Shimano Vanford Spinning Reel Review

  • Date: September 4, 2021

DISCLOSURE: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning when you click the links and make a purchase, I may receive a commission.

Shimano Vanford review

To say that the Shimano Vanford has big boots to fill is an understatement.

The Stradic Ci4+ had been such a hit with anglers around the world for many years, so it was a bold move by Shimano to completely remove it from their range of spinning reels.

I personally like the way Shimano design their spinning reels and have been an avid user of their reels for many years, so I had mixed feelings when they said they were going to retire the iconic Ci4+, but ultimately I was very excited when they announced the release of this new Vanford reel.

I was looking for a new spinning reel for some ultra-light spinning at around the same time the Shimano Vanford was launched, so I decided to take the plunge and purchase the 1000 size Vanford reel.

After a few months of serious usage of this reel, I have used it enough to be able to provide this detailed Shimano Vanford review.


The Shimano Vanford is a mid-range spinning reel, that incorporates a lot of Shimano’s high-end technologies. Check out the current pricing for the Vanford reel here.

Read the rest of this Shimano Vanford review


So let’s get into it, here’s my review of the Shimano Vanford

Aesthetics

When I first got my Vanford, I was mildly underwhelmed at the look of the reel. I think after all the pre-release hype about it as the legendary Ci4’s successor I was expecting something a little more ‘snazzy’.

But as time has gone on, I have actually really gotten to really like the look of the Shimano Vanford reel. It has a contemporary look to it, nothing too flash but kind of feels effortlessly stylish.


shimano vanford

The charcoal body color with the red highlights does work well, and this was done to match the color scheme of the new 2020 model of the Shimano Zodias rod.

I have not paired my Vanford with a Zodias so can’t comment on the pairing, but I have paired it with three other light spinning rods, and it has felt great with all of them.


Performance

Now, this is where the Shimano Vanford instantly won me over!

The Vanford has undergone some upgrades from the Ci4+ and these became apparent as I started to use the reel.

First of all, the Vanford is seriously light. And while it is light, the weight reduction has not compromised any of its strength and you can feel the quality of it when you start using it, it is a very sturdy reel.

It still uses the Stradic Ci4+ body so I was expecting it to be light and strong, but it exceeded my initial expectations, and I am seriously impressed with just how good this reel feels to throw lures and do battle with the fish when you hook into a decent one.

Another thing that has really impressed me with the Vanford is its casting ability. I am able to throw even the smaller lighter lures impressively far.

I would say it adds a good 10 to 15 yards distance on my casts, which now enables me to cover a lot more ground with my lures.


shimano vanford spinning reel review

Shimano Vanford Vs Stradic Ci4+

Seeing as the Shimano Vanford is now trying to fill the very large shoes that the Stradic Ci4+ occupied for so long, it makes sense to do a side-by-side comparison of the specs’ between the two reels so you can see if it is a worthy successor.

Don’t expect wholesale changes between the two reels. Shimano has kept a lot of the winning elements of the Ci4+ in the Vanford, such as the excellent Stradic Ci4+ body.

What you will see on the Vanford are some subtle enhancements and improvements to existing technologies used, plus the addition of some new technologies that really help take the Vanford to the next level.


Technology comparison

Here is a look at the technologies that the Shimano Vanford has compared to the Ci4+:

TechnologyVanfordCi4+
X Aero Wrap II✔️✔️
Ci4+ Body Material✔️✔️
G-Free Body✔️✔️
Hagane Gear✔️ Upgraded✔️
MGL Rotor✔️✔️
One-Piece Bail✔️✔️
Propulsion Line Management System✔️✔️
Waterproof Drag✔️✔️
X Ship✔️✔️
Cross Carbon Drag✔️
Long Stroke Spool✔️ Upgraded
Micro Module Gear II✔️ Upgraded
S A-RB Bearings✔️
Silent Drive✔️ Upgraded
X Protect✔️

One other difference between the Vanford and the Ci4+ is that the Vanford has a 1-piece handle, whereas the Ci4+ had a two-piece handle.

For me the 1-piece handle on the Vanford feels more stable and coupled with the upgraded silent drive technology on the Vanford, it means there is zero wobble or play in the reel.


New and Upgraded Shimano technology

Shimano has included some of their higher-end technologies on the Vanford spinning reel that were not present on the old Ci4+ reel.

This explains why the reel performs to such a high standard, and also why I think you are getting more bang for your buck than some of the other mid-price range spinning reels currently available.

Here are some of the upgraded technologies you will find on the Shimano Vanford:

Micro Module Gear II

The new Micro Module II has evolved and now has the most advanced surface tooth design that creates the ideal gear tooth shape. The result is extremely smooth reeling and a reduction in noise.

Cross Carbon Drag

The cross carbon drag material allows for increased drag settings and provides more stable power when battling the harder fighting fish. It also provides an extremely smooth drag experience.

*Note, cross carbon drag is only available on the 4000 and 5000 size Vanford reels.

S A-RB Bearings

These new bearings have been through the same process and the old A-RB bearings, but the new S A-RB bearings have shields on them that help reduce the possibility of sand and salt inhibiting their rotation.

X-Protect

Another premium technology found on top-end Shimano reels like the Stella, the X-protect system is now present on the Vanford reel. The combination of the water-repelling material and the water channeling labyrinth construction keeps the internals of the reel dry and working to their optimal levels.

Hagane Gear (Upgraded)

The Vanford has the new upgraded Hagane gear which provides improved strength and a more robust system. This is the same Hagane gearing that is found on premium Shimano spinning reels such as the Stella.

Long Stroke Spool (Upgraded)

The new and improved long stroke spool has been designed for casting performance, and believe me when I say that this new design works extremely well.

*Tip* – If you are going to spool your Vanford with braid, make sure you add plenty of backing line as the capacity of the spool is quite large and you could find yourself under-spooling if you don’t have enough backing line.

Silent Drive (Upgraded)

The upgraded silent drive on the Vanford has removed the small clicking sound that was evident on the previous version, and has also removed any handle play so there is zero free-play on the handle when you hook into a fish.


Sizes available

There are a total of 7 sizes available in the Shimano Vanford range. Here is a list of the different sizes and the specs’ for each size:

Gear Ratio: 5.6:1
Bearings: 6+1
Max Drag (lb): 6
Weight (oz): 4.9
Retrieve Per Crank (in): 27
MONO LINE CAPACITY (#TEST/YD): 2/190, 4/100, 6/60
POWERPRO BRAID (LB/YDS): 5/135, 8/105, 10/65

Click here to check price

Gear Ratio: 5.1:1
Bearings: 7+1
Max Drag (lb): 7
Weight (oz): 5.3
Retrieve Per Crank (in): 25
MONO LINE CAPACITY (#TEST/YD): 2/270, 4/160, 6/110
POWERPRO BRAID (LB/YDS): 10/95, 15/75, 20/65

Click here to check price

Gear Ratio: 6.1:1
Bearings: 7+1
Max Drag (lb): 7
Weight (oz): 5.3
Retrieve Per Crank: 32
MONO LINE CAPACITY (#TEST/YD): 6/165, 8/105, 10/95
POWERPRO BRAID (LB/YDS): 10/140, 15/115, 20/95

Click here to check price

Gear Ratio: 6.0:1
Bearings: 7+1
Max Drag (lb): 20
Weight (oz): 6.3
Retrieve Per Crank (in): 35
MONO LINE CAPACITY (#TEST/YD): 6/200, 8/140, 10/120
POWERPRO BRAID (LB/YDS): 10/150, 15/145, 30/100

Click here to check price

Gear Ratio: 6.4:1
Bearings: 7+1
Max Drag (lb): 20
Weight (oz): 6.3
Retrieve Per Crank (in): 37
MONO LINE CAPACITY (#TEST/YD): 6/230, 8/170, 10/140
POWERPRO BRAID (LB/YDS): 10/200, 20/140, 40/105

Click here to check price

Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
Bearings: 7+1
Max Drag (lb): 24
Weight (oz): 7.6
Retrieve Per Crank (in): 40
MONO LINE CAPACITY (#TEST/YD): 8/240, 10/200, 12/160
POWERPRO BRAID (LB/YDS): 15/230, 30/180, 50/120

Click here to check price

Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
Bearings: 7+1
Max Drag (lb): 24
Weight (oz): 7.8
Retrieve Per Crank (in): 40
MONO LINE CAPACITY (#TEST/YD): 10/240, 12/195, 14/165
POWERPRO BRAID (LB/YDS): 20/260, 30/235, 40/185

Click here to check price


What I like and don’t like about the Shimano Vanford reel

I don’t like the fact that the 500 to 3000 size reels don’t have the carbon drag washers, only the 4000 and 5000 models do come with cross carbon fiber drag washers and all smaller models are fitted with felt drag washers.

But I guess it does make sense as the cross carbon drag washers might be overkill for the smaller size reels and the size fish, they are likely to catch, whereas the 4000 and 5000 size reels that do have them will be used to target the bigger, harder fighting fish.

That being said, I have been very impressed with the drag on my 1000 Vanford reel. It has been extremely responsive and has dealt with all the fish I have caught on it so far.

So, it’s just a matter of seeing how long the felt washers will last before they need replacing.

One thing I really do like with this reel is the fluidity with which it operates. Everything works in perfect unison, I would liken it to a Swiss-made watch in that regard.

Another clear-cut improvement I have noticed with the Vanford is the incredible casting distances it is able to achieve.

The combination of the Propulsion Line Management System and the Long Stroke Spool have really made a big difference here. I am finding that even with lighter lures I can cast them like a bullet and this allows me to cover more area.

As with many of the Shimano spinning reel ranges, the Vanford reel comes with 4 additional adjustment washers. These can be used to vary the height of the spool to optimize the lay of the line onto the spool.


Shimano Vanford washers


Naming convention

A lot has been said of the new ‘Vanford’ name, many wondering why Shimano moved away from the continuation of the Ci4 range.

Apparently, this was mostly down to the marketing of the reel, as Shimano wanted a clearer divide between the Stradic FL range and the Stradic Ci4 range.

Personally, I don’t really care about the name, I care about the performance of the reel. And for me, the Vanford reel performs to a very high standard that has surpassed my expectations.


Q & A

Q: Is the Shimano Vanford reel for saltwater fishing?

A: The Shimano Vanford can be used for a variety of fishing, ranging from ice fishing with the smaller 500 size reel up to heavier saltwater fishing with the largest 5000 size reel.

The 1000 and 2000 size reels can be used for freshwater fishing or lighter estuary fishing.

The 2500 and 3000 are ideal sizes to use for lakes or estuary fishing

The 4000 and 5000 size reels are ideal for heavier lure fishing and can be used from the rocks, piers, beach, kayak, and boat fishing.

Q: What are the spare washers that come with the Shimano Vanford spinning reel?

A: The reel comes with 4 spare adjustment washers. These are used if you notice any kind of bias as to where the line is loading on the spool and can make macro adjustments to the height of the spool.

Q: Is the Vanford reel sealed?

A: Yes, the X-Protect technology used on the Vanford provides an efficient barrier from saltwater, sand, and any other dirt from reaching the gear system inside the reel. It is IPX8 certified

Q: What is the 500 size of the Vanford reel design for?

A: The small 500 size Shimano Vanford reel was designed for ice fishing


Final thoughts on the Shimano Vanford spinning reel

Since I purchased my Vanford 1000 I have had nothing but praise for it. No, it’s not perfect, but neither was the Ci4+. But I can say that I am extremely happy with my Vanford reel and the incredibly smooth and super-responsive performance it provides.


shimano vanford spinning reel

It casts lures like missiles, it pulls line in at impressive speeds as soon as you flip the bail arm over and start winding, and it is incredibly smooth as well.

Yes, I do think the Shimano Vanford is a very worthy successor of the Ci4+, which was a reel that I did, and still do love. I think Shimano has provided upgrades and enhancements to key aspects of the reel to make the Vanford perform as well as it does.

If I do encounter any issues with my Vanford over the next few months, I will document them here in this review.

But for now, I have been extremely impressed by this spinning reel, and can highly recommend it to anyone who is still on the fence about it.

  1. Thanks for the great review. Always good to get a review from someone who actually uses the reel. I have been using Shimano reels since long before they were popular and many of those early versions are still fishing today. I was disappointed that the Ci4+ was going away, but maybe this new Vanford is going to be a able replacement.

    Thanks again,

    Rex

    1. Hi Rex, yes it was disappointing to see the Ci4+ retired, mine is still going strong and I still like to use it. But Shimano has really stepped up to ensure they provided a suitable replacement, and I think the Vanford is very worthy of this. I love using my Vanford it just runs so smoothly, it’s an absolute pleasure to fish with it. All the best.

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