What Type of Cheap Reels to Look At?
Top End Knock-Offs
There was a time when makers of higher end reels made a point of only putting their name on the best of the best.
Over time, many of these manufacturers have come to realize that there is a large population of anglers who are unwilling or simply unable to pay more for a reel than they do in rent, so they have compromised.
Yes, these reels lack some of the cutting edge technology that their more expensive cousins are famous for, but they often do include features made possible by what was learned through using this technology.
Designed to be Cheaper
While some manufacturers have expanded their market by making cheaper versions of their more expensive models, others have made their living developing low-cost reels from the beginning.
These reels are not knock-offs or generic versions but quality ones designed from the ground up to cost less. Yes, there are some features which you will not get but in most cases, they rely on top-end features developed using cheaper but still reliable means.
What’s Important In A Cheap Reel?
There are certain important features you should look for in any reel regardless of price:
- ball bearing count
- line capacity
- ability to utilize braided line
- maximum drag level
The key is to focus not only on what is available or how it differs from higher prices models, instead focus on how the manufacturer has mitigated any shortcomings.
For example, have they included corrosion-resistant gears and bearing to make up for not having a sealed gearbox?
The body is the foundation of your reel. Get a body which is constructed poorly, and it will weigh too much for continued use, flex and cause gears to bind or even break.
Due to the reduced cost, you should expect some compromise on reel body construction. But rather than using inferior materials, reliable reels will use lower cost manufacturing processes.
For example, instead of using precision machined aluminum they will use cast aluminum.
1. Aluminum is considered the best material for reels: it is lightweight, sturdy and corrosion resistant. An aluminum reel, regardless of cost, can be expected to give you long-term performance.
2. Graphite is very popular when designing lower cost reels. This material is lightweight and strength to weight ratio is very good but not as high as aluminum.
3. Carbon composites are growing in popularity when constructing reel bodies as well as internal components. Carbon is extremely lightweight, but not as strong as aluminum or graphite.
Breakthroughs in technology are allowing carbon reels to be developed which may not last as long as those made from other materials, but still capable of providing several seasons of enjoyment.
4. Magnesium is often found in low-end reels. Although lightweight, it lacks the strength necessary to tackle larger fish.
A major drawback associated with magnesium is its low level of corrosion resistance – if used, it also includes a protective coating especially if you will be anywhere near salt water.
Drag is important regardless of price as it determines how easy it will be to manage fish and prevent uncontrolled runs or line breakage.
Higher cost models depend on space-age materials and technology and high bearing counts. Lower prices reels can still provide smooth, dependable drag by utilizing computer balancing and lower number quality bearing.
I would consider 5 as the minimum bearing count, but only if stainless steel or sealed. Otherwise, 6 bearing would be preferred.
Here is an overview of how every part of the spinning reel functions, including the drag system.