Tackle Critic

Shimano Vanford vs Daiwa Ballistic – Which One Is Better?

shimano vanford vs daiwa ballistic

Shimano and Daiwa are two of the top spinning reel manufacturers. After checking out the spinning reel lineups from these brands, there’s a good chance you’re considering the Shimano Vanford and Daiwa Ballistic models.

These models are some of the top-performing spinning reels in the world.

While there are more expensive reels, the Vanford and Ballistic models have some of the most innovative technology.

So, which reel is right for you? Since these reels look so similar, many anglers aren’t sure which one to choose.

This comparison breaks down the main differences between the Vanford and Ballistic spinning reel models. We review the standard specifications and offer our feedback after conducting hands-on tests.

Tackle Critic is dedicated to helping anglers navigate the world of fishing equipment and getting you set up with the best tackle for your specific needs.

Shimano Vanford vs Daiwa Ballistic compared

Vanfordshimano vanford f miniAmazonCI4+4.9 to 7.886 to 24 lb25″ to 40″5.1:1 to
BallisticDaiwa Ballistic miniAmazonZaion6 to 8.1911 to 26 lb25.4″ to 34.5″5.1:1 to

The table above compares the specifications and features of the two spinning reel models.

While the Vanford and Ballistic reels may have similar appearances, they perform very differently. Almost everything inside these reels differs, including the ball bearings, housing materials, and gear ratios.

If you’re still unsure about which model to buy, don’t worry because that’s common.

Next, we’ll detail the most important differences between these reels and help you decide which one best suits your style of fishing.

Important differences between the Shimano Vanford and Daiwa Ballistic

Material: The first thing you’ll notice about these reels is they’re built using different materials. Shimano’s Vanford reel is made with proprietary CI4+ carbon fiber, while the Daiwa uses Zaion carbon fiber.

So, what do these designs actually change?

CI4+ carbon is an upgraded version of Shimano’s original CI4 carbon. The new material has 2.5x more rigidity than CI4 carbon.

As a result, Shimano made the Vanford’s housing thinner than ever before without sacrificing strength or durability. This caused a drastic weight reduction and improved sensitivity.

On the other hand, the Ballistic’s Zaion housing also reduces weight. While Daiwa uses the typical housing dimensions, Zaion is 25% lighter than magnesium and 50% lighter than aluminum. Zaion also has more strength and rigidity than aluminum and magnesium combined.

While these are both lightweight reels, the CI4+ technology makes the Shimano Vanford up to 20% lighter than the Daiwa Ballistic.

Take Away: Both models have advanced weight-reducing materials. However, the Shimano Vanford is up to 20% lighter than the Daiwa Ballistic, depending on the size and model.

Line Capacity: One reason the Daiwa Ballistic is heavier than the Shimano Vanford is that it has a larger spool.

This design gives the Ballistic reel more line capacity. It can hold 250 yards of 10lb line and 185 yards of 15lb line. Comparatively, the Vanford only holds 150 yards of 10lb line and 145 yards of 15lb line.

As a result, the Daiwa Ballistic can hold up to 66% more braided line than the Vanford, which is a significant difference.

Take Away: For some anglers, the Daiwa Ballistic’s additional line capacity is more important than the weight difference. However, if you’re looking for a finesse spinning reel, the Vanford has more sensitivity and can hold plenty of line. 

Ball Bearings: The Daiwa Ballistic not only has an extra ball bearing, but the bearing system is more advanced.

Daiwa’s Ballistic reel has two corrosion-resistant ball bearings, six regular ball bearings, and one RB bearing. The two CRBB bearings are 10x stronger than standard bearings, which significantly improves the lifespan of this reel.

However, after comparing the two reels side-by-side, the advanced bearings don’t make the Ballistic any smoother than the Vanford.

While both reels have smooth rotations, we think the Vanford is slightly smoother than the Daiwa Ballistic.

Take Away: The Daiwa Ballistic has an extra ball bearing and advanced corrosion-resistant bearing technology. However, we found the Shimano Vanford has slightly smoother retrieves.

Appearance: These models look very similar to one another, which is one of the reasons why many anglers get confused about the differences.

Both reels have a dark grey housing with red trim. The manufacturers did an excellent job designing these reels, and we think both models have an awesome and professional-grade appearance.

However, the Shimano Vanford is more low-profile than the Ballistic. This is likely due to the decreased amount of CI4+ material needed to construct the reel.

When comparing the spools and housing, the Vanford simply looks a bit more stylish.

Take Away: Both reels have similar paint jobs with dark grey housings and red trim. However, the Vanford reel’s low-profile design makes it more stylish.

Price & Build Quality: These spinning reels have nearly identical price tags. While the original Vanford model was more expensive, the updated Vanford F reel costs within $10 of the Daiwa Ballistic.

With similar prices, which one has better build quality?

The Shimano Vanford F has an upgraded Silent Drive system which completely changed the entire drive train.

Shimano was able to eliminate all the gaps usually found inside spinning reels, giving it more efficiency and a solid feeling. You can tell that the handle, spool, and drag have zero play, and everything is seamlessly combined.

Take Away: The upgraded Shimano Vanford F and Daiwa Ballistic cost roughly the same. When build quality is compared, Shimano does a better job reducing gaps and seamlessly combining parts.

Shimano Vanford spinning reel review

4.7 Stars | 294 Angler Reviews

shimano vanford f spinning reel

The Shimano Vanford F is one of the most advanced spinning reels in the world. It has exceptionally smooth rotations, and all the components have a satisfying feeling. We found the bail is especially satisfying, as the Air Bail and Air Rotor technology make it nearly effortless to flip.

With great casting distance, smooth retrieves, and tons of drag strength, it’s hard to beat the Vanford. The CI4+ carbon material is lightweight and does a great job transferring vibrations through the line to your hand.

If you’re looking for a finesse reel or a versatile and sensitive bass fishing reel, the Vanford is what you need.

Many anglers find themselves confused about size options, which is why we compared the Vanford 2500 vs 3000. These are two popular sizes for bass fishing and other freshwater uses.

Vanford vs Vanford F

We get many questions about the differences between Shimano’s Vanford and Vanford F spinning reels.

The answer is simple: Shimano’s Vanford F is an upgraded version of the original Vanford spinning reel.

While some retailers are still selling the Vanford reel, Shimano has officially put it out of production. With a lower price tag, reduced weight, and upgraded components, the Vanford F is much more popular than the original model.

Throughout this article, we have referenced the Vanford F, not the original Vanford.


  • Advanced CI4+ body
  • Balanced MagnumLite Rotor
  • Smooth MIcroModule Gear II
  • Updated Silent Drive

Daiwa Ballistic spinning reel review

5 Stars | 7 Angler Reviews

Daiwa ballistic spinning reel

The Daiwa Ballistic LT MQ is the current Ballistic model being produced. This new generation has a Mag sealed design that’s suited for saltwater fishing and improves efficiency.

While keeping up with the model names is hard, the abbreviation “LT” stands for “Light and Tough.”

This reel is exceptionally lightweight for all the technology it offers.


The Shimano Vanford F is a lightweight powerhouse of a reel. It has more sensitivity than the Daiwa Ballistic LT MQ, which makes it better for freshwater fishing and finesse applications.

However, the Ballistic has significantly more line capacity and features an extra ball bearing. Among the nine bearings, two of them are corrosion-resistant, which improves durability.

Daiwa’s Ballistic reel keeps sand, dirt, and other grime out of the drive train.

These factors make the Ballistic a better reel for inshore saltwater fishing and the Vanford better for freshwater fishing.

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