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Shimano Calcutta TE Reel Review

Author: Rob Belloni


Retrieve ratio: 5.0:1
Number of ball bearings: 4
Bearing Type: A-RB (Anti-Rust Bearings)
Number of roller bearings: 1
Levelwind: Non-disengaging
Left hand retrieve available? 400TE only (not available for 300TE)
Line retrieve per handle turn: 25 inches
Line capacity: 20lb/160yds (400TE)  /  20lb/120yds (300TE)
Max Lbs of Drag: 16.0lbs
Weight: 12.8oz (400TE) / 12.5 (300TE)
Clicker? Yes
Drag Material:  Dartanium
Frame Material: Machined Aluminum
Approx Retail: $350 / $340

See Also: Calcutta TE Maintenance Guide

Overview: The Calcutta TE is Shimano’s high end round reel designed for both salt and fresh water applications.  The only reel higher on Shimano’s spectrum in this category is the Conquest, a more performance tuned version of this reel that is only sold in Japan.  TE stands for Total Efficiency, Shimano’s marketing slogan to describe how all of the parts in the reel work together to be as efficient as possible. 

There are six reel sizes available in the Calcutta TE series.  For this review we will talk only about the 300 and 400 sizes which are the most commonly used sizes for freshwater swimbait fishing.  Both reels are available in both right and left hand retrieve. 

Pros: From the first moment you put a Calcutta TE in gear you’ll notice how effortless the retrieve feels.  Even with the heaviest baits, the oversized High Efficiency Gearing (HEG) allows for almost effortless handle turns.  When I first stared using the TE series reels I was upgrading from Cardiff 300’s, and after only one day of using the TE, suddenly my old reels just felt wimpy by comparison. 

Have you ever watched someone reeling as hard as they can on a big fish and seen their reel hand start to wobble as they strain against the pressure of the fish?  With the HEG gearing on the TE, your hands can stay steady on the reel even when you’re winching down as hard as you can.  This is huge in swimbait fishing not only for fighting fish but for casting and retrieving big baits all day long.  With the TE, the reel does the work for you so you can stay focused on the fishing. 

The dartanium drags on the Calcutta TE are also stellar and well suited for big bait fishing.  Your typical freshwater bass reel doesn’t have the drag pressure to fish 25lb test close to the breaking point with a smooth startup and consistent pressure but the TE can fish up and over 30lb test with no problems.  Largemouth bass are not the type of fish that pull drag on 25lb very often but with the TE you can set the drag high and still have the peace of mind that if a big fish hits close to the boat and turns, your reel will give line without jerking or seizing up.

The TE reels have an audible clicking sound when the drag is letting out to warn you.  Some people have told me that they find this noise annoying and have even gone so far as to remove the part that makes the noise.  I like the audible drag system though because you never know when you’ll screw up and forget to set the drag.  If I set the hook and hear a clicking noise I know immediately something is wrong.  A split second can mean a lot in a situation like that.  It’s kind of like forgetting the drain plug on your boat, you don’t think it will ever happen but if it does…

The next thing to discuss in the pro’s department with the TE is durability and longevity.  These reels are absolutely phenomenal when it comes to taking the punishment of big bait chucking.  I’ve been fishing some of my TE reels for over 2 years, 70+ days on the water per year and have never serviced them internally!  Considering the tens of thousands of casts some of these reels have made, this is truly impressive.  The only maintenance I do on my TE’s is to occasionally lightly lubricate and clean the worm gear (more on this later) for the levelwind and put a single drop of lubricant on the bearing underneath the mechanical brake. 

I’ve taken my reels in the salt from time to time also, including some damp spray soaked trips to the beach in Nothern California, and I always check the bearing under the mechanical brake for rust afterward but have never seen a problem.  This was the old Achilles heel of Shimano’s round reels when used in the salt but the TE seems much more resistant to corrosion in this area than past models.  Probably a combination of a better seal on the knob and the Anti-Rust Bearings (AR-B). 

I used to extensively maintenance my swimbait reels every couple months but now maintenance is basically a 5 minute job as needed.  If you do have a problem with your TE and you’ve registered the warranty with Shimano you’re entitled to their platinum service which means 48 hour turn around times on your reels and discounted clean and lubes.  This is absolutely the type of reel that you will still own and fish with 10 years after you bought it.

Another pro worth mentioning on this reel is the anti-reverse.  On my first swimbait reels I was constantly breaking the anti-reverse to the point where the handles would spin backwards freely.  I experienced this problem quite a bit I think because I had a habit of engaging the reel before the lure had hit the water and this constant wear would break the anti-reverse.  On the Calcutta TE, this is simply not an issue, and trust me if it could be broken I would have broken it. 

There are a few other little odds and ends to mention with the TE.  Some of the features they add to reels now-a-days are nice but I find myself seldom using them.  For example, the easy access side plate with a single thumb screw is nice for setting the mechanical brakes but once you disable all of them there’s not much reason to go back in J.  The clicker on the TE is convenient and functional for bait fishing or trolling but doesn’t serve a purpose in freshwater and the non-disengaging levelwind is good for the wider spool of the 400, but it’s probably not much of a hindrance either way on the 300. 

Cons:  One area where the Calcutta TE does not excel out of the box is casting.  This may stem from the fact that the reels are designed primarily for saltwater and lubricating the reel has taken precedence over performance.  The problem is that when you get a stock TE there will be a fair amount of lubrication on the worm gear for the levewind and this slows down the cast as the non-disengaging levewind flys back and forth. 

The hardcore method for improving performance on the worm gear is to remove it, degrease it and re-install it.  The simpler method is to put some light oil on the gear, hold the reel upside down and crank it a few times to spread the oil around.  Then wipe off as much of the oil and lube as you can with a rag.  Do this a few times until the gear is clean and it should improve casting performance considerably.  

Another small thing I’ve noticed on the 300 size TE is that the line has more of a tendency to get loose on the spool than the 400.  I’m not sure what causes this or if it is perhaps specific to my reel but the line stays tighter on the spool on my 400’s.  Many people have asked me over the years whether to buy a 300 or a 400 for freshwater swimbait fishing and I’ve always recommended the 400 for this reason and because I feel like the 400 casts further and just feels better as far as spool size and overall handling. 

I will say that if you have small hands, these reels might feel a bit big.  I have fairly large hands and personally feel like they feel great, but these are tall reels and fairly bulky so if you have small hands you might consider a Calcutta 400b series or something a little smaller. 

Overall the Calcutta TE is just an excellent piece of machinery.  It’s a piece of equipment that will become like an extension of your body, allowing you to focus on the important things like sticking those big bass and putting them in the net.  Nothing detracts from a day of fishing like equipment failure and putting a TE on your rod will keep those sort of worries far from your mind. 

Average Rating out of 5 voters
T. Saykosy( Raleigh, NC) Jan 22, 2007
Calcutta TE400
I got mine around Thanksgiving, but didn't get a chance to use it until last weekend. Paired it with a custom Lamiglas rod that I built. What else can I say about it, awesome combo. Hooked up on a 12 lb Gag Grouper with it, came up pretty quick. No, problems from me, Shimano has built a great reel.
No Name( West Coast, WA) Jul 13, 2006
Hands Down Best Real!
I have never been satisfied with a non-low-profile reel for casting small split shot sized lead until I bought my Calcutta 200TE. I started with a Pfleuger Trion low-profile, then a Pfleuger Supreme which gave me a big advantage for casting small baits, then I used a big Pfleuger Trion round-style for bigger fish. I thought nothing could outcast my Supreme until I got my Calcutta. This thing side-by-side on the same rod with the same line with the same lure outcasted by 30% or MORE. I now retired my other reels, put 20-30lb braid on my Calcutta and all I need to do is change my rod and leader depending on the fish I am going after (steelhead/chinook/coho...) I am completely satisfied! If I hadn't moved away from the pacific northwest, I would have went back and bought the 300te, 400te, and the 200gt.
Matt( Roswell, GA) Jun 12, 2006
Calcuttt TEs: Duh!
I would compare Shimano and their products to what Lockheed Martin is up to in weapons and defense. If you want cutting edge, superior quality, technology, service, and downright on the Program---go with Shimano.

If you want the best, you gonna have to pay for it...bottom line. Can you get away with other reels, of course.

The 400 TE: This thing has the torque of a Chevy truck. You can flat crank on fish and move a lot of line, and be backed by superior gearing and drag. The handle? Well, of course Shimano makes a killer oversized and comfortable handle to operate with. I use the 400 TE for the Huddlestons, Rago baits, 10" Triple Trout, Quadruple Trout, Stocker Trouts, etc..pretty much the larger swimming baits. The 400 TE hold plenty of 25 or even 30 lb line and casts well. I agree with Rob, its more saltwater centric, but maybe the Southern heat down here keeps the reels looser than on the West coast.

300 TE: Excellent reel for anything in the mid range in my opinion: Castaic Sardines, 6-7-8 inch triple trouts, 3:16 wakebait and baby bass, Rago/316 bluegills, etc. Hold 25 pound line well, just not a lot of it. I fish a lot of 25 pound on this reel, just like it for mid range baits. Have fished 20 and 25 pound 100% florocarbons here and it works nicely. Again, superior gearing, drag, comfortable grip, and excellent torque.

200TE: Agreed with the other post: excellent and sneaky for the 15-20# line applications like: Big Hammers, smaller bigbaits.

Conclusion: Shimano TE reels are clearly the leader in bigbait reels. The one thing, and this is preference, is the TE series has a faster gear ratio than the non-TEs. I use a straight Calcutta 400 for a lot of Slammer and Rat fishing, for a slower, more drawn out retrieve. You can of course, just reel slower with a TE, just preference.

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Copyright © Robert Belloni 1997-2012. All Rights Reserved.
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