5 Reasons to Upgrade Your Shimano SLX Baitcasting Reel Handle


The Shimano SLX baitcasting reel delivers smooth, reliable performance right out of the box for a very reasonable price. However, one area many anglers choose to upgrade is the handle. While the stock plastic handle knobs work fine, installing an upgraded handle can take the reel’s ergonomics, cranking power, and aesthetics to the next level.

Here are five key reasons to consider upgrading the handle on your Shimano SLX baitcaster:

1. Improved Comfort and Control

The handle is the part of the reel you'll be grabbing and turning all day long, so comfort is paramount. Upgrading to a premium handle like Cork or EVA foam provides a more contoured and softer feel in your hand. This enhances grip security when setting the hook and fighting fish in heavy currents.

More bearing systems integrated into the handle assembly also increase comfort. The additional contact points keep the handle moving smoothly during retrieves and reduce wobble. Upgraded handles simply provide a more natural feel overall.

2. Greater Cranking Power

Stock handles work reasonably well for smaller freshwater species. But targeting bigger fish and saltwater species requires a handle that can transmit more torque through the gear system.

Aftermarket handles constructed from stronger materials like aluminum or carbon fiber prevent flexing or twisting during retrieves. Combined with more advanced bearing placements, an upgraded handle gives you the sheer cranking power needed for major battles against hard-pulling fish.

3. Customized Length and Knob Shape

Every angler has their own preferences when it comes to handle length, thickness, and knob shape. Shimano’s stock handles get the job done, but they use a standardized size.

With aftermarket handles, you can fine tune the dimensions and contour to fit your hands and fishing style perfectly. More surface area increases leverage, while compact shapes reduce hand fatigue. Whether you need the torque of extended length or a short-stroke rotating action, upgraded handles provide full customization.

4. Corrosion Resistance

Stock handles may feature plastic or rubber knobs that degrade after extensive use and corrosion from the elements. Saltwater environments and direct UV exposure will break down cheaper handles quickly.

Premium aftermarket handles utilize materials like lightweight anodized or forged aluminum that shrug off rust and oxidation. Durable coatings like Ecoat further protect against corrosion. Even under harsh conditions, upgraded handles maintain that smooth, like-new feel over the long run.

5. Stylish Cosmetics

Let’s face it, part of the fun of upgrading fishing gear is making it look good! The stock Shimano SLX handle gets the job done, but it has a basic appearance.

Changing out the handle opens up tons of possibilities for customization with colored anodizations, exclusive paint jobs, unique shapes, and inlays like real carbon fiber. A baitcaster handle upgrade allows you to match the reel to fishing rods, outfits, and other gear for a cohesive look.

Types of Shimano SLX Baitcaster Handle Upgrades

Now that you know why upgrading the Shimano SLX’s handle makes sense, let’s examine some of the most popular aftermarket handles anglers install:

Cork Handles

Cork is a classic handle material prized for its lightweight, sensitivity, and comfort. Multiple sealed cork discs provide an ergonomic grip with firmness to turn big fish. Staining options personalize the look. Cork needs occasional sealing but provides a smooth and responsive feel.

Split Grip Handles

Split grip handles combine cork with another material like EVA foam or rubber. This allows for grip texture in key areas while reducing weight. Finishes like perforations further enhance control and allow ventilation to reduce hand fatigue. The combo materials provide the best attributes of each.

Carbon Fiber Handles

Carbon fiber handles offer an awesome blend of sensitivity, strength, and minimal weight. Real carbon weave patterns give the look while providing a comfortable grip. Carbon transmits all vibrations for enhanced feel. Pairs perfectly with braided line for incredible cranking power.

Power Knob Handles

Power handles use oversized mushroom-shaped knobs for applying maximum torque on retrievals. Made from aluminum or anodized metal, they stand up to serious cranking. The enlarged diameter spreads force over more surface area to prevent hand fatigue. Great for heavy cover and deep water.

Pistol Grip Handles

Pistol grip power handles angle forwards at the bottom for even greater leverage and ergonomic feel. The offset shape aligns more naturally with wrist positioning making extended retrieves more comfortable. Many come in lightweight anodized aluminum.

Baitcasters Designed for Specific Handles

Some baitcasting reels are designed with proprietary handle systems ready for upgrades. For Shimano SLX models, the Dragger X handles are an example offering complete bearing cradles for ultra-smooth rotation. The advanced design provides a handle made to integrate perfectly.

Installing an Aftermarket Baitcaster Handle

Upgrading your Shimano SLX baitcaster handle takes just a few minutes. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Remove the reel side plate to access interior components
  2. Carefully remove the stock handle system including star drag and gear sleeve
  3. Clean the reel thoroughly and apply fresh grease on the main gear
  4. Install the new handle kit per included instructions
  5. Replace the side cover securely, ensuring proper alignments
  6. Test thoroughly on retrieval smoothness before fishing

Be sure to follow all directions from the manufacturer. Using too much force or improper alignment can damage reel components. Taking your time ensures a smooth installation.

Ready for an Upgrade?

If you're still fishing with the stock plastic handle on your trusty Shimano SLX baitcaster, upgrading can make a big difference in control, power, and aesthetics. With options from lightweight cork to high-tech carbon fiber, you can find the perfect handle to match your fishing style. Just take care during installation and lubricate properly so you're ready to reel in some trophies!

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