Shimano Stradic FL vs Shimano Vanford for Ultralight Fishing

In this article, I am going to discuss two very similar reels. These reels, almost have more in common than separates them. They are both excellent for their price point. I personally love and recommend them both.

If I had to describe both reels in just one sentence. The Stradic is a workhorse while the Vanford is all about finesse.

For the most part, I am going to be discussing the smaller 1000 and 2000 size reels which are towards the ultralight end of the spectrum. Some of what I say will also likely apply to the larger sizes.

Comparing Vanford and Stradic specifications

Vanford5004/100, 6/604.96+15.6:16
Vanford10004/160, 6/1105.37+15.1:17
Stradic10004/160, 6/1106.56+16.0:17
Vanford20006/165, 8/1055.37+16.1:17
Vanford25006/200, 8/1406.37+16.0:120
Stradic25006/200, 8/1407.96+16.0:120
The most apparent difference between the two reels is weight.

First impression

This might be splitting hairs, but in my opinion, the Stradic FL feels like a much more premium reel. The aluminum frame simply feels more rigid and robust with zero flex. It feels powerful, precise, and silky smooth to the touch.

The Vanford is impressively light, much lighter than the already lightweight Stradics. But that lack of weight, almost feels like a toy. Although despite that feeling, it is obviously very refined. While it is certainly rigid, it is not quite as solid in the hand.

Frame Material

In my opinion, the biggest difference between the Vanford and the Stradic is in their frame material. Marketing names aside, the Stradic frame is made out of Aluminium while the frame for the Vanford is made out of carbon.

Aluminum is stronger and generally more durable, while carbon fiber is lighter, extremely rigid, and does not corrode.


The design of the spools between the Vanford and Stradic is nearly identical. They both fit on the other reel and they both use the same click mechanism.

They both feature long-stroke technology to help maximize casting distance. This really shows when casting extremely lightweight lures. In my previous testing, I was able to get a couple of extra feet of distance when casting with such a reel.


Both reels are excellent, they cast well and feel very smooth.

The Vanford, thanks to its featherlight weight feels more instantaneous. There is less inertia to overcome allowing for a more refined feeling reel. Any movement is almost instantly transferred to the gearing and towards the line. The feeling is hard to put into words, but it is certainly a joy to fish with.

For the ultimate contact and control in finesse applications, the Vanford has a slight edge.

With regards to casting distance. Both reels are nearly identical. One is not really better than the other.

Line Lay

Both reels use Shimano’s worm drive technology to achieve an extremely even line lay. It excels at laying down both monofilament and fluorocarbon lines.

They handle braid slightly less well, but still better than all but the high-end Daiwas. The criss-cross lay pattern also assists in preventing the line from digging into itself which can improve casting distance. Top marks for both reels.

Under real world fishing conditions, I doubt there will be any issues caused by line lay. I certainly have not had any.


Both reels feature the same drag which is excellent. The maximum drag pressure of 7lb is the same for both reels which is about ideal when targeting trout and other small fish.

In general, I prefer to use felt washers when fishing finesse ultralight lines, but I must admit that the carbon drag used in these reels feels refined. Just need to remember to keep them well greased to maintain smoothness.

The minimum drag pressure is also low enough not to cause issues even when fishing 2lb line.

It is also possible to swap out the carbon drags with felt.


Both the Shimano Stradic and Vanford use aluminum gearing manufactured under Shimano’s Hagane standard.

In my experience, Shimano makes excellent gearing. It is not only very lightweight but surprisingly durable probably thanks to the tight tolerances they are manufactured with. The gearing in both reels will likely last hundreds of hours of fishing pressure.

I know it is an older model, but I have Stradics the best part of 15 years and the gearing is still smooth.

Ball Bearings

The Stradic has 6+1 ball bearings, while the Vanford has 7+1. Both reels use Shimano’s high-quality water resistant shielded bearings. No complaints here.

Is the Stradic or Vanford Better Value?

Both reels retail for around $200, with the Stradic being about $40 cheaper than the Vanford.

At this price point, they compete in the same ballpark as the Daiwa Ballistic, but I personally feel the two Shimanos are simply more refined reels with better durability. Plus they seem to cast further. The main reason to go for a ballistic instead is if you require an anti-reverse switch.

Are they worth $200?, are they going to catch twice as many fish as a $100 reel? Well no, but they are very well made reels and they are a pleasure to use. Everything is just a little

more precise with better tolerances and fewer corners cut.

is out of your price range, I recommend several sub $100 reels here.

Who should buy the Shimano Stradic FL?

The Stradic is a workhorse of a reel. They just seem to last forever. If you want a tougher reel. I will not hesitate to try and fight a 20lb fish on a Stradic 1000, it is that good of a reel.

So if you are wanting a trout reel, but might occasionally hook a large salmon or steelhead then the Stradic has the rigidity and durability to survive such an encounter.

Maybe I am biased towards metal frames, but I also slightly prefer them in the salt, because when inshore fishing you never quite know when you are going to hook an underwater bulldozer.

Who should buy a Shimano Vanford?

The Vanford is well suited for fishing styles that require a large degree of finesse and precision. It is perfect for fishing ultralight line and casting finesse tiny lures where every bit of sensitivity is an advantage.

It is also the best option for panfish and trout in ponds and streams. Any fishing style that does not occasionally require brute force to land a fish.

The Vanford also comes in several more small sizes than the Stradic so there is slightly more flexibility when selecting a size to perfectly balance a rod.


It really comes down to whether you want a metal or carbon frame reel. All other differences is really just splitting hairs.

The Vanford is lighter, so feels more precise. The Stradic is slightly heavier but has an aluminum frame. Both are excellent reels.

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