It's almost inevitable that really cheap fishing reels won't stand up to the rigours of saltwater fishing. They are let down by the use of low quality materials that soon fall prey to corrosion, and poor manufacturing techniques that will lead to mechanical failure - a sure recipe for early disappointment. But it doesn't have to be so...
Even with a limited budget - as most of us are these days - you can get good quality fishing reels that won't break the bank.
And anyway, why pay more than you have to?
With many of the major reel manufacturers currently outsourcing production to China and the Far East - even Penn Reels are now made in China, and Okuma Reels have manufacturing plants in both Taiwan and China - perhaps we should take a look at other brands of fishing reels made in these far-off lands.
We naturally equate low price with low quality, but this assumption can be far from true. With modern design and manufacturing techniques imported from the west - coupled with a skilled, motivated and cheap labour source - countries such as China can now produce Cheap Fishing Reels under their own brand names that are getting to match the quality of those once made in the US and Western Europe.
And when they get it right, it can represent very good value indeed.
Let's say you want a reel for casting and you only have a certain amount of cash to spend. What should you spend it on, a baitcaster or a spinning reel? Well...
Unlike spinning reels, where no mechanical parts are moving during the cast, there's plenty going on mechanically in a baitcast reel - the spool is rotating at high speed, the line level-wind system is moving back and forth across the reel cage, and the braking system is trying to keep everything under control.
All of this complexity demands a level of engineering quality that is difficult to achieve at very low cost.
Here's a collection of Cheap Spinning Reels from China.
The prices will certainly interest you, but if one model in particular catches your attention make sure to open the 'Product Details'. Here you'll get the gear ratio, together with the spool capacity stated in dia(mm)/length(m) for each of the reel sizes.
Take note too of the number of ball bearings. Generally, the more the better as these will influence the smoothness of the winding motion.
The 'One Way Ball Bearing' refers to the bale-arm roller. It's most important that the reel has a ball bearing rather than a plain bush here, or line twists and rapid wear are sure to occur.
Take a look at the pic of the reel and check the position of the drag adjustment. If it's mounted at the back of the reel it won't be powerful enough for saltwater use. Choose one with a front-mounted drag adjustment, where it operates directly on the spool.
Here's one that caught my eye.
It's a Nuoke, a brand previously unknown to me.
With 9 ball bearings and a front-mounted drag adjustment it comes in four sizes, each with a gear ratio of 5.2:1.
Just click on the image to take a look yourself...
Another similar collection, this time Cheap Baitcaster and Multiplier Reels.
Most of them look to be too small for all but the lightest forms of saltwater fishing, but will be perfect for freshwater baitcasting.
This one looked interesting.
Described as a 'boat fishing trolling reel', but with a gear ratio of 5.5:1 and a level-wind system I wondered if it could be used for surfcasting too.
Click on the image and see what you think...
I've not had the opportunity to even hold one of these reels yet, never mind use one, so I can't say that they're definitely the bargain they appear to be.
But the company that sells them is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and feedback seems to be excellent - and they do have a returns policy.
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