Changing of the Guard - Shimano 8000D Review with Don McIntyre

Changing the Guard - the 8000D takes over from the long-lived 4500 BTRThe New Shimano Baitrunner ‘D’ Series was recently released to the US Market, replacing, after 20 years, what many consider to be the ‘standard’ of US Carp (and Striper) fishing reels, the Shimano BTR series. You’ll see lots of fascinating new technological terms in the literature like ‘S-Concept’, ‘Fluid Drive’, ‘Propulsion Line Management’, ‘Varispeed Oscillation’, and ‘Floating Shaft’, but what does all this mean, and how is this reel any different than my tried & true, workhorse BTR 3500’s & 4500’s?

At first glance, you’ll think the new ‘D’ Series reels are just a graphite body version of the popular Thunnus Series.  Upon closer inspection, you’ll quickly realize this couldn’t be further from the truth.  In fact, the physical design is entirely different.  I was fortunate enough to get my hands on an 8000D recently and have had several outings to test the reel head-to-head with my 4500B’s, which are equivalent in spool capacity.

Aside from the obvious features you would expect from Shimano (reliable baitrunner, dynabalance, super stopper anti-reverse, etc.), I’d like to highlight some unexpected performance differences that really jumped out at me during the testing:

1. Spool Design - The 8000D’s spool is a cold forged aluminum spool with a special lip taper design that allegedly decreases backlash and wind knots.  Field Test:  Over the testing period I had zero backlashes with the 8000D (line lays across front of spool & drag knob).  Casting performance was also excellent.  

2. Bail Design - The bail on the 8000D is a 1 piece design with no joint and an audible ‘click open’ feature.  The new bail also has an improved, more robust, roller mechanism.  Field Test:  The bail performed flawlessly with zero malfunctions.  The feel of the bail was more ‘solid’ than my 4500B’s.

3. Spool Oscillation - The spool oscillation on the 8000D is designed for optimum line lay.  This is also adjustable with provided washers, depending on your taste.  Field Test:  Line lay on the 8000D was perfect with 150 yds of 50# Braid and 80 yds of 20# Mono backing.  Line lay remained perfect over the testing period.  As everyone knows, this has been a regular complaint with the BTR series reels.

4. Baitrunner Tension Range - The baitrunner tension range has been expanded on the 8000D.  This resulted in a much wider range to fine tune the free spool tension. 

5. Fluid Drive with Direct Drive Mechanism.  The new 8000D has a similar ‘thread on’ handle design as the 4500B, but with improved gearing, shielded anti-rust bearings and a floating shaft design.  The handle actually threads directly to the main gear, resulting in a rock solid feel.  Field Test:  This 8000D was significantly smoother than the 4500B, and the handle had absolutely zero backplay.

6. Handle/Knob.  The handle on the 8000D is made of machined aluminum and has been optimally sized for the reel.  The knob is also made of an oversized oval rubber-like material called ‘Septon’.  Field Test:  Hands down the most solid and comfortable reel handle I’ve ever used.

7. Baitrunner Lever.  The baitrunner lever on the 8000D flips aft to engage the baitrunner feature (opposite of the BTR series).  Field Test:  Personally, I like the 4500B’s design better here, but it’s what I’m used to fishing with.  However, engagement of the 8000D’s baitrunner was flawless 

8. Size.  The body of the 8000D is narrower than the 4500B (and more compact than the Thunnus).  Field Test:  Paired with a 12’ Sonik SK3, the reel was ‘just right’ in terms of size and weight.  It didn’t feel too big or heavy, but also didn’t feel too small or light.  It balanced the rod out very nicely.  

9. Waterproof Drag.  Few reels compare with my BTR’s for drag smoothness and performance.  Field Test:  The 8000D has equal, if not better, smoothness at all ranges of drag settings.  I did, however, find the drag knob slightly more difficult to manipulate during a fight than the 4500B drag due to its shape, which is slightly smaller.  Again, I’m just more used to my 4500B’s big flat drag knob.

10.Frame Rigidity.  Just by looks, I expected to feel some frame flex in the 8000D.  Field Test:  The 8000D’s graphite frame equaled the excellent rigidity of the 4500B.  Both of these reels are the only graphite framed reels I’ve ever used that seem to be able to match the rigidity of metal framed reels like the Thunnus.

Summary:  Unfortunately, I can’t speak to the reliability & durability of the reel with such limited testing, but without hesitation, I will put my trust in Shimano to only put the best products on the market at this price point, especially replacing one of the most beloved reels of all time.  Some habits are hard to break, and many owners of BTR series Baitrunners will never (and should never) give them up.  They’re great reels that will last a lifetime.  However, Shimano has done a great job updating their classic, and you shouldn’t hesitate if you’re in the market for an upgrade or a new outfit. The 8000D may not be the ‘ultimate’ carp reel, but it could very soon be the new standard by which all others are compared.

Specification Comparison: 

Gear Ratio 4.8:1
Weight 23.3 oz.
Capacity 14(295).17(250).20(195)

Gear Ratio 4.8:1
Weight 21.7 oz.
Capacity 14(295), 17(250), 20(195)
Price:  (8000D) $179.99 (MSRP)

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