represents good value for money, save for the annoying fact that it doesn’t come with a spare spool.

Talking about spools, this Exsence C14+ 4000XGS comes with a fairly shallow braid style spool, but you can easily fit a spool of say PE#1, 1.2 or 1.5 8-strand on there, indeed the quoted capacities are PE#1.2 - 190m, PE#1.5 - 150m, and PE#2 - 130m. If that’s not enough mainline for you then I would suggest that either you are the world’s best lure caster who is casting too far anyway, or else you are letting a hooked fish run so damn far it’s going to have a heart attack from the sheer exertion. Or you’re just talking a load of rubbish about how far you can put lures out there! Anglers exaggerating how far they cast lures and baits? Never! Whatever the case, this is a stunning spinning reel to use and it so makes me want to fish with the smaller 3000HMGR version and see how that sits on some of the lure rods I might mess around with.

And here’s a sneak preview of my lure related work in the new issue of Sea Angler magazine, out this week I believe.

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