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Steez Vs Exist – What is the real difference between Daiwa’s flagship spinners?

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** This thread discusses the content article: Steez Vs Exist – What is the real difference between Daiwa’s flagship spinners? **

Please see original article for Statistic Tables: http://www.australianfishing.com.au/fishing/uncharted-tackle/442-steez-vs-exist-what-is-the-real-difference-between-diawas-flagship-spinners

What are the real differences between Daiwa’s Top Shelf Spinning Reels?

Reviewer – Michael Cotton

Between Japan and what the rest of us get there is a quite a large variety of different off shoots from the Exist and in turn Steez family, combined with similarities in naming it is no wonder there is such a large amount of confusion regarding this family of reels. Even talking to many collectors and professionals I have almost always been given misleading information. Below is a full run down of what is currently available in the market and what the differences are.


JDM – Reels officially available only to the Japanese market.

TRW – Reels officially available globally but not necessarily available in Japan.

Exist / Classic Exist


It is the ‘Father’ of the entire Exist and Steez family of reels and is recognised globally as Daiwas flagship light spinning reel developed with the highest quality materials with several innovations including the use of exotic materials to reduce the overall weight of the reels while maintaining durability. It really set the standard for light spinners with Shimano only this year releasing a JDM version of their 1000-4000 models reels reduced in weight to be closer to the Exist range, wether these reels will be release to the rest of the world is still an unknown. There are 8 different models available in the Exist range, from a 1003 to 3012 in size but generally the 1003 and the 2508R sizes are seldom seen in Australia. The full range is saltwater friendly and with so many options you can always get exactly what you are after.

The Exist is classic in design and beauty I have tested everything from the 1003 model through to the 3000 all of which have performed beautifully and have been a pleasure to fish with. When testing the reels I really put them under some serious pain to see if the drag would hold up as promised. On the 1003 I spooled her up with a roll of 6lb FC Rock braid I bought from Tackle Warehouse in Brisbane and matched it to a 2-6lb Megabass Kirisame rod and headed straight to the Barra Farm on the Sunshine coast. I hooked up to an 89cm specimen in the first hour and the fight was on, the drag held excellently not snagging or even looking like jolting even when the fish launched itself completely out of the water. I almost enjoyed the sound of the spinning drag more than catching the fish itself, well maybe not quite.

The 2508 was the next to get a pounding spooled with PE 1 / 17lb YGK WX8 braid mounted on a Megabass jade python 10-17lb rod we headed into Moreton Bay off Brisbane chasing Tuna and after landing some nice Mac Tuna came across what we had only hoped for, feeding frenzied 20kg+ Longtail Tuna. My first cast under pressure and with the addition of a little too much excitement was pretty pathetic but enough to hook up to a bruiser of a fish that started ripping off drag immediately. I tightened up my drag and held on but after what seemed like 5 seconds but in reality was probably more like 30 seconds the last of my line shot through the guides of my rod never to be seen again. Like its smaller counterpart it performed flawlessly and even with the high drag setting combined with the speed of line stripping generating some pretty hefty heat it still didn’t hesitate at any point of the fight, if you could call it a fight probably better described as a beating.

On top of the incredible performance the reels were really easy to fish with being so light in weight, particularly when combined with new generation rods which make casting all day long a pleasure. The lightness of the reels also makes retrieving especially at high speeds a lot easier and allowed me to develop a more consistent rhythm. At first the light weight did concern me and was hoping that in creating a lighter reel Daiwa hadn’t forfeit some of the reels strength but my concerns were quickly put at ease. The machine-cut air metal housing, fine dura-aluminium machines main shaft, ultra duralumin screws just to name a few have been combined to create a lightweight but robust reel that can relied upon under the harshest conditions.

All Exist reels come with an engraved serial number, an option of an owner’s plate (which as far as I am aware is not offered in Australia) as well a hard travel case that also fits onto the reel while it is still attached to the rod which was useful both in the boat and when my gear was in transit.  Price wise you can generally find them in that $900 to $1000+ range depending on the size, but they are a reel that will last for a lifetime and as long they are properly cared for will maintain a consistent level of performance for as long as you want to use it.

Exist Hyper Branzino Custom


Only released in the 2508R size it is the Masterpiece of the Exist series with a custom black anodized hard wearing finish, brass gears made from the same materials as featured in the Saltiga range, an oversized gear box and a carbon hybrid spool making a stunning reel that performs on a level never seen before. Produced in very limited numbers it is as much a collector’s item as an incredible fishing reel to use and I personally can’t buy a reel and not use it but I can see how collecting these sort reels could be easy to fall into.

In testing I spooled the reel with Varivas Sea Bass Avani Max Power PE 1.5 / 20lb which is very smooth and available in 150m spools the perfect match for what the reel fits. My mate Franco and I headed straight to local rock wall we frequent to throw plastics hoping for a nice Snapper or Jew and matched the rod up to a Daiwa Steez Hotdog stick for a little extra grunt in case a chunky cod jumped on the line. Thankfully I did just that because the first fish in the boat was nice cod weighing in at just over 4lb on the Bogas. In the hours that followed I caught several Squire all around the 40cm mark and just when I though I wasn’t going to get a chance to give the real a decent workout I hooked up to what Franco called as Jew and after a solid fight with plenty of drag being ripped off and one manoeuvre from one side of the boat to the other which almost landed me in the drink after half tripping on the Environet the fish was finally in. The Jew measured 85cm and throughout the entire time we fished as expected the reel performed beautifully and even though I really can’t say I felt any noticeable difference between the performances of normal Exist over the Hyper Branzino, just using such an incredibly ‘cool’ looking reel in my opinion was well worth the extra money.

Price wise in Australia it retails for around 20% more than the same model in the classic Exist and interestingly enough in some cases is selling overseas for as much as AU$300 over what it is available here in Australia for.

Exist Steez Custom / JDM Steez


A freshwater only reel which has been specifically designed for light freshwater fishing with stiffer hybrid and fluorocarbon lines and after using it I must say Daiwa Japan really lived up to their reputation for inovation. Being a tackle enthusiast I was extremely excited to give this reel a burl but at the same time I was a little pessimistic that for the extra AU$400 the reel sells for over the TRW Steez I wouldn’t see enough of a difference to warrant the extra money.

I like many other fishermen and women have been more frequently using 2-6lb fluorocarbon line matched with super light drag settings while not necessarily limiting ourselves to small fish. Particularly when using 2 or 3lb line everything needs to be perfect with the super light line being completely unforgiving. Combine this with the difficulties of casting for stiff lines like fluorocarbon and when you get gripping pulling off a birds nest style mess it can be not just frustrating but time consuming to fix. This was the focus of the Exist Steez Custom and by fine tuning the spool to have the perfect tilt angle and precisely angling the line roller they were able to eliminate a lot of the line problems you would normally experience.

To really test the differences with pitted a Factory Ize Certate with a 2500 RCS spool, a TRW Steez 2004 and a JDM Steez 2004 to see what the real difference was. I definitely saw a difference in the amount of line tangles with the JDM Steez of course being the best performer. I fished the entire day chopping and changing from one reel to the other all of with were spooled with 6lb Dragons Call fluorocarbon and the JDM Steez didn’t show anywhere near as many issues as the its too competitors.  

The JDM Steez is also slightly lighter than its TRW counter parts, partly due to the ultra-light weight magnesium handle  which when compared to similar TRW models results in a 5g reduction in the 2004 model and a 10-15g reduction in 2506 model but do note that the 2506 model has less line capacity than both the 2508 and 2500 TRW releases. The 2506 JDM Steez also has a much lighter drag system rating at only 3kg compared to the 7kg offered on the TRW 2500 and 2508 releases again pointing back to the fact that the JDM release is highly specific only intended for light lines. The only other notable difference between the two releases in the JDM Steez like its Exist brothers and sisters is serial numbered and has the option of an owners plate.

Exist Hyper Custom


In short it is a more durable version of the classic exist designed for light game fishing when drags and gears are put through hell and back on light line catching big fish. Other than some changes to the appearance the key difference is the use of heavier and more durable metals in some of the gearing. This results in a heavier weight, an ever so slight increase on noise when the gears are in motion but a more durable reel with a reassuring solid and gripping feel when you turn the handle. This feel wasn’t necessarily lacking in the Exist but with super lines now becoming thinner and thinner such as the YGK WX8 PE1 braid having a breaking strain of 17lb smaller reels are being used on bigger fish the changes in the Exist Hyper Custom are certainly welcomed. The other result of these changes is an increase in weight with each model weighing 5g more than its match in the classic Exist range.

So other than being slightly heavier the only other down side is of course the price, with an increase of 20% on the RRP of the classic Exist not to mention the importing costs it is certainly not cheap but if you looking at some serious light game it would definitely be at the top of my list of choices.

Exist Hyper Custom Body Only


The body of the Exist Hyper Custom but without the spool, handle and knob, the idea being that you can customise the reel with your choice of parts. The body only option is only available in 2500 size and considering that the Exist Hyper Custom 2508 complete reel comes fitted with top of the lines parts as it is, you really have to have something special mind to go down the path of purchasing the body only. A good excuse to buy the body only for those that need one could be that the 2508 spool may not be enough line capacity for what you want to do, especially considering the reels are intended for light game fishing. If I am chasing Tuna on 10lb I would much prefer a 2500 spool over a 2508 spool just in case that 30kg Longtail decides to smash my slug.

Daiwa recommends two main spool handle combinations which is the double handled Emeraldas (3rd picture) and the Morethan (2nd Picture) upgrades and other than these two options the only other items I would consider would be something out of the Studio Ocean Mark series. Studio Ocean Mark spools are excellent for light game fishing handling exceptionally well under extreme pressure and heat. As you would expect the fitting out this reel whatever option you choose is going to be an expensive exercise and you can expect to spend at least another 10% on top of what you would pay for the complete Hyper Exist Custom 2508.

Exist Native Custom


Available in only one model 1003H this reel has been designed for such a specific style of fishing it almost seems crazy - freshwater stream based trout fishing using extremely light lines. Maybe this type of fishing is more popular than I know and quite possibly big in Japan hence its Japan only release. Anyway the idea behind the reel was to give a slightly faster retrieve rate and a more responsive reel so when casting light tackle upstream you can quickly and easily keep up with your moving bait or lure.

At first glance the cosmetic differences are obvious with some colour changes between the Native Custom and the classic Exist as well as the addition of the cork finish and internally to create a more sensitive and reactive retrieve the rotor material is made of the Daiwa developed Zaion. None of this results in any weight difference still weighing in at 160g the same as the classic 1003 model but it is certainly a stunning reel and considering there is only a 5% price difference if do happen to do a lot of freshwater light tackle stream fishing for trout and were considering a standard Exist then I would definitely upgrade.



Mechanically the TRW Steez and classic Exist are essentially identical and even through to add to the confusion many Japanese sellers refer to the classic Exist as the upgraded TRW Steez it does only refer to what is best summed up as cosmetic differences. From what I have heard from Steez users they do seem to scratch more easily. The coating used for both the Exist and Steez is the same so wether the different colouring used has had an effect or it is possibly just by chance that it seems like the Steez scratches more. It could also be put down to Steez users not having the same hard cover that comes with the Exist instead getting the usual Daiwa foam cover which I find I don’t like to use as much as the hard cover.

The Steez is only available in three sizes limiting your options from the 8 choices that the Exist offers partially down to the fact that the Steez was produced in much larger quantities than the Exist and only the most popular sizes were selected for production. The Steez reels are not serial numbered and have an overall darker colouring.

Performance wise there is no difference between the two reel types and the overall reel weights are identical with the same materials used throughout the reel. But to ensure this was correct Franco and I were back at it taking a 2004 and 2508 out Bream fishing spooled with 2lb and 6lb respectively. The tests probably weren’t necessary with the reels performing exactly as expected with several Bream, a couple of Trevalley and a Flathead all caught without any problems. I think in reality testing was just an excuse to spend an extra day on the water.

Price wise in Australia the Steez retails for around 22% less than the Exist but if you shop around you can pick up an Exist at a good price more like 15% over the Steez and considering the hard case itself retails for around $80 and you are getting a limited edition reel I would recommend putting in the small amount of additional money to upgrade.

Uncharted Tackle

Mobile: 0404 077 878

International: +61 404 077 878

Email: franco@unchartedtackle.com

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