Drag: Both reels deliver smooth, drag performance with up to four to four and a half pounds of maximum drag pressure as tested in our lab. Both reels also sport micro-click adjustable drag stars. The Abu, in particular, emits a very unique clicking sound that enhances the experience. Initial pulls on everything from largemouth bass to feisty spots to even hard pulling carp revealed flawless performance. Between the two, Shimano edges out Abu in silkiness as Shimano's proven componentry is just too much to overcome.
Ergonomics: This is where the two reels begin to separate more clearly. The Abu Garcia gains points for it's more than one ounce weight savings over the Shimano but then loses those points almost immediately with the almost awkward way the reel fits in one's palm. In addition, the plastic thumbar on the Abu is just a tad off when clicking the reel over to make a cast. We've read this reel is designed primarily for pitching presentations, and while the thumbar is placed well for this type of grip, we found it was too high and often in the way when shifting our hand slighty to make an overhead or sidearm cast with the reel.
Conversely, the Conquest 101DC, with its recessed reel seat and padded, metal thumbar is about as comfortable as a 100 sized round baitcaster can be. Its palming profile is very comfortable and its rounded edges comfort your palm rather than dig into it after a full day of use. The stock handle is a bit short, but we replaced he handles in both these reels so this factor was neutralized in this comparison.Winner: Conquest
Design: With the added accents of the ZPI upgrades, our Ultra Mag S2 is almost exciting. However, there is simply no getting over the very plain and industrial detailing of this reel. The Conquest 101 DC, on the other hand, is exquisite. I'm not normally a fan of combining silver and gold detailing, but what Shimano has done with their DC reels is truly exceptional. While the stock handle of the Conquest 101DC is nothing to scoff at aesthetically, the ZPI Carbon enhancement, with its added length, compliments this reel to no end. Winner: Conquest