Guide Lines with Ryan McMahon: Reel Reviews of the Shimano Tranx 400 & 500
A Reel Review
Shimano Tranx 400 vs Tranx 500
I’ve been using the Shimano Tranx line-up of reels since their inception and have found a nice
balance of reliability and comfortability in them. We’ve seen musky reels really evolve over the last
couple of decades to keep up with larger baits and longer rods. With it’s compact low profile build the
Tranx is in my mind a leader when it comes to the new age musky reels out there today and here’s a few
The Tranx 500 comes in at a healthy retail price of $500 but has been described to me as “the
most bullet proof musky reel out there” by Tong, the head reel technician at Thorne Bros. which services
Shimano and Daiwa reels. I’d have to agree with him too, my 500’s have been problem free for me.
However, this durability comes at the cost of being large and heavy. The Tranx 500 doesn’t balance well
with lighter rods in my opinion, I save these reels for the heavy artillery like the Thorne Bros Predator XH
10’. These reels can really handle large baits better than any other reel I’ve used for any length of time.
They are good at throwing and retrieving large rubber, blades, jerkbaits etc… They also take a decent
amount of force to engage the spool which really protects the anti-reverse from being ruined when the
reel accidentally gets engaged when a large bait is flying through the air.
The Tranx 400 is the little brother of the 500 and is priced modestly at $300. When the 400’s
first came out I thought they looked like bass reels. They are light and fit nicely in your hand for all the
palmer’s out there. At first these reels had some issues with the drag system backing off and also with
the worm gear on the level wind. Both issues seem to have been resolved though and except for some
minor off season maintenance, mine have been reliable. I have been throwing mid/small size rubber and
blades, jerkbaits, glides, and topwaters to name a few on the Tranx 400’s over the last handful of years
since they’ve come out.
When I’m looking at musky reels I’m looking at two things; speed and line pick-up. The speed is
found easily in gear ratio form i.e. 7.6:1. This means the spool spins 7.6 times for every 1 time the
handle turns. A reel that is geared in the 7’s in considered a fast, or “high speed” reel. Something in the
4’s or 5’s would be a slower geared reel. There has been a trend for faster reels in recent years, but high
geared reels often lack torque. This is why the “line pickup” stat is an important one. Knowing the gear
ratio is important, but ultimately we really need to know how much line is being retrieved per turn of
the crank. The Shimano Tranx reels have a lot of line capacity on the spool, so when the reel is fully
spooled there is more circumference, therefore it picks up more line per turn of the crank. This is how
you get more torque out of a reel.
The Tranx 400’s come in the following models…
400A – 5.8:1 gear Ratio – 30” per crank line pickup
400AHG – 7.6:1 gear ration – 39” per crank line pickup
To get 30” of line pick up with a gear ratio in the 5’s is amazing. This is a very versatile reel with plenty of
torque and reasonable speed. Back in the day this would have been a very fast reel! The HG picking up
39” per crank is a real speedster. This reel is great for burning but will wear you out of you’re not ready
for it as it lacks a little torque at 7.6:1.
500PG – 4.6:1 gear ratio – 30” per crank line pickup
500HG – 6.6:1 gear ratio – 43” per crank line pickup
The 500 lineup is really where you see the torque come through in the numbers due to the large spool.
These line pickup/gear ratio numbers are unmatched!
Here is Ryan’s contact info
New River – Southwest Virginia High Water has dominated this week, but we are normalizing. Water temps have fallen back…
This article originally appeared in the April/May 1994 issue of Musky Hunter. To see more classic articles like this, subscribe…
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