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Shimano vs. Okuma (What Brand Makes the Better Fishing Reels?)

Shimano vs. Okuma (What Brand Makes the Better Fishing Reels?)

Shimano and Okuma are two popular and well-established names in the world of fishing tackle. While Shimano has pretty much always enjoyed a high status and excellent reputation, Okuma reels have long been considered less qualitative. 

However, in recent years, Okuma has managed to up its game and produce very decent reels. So the question is, who makes the better reels; Shimano or Okuma?

Regardless of Okuma’s recent advancements, Shimano is, by far, still the better reel brand of the two. Shimano fishing reels are of the highest quality and enjoy enormous popularity among anglers worldwide. Nonetheless, Okuma can be regarded as a very decent budget choice. 

Keep reading to learn more about Shimano and Okuma and their most popular reel series. 

Okuma or Shimano: Which Brand Is Better?

an image of a shimano vanford spinning reel and a shimano slx baitcaster

I have fished with both Okuma and Shimano for many years. I can tell you that both brands make decent reels, but Shimano edges out Okuma on every possible level.

For one thing, Shimano reels are made of high-quality materials, which translates into amazingly smooth and durable gear.

Some of my Shimano reels are now more than ten years old, and they still run as smoothly as butter! I don’t think I’ve had a Shimano that broke or that I had to use the warranty on.

Ball bearings are an excellent example to mention, as they are a critical part of every fishing reel.

Shimano uses only the best bearings for their reels, and, naturally, that results in an unmatched gear performance! Those ball bearings will keep performing, year in and year out, which few brands out there can accomplish.

For another thing, Shimano enjoys exceptionally high popularity among all kinds of anglers.

I’ve actually gone ahead and did a few polls in some of the biggest fishing groups on Facebook. Every poll I did showed more or less the same result; Shimano! (More on that further down in the article)

So, according to most anglers and myself, Shimano produces some of the best reels money can buy!

Of course, quality does have its price, and the high-end Shimano stuff doesn’t fit everyone’s budget, which brings us to Okuma.

And don’t get me wrong here! Okuma reels do not suffer from bad quality, not at all! It’s just that they do not reach the level of excellence that Shimano possesses, both when it comes to quality, performance, and long-term durability.

But, to be completely honest, that’s not always the first thing you care about when you’re a beginner or on a limited budget, is it?

What you want is a functional fishing reel that sells at a reasonable price, and Okuma can offer you just that!

However, if you’re looking for the highest quality and the very best performance, Shimano will most likely always be your top pick compared to Okuma.

Let’s take a look at what reel brand other anglers prefer:

What Reel Brand Do Walleye Anglers Prefer?

shimano and okuma reel usage statistics
Image courtesy of Andre Charron

While most walleye guys prefer Shimano spinning reels, many beginners actually voted for Okuma here.

Their primary reasons were somewhat lower prices and wishing to start out with basic gear that’s easy to handle.

What Reel Brand Do Trout Anglers Prefer?

okuma and shimano fishing reel usage statistics for trout fishing
Image courtesy of Chris Barnhart

Most trout anglers also prefer Shimano reels over Okuma reels.

When fishing for bigger trout, or salmon, you really need to be able to fully rely on your gear, especially when fishing in rivers with a hard current.

As Shimano reels generally have more power and strength, naturally, anglers will go for that brand when targeting hard-fighting species such as steelhead, brown trout, or the Pacific salmon types.

But then again, beginners and anglers that target smaller trout species opted for an Okuma reel here as well!

What Reel Brand Do Saltwater Anglers Prefer?

This result also makes total sense to me!

Saltwater fishing demands really heavy artillery. When targeting big predators like wahoo, king mackerel, barracuda, tuna, or sharks, the big and robust Shimano reels will take home the prize any day of the week!

So to summarize, Shimano is the number one choice for most anglers out there, but for roughly 10% of them, having a basic budget solution like Okuma is a much-welcomed alternative! And when you’re just starting out, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to build your experience from the ground up!

Now we move on to the next sections that will discuss the two brands’ very best reel series. So make sure to keep reading!

RELATED ARTICLE: 8 Best Fishing Reel Brands (Ultimate Guide)

What Are the Best Shimano Reels on the Market?

Shimano Vanford (Spinning Reel)

an image of a shimano vanford 1000

The Vanford is undoubtedly one of Shimano’s finest reels to date. I would even go as far as to say that this is the perfect spinning reel!

I own a Vanford 1000 myself, and it’s got everything you’d want in a spinning reel:

  • super smooth performance
  • lightweight
  • great design
  • the finest materials
  • unbelievable durability

Additionally, the Vanford has probably one of the world’s best and most fine-tuned drag systems, which gives you the perfect fishing experience. 

This is a true top-notch piece of fishing equipment that’s well worth the price! 

You can check the Vanford’s specs and current price on Amazon here

Shimano SLX (Baitcaster)

an image of a Shimano SLX 151 baitcaster

If you’re looking for a decent Shimano baitcaster, the SLX won’t disappoint you! 

This is a fantastic low profile baitcaster that has got all of Shimano’s excellent features, and for a very reasonable price at that:

  • compact design
  • lightweight
  • amazing cranking power
  • easy and consistent spool control
  • reduced spool vibration

An excellent and easy-to-use reel that’s perfect for anglers who are new to baitcasters!

Take a closer look at the Shimano SLX low profile baitcaster on Amazon here

What Are the Best Okuma Reels on the Market?

Okuma Inspira (Spinning Reel)

an image of an Okuma Inspira spinning reel

The Inspira is Okuma’s spinning reel flagship and a very popular choice for beginners.

This reel has everything you need to really get into the spinning game; it casts beautifully, runs very smoothly, and it sells at a very affordable price.

My oldest daughter actually uses the one you see in the image above, and she’s reeled in plenty of trophy fish with that reel.

All in all, a great beginner-friendly spinning reel that won’t break the bank.

Check out all of the Okuma Inspira’s features and its current price on Amazon here

Okuma Ceymar (Spinning Reel)

I also wanted to include a budget alternative in the article, and the Okuma Ceymar was the perfect match.

If you’re searching for a decent quality budget reel, the Ceymar is definitely a top candidate.

I’d say that this is probably the most popular of Okuma’s spinning reels, as the Ceymar offers great performance for very little money. 

I mean, it’s not often you find a spinning reel that will last you for years at a price of less than $50! 

The Okuma Ceymar has the following features:

  • sleek design
  • very lightweight
  • awesome performance
  • 8 ball bearings
  • Great strength for its size

This is a good starter reel for panfish and the occasional walleye and trout adventure. And once again, the price is just unbeatable. 

Take a closer look at the Okuma Ceymar and check its current price on Amazon here

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