Affordable Fishing reel Buying Guide

Like if this guide is helpful
Affordable Fishing reel Buying Guide

Buying used reels is a very good way of getting good quality, high -end brands for a good price. Reels are generally one of the bigger investments in the fishing tackle box as they are carefully engineered and are made up of some fairly sophisticated elements. That said it is always worth buying a good reel in any angling discipline as a broken reel during a fight with the fish of a lifetime is a major disappointment.

There are various different types of reel used for different angling methods and different quarry. The spinning reel is used in every form of angling. It is especially prevalent in sea and coarse angling but is also a useful addition to the game and big game tackle box.

The fly reel is generally a more expensive reel and used for fly fishing with a fly rod. Although this technique is now used across the world in sea fishing and big game scenarios, it is normally associated with trout and salmon fishing in freshwater.

Buying used reels is no different to buying new reels in terms of design, size, brand and capability. It does however require a keen eye for detail and a good understanding of what can go wrong with reels.

  • Check for damage generally but particularly on the spool and saddle of the reel. If the reel has been dropped then the spool will not turn properly.
  • Handles should be checked particularly on spinning reels. They are easy to damage and if the handle falls off, it can be hard to repair.
  • Saltwater damage – If a reel is not properly coated or is made of old fashioned materials and has been used in salt water it may well be corroded and this can seriously affect the performance of the tackle. Look out for rust marks or where the surface of the reel may have bubbled.
  • An odd scratch won’t do any harm to the performance of the reel but could indicate that there is a deeper problem.

Reel Types

Spinning Reels

These are used by coarse, game and sea anglers worldwide. They are incredibly easy to use and very effective at delivering all types of baits with distance and a satisfactory degree of accuracy. Furthermore there is very little that can go wrong with a spinning reel.

If looked after they last for years and compared to fly reels they are very cheap. Prices do vary, depending on the brand and generally by the number of ball bearings contained in the reel. Choosing a spinning reel is about the only thing that is complicated about them. There are literally thousands to choose from.

A good place to start is with the fish and the water. The reel to buy will depend on what type of fish you want to catch in which type of water. Many anglers these days like to fish with tackle that is as light as possible so they can really feel the fish. Do not be tempted to fish tackle that is too light. Not only will you lose fish, but you may struggle to reach the fish in the first place.

The other key consideration is the type, weight and size of bait you are fishing. With these three facts in mind it should be possible to reduce the options.

Spinning reels for fast rivers and salmon may well guide you to a range that perfectly suits the salmon fishing trip you are making. Alternatively reels for carp ponds and big Mirror Carp, if that is your destination and quarry may well lead you in the right direction for that specialist area.

There are all sorts of weights of reels that handle differently in different conditions but the basics are:

  • Ultralight Spinning Reels are usually reels that handle six pound test line or even less.  There are some smaller reels designed for 2 pound test line.
  • Top Ultralight Reels and Light spinning reels are much the most popular with light tackle anglers.
  • Top Light Tackle Reels are heavy spinning reels used for deep trolling and surf fishing and some bottom fishing. These are incredibly strong reels and can hold line up to 50lb test. The weight of the reel is vital when playing big sea, or game fish.

The final consideration when buying a spinning reel is the rod you have or wish to buy with it. The balance between rod and reel makes a huge difference. A reel that is too big for the rod makes handling the rod very cumbersome. Equally, a rod that is too big for the reel will be just as unsatisfactory.

Spinning reels are incredibly diverse and flexible and can be changed to suit the angler, conditions or fish as required.

  • The drag system on most reels allows the angler to increase the drag on the reel when a fish is being played which tires the fish more quickly and allows it to be landed more easily. Drags can vary but should be set to about a third of the test weight of the line so if fishing with 15lb line then a 5lb drag is probably the right balance.
  • Retrieve – an angler can vary the speed of line retrieve just by turning the reel slower or quicker. Certain reels have quicker retrieve speeds but this must be balanced with the type of water being fished and the technique the angler adopts.
  • Left or right handed? The spinning reel has always been designed for both left and right-handed anglers. A button beside the main handle, when pressed, will allow the removal of the handle to reposition on the required side.

When buying a spinning reel always the experts. By experts it is more important to learn about the fishing than the reel. Once you have a good understanding of what the fish are about then the correct tackle will quickly become apparent. Make sure to establish:

  • what the fish will be taking
  • what the water will be like
  • how easy it is to cast
  • what the size of the fish are.

You can learn all this from a local expert in the specific type of fishing you want to do.

There are many spinning reel brands but a few to watch out for would be Shimano, Daiwa, Abu Garcia, Penn, Quantum and Pflueger. These brands offer a wide range of different sizes, weights and styles of spinning reels, suitable for an extensive range of different spinning techniques and quarry.

There are a few other considerations to make before buying a spinning reel. Firstly the amount of fishing that one intends to do. There is no point spending £500 on a Shimano Stella reel when only fishing once a year from a holiday cottage. Equally a seasoned and regular angler of any experience will not want to replace a worn out reel with an Abu Garcia beginners reel foe £20. Reels do last but the best last longer and won’t let an angler down in a hard fight.

Secondly, the angler has to consider the type of water that the reel will be in proximity to as seawater can seriously damage reels that do not have the correct protection. If sea fishing is on the agenda then make sure the reel has a non-corrosive coating and is designed for such work.

Thirdly, the size of reel is calibrated to the size of rod but also the nature of the bait being cast, the distance required, the type of bank conditions and the type of water being fished.

The pick up or retrieve on a reel in fast water needs to be much quicker in a river or fast water so that the reel doesn’t overrun. A bigger reel might be more suitable in these conditions.

In slow flow or still water conditions the angler might wish to fish the rig much more slowly so can afford to have a slower and possibly smaller reel system.

If an angler is spinning for small fish in a still water he might choose to fish with a 05-10 size or reel. The sea shore angler, throwing a heavy lead a great distance and then having to retrieve fast in the surf may take a reel between 20-50 size.

Drag systems

The drag system is common to most reels and allows the angler to crank up the tension on the reel. This is very useful when playing a fish, making it harder for the fish to pull line off the reel. Generally when fishing for big fish like Marlin or Tuna the reel will be set on a trolling setting which might be marked as the ‘free position’.  When the fish takes the drag will be put to the ‘strike’ position. In big game reels the system is very complex and the guides will set the drags on the reels to exactly the right level before they set out on the trip.

On smaller scale fishing it is up to the angler to move the drag setting up as the fight begins. Care should be taken not to go too high as the fish will break the line or the hook will be pulled out because there is too much tension.

How much line to put onto the reel

Putting the right amount of line onto a reel is important because too much makes it too full and there is more chance of a tangle and too little actually has the same effect but more importantly gives the angler less line to play with when fighting a big fish. 90% capacity is generally what is recommended. If there is too much line on the reel, the chance of backlash when casting is increased.

Overall the spinning reel is a brilliant tool. If correctly fitted, set and used it is a pleasure to use. Problems only arise when the wrong reel is being used for the conditions being fished.  Understand the fish, the water and the environment and ask the experts. With the right budget and advice a reel will give great satisfaction for a good few years.

Fly Reel

The fly reel is an altogether more straightforward tool than the spinning reel as its role is to hold the line and backing. It helps in the playing and landing of the fish. It is not as fundamental to a successful cast in fly fishing as a spinning reel can be.

Despite its relative simplicity the fly reel does tend to be more expensive than the spinning reel. There is a range of brands from the very expensive Hardy, Sage, Ross and Megoff priced at over £500 to the lower end brands such as Daiwa, Shakespeare and Shimano which are generally found in the £100 - £200 bracket.

Fitting your fly reel is important.  Having the right weight of reel for the rod is the only area where the reel can affect the cast. Make sure that the reel is a suitable size for the rod being used.

The length of the rod is irrelevant as it is the line weight and the reel weight that must fit the rod. These are usually indicated on the rod with a hash sign (#) and numbers, which are rod length and line weight.

Match these to the reel and the rig should feel well balanced and comfortable to cast. The reel capacity is another consideration as the drum of the reel when fishing light tackle for big fish needs to be able to hold a lot of line and backing.

When buying any used reel whether a spinning or fly reel try to buy a good brand and check for any signs of wear and tear. Most importantly make sure the reel suits the rod and be prepared to ask the experts.

How to buy Affordable Fishing reels on eBay

Now that you've worked out which Fishing Reel you want, find them quickly on eBay. While you shop, don't forget line, and tackle. Click the Sporting Goods portal and click fishing.

Categories: The Categories list on the left side of each page will help you narrow down your listings by item type. You'll find links for Clothing & Footwear, Coarse Fishing, DVDs, Fly Fishing, Sea Fishing, Tackle Boxes, Universal Accessories, Videos and Trophies. As you refine your search you'll be able to narrow down your choice by subcategory.

Product Finder: Use the fishing reel Finder to quickly narrow down item listings by brand, model and condition. (new or used)

Keyword search: Search eBay listing titles for specific words. For example, if you want to find used fishing reel, type the keywords " fishing reel used" (without quotation marks) into the Search box. Click "Search title and description" to expand your results. Visit eBay's Search Tips page for more tips on searching with keywords.

If you can't find exactly what you want, try browsing eBay Stores or tell the eBay Community what you’re looking for by creating a post on Want It Now, or save a search on My eBay and eBay will email you when a matching item becomes available.

Buy Fishing Reels with Confidence

Make sure that you know exactly what you’re buying and understand how eBay and PayPal protect you.

Know your item

Read the details in the item listing carefully.

Remember to add delivery costs to your final price. If you’re buying a high value item, check that the seller will insure it until it is delivered to you.

If you want more information, click the “Ask seller a question” button on the seller’s profile or the “Ask a question” link at the bottom of the item listing page.

Always complete your transaction on eBay (with a bid, Buy it Now or Best Offer) otherwise you will not be covered by eBay Buyer Protection.

Know your seller

Research your seller so that you feel safe and positive about every transaction.

  • What is the seller’s Feedback rating? 
  • How many transactions have they completed?
  • How many positive responses do they have?
  • What do buyers say in their Feedback? 
  • Are they positive about the seller?

Most top eBay sellers operate like retail shops and have a returns policy.

  • Do they offer a money-back guarantee? 
  • What are their terms and conditions?

Buyer protection

In the very unlikely event that you do not receive your item or it is not as described, eBay Buyer Protection your purchase price plus original delivery cost.


Though the large range of affordable fishing reels available on eBay may seem overwhelming, with a little research and knowledge you can easily find the right option for you. It is worth buying a couple of different varieties to suit the different types of fishing you'll be doing. eBay has a wide range of accessories available as well, so make sure to pick up any other additional bits that you need at the same time.

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides