Shimano Tranx 300 400 Review

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The Shimano Tranx is a no-nonsense hard cranking low profile, built for a larger class of inshore fish.

While not as refined and low-profile as others in its class, I don’t think it matters. The Tranx is the muscle car of the baitcaster world.

What it lacks in refinement (which isn’t much), it makes up for with power, torque, and outstanding handling under load.

Importantly, it’s a great build with top-shelf performance, and its price point is reasonably accessible.

The only question is whether you get a 300 or a 400, a fast one or a slow one. And that’s where things get tricky.

Let’s take a closer look at the Shimano Tranx.

Shimano Tranx Review

The Shimano Tranx is a large low-profile baitcaster priced in the lower range of the high-end market segment.

The series has 10 reels with one left-handed option. Sizes include 150, 200, 300, and 400. Each reel has two gear ratio options.

Shimano Fishing Tranx 301 A Low Profile Reels [TRX301A]

Today, we’re looking at the 300 and 400 as they have the big fish applications, so many anglers are keen on.

While I said it was an inshore reel in the intro, there are definitely applications for outside the heads for the keen sports angler.

A great example of offshore targets is king mackerel and tuna to 20/25 pounds, especially when they’re working the surface.

Find a school and cast stick baits, metal slices, or poppers for unbelievable sports action. If they’re a little deeper in the column, jig for awesome results.

Inshore, saltwater, or fresh, you can target anything that exceeds 15 pounds. 

The Shimano Tranx is well suited to those anglers who hunt spillway beasts – should you hook something ridiculous, you’ll at least have a chance.

The Tranx is a nice reel for hunting large tarpon from small wave breaks or anywhere rock, beach, and shallows combine to invite and hold baitfish.

These are just a few examples of Tranx’s potential. The Tranx is incredibly versatile, and if you rig light, it’s even suitable for a smaller class of fish.

Purists will argue that the Tranx doesn’t offer the refinement of other reels in its class. Technically, they’re right – It doesn’t

However, the criticism is misguided. Only the most experienced anglers can feel the difference between Tranx and its competitors.

It’s criticized for not being as smooth a crank as others and not having the refined adjustment in its drag settings.

While true, I call “who cares” on this assessment. 

The 5 (+1) bearings are enough, keep the price down, and are as smooth as you need considering their applications.

Moreover, the fact that it’s missing some of the “pretty” cranking smoothness keeps the Tranx more affordable. 

In my books, that trumps silky smoothness. It’s not a Rolls Royce anyway; it’s a Mustang.

Personally, I think the infinite drag setting is BS when it comes to large fish. Who cares about a quarter pound of drag adjustment when chasing fish punching through 20 pounds?

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Which Shimano Tranx Is Best For You?

The trick with the Tranx is selecting the right one for your applications. 

Do you go for speed or cranking power and extra stopping power? Do you go for a few grams lighter, or do you go for the extra spool capacity?

This is the challenge for me, and to make it more difficult, there’s very little difference in price between each reel in the series.

Are you going to cast big swimbaits? Or are you going to attack the top water? I haven’t used the fast 7.6, but I’m sure it’ll be much easier to work surface lures than the slower 5.8.

For me, it’s a big fish baitcaster, so the 400 with a 5.8 ratio was a very easy choice, even though there’s a drop of 2kg in max drag. 

For others, it might not be easy, particularly if you’re keen on using fast lures on the top water.

Regardless of the selection dilemma, the Tranx is an excellent reel for chasing a larger class of fish. 

It’s affordable quality and performance with a heap of versatility that will cover any number of applications, saltwater and fresh.

My only serious criticism is that the power handle on the HG models should be on all models. The power handle is awesome – worth adding later if your choice doesn’t have it supplied.

It’s pretty chunky, which is to be expected. However, it is still quite palmable and never feels unwieldy.

Casting manners are excellent. It’s easy to cast as far as baitcasters go, and with a little practice, you’ll have it dialed in for casting bigger baits.

The Shimano Tranx is a fantastic-looking baitcaster that performs beautifully in tough locations against tough, belligerent fish.

Shimano Tranx Features

angler fishing against a sunset reflection

Hagane Body

This is standard construction material from Shimano performance reels. 

While the name is fancy, the important thing is that the frame/body is rigid, keeping gears aligned and delivering torque and power to the business end of the fight.

While I’d never advise you to treat it roughly, there is still good protection from impacts due to misadventure.

Coreprotect

Coreprotect does offer a measure of water protection under normal use. You’ll be fine in the rain, and it’ll handle sea spray.

It’s not a waterproof reel. Should it be submerged, water ingress is assured, and you’re best to break it down, clean it, and grease it.

Super Free Spool

Without going into the technicalities of the design, the bottom line is that friction has been eliminated from the spool shaft.

Any design that eliminates friction from a reel results in a much longer working life. In terms of a spool, the casting manners of the Tranx are fantastic.

The Tranx is a fun reel to cast. Once dialed in, there’s none of that constant backlash worry when loading up to cast a long way.

While the spool greatly contributes to easy casting, much of the easy casting results from the VBS brake system.

VBS Casting Brake

This is a simple centrifugal brake system. There’s nothing high-tech or fancy, despite how Shimano may hype it, but it’s very effective.

Adjustment is internal, which some might find a pain, but it’s certainly no deal breaker.

For the most part, you will be casting heavier baits, so your brake setting will remain constant with minimal changes required. 

You’ll find that fine-tuning is all you need for most situations.

This is handy because the brake cover fully detaches, making it a prime candidate for going for a swim.

Cross Carbon Drag

The drag capacities on the Tranx are excellent at 10kg for the 300 5.8 ratio and 8kg for the 7.6. 

The 400 has a max drag of 8kg. I’m not sure why 400 gets 2kg less drag – no doubt there’s a reason. Something I should inquire about.

Whatever the case, plenty of stopping power balances beautifully with the robust and rigid frame and the oversized powerful gears.

The cross-carbon drag does provide more refined settings, so I’m not sure why some anglers criticize the Tranx for its lack of refined drag adjustment.

Under load it’s smooth. Start-up is a confidence boost as well. All in all, this is standard Shimano high-end drag performance that is both predictable and reliable.

Our testing on the water didn’t land anything over 15 pounds. It was disappointing that we didn’t hook up big, as we all wanted to see the Tranx put to the test.

The 400 holds 275 yards of 50-pound braid. 

So, you’re not catching marlin, but that’s just enough spool capacity to cause a heap of grief for a mid-size king, tuna, GT, or mega musky.

The 300 holds only 190 yards of 50. Some might be happy with this and go for weight reduction. 

For me, I’ll go with the extra spool capacity considering there is only 10 grams difference in weight.

S3D Spool

Again, anywhere that friction is reduced is a good thing. S3D is also designed to reduce vibration.

The crank is smooth, but I can’t say how much of this relates to the spool design. The only way to test this would be to lab test a Tranx with and without S3D.

The Tranx has a beautiful feel regardless of which components are responsible. It casts and cranks very nicely.

Sure, it’s not the most refined feel relative to some of its competitors. Most anglers will only feel the joy of the power.

SA-RB (Bearings)

With 5 plus one bearings, the gears and turning parts are well supported, and the anti-reverse is solid as a rock.

Even with the absence of bearings on the knobs, the crank feels pretty smooth. Ultimately, we’d all like more bearings. 

But that would definitely add to the price, which is best avoided. 

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Excellent power
  • No fuss brake system
  • Strong, rigid body
  • Excellent drag power
  • Great reel for a larger class of fish
  • Quality build

Cons

  • The brake cover disconnects completely

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Shimano Tranx 300 & 400 Alternatives

The Shimano Tranx has a few alternatives that anglers should consider. The 300 Curado K will appeal to many.

SHIMANO CURADO 300 K CURADO
  • CURADO 300 K CURADO

Last update on 2022-12-31 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Firstly, you can save a hundred dollars and still get the same awesome quality and similar credentials to the Tranx 300. 

Curado has a reputation as the ultimate in reliability as well.

But those in the market for a big fish baitcaster will no doubt come across the Abu Garcia Revo Toro Beast Baitcast Low Profile Fishing Reel.

Last update on 2023-01-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

You’ll probably find it at a cheaper price point, and what’s more, the Toro is an awesome feature-filled big fish weapon.

It’s extremely well made, has all the grunt you need, and, for added convenience, has the brake dial on the outside.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Pounds of Drag Does a Shimano Tranx 400 Have?

The Tranx 400 has a max drag capacity of 17.6 pounds. The 300 has two speed options with 8 and 10 kg of max drag, respectively. 

Which Shimano Tranx Comes with A Power Handle?

The Power handle is supplied on all HG models. Some like the power handle, others prefer the twin knobs.

For big fish, I think the power handle is great for heavy cranking. 

If your model doesn’t have the power handle, it’s worth investigating if you can switch over.

Is Shimano Tranx Sealed?

The Shimano Tranx employs Shimano’s Coreprotect. While not waterproofing the reel, it will keep out occasional water such as rain, spray, and the odd heavy splash.

It’s important to note that Coreprotect has its limitations and that a serious dunking or submersion will see water ingress.

When saltwater gets in, you will need to strip the reel down, clean, and re-grease to ensure corrosion doesn’t set in.

Is the Shimano Tranx a Saltwater Reel?

The Tranx is a powerful reel and brilliant in the salty stuff. It’s well constructed from alloys and stainless materials and has excellent corrosion protection.

While rated as saltwater ready by Shimano (whatever that means), it’s still important that it is washed and cleaned after every session.

Anglers should pay special attention to the mechanism around the level wind, ensuring any salt-holding dirt and grime is removed.

What Size Handle Is on The Tranx 400

The Tranx 400 is an HG model. Therefore, you’re lucky enough to get the power handle supplied as standard.

Verdict

I’m a big fan of the Shimano Tranx, and I’m not alone. The Shimano Tranx is popular for baitcaster anglers looking for serious power in a robust shell.

I think the Tranx is one of Shimanos’ more fun, cooler, inspirational reels. It does provide big fish baitcaster entertainment at its best.

My only question is…which way would I go if I could choose only a Tranx or a Toro Beast? Which way will you go?

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