In this long term test Des Westmore appraises the Shimano Trinidad TN14 reel, and investigates how the internals have withstood many months of unrelenting hard labour.
I first saw the Shimano Trinidad reels in the States back in 2000. The Trinidad was originally available in three sizes: TN16, 20 and 30, but now the fully fleshed Trinidad line-up includes sizes TN12, 14, 40 and 50, as well as a narrow spooled TN16N and 40N’s aimed specifically at those using braid. Interestingly, though all sizes are still listed on the Shimano USA web site, the UK catalogue only has sizes TN14, 16, 16N and 30, presumably because these models have been identified as most applicable to the UK market.
At first glance, and in comparison to many other reels, the Trinidad instantly stood out. It was an all-metal design with a fast 6.2:1 gear ratio, yet the blurb still promised that the reel would produce plenty of torque for cranking in big fish.
That the reel is still near the top of Shimano’s portfolio years later is testament to what Trinidad has successfully continues to deliver. To put this to the test for Planet Sea Fishing, I am going to investigate what could arguably be the best all round size for UK angling, the Trinidad TN14. With a capacity of 200m of 16lb mono, 6 A-RB (anti-rust) ball bearings plus a one-way roller bearing, centrifugal brakes and those meaty 6.2:1 gears, a reel like is equally well suited to up-tiding afloat, drifting for bass or working lures on wreck or reef. Additionally, shore fisherman who frequent rougher ground, or deep water marks where all-out distance is not required, may well find this reel ideal.
As can be seen from the pictures, this TN 14 had seen some serious use. Turning the handle, the reel was still smooth and the spool still spun freely. The reel’s gold exterior had soaked up all the punishment without corrosion setting in, even on the deeper scratches that had gone down to bare metal. I know the reel has seen very minimal maintenance, so things were outwardly looking good in proving the product’s robustness, but appearances don’t amount to even half the story and a look inside in a far better indicator of a reel’s physical wellbeing.
Below the surface
The left-hand side-plate contains a bit more ‘gubbins’ than you would normally find on this side of a star drag reel, even in those that have magnetic or centrifugal brakes on that side (the Trinidad’s centrifugal brake is on the right hand end of the spool). The reason for the complexity is because the Trinidad’s line-out ratchet incorporates a fourteen position adjustable pre-tensioner to adjust the amount of force required to turn the spool. This was originally intended for use when trolling with the reel in free spool, but also works well when bottom-fishing and using the ratchet as a bite indicator. Removing the left side plate showed that salt water had penetrated, but once it was cleaned out with ‘Muc Off’ degreaser (sold in cycle shops), there were no signs of any corrosion damage.
The bearings that the aluminium spool runs on are of an ‘open’ design i.e. they have no shields. The open ones are easier to assess for determining condition, and likewise easier to lubricate and flush out. Conversely, salt water can get straight in to the bearing and though it can get straight out again, this generally leaves damaging salt residue that causes component wear if not corrosion. In the ‘open’ versus ‘shield’ bearings debate: I have seen both types of bearing fail, so the jury remains out on which is better.
Giving the forged aluminium frame a good clean with Muc Off then hot water, showed that it too had not suffered any significant corrosion damage. Salt water needs no excuse to get between the foot and the frame by capillary action, but the notorious area where the riveted reel foot joins the frame showed no sign of wear or corrosion.
Behind right-hand side-plate, where all the heavy work is done by the reel, looked more of a cause for concern. Even a cursory glance showed that salt water had definitely got in as there were clearly crystals of salt in the grease. Most likely water had entered around the free spool lever, or the via edge of the spool, as the one way roller bearing on the handle shaft was in good condition and it didn’t appear that water had come in there. I have since had another Trinidad TN16N apart, and on that reel the gears were in similar condition but the one way roller was totally trashed by corrosion.
Getting to work with the Muc Off showed that despite salt water getting in, the reel had again fared well against water intrusion. However, a part that did show some signs of wear was the set plate. This is the component on which the drive train is mounted. It forms one of the parts that make up what Shimano term “HEG” or High Efficiency Gearing. The rest of the HEG is the oversize gears and the metal frame itself. What surprises me is that the set plate is plastic. Even though it is bolted in six places to the frame, I am still surprised as this is the component that suffers any end load induced on the handle shaft either by the angler during cranking, or by the helical gears.
The stainless steel yoke that controls the free spool mechanism slides along the set plate and the salt had actually started to wear the plastic… not seriously, but it had definitely got a toe-hold. In fact, the salt had actually been ground into the surface of the plastic and even soaking the plate in neat Salt-X could not shift the white residue. Apart from some corrosion ‘stains’ on the brass main gear, there was no evidence of further damage and the gear teeth themselves were okay. The drag too had survived, helped by the fact that the Trinidad has solid ‘Dartanium’ ,wasn’t he one of the three musketeers?, drag washers that are greased. The big main gear also means the drag washers can be similarly large, and this facilitates a smooth action across a wide range of settings.
With everything cleaned and checked, that only left reassembly. Firstly Corrosion Block grease was applied to all the gears, springs and other mechanisms. Corrosion Block as well as being a lubricant actually stops all electrolytic corrosion in its tracks. Corrosion Block spray was then used to cover all the inner surfaces of the side plates, as well as all the other nooks and crannies on the frame (including the reel foot), and was also applied to the one-way roller bearing. Care should always be taken not to over lubricate one-way bearings as they will slip under heavy load.
The Trinidad however does have a back-up anti reverse ratchet and pawl which is Shimano’s ‘Assist Stopper’ system that takes over if the ‘Super-stopper’ roller bearing fails.
The ball bearings were lubricated with Reel X oil which is also very good at resisting corrosion and bonds at a molecular level with metal. Reel X works fine for me in boat fishing situations, but shore fisherman may have to use their lubricant of choice to ensure the reel is controllable when casting. The final product needed was Cal’s drag grease, which is special grease containing Teflon. A light coating was applied to all the drag washers. It can actually be applied to gears too, but doesn’t have the anti-corrosion properties of Corrosion Block. The handle incidentally is one of the most comfortable around, and once it was back on, the whole exterior wiped over with a rag soaked in Corrosion Block spray.
Ifs, buts and maybes
The plastic set plate gets the job done but does detract from the overall impression of the reel, in much the same way that the plastic free spool lever does. For me, a chunky metal lever would have been more in-keeping with the rugged look of the reel, especially when you consider the £300+ price tag.
From a purely personal standpoint I prefer drive/spool engagement to be automatically taken up when you turn the handle. The Trinidad is manual pick-up, and I accept that some prefer this. Some of these features may indeed be interpreted as indicative of age in a well-worn design. I have always thought that Shimano missed a trick by not offering a levelwind option on the Trinidad TN14 which would be a great reel for working plastic baits afloat and many boat anglers like hassle-free option that level-winds reels offer.
- One of the best handles around (it has been copied many times)
- Looks good and the materials/finish are good enough quality to keep it that way
- Smooth, versatile reel with good cranking power and high speed retrieve
- Good drag
- Not available in levelwind version
- Shame about the plastic components on a reel of this price
- Would prefer drive take up to be automatic
The Trinidad is a fine reel that deserves recommendation, though it could never be described as cheap. The TN 14 has an RRP of £349.99 with the TN30 version commanding £399.99. Of course, if you search around you will probably find it for less, but there are other reels on the market now that push the once outstanding Trinidad technologically and most certainly on price. The fuller Trinidad range is combat proven but no longer stands apart. However, if you are in the market for a top-end high speed retrieve, star drag reel, the Trinidad should still be on your short list.
Trinidad Features and specifications
- Forged Aluminium Frame
- Stamped Aluminium Right Sideplate
- Die Cast Aluminium Left Sideplate
- Aluminium Spool
- Manual Clutch Lever
- Rod Clamp (excluding TN16N)
- Counter Balanced Handle (TN12 & TN14 only)
- Adjustable Handle Shank (excluding TN12 & TN14)
- Dartanium® Drag
- A-RB® Bearings (Anti-rust bearings)
- HEG® (High Efficiency Gearing)