Why go cheap?
Regardless of whether you are buying one for yourself or buying it as a gift for your father, brother, boyfriend or girlfriend, the truth is you do not really have to spend that much to get a good, reliable fishing reel that can give you years of service.
While those thousand-dollar reels from the big name manufacturers are of course a joy to own and use, they are not really necessary unless you are targeting 1,000lbs marlin or other giant game fish which are capable of placing your fishing equipment under extreme stress.
At the moment (2018), Shimano produce some of the best fishing equipment in the world and even their cheaper, more budget friendly reels listed here are some of the best in their class.
So whats the difference between cheap and more expensive fishing reels?
The most common difference between cheap and expensive fishing reels is the number of bearings contained within each reel. Usually (but not always) more bearings equals a smoother spinning reel.
The body, or chassis, of a cheaper reel is also usually made of less expensive material such as graphite instead of metal or aluminium. The downside is that the body on cheaper reels is less rigid and flexes more under load, it is also less corrosion resistant (which can be overcome by thoroughly cleaning and lubricating your reel after use).
But again, remember that none of this really makes a difference unless you are fighting huge fish at a super tight drag settings.
So with the law of diminishing returns in mind, lets take a look at some of the great budget options on offer from Shimano at the moment.
Why are all the reels listed here spinning reels (@ fixed spool)?
Multipliers and baitcasters generally cost more than spinning reels. We will get to affordable multipliers in another post.
Most of these reels can be purchased for well under $100.
This is the cheapest (check price in USD) reel on this list but it is not a weakling by any means.
The FX goes back to basics with a graphite body and aluminum spool. The FX comes in three sizes – 1000, 2500 and 4000 and is equipped with one ball bearing.
Maximum drag ranges from 4.5 to 13lbs.
It may lack the bells and whistles on offer in more expensive reels but it does what it is supposed to with minimum fuss. The Shimano FX is right at home on lakes or rivers and even light saltwater fishing (though do take care to rinse it thoroughly after saltwater use).
Shimano Sienna FE
The Sienna is the second cheapest (check price in USD) in this list though offers great value. It comes in four sizes – 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000 – which make it a great choice for freshwater lake or river fishing as well as inshore fishing at sea.
The maximum drag on all four sizes is a respectable 9lbs, adequate for most species inshore, comes with 1 ball bearing and 1 roller bearing.
Shimano Sedona FI
The Sedona FI is a substantial step up from the Sienna FE in terms of specs but remains a great value buy (check price in USD).
The Sedona FI incorporates Shimano’s recently introduced Hagane cold forged gearing technology and features 3 + 1 bearings for added smoothness.
It is available in sizes from 1000 to 8000 with options for high gearing (fast retrieve) or low gearing (stronger cranking power) which makes this suitable for a variety of purposes both in freshwater and saltwater.
The maximum drag capacity ranges from 7lbs to 24lbs.
Shimano Sahara FI
The Sahara is another step up from the Sedona and incorporates more of Shimano’s more recent technologies such as X-Ship and also the Hagane gearing.
Being slightly more expensive (check price in USD) than the Sedona, the Sahara is equipped with one more bearing than the former (4+1).
Sizes ranged from 1000 to 5000 with drag ratings ranging from 7lbs to 24lbs (which is the same as the Sedona).
The Nasci (check price in USD) is in many ways similar to the Sahara FI – they have the same number of sizes, same number of bearings and both have X-Ship as well as Hagane gearing.
The difference is that the Nasci offers the option of a higher gearing ratio for faster retrieve in their 3000 sized model.