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2020 Shimano Saragosa SW-A : The Review







Top of the morning virus-ridden bunch


The name "Saragosa" first appeared in 2008 with the release of the Saragosa F, which wasn't a dedicated saltwater series since it came in tiny sizes in addition to the larger ones. Its initial release consisted of sizes 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000, 8000, 14000, and 18000, then in 2011 these were joined by the 10000 size.


The Saragosa F series didn't have a common theme or a clear character, so much so that some sizes within that series were built quite differently to the rest. All the reels had Shimano's cold forged drive gear and the second-tier hybrid metal/plastic body, but otherwise they differed in significant ways. Two of the most notable differences were that sizes 3000 to 8000 had plastic rotors while 10000 to 18000 had metal ones, and that sizes 3000 to 10000 had a traditional locomotive oscillation mechanism while 14000 and 18000 had a worm shaft oscillation system. This sounds counterintuitive because the locomotive design is inherently superior in strength than the worm shaft style therefore one expects it to be in the bigger reels, but back then existing locomotive designs didn't provide enough lift to satisfactorily cover the taller spools of the big 14000 and 18000 Saragosa F reels. I mentioned this bit of trivia for a reason that should become clear later in this article.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Interestingly, Shimano offered kits to convert medium and big Saragosa F reels to bail-less ones, something that endeared them to an even wider base of fishermen.   


Those first Saragosas offered plenty of capability for the price and eventually became popular, but not before they went through a painful teething process; for the first two years of the series's life the big reels had melting issues both with the shims beneath the spool and the drag knob itself where it contacted the hot drag washers' stack, then in 2009 Shimano began a campaign to recall the shims and knobs and replace them with redesigned ones which worked fine. There were also cases where the drive gear would separate from its shaft due to loose screws, something that was also addressed successfully sometime in 2010.


Those 2008 Saragosa F reels had a confounding peculiarity...


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

For the assembly of the hybrid metal and plastic body, they strangely chose to insert the screws from the metal frame's side, meaning these screws were threaded into the plastic gearbox. With repeated cycles of disassembly and reassembly for service the plastic threads deteriorated, and in extreme cases no longer provided a secure enough hold. Plastic gearboxes with stripped threads were not uncommon, and they became some of the most purchased spare parts for the Saragosa F leading to supply shortages and delivery delays. To this day I still warn anglers acquiring these reels on the second hand market to check the integrity of these threads before buying when possible. Nevertheless, these first Saragosas gained a solid following due to their reliable performance and versatility, particularly sizes 14k and 18/k which at only $300 MSRP were an even better value than the rest of the series.


In 2014 the second generation Saragosa came out. It's true that the series was announced in late 2013, but since only one size went on sale right before Christmas that year and the rest of the reels only became available in 2014, it should certainly be called the 2014 generation. Anyway, that second generation became a decisively saltwater oriented series, evidenced not only by the addition of "SW" to the model's name but also by the fact that the smallest sizes were dropped and a new larger size was added, so that the 2014 Saragosa SW began with size 5000 and ended with the new 25000 size which belongs to what I call "Mammoth" size class. Other than the new sizing the reels had major changes from the previous 2008 Saragosa F, most notable of which were a full sealing, plastic rotors on all sizes, and the increased drag capability due to the incorporation of additional drag washers beneath the spools instead of only a top stack drag in the previous Saragosa F. The size and concentration of these new bottom drag washers in the 2014 Saragosa SW varied based on the reel's size.


Oh, and one more important difference...


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

This time the body screws were wisely inserted from the opposite side so that they went through the plastic gearbox and threaded into the metal frame for a secure grip over many disassembly/reassembly cycles.  


That 2014 Saragosa SW had only minor growing pains, none of which were significant, and consequently it went on to become one of the most popular and successful Shimano spinning reels in a long time. Actually its sidekick 2014 Spheros SW, which is built on the same platform with minor alterations and a less capable drag, remains to date my most recommended reel to readers with about 900 results popping up when I search my sent email folder for "Spheros SW". When something as good as that 2014 Saragosa is about to be replaced one can't help but feel apprehensive, and today we'll find out whether my apprehension was justified or not as we examine that replacement; the 2020 Saragosa SW, or SW-A as it's also known.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com
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A bit of good news that came even before the SW-A arrived at store shelves was the price. When 6 years have passed between two generations, one normally expects the new one to increase in price a little bit. Yet the price of the SW-A did not increase, nor even stayed the same, but rather it surprisingly decreased. The previous 2014 model began its life costing $240 to $400 for the 5000 to 25000 sizes respectively, then over the years it increased slightly to become $270 to $410 where it remained until its production ended. The new SW-A though comes somewhat cheaper costing $260 to $400, which I believe is a direct result of the global pandemic and its resultant economic crunch where many people would think thrice before spending half a month's rent on a reel. Actually the biggest SW-A isn't exactly $400, rather it's $399.99 so that in the back of one's mind it hasn't reached the 4 bills psychological barrier even though it's only 1 cent away. Note that your country's pricing structure might differ. I'm citing current US prices here since America is this reel's biggest market and it generally has no taxes such as value added taxes (VAT) or goods and services taxes (GST).


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Another thing we learned before the arrival of the reels was the addition of 2 new models; the first one is the 18000 HG (high gear) which belongs in the same size class as the 20000 PG (power gear) and the 25000, and the other new model is the 14000 XG (extreme gear) which belongs in the same size class as the 8000 HG and 10000 PG. For those unfamiliar with these letters, PG is slower gear ratio, HG is faster gear ratio, and XG is the fastest gear ratio for extremely quick retrieve. The first generation Saragosa F of 2008 did have reels named 14000 and 18000, but that was a completely different numbering system where these two had a slower gear ratio and belonged in the same size class together. The 2020 Saragosa SW-A 14000 XG and 18000 HG are therefore novel additions, none of which appeared in any previous Saragosa generation.


This review will feature my retail purchased 20000 SW-A which I have been testing for about 5 months. In earlier preparations I also sourced and fished a pre-production 14000 late last year, as well as examined a 5000 to verify certain facts but did not deem necessary to fish it.


Beginning, as usual, with the photoshoot


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The reel kept the silver and dark purple colour scheme of the previous Saragosa SW, in what I hope is a lasting trend of maintaining each series's colours across generations. 


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The now familiar upwards swing in the frame's bottom is present, and is as unsightly as ever.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

That dark purple anodising on the spool is so elegant my camera fails to do it justice. I hope one day someone will make a reel that's entirely anodised in this colour. because that would be such a badass reel. On the other hand the cuts in the skirt are boring and unimaginative. If you wanna see truly inspired skirt cuts look at the new 2021 Twin Power SW.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com.

2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com.

2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The gearbox is slightly more compact than that of the previous generation.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The spool cap is now unicolour instead of the bicolour one in the previous generation, a change that I find visually appealing. This cap is plastic.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Overall the aesthetics have improved, mainly due to a relatively compact body replacing the shapeless pulp of fat hideousness of the 2014 model. Yet the SW-A remains optically unpleasing and not a good looking reel in any sense. The excessively rounded bumps of the previous Saragosa were swapped for a bunch of random straight lines and sharp angles that neither have coherence nor form a discernible motif, and they are a clear mismatch for the soft rounded lines of the rotor. The rotor itself is disproportionately oversized due to the fact that it's made of plastic and needs to be big for strength. The looks of this new Saragosa exudes chaos and severe disjointedness,, but I guess I should be thankful because it remains a step forward considering how grotesque the previous model looked.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Similar to Shimano's more expensive spinners, the Saragosa SW-A comes with a spool sticker listing some of the reel's features. In this photo I'm trying to hold it in the position it was in when I first unboxed it. You need to remove it before you spool the reel. I've seen cases where people spooled their reels on top of it after mistaking it for the sort of sticker used to prevent braid slippage.  


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The box has a sticker seal and you should insist that yours arrive with an intact seal. One thing I learned over the years is that many online sellers and big name shops do sell reels returned by customers as if they were new if these reels don't show obvious usage marks. When asked why the seals are broken they'll claim that they were checking the reels before sending them or that they were placing a coupon or a business flyer inside the box, etc. Shimano puts that seal for a reason, so it needs to be intact unless there is a very good and credible reason.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

It comes with a plain unprinted spool band, a small bag of spool shims to adjust the line lay, a bag of the actual braid stickers that are supposed to prevent its slippage, a general spinning reels' manual that's not specific to the Saragosa, and a sheet with parts diagrams for all sizes and a few lines of instructions and notes specific to the Saragosa SW series. Here are those lines;


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Interesting. We shall see if that's true.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Made in Malaysia, where the bulk of Shimano's spinning reels are manufactured. The salty deposits around the edges of the strip are caused by my own neglect, nothing wrong with the reel.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The sticker code indicates that my Saragosa was made in November 2020, roughly a month before I bought it. Haven't explained this code in a while so let me do it quickly for new readers; the first letter on the left indicates the year with "A" being 2002, "B" being 2003, etc. Second letter is the month with "A" being January, "B" February, etc. The letter after the dash is the factory's location, "P" being Malaysia.


In one's hand the reel feels well put together. Parts fit nicely, the finish has no flaws that can be picked by the naked eye, handle play has been noticeably reduced from the previous generation, and, admirably, the main shaft has less play and the spool has more horizontal stability than their counterparts in the 2019 Stella SW. This is true for all sizes of the Saragosa SW-A.. On the negative side, this new generation isn't as smooth as the previous 2014 one. The correct definition of "smoothness" is the fluid quiet running without inconsistencies in feel or mechanical noise that can be heard or otherwise sensed, and the new Saragosa certainly has a bit of geary feeling to it. Nothing like the well known noisy reels out there, but the new Saragosa's internals do send out more feedback than the previous model did. In terms of free-spinning, which is the ease of turning the handle, the SW-A feels about the same as the 2014 model did, meaning it has a certain amount of tightness when operated but not too much and definitely in line with what one expects from a reel that is fully sealed with rubber seals. Rubber naturally creates some resistance against moving parts.


The new Saragosa is a hefty reel, weighing pretty much the same as the previous 2014 generation across the board. Of course when I talk about the weights of the 2014 Saragosa I mean the actual weights and not the garbage numbers Shimano initially advertised before they were called out on it 7 years ago. I mean I have archived pages from official Shimano sites where they falsely claimed that some 2014 models were a whopping 122 grams (4.3 oz) lighter than they actually were. That's the past though, let's focus on the present..  


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

My 20000 weighed ~937 grams (~33 oz) which is exactly what Shimano claims on regional sites that use imperial units, and only ~7 grams ~(0.25 oz) heavier than what they claim on sites using metric units. That's respectable veracity, and  I found the advertised weights for the entire series to be accurate within acceptable margins. The Saragosa SW-A reels are heavier than the comparable sizes of the 2019 Stella SW, the difference being quite notable in big reels but less so in medium and small ones.


One last initial finding that should make 99% of you ecstatic;


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Yep. Shimano continues the rapid reversal of the parallel foot design, and the new Saragosa SW-A gets back the traditional tilt. Hard to spot because of the weird shape of the gearbox and the fact that the tilt begins at the rotor, but it becomes clear when placed against something with a uniform fold and known straight edges, my laptop in this case. I wish though that I had temporarily changed my wallpaper before taking this photo. It's borderline blasphemous to place that ugly reel anywhere near my gorgeous deity Naomi Watts, especially as she's about to eat. What I wouldn't give to be that lucky slice of pizza... But I digress.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

In a nutshell for those new to the subject, about 9 year ago Shimano began expanding the parallel foot design to standard spinning reels (non long-cast models), which caused a backlash because that change created compatibility issues with many rods. Shimano initially tried to dismiss these concerns with statements such as this one, which I discussed in a previous article, but eventually they decided to backtrack on that design decision which has proven to be such an embarrassing debacle. I personally didn't struggle with that parallel foot thing, but the many who did should welcome the fact that it's gone from the SW-A.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Unfortunately it isn't all sunshine and rainbows. The new drag knob isn't entirely satisfactory. In the 2014 Saragosa the area around the finger bar was sunken to allow a better grip on that bar, but in the new SW-A the area around the bar is flat allowing only a very shallow grip of that bar. Not an issue in terms of adjusting drag, but it makes it incredibly difficult to pull the knob out if one needs to remove the spool because there simply isn't enough surface to grip the knob securely and pull it off. There are tricks to get around it such as holding the spool down in place with one hand while turning the knob with the other until it finally pops out, or alternatively pulling the spool itself up then turning it and pushing it back down so that the main shaft would push the knob free, but they could've spared us the headache by not making this utterly pointless change. Another instance when I'm led to believe that the testing process is quite dubious. Had a genuine fisherman truly tested this reel he'd have told someone that removing the drag knob is such a hassle. In any case, I won't hammer this flaw too much since it only interferes with the occasional removal of the spool but has no adverse effect on adjusting the drag.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

That initial shortcoming was soon forgotten because everything else about the knob more than made up for it. It's built very well, comprising a sturdy plastic outer casing (blue arrow), a very efficient rubber seal (yellow arrow), and a machined aluminium pressure tube (red arrow) for maximum reliability.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The pressure tube is keyed to the shaft therefore it doesn't spin which facilitates a smooth increase of pressure without redundant friction. Speaking of which, the internal spring of the knob is markedly firmer than usual, resulting in a quicker drag force progression than average. It's not excessively quick that it lacks range yet it has a faster climb than one is used to, something that some anglers might prefer. It proved particularly useful to me for trolling, where I could quickly go from a light drag barely enough to pull the lure to something resembling a "strike" position once a fish is on. I don't go out specifically to troll but to make the most of my time on the water I troll whenever the boat is moving between spots or when we're on our way out or back in. Good for getting bait fish and the occasional Mahi Mahi or the odd Barred Spaniard stalking the surface.    


Still with the knob, it's important to state that it worked flawlessly and was free of the issues found in the 19' Stella SW. When I reviewed that Stella I described how the knob's internal detent/clicker became muffled as the drag pressure was increased, and also posted a video capturing a momentarily slippage that occurs inside the knob. No such slippage in the Saragosa SW-A's knob, and its detent remained crisp regardless of the pressure.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The top drag stack is retained by an easily removed wire retainer.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com
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In sizes 8K/10K/14K/18K/20K/25K the top stack is a secondary drag with only small washers, while the main drag system is located beneath the spool. In sizes 5K/6K though the top stack houses the main drag in the form of a large washer whose two sides are utilised for braking, while the secondary drag is a washer beneath the spool generating braking force with only one of its two sides. The above photo shows the three carbon fibre washers of the top stack of my 20K, which is identical to what you'd find in sizes 8K, 10K, 14K, and 25K. Size 18K stands out in having only a single carbon fibre washer in the top stack in one of the most peculiar design choices I've encountered. They apparently decided that being a speedy reel aimed at tackling topwater fish the 18K didn't need to produce as much drag pressure as its two cousins in the same size class.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Here is the primary drag system. Two very large carbon fibre brake washers (red arrows) sandwiched between stainless steel metal washers (blue arrows) whose surfaces are grooved for increased braking area and better heat dissipation. The carbon washers are keyed to the spool and spin with it, therefore one of them generates braking force using both of its sides and thus this washer does the job of two washers without the added weight of a second one or the extra space it would've needed. This entire drag system top and bottom is virtually the same one found in the big 19' Stella SW, and this extends to small sizes as well where the Saragosa SW-A 5K/6K have essentially the same drag setup found in similar sized 19' Stella SW reels. The drag of mid-sized Saragosas 8K/10K/14K isn't strictly identical to the Stella's, yet it maintains the same principle of a secondary small top stack and a primary large brake beneath the spool.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

First conceived by the Europeans then perfected by Penn decades ago, the concept of large drag washers beneath the spool of a spinning reel stood for decades as pretty much the only means of producing high drag pressure without stickiness or excessive heat build up. Its potency doesn't only come from the increased contact surface, but also from the location of force application. I drew the above simplified diagram to explain this mechanical advantage; the spool rotates on the shaft as a fish pulls the line, and you need to stop that spool by putting your finger somewhere. Would you rather place your finger at location A (representing a small drag washer) or B (representing a larger washer)? Naturally you'd go for B because the farther you get from the axis of rotation the easier it is for you to stop it. In other words, applying the exact same amount of force at points A and B gets you a better result at point B. 


This concept is not without disadvantages though. For example it increases weight due to the extra parts most of which are considerably larger in size, it raises the spool's location on the shaft thus increases the bending moment, and since the spool sits on the drag, the spool's position slightly changes with washers' wear, thermal expansion, and normal washer compression, which might not sound like much until you remember a simple fact;


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com
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The fact that spool shims, which change line lay noticeably, are usually only around 0.5 mm (0.02 inch) thick. This is why a brand like Daiwa continued to focus on improving top stacks solely, first with specially formulated lubes then with proprietary fibre weaves in condensed arrangements, etc. So, while a bottom drag unit is no longer the only means of achieving superlative drag performance, it remains a legitimate option to do so without the complexities and costs involved developing own systems/components.


Back to the Saragosa, and at this point you might be rightfully wondering why the advertised maximum drags of the Saragosa SW-A are lower than the advertised numbers for the equivalent sized 19' Stella SW reels with similar drag arrangement. I would answer this by welcoming you to this site and wishing you a fun time here, because you're obviously a first time visitor who's never read anything on here. Those who did would know that advertised drag pressures are quite often no more than a bunch of random numbers that the marketing folks pull out of their... well, let's call it "exhaust pipes" to keep it family friendly. Let me show you the latest example of this farcical practice;


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com
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This is what Shimano's US site states right now regarding the supposed drag pressure of the 2019 Stella SW, where, regardless of the numbers themselves, they acknowledge that when two reels share the exact same drag mechanism, the reel with a wider spool would have a lower maximum drag pressure. This is a fact of physics where a bigger radios produces more torque for a given amount of perpendicular force therefore on a wider spool the pull overcomes drag resistance more easily. Yet...


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

... somehow natural laws seem to no longer apply in the case of the Saragosa SW-A, since they list the same supposed maximum drag for both the 20K and 25K despite the considerably wider spool on the 25K when both reels house the exact same drag components part for part. Someone might claim that these numbers were obtained with identical line levels on both spools, but then I'd ask why exactly wasn't the same thing done with the Stella? Shouldn't there be some consistency in obtaining the alleged drag figures? What a load of bollocks.


In reality I measured a maximum usable drag pressure of 20.4kg (~45 lbs) for the Saragosa SW-A 20K, which is slightly higher than the 18.7kg (~41 lbs) I got from the equivalent 19' Stella when I tested it. Possibly due to the firmer drag knob spring of the Saragosa. The Saragosa SW-A 14K produced 13.8kg (~30.5 lbs), less than the 17.4kg (~38 lbs) I got from the equivalent 19' Stella. And while I haven't been able to source a production Saragosa SW-A 18K for drag measuring, I will certainly do that in the near future then come back and insert the number here. I'm curious about it since it has fewer drag washers in the top stack as noted earlier, yet I didn't want to hold on publishing this review for the sake of this one missing number. As always, my measured drag numbers are obtained at what I personally feel is a reasonable stop of the drag knob. Higher drag pressures can be obtained if more force is used to further tighten the knobs, but I believe that would be excessive and outside what I consider normal usage of the reels.


What do all these numbers mean? Simply put they mean that the big Saragosa SW-A have more drag power than you'll realistically be able to utilise on a regular basis. You've probably heard some say that they fish 20 or 25 kilograms (44 or 55 lbs) of drag all day and still need more, but I believe that those good folks are just overestimating the actual drag they use. With the rod acting as a lever against the angler it's only normal for him to feel as if he's under much more stress than he actually is. Before you dismiss the Saragosa SW-A and go seek a reel that can output more drag, do yourself a favour and find a buddy who has a big one, tie the line to his car and crank the drag up to 20 kilos, then have him drive slowly away from you and see if you can hold on to the rod. Do that and you'll suddenly realise that no angler can sustain fishing that amount of drag standing up for longer than a few seconds or half a minute at most if they are really strong. As for the medium Saragosas, naturally more people can max out the 13.8kg (30.5 lbs) they produce, but once again take a deep breath and think pragmatically about how much drag you actually need before you brush off the Saragosa SW-A. I do believe that the mid size 8K/10K/14K output enough drag to cover easily 90% of all size-appropriate fishing applications.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The spool of the 18K, 20K, and 25K has a ball bearing at the bottom, while the smaller reels don't have that. This is why the bearing count is different between the big three and the rest of the series. As I've always maintained, spool bearings might slightly improve stability and smoothness if designed and executed correctly, but ultimately they remain more of a refining touch than an actual mechanical advantage since a drag is primarily a friction-generating system. I would not look down on medium and small Saragosa SW-A for not having a spool bearing like their big siblings.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The bottom drag unit is as waterproof as the top stack is. It has exceptionally high quality seals at both the inner perimeter (red arrow) and the outer one (blue arrow). These seals fit well against the unit cover (green arrow), which is screwed in place in the three big reels and requires a special tool to remove, while in the medium and small reels this cover is retained by screws and is much easier to take off. This cover is plastic, but that has not been a problem at any point in time. This brilliant bottom drag layout is known to run with lower temperature and the cuts in the spool's skirt allow air to enter and circle for quick heat exchange.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The three big Saragosas 18K/20K/25K kept this tried and tested simple drag clicker which is operated by a coil spring. It makes what I can only describe as a standard clicking sound that's not particularly loud, although it gains a bit of amplification as it echoes around the wide thin-walled spool skirt. For the medium reels which don't enjoy the same wide spool skirts Shimano carried out a serious upgrade; sizes 8K, 10K, and 14K of the Saragosa SW-A now come with internal spring-mounted drag clickers of the same design found in the 19' Stella SW, therefore these medium new Saragosas produce the exact same unmistakable "ringing" of the Stella which is very loud you can hear it even if a Spring break wet t-shirt competition was taking place behind you on the boat. Of course if you turn your back on such competition to fish you obviously have a little secret that needs to come out, but that's a whole other subject. The smallest 5K and 6K Saragosa SW-A have a Stella style clicker as well, but these sizes already had that since the previous 2014 generation so it's not news.


The on-the-water performance of the new Saragosa's drag can only be described as a successful coming together of the various elements discussed above to create a predictably outstanding drag. It starts smoothly with no perceptible stickiness, maintains that smoothness during any number of rapid starts/stops, once mobile it keeps going with distinct consistency, and the drop in pressure when lube warms up is neither dramatic nor disruptive. I particularly like the improved audibility of the clicker, which allowed me to use it numerous times as my "night catcher". Let me tell you what that is; when on board I never sleep in the bunk beds, firstly because these cabins have a heavy stench of feet no matter how fancy the boat is, and secondly because I have a bizarre phobia that a tanker will slam into us in the dark and I'll be trapped with little chance of surviving. That's why at night I find a corner out on the deck, use the life vest as a pillow, then go to sleep with the line in the water in case a hungry grouper was after a late night meal of almost-spoiled squid. When something takes, sometimes the drag clicker fails to wake me up and I only discover the aftermath in the morning, but the new Saragosa did wake me up every time.


Is the drag as good as the 19' Stella SW's? Well, yes and no. I'd say that up to about 2/3rds of the maximum drag pressure I can't tell it apart from the Stella's drag, but once that final 1/3rd is reached I could feel a slight decrease in responsiveness. I don't believe it's the fault of the drag itself though. To the best that I could tell it's due to the plastic rotor of the Saragosa SW-A having a hint of momentary flex at higher settings, which absorbs the pull and delays the drag's response by a split second or two. The Stella doesn't suffer from that. That 2/3rds and 1/3rd divide is a rough estimate based on my subjective feel of it and not at all based on any methodical measuring. This is certainly a drawback, but to keep things in perspective one needs to remember that we're comparing the Saragosa SW-A's drag to one of the best drags ever created, and getting barely beaten and only at higher settings makes it still an excellent system and in my opinion one of the few truly elite drags available today. It's reliable, powerful, and highly intuitive to operate. Can't ask for more.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The spool lip is the familiar shape used by Shimano for over 12 years now, and it does its usual decent job. As I discussed in previous reviews, on top of sending line out nicely for the extra casting distance this lip design also has good tolerance for loose coils which does reduce line problems. The taper increases the lip's height gradually, so if the braid coils become loose enough to slip on the spool they'd still get caught by the lip and prevented from flying out and causing pandemonium. Don't get offended by my mention of loose line on the spool. It doesn't mean that you suck, it happens to the best of us and can't be avoided in bluewater action. Ever had a jig stuck in a wreck 100 metres deep and had to cut it off then spool that length of empty line? You can't do that with tension on the line, and you're bound to have loose coils ready to slip on the next drop or cast. Anyhow,  the two-colour anodising of the spool gives the false impression that this lip is a separate piece similar to the hardened lips on more expensive reels, but that's just an illusion. The spool of the Saragosa SW-A is actually a single piece and the lip is not hardened.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Spool shimming can be adjusted easily and cleanly, just as was the case in the previous model.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Didn't need to to touch it though, mine spooled like this with no alteration to shimming. This is a superb line lay that's intelligently matched to what the reel is designed to do. There is an erroneous belief that a good line lay is one that "looks" good, as in very close coils that form what looks like a straight edge on the spool. That's not always true because while it would be ideal for light duty reels or dedicated long-cast ones, those close coils could cause line digging in reels designed to fight big fish on heavy drag. For these tasks you want a slightly more aggressive criss cross pattern which doesn't look as neat but it does a much better job reducing line digging. This is exactly what the Saragosa SW-A does, and that's why I got measurably less line digging fishing it than I did using the 19' Stella. By line digging I mean when braid actually gets itself wedged beneath adjacent coils under load, which is different to braid adhesion which occasionally occurs with certain finished braids when that surface finish becomes sticky for a myriad of reasons.


Another thing I noticed during the initial spooling of the Saragosa SW-A in both 14K and 20Ksizes was that I didn't exert as much effort as I expected. I often spool braid by pulling it off a large capacity "storage" reel so that I could use that reel's drag to create some tension in the line. Having done that countless times I developed a feel for how much effort the process should require relative to the reels specifics including but not limited to the gear ratio, and I certainly felt that the new Saragosa required less effort to spool than I anticipated. We will get back to this later on. I only mentioned it now so you'd learn about my findings in the actual chronological order they happened.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The main shaft is protected by a seal, nothing new.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Here is a better look at that shaft seal. Fits precisely in its housing, and provides enough grip on the main shaft for an effective sealing yet without being too grippy and causing excess tightness.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

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The very large rotor nut (red arrow) is made of bronze. Its solid material means no stripped threads under pressure, and its width provides even better support and stability for the rotor across a greater area. The blue arrow points the O-ring seal beneath it, again not new.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com
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Now this is new. The SW-A is the first Saragosa generation ever to receive any sort of a "floating shaft" system, with this low-friction bushing inside the rotor nut being the first part of that system. It partially isolates the main shaft from rotational and sliding friction against the pinion, something that both increases smoothness under heavy loads and reduces energy losses for more cranking power. In more expensive reels a ball bearing is inserted here instead of a bushing, nevertheless this watered-down setup is still a much welcome addition that in my book elevates the Saragosa SW-A into the exclusive club of true big game spinning reels.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com
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This is new too, and it's a bigger deal than you might think. An O-ring seal that fits snugly into a tiny recess inside the nut, in what is by all means a sizable fortification of the sealing at this crucial area where multi-directional movement takes place sometimes even causing suction under extreme conditions. The 19' Stella SW does not have this novel sealing fortification, which is not surprising since the Saragosa SW-A was released 20 months after the Stella SW and during that long period the wheel of innovation was turning and improving designs even past the company's top reel. Much respect to Shimano for not holding back improvements just to artificially maintain an advantage for the Stella.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The disproportionately large rotor is even more so on the 18K and 20K since it's the exact same rotor that goes on the Mammoth 25K, therefore it's made excessively wide to house that reel's enormous spool.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Behind the rotor more details of the sealing are revealed. An O-ring (red arrow) protects the connection between the rotor's neck and the clutch's sleeve (blue arrow).


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The clutch's sleeve itself is embraced by a 4-stage seal similar to the one in the 19' Stella SW.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Here is a closer look at that 4-stage seal for those who haven't seen it in previous reviews. First stage is a vertical wall (red arrow) that should repel light water drops. If there is too much water for that wall to stop, then the second line of defence is a lip (blue arrow) that's wrapped around the sleeve. If water pressure is too high, for instance if the reel gets briefly submerged by accident, some water might get past the lip and it would then be met by the third stage in the form of this grease filled trench (green arrow). After the trench comes the fourth stage, which is the bottom lip of the seal (yellow arrow), although it's highly unlikely that water would reach that final barrier unless something isn't assembled correctly or there is severe physical damage in the seal.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Remember to push the sleeve into the seal from behind so that it gives it a firm protective snuggle without compromising the sealing.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The cover of the clutch assembly is waterproofed to the same standard. The 4-stage seal protects it from inside, and its edge fits around another O-ring seal (blue arrow). Even the cover's retaining screws have their own individual seals (red arrow). This entire arrangement is identical to what's in the 19' Stella SW.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The anti-reverse clutch is a plastic housed and externally mounted unit that has been with the Saragosa series since its inception back in 2008, and its track record of longevity and dependability is well established. Its history actually predates the Saragosa series, as Shimano used to install this clutch in saltwater Stella models from 1995 until 2007, then in 2008 they relegated it to second-tier status and installed an upgraded clutch in the 2008 Stella SW where the clutch's steel ring was directly buried into the frame for an uninterrupted metal to metal grip all the way to the pinion. Two years ago though Shimano restored this second-tier clutch to the 2019 Stella SW, so while it's not the most powerful system out there, the fact that the Saragosa SW-A shares this design with the thousand dollars 19' Stella SW increases the Saragosa's value and prestige.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

In sizes 18K/20K/25K the clutch is attached to the gearbox via posts that fit into corresponding holes, in addition to the 4 screws of course. In mid-sized 8K/10K14K this attachment has been strengthened with extra anchoring points in a clear improvement over the mid-size 2014 Saragosa reels, and even over the mid-sized 2019 Stellas whose clutch has fewer anchors to the body. The logic behind this upgrade isn't difficult to understand; the clutch housing in the three big reels has enough material to provide solid contact with the gearbox, but the smaller scale parts in medium reels necessitated extra anchors to achieve a similar degree of strength. When I reviewed the mid-sized 19' Stella SW 14000 I wasn't pleased with the clutch-to-body assembly in those reels, so it makes me pretty happy to see the Saragosa SW-A coming with an improved mounting in this size class. The wheel of innovation seems to have been turning even faster than I thought in the 20 months between these two models, and once more I can only tip my hat to Shimano's brilliance.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

A quick stop to admire the clutch's inner workings. It's a design that allows the pinion to spin in the right direction without much contact, but once it tries to spin the other way the brake cylinders jump into action seamlessly, instantaneously stopping it.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Each of these brake cylinders has its individual metal wire spring. Unlike the plastic springs found in cheaper clutches, these metal springs don't lose elasticity and continue to provide instant action, and through years of active use they also adjust the cylinders to compensate for wear in moving parts allowing the clutch to function for much longer. 


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The main ball bearing fits tightly into its housing, making the rotor very stable. The tolerance here is clearly better than more expensive Shimanos that I've used in the past.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

To get into the gearbox the rotor brake ring (red arrow) needs to come off. This rubber ring gets engaged by a lever (blue arrow) every time the bail is opened for a cast, guaranteeing that the rotor will remain still as you swing and send your lure on its merry way. All sizes of the Saragosa SW-A have this rotor brake, even though it's not essential since the reels don't have an automatic bail closure and the bail can only be closed manually. It's nice to have the brake nevertheless.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

This rear body bumper needs to come off as well, but first I need to point out the enhanced drainage cuts in it. These cuts have been relocated to where they do a better job letting water out when the reel is in a holder or being fished at or around the common 45 degrees position. 


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The plastic bumper is off, and one can immediately see that in addition to its main job of taking hits and scratches it also plays a cosmetic role in filling the void left at the rear by the reshaping of the body. The area behind that bomber is fully enclosed, therefore water can get in and drain out safely without entering the gearbox.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Speaking of drainage, the plastic cover of the handle's opening has been upgraded with its own tiny drainage slit (circled) so that any water that goes in doesn't become trapped. That water can't enter the gearbox though thanks to the new O-ring seal (red arrow) which was not in the 14' Saragosa. The finish is interrupted in that tiny drainage slit leaving the plastic exposed, but that's a minor cosmetic flaw that has no detrimental effect. I just like to point out the smallest of observations and details as you know.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The body screws all have a decent amount of thread locker applied, and they are of different length groups for better compatibility with each screw's particular job.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

With the reel split open, one of the most important upgrades in this reel can be fully appreciated. In this new Saragosa SW-A the metal frame has two protruding screw posts (red arrows) that extend forward of the frame to fit neatly into corresponding channels inside the flange of the very rigid plastic gearbox (blue arrows), before being held together by long screws that thread into the metal frame. Inset is how it looks assembled, with the forward extending posts firmly gripping the gearbox from within the flange itself for maximal support. The way the metal frame contains the plastic gearbox in this new reel makes it in a sense a "merging" of the two parts instead of a mere connection. To better comprehend the magnitude of this upgrade, contrast it to the following photo of the previous generation...


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

This is how the 2014 Spheros SW and the 2014 Saragosa SW were put together (exact same parts in both reels with different colours). The two most forward screws were located way back in the frame and gearbox as marked by the two sets of arrows, leaving almost half of the front portion and the entire flange without any support. Inset is how those 2014 reels looked when assembled, and I don't think I need to point out the difference. Not putting down the previous generation, which was quite good and worked very well. Instead I'm pointing out the big leap in strength in the new SW-A. This powerful new assembly coupled with an exceptionally tough plastic gearbox almost sucked into the metal frame is in my book the best feature of this reel bar none. I have used some full metal reels with price tags up to $800 whose bodies weren't nearly as rigid as the hybrid body of this new Saragosa. I wasn't exaggerating when I said earlier that it has stepped into the realm of genuine big game spinners.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The enormous drive gear can barely be contained within the gearbox, and seen here is the red perimeter seal that keeps water out of the body, with its two guide strips (blue arrows) for optimum fit and resistance to dislodging.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The drive gear rides on ball bearings on both ends, each of which is retained by three screws. The main purpose of the screws is the application of pressure on the seal beneath each bearing in order to keep that seal aligned for consistent performance.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Here is that seal (yellow arrow), and a metal washer that goes on top of it (blue arrow) whose job is to distribute pressure evenly across the seal's surface. The bearing (red arrow) also fits tightly in its recess, in further display of great manufacturing tolerance.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Close examination of the seal reveals that it has been upgraded with a self-centring raised neck, which seats it precisely in the centre of the recess once dropped in place. For the history of this part's development you need to go back all the way to the 2013 Stella SW review where I complained that this seal was a flat piece of rubber floating around in an oversized recess and demonstrated its failure to remain centred. Shimano then upgraded this seal in the 2019 Stella SW as shown in its own review, and now this latest Saragosa gets an upgraded seal as well. Took a while but we're finally here with a premium design that viciously fought off every water attack throughout my tests, be it the frequent seawater sprays on board or my lazy cleaning at the end of trips basically consisting of a hosing down in the backyard. Once again not saying that the sealing of the 14' Saragosa was bad, just that it's unmistakably better in this 2020 SW-A.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The oscillation mechanism is the same in all sizes of the Saragosa SW-A, and it's another improvement over the previous model. It's a locomotive gear that swings the oscillation block (red arrow) back and forth, with the northern end of that block riding on a stainless steel guide rod (blue arrow) for stabilisation and a smoother motion under load. Looks rudimentary, but this is a case where looks are quite deceiving.. For starters they dropped that whole "G-Free" hogwash, which I roundly ridiculed years ago in the Sahara FI's review, and instead relocated the gear further back and lower than it was in the 14' Saragosa. Now it's in-line with the drive gear for increased power transmission. Then, as indicated by the yellow lines in the above photo, the oscillation block extends so much forward it almost clears the circumference of the gear's plate, and it extends as far to the back at the other end of the stroke. This is thanks to this;


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The channel at the back of the oscillation block is curved in a precisely measured manner allowing it to extend forward and retract backwards further than a gear of this size was traditionally capable of. The concept of a curved channel is not new and has been there for decades, but some brands have masterfully fine-tuned it to yield some truly amazing results. 


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The oscillation gear spins on a brass hub (red arrow) for durability and low-friction operation, and its post (blue arrow) has been upgraded and now it's wider and shorter than it was in the previous generation for added strength. The oscillation block itself has been brought down closer to this gear for the same purpose.


This line lay mechanism is yet another sign of our times. Today computational modeling accurately calibrates optimum shapes, positions, and dimensions, processes countless combinations in a way that no human brain can approach, then outputs the best possible design within the boundaries set by the manufacturer. Next, that design is fed into modern machinery that goes to work creating parts of extreme precision from stock alloys of higher performance than their counterparts of yesteryear. That's how the oscillation mechanism in this new Saragosa, which essentially looks like a cheap heap of metal scraps, can produce the lift and controlled rate of movement that were once only achievable by a complex, costly, and lossy worm shaft oscillation setup.


At the beginning of this review I showed you how the Saragosa SW-A lays braid beautifully, and I can report that the system operates every bit as good. The efficiency and smoothness of the oscillation stroke, particularly under pressure, are quite appreciable, and the reduction in line digging is tangible thanks to the improved cross lay pattern as I remarked earlier. It's an unquestionable fact that a quality locomotive oscillation setup will always be more durable than a worm shaft system of an equal quality due to larger load-bearing surfaces and lesser sliding/friction, so now that everything else is equal I think it's time to move on from the worm shaft oscillation in all spinning reels except long-cast type. Never thought a day would come when I would become convinced that a Saragosa has a superior line lay mechanism to that of the Stella SW, but this day is here.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The oscillation mechanism is powered by this little gear on the drive gear's shaft, made of brass for a long service life.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Shimano's premium drive gear, which has acquired almost legendary status. Made by cold-forging a disc of high strength aluminium alloy into shape, and in the process increasing the metal's density and surface hardness without breaking its molecular bonds. It's then surface treated with a black Almite coating for friction reduction and smoother running. Here the gear is press-fitted onto a machined stainless steel shaft, which thanks to the thickness of the gear's plate creates a very secure coupling. This drive gear is inessence the same one found in the Stella SW, the only noteworthy difference being the type of surface coating, which in my view isn't that big of an advantage. Both types are good for many years of service with basic maintenance. 


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The large teeth show very little signs of wear after roughly 60 hours of active use give or take. Granted that's a shorter period than I usually work reels for, but being familiar with this gear I have no doubt that it will work as faithfully and reliably as it did for many years in different generations of various models.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The pinion is made of machined brass, again just like the pinion of the 19' Stella SW.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Only light traces of wear that are barely visible, and the meshing with the drive gear occurs across a large contact surface just as one expects from a top reel.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

This is what Shimano calls "Infinity Drive''. Two years ago I went on a long rant about the silly marketing hoopla surrounding this thing, and at the end showed that it's basically a feature that Daiwa had since the turn of this century. I won't go off again for the sake of my blood pressure, but give it a quick look near the end of this review if you so wish. In any case, the "Infinity Drive'' system is this bushing (red arrow) which sits in the mid post and constitutes the second and final part of the simplified "floating shaft" feature of this new Saragosa SW-A.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

A closer look.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

An even closer one. The pinion's inner end spins on this ball bearing (red arrow), but the main shaft is lifted clear of any contact with the pinion by the raised lip of the bushing (blue arrow). This lip's diameter is smaller than the diameter of the pinion's hole in order for the main shaft to remain suspended inside the pinion without touching it.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Granted it's a lovely feature and an important upgrade from the previous generation, but to ignore all the great stuff in this reel and pick this glorified bushing to be printed on the body? Absolutely preposterous!


One final bit in the gearbox


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Sizes 18K/20K/25K of the Saragosa SW-A have a mechanical emergency anti-reverse system, made to step in and prevent the rotor from spinning backwards in case the main anti-reverse clutch fails for any reason such as wear, contamination, very cold weather, etc. It operate as follows; if the pinion begins to spin backwards, it spins the drive gear backwards as well, which would move the wire actuator (red arrow) upwards, which in turn brings down the pawl (blue arrow) to engage the ratchet gears mounted on the pinion (green arrow) to stop it. This is a very solid emergency stop, good enough to keep you fishing for the rest of the trip until you go home and have the clutch fixed.


This is another instance where the new Saragosa SW-A is equal to the 19' Stella SW, which also has this exact emergency stop in sizes 18K/20K/30K. In the previous two generations of Stella SW, 2013 and 2008, sizes 8K and up had this emergency stop, but for the 2019 Stella SW it was dropped in all but the big three reels therefore it's now on par with the Saragosa SW-A series.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Bail mechanism is another tried and tested setup that gave no trouble at all. It has a spring loaded pin (not shown) that emits a loud click when you open the bail so that if you're fishing in poor light you wouldn't accidentally cast with the bail not fully opened. I'm not very happy with the timing of that click though. In both the 14K and 20K it happens right after the bail is pushed past the toggle point, at about 85% open, with roughly 15% of the opening stroke still remaining. In order for that feature to be meaningful the click needed to come at the very end once the bail had been fully opened.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Just like the previous Saragosa SW, the plastic bail arm is chunky and shaped with an eye on resisting bending. Excellent rigidity to weight ratio.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The external side of the bail arm is very slick, allowing any braid flying about following a cast to slide forward freely. No weird protruding bushings like what's found in the 19' Stella (inset).


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The line roller is wide enough to seat heavy leaders without an issue. Its silver finish is quite hard and cleaning it is a breeze.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Good amount of thread locker on the line roller's screw as well.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Another substantial upgrade from the 14' Saragosa, and a design that -once more- comes straight from the 19' Stella SW; in the previous Saragosa the line roller had a small sealed ball bearing inside, and the seals on that tiny bearing were all the protection available for line roller. In this new 2020 Saragosa though the ball bearing itself (blue arrow) is not sealed, but instead the entire line roller (green arrow) is completely protected by 4 different seals (red arrows). Also, in sizes 8K and up of the new Saragosa SW-A a bushing has been added (green arrow) to redistribute the load and take some of it off the ball bearing. This allows the roller to handle much more pressure, in yet another change geared towards making it the heaviest duty Saragosa ever made. The previous model didn't have this in any size.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

A better look at the seal quartet. The sleeves of the bearing and bushing each has a mounted O-ring seal...


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

... and two "plunger" type seals protect both ends of the line roller. This new design shuts water out of the line roller altogether, while in the previous Saragosa water was allowed to enter the roller then resisted only by the seals on the small ball bearing. Each of the 4 seals shown here were seated correctly, and I found no assembly faults like the ones I encountered in the same area in the 19' Stella SW.


At this stage it's only fair to acknowledge that what the bruchuse claimed is accurate. The improved sealing all through coupled with better water drainage do make this new Saragosa less demanding of maintenance than the previous generation, and when it's time to maintain it the task is surely simpler and easier than ever.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The bail wire is the joint-free type found on Shimano's most expensive spinners. Looks classy, but otherwise it doesn't have any practical advantage over a well designed and executed jointed bail wire.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

This bail wire is impressively tough. My 20K took a nasty fall on a rusty anchor chain as I clumsily rushed to gaff a fish without securing the rod first, and it only made this tiny ding which I'll buff out in a second. The wire didn't get bent nor suffered any serious damage.


Last but not least, the handle


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

Least? Not a chance. Actually it's my second favourite feature in the SW-A, next only to the revamped body assembly discussed earlier. The fully redesigned handle of the new Saragosa SW-A has a fixed joint to reduce fiddling, and it no longer has a visible pin as was the case in the 14' Saragosa or as is currently the case with the 19' Stella SW (inset). The joint assembly of the Saragosa SW-A is hidden and protected from elements.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The steel axle of this new handle is so robust it's almost overbuilt, and this robustness manifests itself in the complete absence of flex or thread creep under stress. Inset in this photo is one of the reader reports I received of handle failures in the 2019 Stella SW, and while I generally would not fault a spinning reel's handle for breaking under load because a spinner's handle is not supposed to be pressured too much, I'm certainly reassured by the tougher build of the new Saragosa's handle and as of the time of writing I'm yet to receive a single failure report for it.


Now, do you remember the bit when I told you that spooling the Saragosa SW-A took less effort than I expected? That was only an early indicator of what was to come. Throughout my testing of both the 14K and 20K I could feel that the cranking power of this new SW-A has evolved past that of the previous Saragosa, and I have to say even past the 19' Stella SW. Last year I gave you a detailed look at my fishing and how demanding it is in this article, and in a sense I subjected the Saragosa to similar rigors. Heavy jigs in extreme depths, powerful currents that make retrieving lures a chore, pulling large amberjacks, rays, and Warsaw groupers from up to a hundred metres down, having to drag false albacores caught trolling very quickly so we can resume moving, and the new Saragosa made lighter work of it than I anticipated, increasing the fun factor of fishing these reels in the process. It was a chaotic time, and I was simultaneously testing more reels than I usually do due to theongoing scarcity of fishing opportunities I get, yet I found myself reaching for the SW-A more than I should have and at the cost of other reels' fishing time because the power made it a joy to use. I can't tell definitively where that increased cranking power comes from since I'm not running a laboratory where I 3-D scan and analyse reels, but my senses tell me that the extra power comes from this;


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The handle of the SW-A has been overhauled for maximum power. I don't mean a simplistic gain in leverage due to a lengthened shank, I wouldn't be celebrating that, rather talking about minute adjustments of shapes, angles, and distances to reduce power losses and deliver as much of the angler's energy to the drive gear as possible. Not to complicate matters with geometrical calculations, just close your eyes and imagine turning a reel's handle of exaggerated proportions where the grip is far away from the reel's body and the angle of the stem is so open (obtuse) that you end up with a very small radius of turning. Can you feel your energy being wasted? The handle of the new SW-A is the exact opposite of that. I can't possibly provide a mathematical proof of this, but it is my firm belief that at the time of writing the Saragosa SW-A delivers the most winding power of all Shimano spinning reels in current production. Take this for what it's worth.


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The grip on all SW-A reels is the egg shaped type, of the same premium build used on the 19' Stella. In this new Saragosa the grip runs on two bushings (red arrows), and its screw has a proper application of thread locker as well in a final gesture to highlight the attention to detail employed in building this reel.


Before I began this journey of discovery I had very low expectations. In my mind I believed that the 2014 Saragosa was as good as it could possibly get for that amount of money, and I therefore predicted that any replacement for it could only be a step back. I was wrong though. Not only did shimano pull it off and created a better Saragosa, but they did it for less money too. The key to this unforeseen success was that they didn't venture into the unknown by trying to reinvent the wheel, rather they left the core aspects of what made the 2014 Saragosa such a great reel untouched then went on tweaking and improving around those core principles.


During my examination of this new Saragosa SW-A, I found myself unavoidably comparing it to the 19' Stella SW almost as many times as I compared it to the previous 14' Saragosa. That transpired because I evaluate reels based on actual performance and build without paying the slightest attention to the price sticker or the past glory and outdated perceptions associated with a name. All said and done, I believe that what we have here is Shimano's actual flagship reel. Yes, I just said that the 2020 Saragosa SW-A is in my book superior to the 2019 Stella SW. Don't take this as a statement that the Saragosa SW-A is a high-end reel. It's not, but neither is the 19' Stella SW which in my view took a step back to become an upper mid-range reel, and thus it competed directly with the new Saragosa SW-A in its own class, and I have to say unfavourably so.


In my opinion the new Saragosa delivers more winding power than the 19' Stella, it's built with a sturdier mechanism, it's better matched to heavier fish due to reduced line digging, I found it to be better put together, it's better sealed thanks to the novel shaft protection, and the upgraded clutch mounting in mid sizes partially addresses one of my biggest criticisms of the 19' Stella. The Stella has only three advantages; it's lighter, more notably so in larger sizes. It has a hardened spool lip with superior resistance to scratches and dents. And its rigid metal rotor allows for a highly responsive drag across the full range of drag pressure, although it's only by fractions of a second virtually imperceptible to most in the heat of the action. This means that if you don't mind a bit of extra weight and can pay attention not to smack your spool's lip around, you could buy 3 Saragosas for the price of a single Stella in most sizes and even have some money left for braid.


What I've just said shouldn't come as a big surprise if you had seen this;


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

When I tested the latest Stella SW in 2019 I concluded that it was only slightly better than the 2014 Saragosa, so it shouldn't come as any shock that a vastly improved 2020 Saragosa SW-A would leap ahead of the Stella, which is exactly what I believe has just happened. This conclusion might irritate the people who need to sell you the more expensive Shimanos they've been stocking, so be wary of the "pros" coming up with stories about how the new Saragosa supposedly blew up and evaporated only for the Stella or the Twin Power SW to step in and save the trip, and maybe they'll also tell you that afterwards these reels drove them home and then prepared them a romantic candlelit dinner. Nothing is far fetched in these spooky times of crooks preaching to hoards of applauding simpletons. Hilariously, anyone who claims that the Saragosa SW-A broke while being fished within its advertised maximum drag would simply be suggesting that the reel is a failure that needs to be recalled. Let them say that and see what happens to their sponsorship deals.


You've been warned, so only blame yourself if you allow web rubbish to dissuade you from buying what I believe is one of the best reels available on the market today and Shimano's best saltwater offering at the moment. The series having expanded with new size/ratio combinations it now covers almost every saltwater discipline imaginable from light shore and inshore work to heavy bluewater fishing both on the surface and very deep beneath it. The few who constantly go after +300 lbs (~ 140kg) catch might need to look at other brands' high-end offerings for that immense redundancy of power, but otherwise the vast majority of fishos out there need not look any further than the brilliant Saragosa SW-A. At the beginning I mentioned that the 2014 Spheros SW has become my all time most recommended reel since its debut 7 years ago, and as it stands I would not be surprised if 7 years from now I had recommended the Saragosa SW-A even more times, particularly if Shimano continues to provide its globally fantastic after sales service, something that in my opinion Daiwa continues to fail miserably at doing. I should be able to tell you how that went when I review the Saragosa SW-B, I guess.   


2020 Shimano Saragosa SWA - AlanHawk.com

The review is over. I'd be remiss if I didn't apologise for the delay in posting this article, although those of you who've been following the pandemic chronicles would be aware of the havok this crisis has been wreaking on my activities both in terms of fishing and managing a complicated life that's highly dependent on travelling. Testing a reel has always taken a good few months and a lot of uck, but the surreal events of the past year or so have slowed everything down, almost to a complete halt at times. I'll continue trying my best to navigate all that madness and fish whenever I have the free time and chance to do so, and you just bear with me until we -hopefully- one day go back to something resembling normalcy.


The last few reviews have been Daiwa and Shimano reels back to back, not by design but rather due to the number of recent releases by these two companies. I'll change gears in the next review or two though as I take on some interesting releases from other brands which I've been fishing for a while, one of which might end up being one of the most pivotal budget reels in recent memory. Fingers crossed I'll be able to finalise my testing sooner rather than later. Until then keep your eyes on the News page for any updates.


Tight lines.


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Alan Hawk

May, 17th, 2021




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