I have had a chance now to put Shimano's new Tranx baitcasting reel to the test, and let me tell you straight up, if you're like me and you enjoy fishing for big toothy critters - humongous pike and muskies big enough to chew off your leg - this is an amazing reel.
To give you an idea of what it can do, and how it performs, imagine crossing a Corvette with a Hummer. It is that kind of hybrid.
A reel that is so super fast, when you put the pedal to the metal you zip by everything in sight, and yet, you have the four-wheel drive pulling power to get yourself out of any situation.
Indeed, I have to confess that last fall, when Paul Elias won the FLW Tour Open on Lake Guntersville igniting the Alabama rig craze, I enjoyed more than a few chuckles listening to the good old bass boys talking about how hard it was to throw the rigs all day. Hello! Talk about a bunch of wimps! And these are the same guys who still refer to spinning rods as "sissy sticks".
If those "good ole boys" think throwing a little, itty, bitty, Alabama rig gives you a workout, they better not spend a day in the boat with any of the hard core muskie sticks I hang around with who pitch double bladed 10 and 12 Cowgirls into the wind all day.
Although, if they were using one of the new Shimano Tranx, they'd never know what the rest of us have had to endure the past 20 or 30 years when there wasn't a Tranx. There is a reason my buddies and I have always referred to muskie fishing as "brute strength and ignorance".
I think the best way to describe the Tranx is a comment I read on one of the muskie boards I frequent. The angler said Shimano should have dropped the "r" and the "x" in the Tranx's name, and added a "k" at the end because that is how it is built - like a tank!
The strength and power is a reflection of what Shimano calls X-Ship and HEG technology. In layman's terms, the pinion gear is supported with phenomenally strong and yet, super precise bearings. So, you wind up with a reel that has massive cranking power and yet, is smooth and effortless to retrieve.
The combination of brute strength and meticulous gearing also eliminates any friction between the pinion gear and spool shaft so you can cast further than you ever thought possible.
As a matter of fact, I was up on Reindeer Lake in northern Saskatchewan, fishing for giant pike, the first time I made a cast with the Tranx. I was using one of Jon Bondy's signature series Bondy Baits that weighs a hefty seven-ounces. I leaned back, lobbed the bait into the air and literally watched it fly out of sight.
I kid you not, I stood at the front of the boat and didn't even click the reel back into gear, turning to my buddy instead and asking, "did you see how far I threw that thing!?"
Then, I started the retrieve. I won't say it was effortless, heck, I was bumping and grinding a half-pound of lead and plastic with a Colorado blade thumping on the tail, but it sure wasn't a chore, either.
And you can sense, at every stage that there are seven shielded, premium, anti-rust ball bearings in this tank, I mean, Tranx, that are doing the heavy lifting.
I was also impressed with the backplay - because there isn't any - the big power handle stays locked in place at all times. And because the reel is large, it can be fitted with big Dartainium II drag washers, so fighting strong fish is a breeze.
Still, nothing about the reel bewilders me more than the amount of line you can retrieve. Are you ready for this? Spool the high-speed TRX500HG version to the max, the way it is suppose to be spooled, and you'll wind in 43-inches of line every time you turn the handle.
Hello, that is almost four feet of line with a single turn!
Even if you opt for the lower-speed TRX500PG model, you'll still wind in 30-inches - almost three feet of line - every time you crank the handle.
That is insane!
Make no mistake about it. These reels are meant for casting (and trolling) big, heavy, throbbing baits like double bladed Cowgirls, Bondy Baits and giant foot-and-a-half long cranks.
In fact, if there is an outstanding question in the minds of many muskie and pike anglers, it is trying to wrap your head around which of the two Tranx models is best. The 6:6:1, speed-to-burn, TRX500HG or the 4.6:1, tow truck, TRX500PG.
To a large degree, it is a matter of personal preference, and I haven't fully decided yet, myself.
Indeed, if you can only afford one Tranx, here is the question you need to ask yourself. Are you more comfortable retrieving a big Cowgirl turning the handle slightly faster using the 4:6:1 model or does it feel more comfortable slowing down a tad with the high speed 6.6:1 in your hand?
Conversely, however, if you spend most of your time on the water, burning slightly smaller Cowgirls and bulging normal size bucktails, it has never been easier than with the high speed model. I mean, let's be honest, there has never been a muskie/pike reel that has allowed you to retrieve 43-inches of line with a single turn of the handle.
Decisions, decisions, decisions, eh?!
Bait Buttons come in a small plastic container that fits in your pocket and is very thin. When you hold the container upright, a small plastic button falls perfectly into place at the bottom. All you have to do is hold the shank of your hook and slide it right through. The delivery of the button is genius its very easy to use.
If I could only have one Tranx, I'd opt for the high speed version because I've burned a lot of brain cells over the years casting big heavy baits from sunrise to sunset, so I've learned two things. The first is no pain, no gain, but more importantly, I've learned to back off on the speed when I start feeling tired.
Something else to consider: I've always switched back and forth when I am muskie fishing, alternating every half hour or so, between left and right hand reels, so I wear myself out evenly over the course of the day. My power arm is also my right one, so I've always favoured a left hand retrieve. But, the Tranx only comes in right handed versions, so that is something else you may want to keep in mind.
Still, the bottom line is that muskie and pike anglers have never had access to a freshwater baitcasting reel that lets them do the things they can now do with the new Shimano Tranx. And they if decide to go salt water fishing for tuna, 'cuda, striped bass or anything else, they've got the ideal reel in the tank, I mean, Tranx.
Pick the biggest, baddest, heaviest lure in your tackle box and you will throw it out of sight. Burn a #8 Cowgirl under the surface and for the first time in your life, you may be able to reel it right up and out of the water. Throw a giant #13 Annie Oakley and you'll be able to retrieve it fast, slow or somewhere in between and never feel the worst for wear.
The Shimano Tranx has been called many complimentary things - but "game changer" is the name I think is going to stick.
|Model||TRX500HG / TRX500PG|
|Ratio||6:6:1 TRX500HG / 4.6:1 TRX500PG|
|Line Capacity||50/420, 65/270, 80/210|
|Bearings||7 Ball Bearings, 1 Roller Bearing|
|Maximum Drag||25 lb|