I was looking for the three key features when purchasing a combo. I am specifically speaking about the reel at this point. I will cover the rod in the later portion. When selecting a reel I first look for the anti-reverse quality and function. Second I look for drag quality and function. Third thing I look for is number of ball bearings. All other features of a reel are evaluated after these three key features. Evaluating the anti-reverse is a two part test. The first part is evaluating the bail, and the second part is evaluating the play in the handle. When you turn the handle and stop the first thing you should look for is if the bail completely stops and does not have any backlash. Then you evaluate if the handle has any play. The bail is the most critical part of this test. The bail on a quality reel has no backlash. This allows for better hook set, and does not stress the components inside the reel with a sudden backlash during aggressive hook sets. This will help the reel to last longer. The play in the handle although not as important; is a fit and finish issue. I tested some reels on the shelf and found that all of the reels were consistent and had very little to no backlash but did have some play in the handles. An anti-reverse switch is not important to me because I always leave the anti-reverse on. Although I don’t suggest dismantling reels at the store; I usually take the spool off and look at the drag washers if possible and or how it is assembled. I prefer front drag reels because the drag is attached directly to the spool. I also prefer reels with audile clicks in small increments that can be felt when turning the drag knob. When line is being stripped from the spool you want it to be smooth and not surge. This will help with line breakage and your chances of catching big fish. Most reels today use some type of oil felt drag system. For 90% of applications this type of drag system is acceptable. It is hard to evaluate how well drag works without line. This is where knowledge from experience and a little bit of faith comes into play. I usually loosen the drag and turn the spool with my hand a few rotations then progressively do this while tightening the drag knob. I tested several reel drags to find they were all consistent and seemed to have a decent drag. The reel has marked on the bail that it has five ball bearings. When evaluating this portion of a reel you simply have to put your faith in the company that when they advertise five bearings that is what you are getting. Remember when you think bearing don’t necessarily think small round metal balls inside some type of housing (Conrad bearing). Bearings are different shapes and sizes. A journal bearing does not have metal balls, or rollers they are direct contact between two surfaces. From my experience a reel may advertise five ball bearings and only have one Conrad bearing of five individual balls and no more. To me that is a one bearing reel. Reel companies can be misleading sometimes about this issue. This is also something you give up when purchasing less expensive reels. This reel does in fact have five bearings. Although not all ball bearings, it has: three Conrad type bearings, one set of roller bearings, and one journal bearing. It is smooth for an inexpensive reel. Although I am not a huge fan of two piece rods, especially rods shorter than 7ft 6 inches. This rod is probably my favorite part of the combo. It is a good medium action with decent back bone. The action allows you to cover most types of fishing situations you would encounter freshwater and saltwater. Being a two piece rod makes it is easy to transport for those who travel with their combo. The split cork handle is neat but is not a big deciding factor for me when selecting a rod. In some cases depending on the rod holder it will not sit correctly in a rod holder because the missing material on the middle section of the grip. The rod has a nice stainless cushioned reel seats and line guides similar to what you would see on expensive rods. All line guides are single footed. Over all fit and finish for this rod is good. The reason I picked this combo other than the reasons I previously covered are: Reel size; it is a 4000 series/size reel and holds 215 yards of 10 pound, 160 yards of 12 pound and 120 yards of 15 pound mono line. I prefer 12 mono on a combo like this. The line capacity allows you more versatility when fishing inshore saltwater. Hook something that can take some line and you’d wish you had more line. The main portion of the frame is metal. The side cover is plastic, the gears are metal, and the bail and bail wire attachments are plastic. The combo has held up well and preformed higher than expected for a combo in this price range. My biggest complaint of the combo is the metal gimbal. It has a heavy silver metal piece on the butt or gimbal. If you are fishing in a boat you have to be careful not to drop the gimbal onto the deck of the boat and damage either the boat surface or rod. When you lean the rod against something the gimbal will slide out and the rod will fall because of the metal gimbal. I solved this problem by simply putting a rubber adhesive pad you can find at most hardware stores on the gimbal. I dropped one of my combos in saltwater while attempting to get my hands on a flounder I caught. I was only a few doors down from the house and should have simply walked to the house and sprayed it out with freshwater and then sprayed some WD40 in it. I didn’t do that and continued to fish for several hours. I sprayed it out later that night and set it out to dry with the rest of my gear. Well let’s just say it would not turn the next morning. I attempted to take the reel apart and clean it. The reel’s assembly was over my head so it was turned into parts. I found the same reel on Ebay that was missing a handle for $8.00. I put the handle from my old reel on it and have a whole reel again. I have caught a bunch of flounder, pin fish, small jacks, blue fish and a couple of red fish. Other features worth noting about this reel is: the soft touch knob and nice aluminum crank arm similar to high end reels. One tip I suggest with this reel that I use on all of my spinning reels is: flip the bail wire with your hand after casting. Do not use the crank handle to trip the bail. This will keep parts from wearing out as fast and most importantly keeps your fishing line from twisting or looping when wrapped around the spool. I feel certain with proper maintenance that this combo will last you a long time for saltwater or freshwater fishing. It is definitely worth the $29.96 price tag. This is an independent opinion review of a product I purchased and used personally. Thanks for reading, hope it helps and tight lines!
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