Shimano SLX Baitcaster: How It Ranks Against The Rest

I’ve mainly been a trolling fisherman but just recently decided to do more fishing from the shore and that’s when I decided to pick up the Shimano SLX baitcaster. In this post, I’m going to be reviewing the reel and talking about whether or not it’s the best baitcaster reel under $100.

Shimano is one of the top reel companies on the market and the SLX is one of their entry-level models. It’s one of the better-looking reels in this price range and is one of the smoother ones I’ve tried. I can’t talk about quality yet because I haven’t had it long enough but in terms of performance, it’s currently my favorite baitcaster reel under $100.

If that’s all the info you were looking for then great. If you want a more detailed review or to know the cheapest place to pick one up then continue reading.

Style & Comfort

The first thing about the SLX that caught my attention was how nice it looked. I’m a big fan of the mostly black frame with the dark blue spool and adjustment knobs. I thought it looked much better than most of the others.

On the reel side, you have the drag tension adjuster and also the spool tension knob. Both are easily adjusted with one hand.

On the other side, you have the brake system where you can set how much brake you want. It doesn’t have the turning adjustment that a lot of others have but all you have to do is flick the switch, pop the cap off, and then push up the little plastic pieces.

All in all, the style is great in my opinion and it’s a super comfortable reel to use and adjust on the fly.

Quality & Performance

The quality of the SLX seems to be great from the limited time I’ve had it. I can’t say for sure yet but I wouldn’t have bought it if I didn’t think it was quality. Also, Shimano is one of the best reel companies out there so I’m not really worried.

When I’m talking about performance I’m referring to how well it casts out and how smooth it reels in. I haven’t really tested out too many of the really expensive reels but I have used others in this price range and I’m pretty confident in saying the SLX is my favorite.

As long as you have the right line on it it should perform really well. I originally had a braided mainline with a fluorocarbon leader and the casting was perfectly fine but it slipped a bit while reeling in. I took the braid off, put a couple of wraps on fluorocarbon as backing, put the braided line back on, and still had the leader and it performed much better.

I’d recommend the braided line because it’s stronger and it tangles less. It also makes the rod much more sensitive and will make a $ 100-rod reel like it cost $500. I put the reel on an Ugly Stik Elite casting rod (which is inexpensive as well).


  • The price can’t be beaten.
  • With the right line, it casts out nicely.
  • The reel is smooth and has grippy rubber handles.
  • I’d easily pay $200 for it.


  • The crank is a little chunkier and not as smooth as the higher-end models.
  • The brake isn’t as quick to adjust as some.

The Breakdown

  • Casting Distance: 9
  • Crank Smoothness: 8
  • Quality: 9
  • My Personal Score: 9.5

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Can you saltwater fish with the SLX?

A. Yes, you can.

Q. Does the SLX come in both left and right-handed?

A. Yes, it does.

Q. What pound drag does the SLX have?

A. Around 12 lbs.

Q. How much line can the SLX hold?

A. Around 150 yards with 20 lb braid.

The Verdict

Overall, if you’re looking for an entry-level baitcasting reel and don’t want to break the bank then this could be perfect for you. I’ve been using it quite a bit lately and it’s been awesome. Like I was saying before, I’d easily pay $200 for it because of the performance I got out of it.

It’s not as smooth as some of the higher-end reels but they’re only slightly better in my opinion. As long as you get a quality line for the reel, use the right tackle, and oil/clean it then you should have it for a long time.

Click to check the price on Amazon.

How To Setup The SLX

If you decided to pick one up for yourself then I’ll show you how to set it up properly. I’ve played around with it quite a bit and it’s important to do things the right way (otherwise it’ll be a mess).

Step 1: Take the spool out and oil the bearings on both sides (do this regularly).

Step 2: Tighten the drag and spool adjuster.

Step 3: Do a couple of wraps with a fluorocarbon or monofilament line as a backing to cover the spool (this prevents slippage). Put the line through the hole on your reel and go on top of the metal bar. Tie the line on your spool and cover the spool.

Step 4: Attach your braided line to the backing line and fill the spool until there’s a 1/8 inch gap between the line and spool.

Step 5: Attach a leader line (fluorocarbon or monofilament) and have it so the knot is between the reel and the first loop (you don’t want that knot in the spool because it’ll impact your casting).

Step 6: Open your side panel (where it says SLX) and flip down the 6 pieces of plastic so they move. These are the brakes and if you’ve never used a baitcaster then these should all be on. When they’re up and not moving then the brakes are off. When they’re down and moving then the brakes are on.

Step 7: Tighten the spool knob so that when you press the cast button your lure will slowly start to fall. Tighten your drag to a reasonable amount.

Step 8: Cast it out using your thumb to control the line as it goes out.

Happy fishing. If you want to catch more fish, use more hooks.

Let me know your thoughts and any questions you have. Like this article? Feel free to give it a share!

Want to enter into our fishing gear giveaway? We’ll be doing giveaways on our YouTube channel and all you have to do to enter is click here to subscribe to our channel, like a video, and comment giveaway. More comments = more chances to win.

Jon Webber

I'm by no means an outdoors or fishing expert, but it's something I've been interested in for over 20 years. I created this site to test out different gear and techniques to see what actually works.

Recent Content