Shimano Ultegra FC spinning reel review

Shimano Ultegra FC Spinning Reel Review

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When I’ve bought spinning reels in the past, I have had a high expectation for them even before I had purchased and used them. 

But when I purchased my Shimano Ultegra FC spinning reel, I did so more out of curiosity and to fill a void in the reel sizes I didn’t already have (I purchased the 3000 size Ultegra FC). I didn’t really have any preconceptions about it.

Shimano Ultegra FC spinning reel review
Shimano Ultegra FC spinning reel

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But now I have owned and used the Ultegra FC spinning reel for a while, wow, I have been very pleasantly surprised and so impressed with this reel and just how well it performs!

It’s not perfect, but what reels are at this price point? But it performs much better than I expected.

So, as a very frequent user of this reel, I have had enough time with it to provide my full Shimano Ultegra FC spinning reel review…

What I like about the Shimano Ultegra FC spinning reel

Let’s start with the good stuff, and what made me so pleasantly surprised with this reel when I purchased and started using it.

First off, let’s start with the cosmetics of the Shimano Ultegra FC reel. When I see this reel in pictures online, it looks very understated, plain almost, dare I say it!

But on getting this reel and taking it out of the box for the first time the aesthetics really struck me. Its color scheme is striking, it really makes it look like a quality reel that costs a lot more than it actually does.

When I started using my Ultegra FC reel I was impressed with just how smooth it was, and also how evident the crank power of the reel was, it was like a diesel engine on the retrieve.

I did not expect the reel to have such a buttery performance. The premium features included in the Ultegra FC reel such as Micro Module II gear and silent drive really do help to produce this optimal performance.

I freely like the drag on the Ultegra FC. It’s a very smooth drag and also seems to have a slightly different sound to my other Shimano spinning reels, but it sounds surprisingly good and is very easy to adjust while playing a fish with the front drag knob.

Shimano Ultegra FC review

It also has a very good range of drag settings, you will be able to get up to 20lbs drag on the 2500 size reel, and up to 24lbs on the larger 5000 size.

The high-speed drag allows for quick adjustment when needed, and the macro adjustments are also apparent when needed.

I also really like how well-balanced this reel is. It has been designed so the center of gravity of the reel puts minimal stress on your arms are wrists when holding the rod and casting frequently. This balance is so important and something we usually take for granted unless we can feel the balance is off.

When I looked into the features of this newer FC model compared to the older Ultegra FB model, I was surprised to see just how many upgrades Shimano had made to a lot of the core features of the reel.

By including a lot of their premium features in the FC reel, and keeping it within the same price range as it was, I think we have a quiet superstar here.

When compared to other higher-profile spinning reels in the Shimano range, such as the Shimano Vanford and Shimano Stradic FL, the Ultegra FC largely flies under the radar. 

But I think when people use this reel they will see just how good it is, and how much value you are getting.

What I don’t like about this reel

This is where I struggle. Does the Ultegra FC reel have a similar performance to something like the Shimano Vanford? No, it doesn’t. But coming in at $100 less than the Vanford, you wouldn’t expect it to. But when you start looking at a reel like the Stradic FL, then the performance levels start to get closer.

The reel handle used on the Ultegra FC is standard across a lot of their spinning reel ranges. The 3000 sizes and up use the T-bone-shaped handle, and I’m not the biggest fan of these.

I do like the rubber grip handles on the 1000 and 2500 sizes though.

Best features of the Shimano Ultegra FC

The Ultegra FC spinning reel had some serious upgrades from the previous Ultegra FB model.

Shimano Ultegra FCShimano Ultegra FB (old model)
One piece bail arm2-piece bail arm
Long stroke spoolStandard spool
Ci4+ bodyG-Free Body
Hagane gear + Micro Module II gearHagane gear
Silent DriveX Ship
X ProtectCore Protect

The new upgrades to the FC reel mean that the overall performance is better, and because of the Ci4+ body it is lighter than its predecessor the older Ultegra FB.

The seamless one-piece bail arm now used on the latest FC reel ensures there are fewer line tangles by feeding the line onto the roller more consistently.

Shimano Ultegra FC spinning reel

The older 2-piece bail arms did not do this as well and they used to be the reason for a lot of tangles. 

The 1-piece bail arm will also help wind the line onto the spool in a more even manner, which helps optimize the performance and improve casting distance.

The Micro Module II gears are used on all of Shimano’s premium reels, including the Stella reel, and it has now trickled through to this Ultegra FC. 

Reel specifications

Here are the reel specs for the Ultegra FC:

Model: ULT1000FC

  • Model: ULT1000FC
  • Gear Ratio: 5.1:1
  • Bearings: 5+1
  • Line Retrieve (in): 25in.
  • Reel Weight: 6.3oz
  • Max Drag: 7lbs
  • Mono Capacity (lbs./yds.): 2/270 4/160 6/110
  • PowerPro Capacity (lbs./yds.): 10/95 15/75 20/65

Model: ULT2500HGFC

Model: ULTC3000HGFC

Model: ULT4000XGFC

Model: ULTC5000XGFC

How does the Shimano Ultegra FC compare to other spinning reels?

Here I have run a comparison of some of the specs’ and technologies used on the Ultegra FC.

The reels I’m comparing to are the Shamino Vanford, the Shimano Stradic FL, and the Shimano Nasci.

For this comparison, I am just going to compare the 2500-size reel from each range:

* The prices mentioned are based on the 2500 size for each model, and are approximate prices only. Prices may vary per retailer.

Specs/Technologies:Nasci FC:Ultegra FC:Stradic FL:Vanford:
Price *:$99.99$154.99$199.99$239.99
Gear Ratio:6.2:16.0:16.0:16.0:1
Line Retrieve:36in. per crank35in. per crank35in. per crank35in. per crank
Reel Weight (oz):8.5oz7.9oz7.9oz6.3oz
Max Drag:20lbs20lbs20lbs20lbs
Hagane GearYesYesYesYes
Silent DriveYesYesYesYes
X ShipYesYesYesYes
Ci4+ BodyNoYesNoYes
Aero Wrap IINoYesYesYes
Long Stroke SpoolNoYesYesYes
Micro Module IINoYesYesYes
One-Piece BailNoYesYesYes
S A-RB BearingsNoYesYesYes
X ProtectNoNoYesYes
MGL RotorNoNoNoYes

Affordable quality

For the price range that the Shimano Ultegra FC is in; when you see the componentry and premium technologies it has you soon understand what a great deal of quality you are getting for your money.

You can’t say that about all reels. A lot of medium-range fishing reels are good quality, but their price tag matches; sometimes exceed their quality.

Not so with the Ultegra FC. I feel the buyer has the upper hand with this one.

Versatility abound

When I purchased the 3000 Shimano Ultegra FC reel, I did so to fill a void in reel sizes I had, but I did decide on a specific use case for it as well, and that was to fish heavier soft plastics than I usually do with my ultralight setups.

But when I first started using it I was impressed with just how far I was able to cast the soft plastics, so I decided to try some 20g casting jigs in the surf and it cast like a bullet.

The long stroke spool really does its job well here and helps provide the excellent casting distances this reel is capable of. So I think the versatility this reel provides is yet another string to the bow for it.  

The different sizes that the Ultegra FC reel is available in, also mean that it can be used for a range of different fishing techniques. 

From the smallest 1000-size reel which you can use for ultralight fishing up to a 5000 size that can be used for inshore, rock, and surf fishing. 

Smoother casting ability

As I have already mentioned, the Ultegra FC casts a mile. But how is it able to do this? 

The long stroke spool is the key to this extra casting distance. Shimano has created a spool lip design that allows the line to peel off with minimal resistance and this simple design tweak has resulted in a greatly improved casting performance and a smooth casting ability. 

FAQ’s for the Shimano Ultegra FC spinning reel

Q: Is the Shimano Ultegra FC a saltwater reel?

A: The Ultegra FC offers versatility. The smallest 1000-size reel can be used for freshwater fishing, or for targeting small pan fish. But the bigger sizes, up to a 5000-size reel can be used for a wide range of saltwater fishing situations.

Q: What do ‘HG’ and ‘XG’ mean on the Ultegra FC reels?

A: ‘HG’ stands for ‘High Gearing’, and ‘XG’ stands for ‘Extra-High Gearing’

Q: Is the handle on the Ultegra FC interchangeable?

A: Yes, you can easily change the handle to the left or right-hand side of the reel depending on your preference.

My final thoughts on the Shimano Ultegra FC spinning reel

It’s not that often that I am completely caught by surprise with new tackle, especially reels. But this Ultegra FC really did catch me by complete surprise!

When I buy more expensive reels I expect to get a quality product with a performance to match, and most of the time this is what happens.

But the Ultegra FC is not what I would call a more expensive reel. While it still costs over $100 and may not be within the price range for those on a tight budget or a beginner who is just starting out with their fishing, I think any angler who wants to buy a quality reel without having to spend a fortune, then this is the ideal option.

I would go as far as to say that the Ultegra FC offers the best bang for your buck I can think of when it comes to spinning reels.

It is a powerful reel with impressive casting form, and it runs so smoothly that it is hard to believe you can an excellent reel like this for such a good price.

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