TIME was when a good-quality reel would set you back at least £100.
But thanks to improvements in technology and manufacturing processes you can now pick up something that will offer a smooth performance and not let you down – and still get change from fifty quid!
Whether you’re a match or pleasure angler who enjoys float and feeder fishing, a big-fish specialist in search of a freespool model for carp or barbel, or even a lure fanatic, there are plenty of affordable reels to choose from.
These, then, are our top choices. They all offer a great performance and loads of tactical possibilities.
In its smaller sizes, Okuma’s Azuki model makes the perfect light lure reel, while the bigger sizes can be used as super-budget general coarse and float reels. They are all packed with the latest reel technology, including a special Cyclonic Flow Rotor that provides a super-smooth retrieve.
It comes in 20, 30, 40 and 55 body sizes, and is available fully loaded with Sufix braid in the mid-sized 30 and 40 models. It provides a lot of bang for your buck for a model priced at little more than a pub meal and a pint.
Pros: Rock-solid build should add longevity
Cons: Its silver/chrome livery is a little humdrum
Price: £21.99-£32.99, www.okuma fishing.eu
Middy Baggin’ Machine CXR 30
THE Middy Baggin’ Machine CXR is a modern front drag reel for all-round use. Light and compact, its press-button folding handle makes it ideal for a ready rod set-up.
Other features include a mono-friendly line clip, Free Flow machined alloy spool, and an instant response clutch.
Although designed for commercial fishery tactics, it’s ideal for all pellet waggler and light feeder work. Gearing runs smoothly on five bearings, while a robust stainless-steel shaft, matched to a balanced rotor oscillation system, keeps everything on the level.
PROS: Compact polymer body keeps it light
CONS: Machining around the clip looks a little rough
Price: £39.99, www.middytackle.com
OKUMA CEYMAR XT
This is an ultra-reliable reel that steps up to the plate when needed. Available in sizes from a tiny 1000 light-lure fishing tool, through to a big feeder, big winding weight 6000 model.
It’s a reel that can do it all and then some. It has a high-speed 6.2:1 gear ratio, solid aluminium bail-arm, corrosion-resistant graphite body and rigid metal handle with EVA knob. It even comes with a spare spool and rear drag options in the 3000 and 4000 sizes.
Pros: Great all-rounder well suited to any tactic
Cons: Its high-speed retrieve may be little too quick for some
Price: From £46.99, www.okumafishing.com
Maver’s eye-catching fluoro green Reality reel is an excellent choice for the novice angler. It’s easy to use, with a faultless
self-trip bail-arm, and its oversized line roller prevents reel line spin. The smaller 3000 is very light and lends itself well to float tactics, while its slightly bigger 4000-sized stablemate is better suited to light feeder and leger tactics.
Pros: A good all-rounder for any and all tactics
Cons: It may be a tad blingy for some anglers
Price: 3000 £29.69, 4000 £31.49, www.mavermatch.co.uk
Shimano Sedona FE 3000
THE front drag Shimano Sedona’s M-Compact body is very light, making it ideal for all floatfishing scenarios. But don’t be fooled – this model has plenty of winding power thanks to its tried and tested Varispeed oscillation system, which produces an excellent line-lay – just what you need for trotting.
Its internal engineering features quality smooth-running bearings you’d associate with far more highly priced reels.
Other features include Dyna-Balance, which minimises wobble, and Shimano’s Super Stopper II system, which reduces play in the handle when fishing with the anti-reverse switch activated.
The Power Roller on the bail-arm is profiled to reduce line twist.
Pros: Has one of the neatest line-lays around for a sub-£50 model
Cons: No spare spool supplied
Price: £49.99, www.fish.shimano-eu.com
Matrix Aquos Ultra 3000/4000 sizes
Offering trouble-free performance on a budget, these reels have super-light compact bodies, multi-disc front drag systems and an advanced bail-arm shape for faster line pick-up.
Seamless drive is provided by eight ball-bearings, and the 5.1:1 gearing generates an impressive line retrieve of 87cm (4000 size) and 75cm (3000).
Pros: Lightweight and easy to use, they are well suited to floatfishing tactics
Cons: Front drag needs fine adjustments
Price: £49.99, www.fishmatrix.co.uk
KORUM SHADOW REELS
THE two freespool Shadow reels from Korum pack a serious amount of winding power into their compact 2500 and 3500 body sizes. Precision gearing provides a rapid-response freespool movement that kicks in cleanly when it’s engaged as you get a bite. Back-up fish playing facilities are provided by powerful but precise front and rear drag systems.
Other key features on these specialist reels, which can turn their handles to most big-fish tactics, include a super-fast 5.1:1 gear retrieve and silky-smooth winding, courtesy of five high-quality carbon steel bearings.
Pros: The transmission between freespool and engaged is seamlessly smooth
Cons: No spare spool supplied
Price: 2500 £39.99, 3500 shop-around price £44.99, www.korum.co.uk
Browning Black Magic FD 430
This good-quality front drag reel is packed with advanced features that will help with big fish. Key elements include an ultra-smooth gear system, oversized anti-twist line roller that allows the use of thicker lines without coiling, and a quickly adjustable precision front drag that makes playing fish off the clutch risk-free.
Pros: This lightweight reel is easy to hold for long periods
Cons: A little loose in its handling
Price: £49.95 spare spool included, www.browning-fishing.com
Shakespeare FR 3500/4500 sizes
The Shakespeare FR, which is aimed toward the feeder angler, comes in two sizes – 3500 and 4500. It boasts two mono and braid friendly line clips, has a 5.2:1 retrieve ratio, and enough winding power to cope easily with feeder weights up to 70g. The large arbor spool and oversized line roller are ideal for heavier/thicker diameter lines.
The larger bodied model is well suited to anglers fishing big, powerful rivers like the Trent and Wye for big fish using hefty feeders.
Pros: Solid performer with plenty of winding power
Cons: A little clunky under pressure
Price: £39.99, www.shakespeare-fishing.com
Korum Zelos 6000 Mini pit
About as cheap as you could possibly buy a mini pit for, this reel can only be described as a bargain! Great looks and a steady performance make this an ideal choice for the big fish angler.
A smooth drag system and precise carbon steel bearings deliver the power while the S-Stroke system ensures great line lay, even when using thick or heavy lines.
Pros: It’s a great price for a mini big-pit reel
Cons: No spare spool
Price: £49.99, www.korum.co.uk
Daiwa Ninja Match Feeder 4012A
THIS staggeringly good Daiwa reel could easily be mistaken for one costing twice the price, such are its winning looks and features. The graphite body, combined with a top-end Air Rotor, saves on weight, and the enhanced rotor shape adds to its all-round winching performance.
Other big ticks are the Ninja’s geared-down retrieve that provides increased winding power for dealing with hard-fighting fish, and a super-smooth precision front drag that is reliable enough for playing fish straight off the clutch.
Pros: Stunning cosmetics and top-end technology
Cons: Plastic line clip may damage lighter lines
Price: Shop around price £49.99, www.daiwasports.co.uk