Buying a fishing reel isn't difficult, but it does require a little bit of research as to what you will be using the reel for. Different kinds of fishing and different kinds of fish require different reels. Below are some key points on buying your next reel so that you get exactly the one you require.
You want to be sure that there are non-slip grips on both the crank and the arm of the reel (where your non-cranking hand rests). When your hands get wet (and they will), you can still have solid control over the reel without the worry of losing the reel.
Ball bearings are one of the most important parts of any reel. They control two things, one the smoothness of the retrieve, and two, the stopping speed of the reel. Essentially, the more ball bearings you have, the smoother the retrieve will be. Two is common in low-end reels, 3-4 in mid range and 5 or above in top end reels. The other factor is how much the reel spins backwards after you stop winding your line. This needs to be as little as possible as it will affect the control you have of the line and lure. To test, reel in some line and let go of the cranking handle. Now pull line out of the reel. If the handle turns backwards, you have less control. The greater the ball bearings then this 'unwinding' is reduced.
You need to check the line capacity of the reel for two things. First, the maximum lb. test the reel will hold and how many yards/metres of line can be put on the reel. You want a reel designed for the line weight that you are using. Putting 20lb line on a reel designed for 6lb will only cause dramas.
Baitcaster or Spinning
The type of reel you use affects the type of fishing you will be doing. Reels are designed for different purposes and produce different effects on the lures and bait that you use. If you are fishing large lures say for Bass fishing, a baitcasting reel is probably what you are looking for. These reels don't produce too much action in the lure while allowing very accurate casting control. Alternatively, spinning reels are designed to transfer action into the lure from the reel, and are used commonly with trolling and casting spinner/spoon type lures.
Size & Weight
This isn't critical as most reels are within the same weight as each other. However, if you are going to be out all day casting on a regular basis a lighter reel can be a good thing. This also applies if buying a reel for children. If possible, try it out in a shop to see how it feels. Make sure the reel feels comfortable and you are able to reach the casting mechanisms and tension controls without having to make awkward stretches.
There are many reels out there that are available on eBay for purchase. Some of these are household names that have been making reels for decades, others have emerged on the reel scene in the last couple of years.
As a general rule of thumb, what you pay for is what you get. If you want to pay $5 for a reel generally this is the amount that it would be worth. That is not to say as there are many bargains out there as well for quality reels at a discount price. For brand name reels on eBay, search some Australian fishing websites or tackle stores to see what deal you really are getting. In some instances you may be paying the equivalent store price or alternatively getting 50-70% off the normal price.
Many of the reels available on eBay are of varying price and quality. If possible check out a model you are interested in at the local tackle store before bidding to ensure its quality and has the features that you are after. If you are unable to source the model from a tackle shop, check out the various fishing forums available on the web. Many of these will discuss most reels available on eBay and their various qualities, features, problems etc. If all else fails, enter the reel name into a search engine (such as google) and you can do a bit of research from here.
You will be able to find a reel suitable to your needs and budget if you spend the time to do some research. A $5 reel may be appropriate if you go fishing once a year at Christmas for example. If you are looking at fishing more often, there are many sellers who do sell quality new or second hand reels under the $100 mark. You can always start at this level and go from here.
Best of luck and tight lines.
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