Chinese Fishing Reels: Are They Worth It?

There have been many Chinese fishing reels that have hit online fishing markets in recent years, with people wondering if these cheap components are worth buying for their rods. Chinese manufacturing doesn’t exactly enjoy a strong reputation for quality, but the reels can usually be had for a very low price that is tempting to anglers on a budget. 

So are Chinese fishing reels worth it? In most cases, Chinese fishing reels are not worth the trouble due to poor quality control and their vulnerability to corrosion, especially in saltwater conditions. However, for casual, light, or occasional use, Chinese reels can be an option where quality isn’t as much of a concern. 

Chinese fishing reels can be worth a try in certain situations, but in others, you’re just better off buying a brand name fishing reel. Read on to find out more about Chinese fishing reels and whether you should buy one. 

Chinese Reels Are Easy to Find Online

If you go on any major digital marketplace, such as eBay, Ali Baba, or Amazon, you’ll find a bunch of fishing reels available that don’t come with a recognizable brand name, even though they bear a suspicious resemblance to high-end fishing reels. 

These reels will often simply be listed as a model number rather than a brand name (Ali Baba link) and will come from a variety of Chinese manufacturing companies. They’ll also be eye-catching due to the fact that they usually run a third of the price of their lookalike brand name competitors. 

Chinese reels tend to run in the price range of $10-$25, while their brand name competitors run anywhere from $50 up into the hundreds of dollars (compare prices on Amazon). 

Those fishermen who are looking for a good deal overall else might buy the Chinese reel right there as soon as they see the price tag and feel lucky in the bargain, but it’s smart to resist the impulse and do a little more digging. There are other factors to take into consideration with Chinese fishing reels other than price. 

Chinese Reels Look Good but Function Poorly

Chinese fishing reels might be a tempting choice when browsing fishing reels online due to their sleek outward appearance that mimics more expensive reels, but looks aren’t everything, and anyone who buys one of these reels may end up finding that out firsthand. There are a few general reasons why Chinese fishing reels tend to function more poorly than other types: 

  • Poor construction materials: Chinese fishing reels are often considered shoddy because they are made of cheap materials such as plastic rather than machined aluminum or brass. What metal they contain tends to be thin and easily damaged.
  • Tolerances: Chinese fishing reels are not as tolerant of rough fishing conditions as higher quality reels, such as saltwater surf zones. These reels become corroded quickly under exposure to saltwater due to the cheaper metals included in their manufacture.
  • Longevity: Chinese fishing reels overall don’t last as long as their brand name competitors and are more likely to malfunction early in their lifespan, forcing the angler to replace them prematurely. Some of these reels come with warranties, but with many offers, it is a case of buyers beware. 

Along with the general quality issues regarding Chinese fishing reels, they are also subject to major defects such as sticking buttons or sticking drag. These are problems that can ultimately lead an angler to lose their catch or snap their rod.  

When Chinese Reels Don’t Have Value

For those fishermen who are planning to do lots of fishing with their reel throughout the year in a variety of different environments, a Chinese reel doesn’t have that much value. 

When you’re deep into the hobby, you’re going to be looking for equipment of a higher quality than Chinese reels can typically offer, and you’re not going to get a high quality baitcaster reel for thirty bucks regardless of origin country. This is because it is difficult to manufacture the complex mechanisms involved in a baitcaster reel for a low price with good materials. 

If you’re going to be doing a lot of fishing, Chinese reels won’t be worth the trouble because you’re likely to end up needing to replace them, and knockoffs end up costing more in replacements than buying a decent but higher priced reel would have cost to begin with. 

Chinese reels are also a poor value if you are a saltwater fisherman, as these lower grade materials used to construct these reels do not hold up well under saltwater conditions and chances are that you’re going to end up fighting corrosion as a result. 

Chinese Fishing Reels Aren’t Useless

Despite the shoddy reputation, knockoff Chinese fishing reels aren’t completely useless. There are many instances where you’d like to have a backup fishing reel, but you don’t want to have to pay top dollar for once. Here are a few scenarios that would be suitable to purchase a few Chinese fishing reels:

  • Backup reels: If you host large groups at a lakehouse or beach house and need to have fishing rods ready for guests, Chinese reels can be a good way to rig out many fishing rods at once without having to spend a ton of money.
  • Reels for children: Children may outgrow fishing as a hobby or can easily lose their rods overboard while learning how to cast properly. Outfitting children’s rods with cheap reels means that if the reel is damaged or lost, you’re not out that much money.
  • Casual or occasional fishing: For fishing reels that are not going to be under load or used very often (maybe a few times a year), you can more easily get away with using cheaper Chinese fishing reels because you’re unlikely to notice much difference in casting, while a more seasoned or experienced fisherman would be more demanding.
  • Light freshwater fishing: For catching small panfish like bluegill or crappie, Chinese fishing reels can be a suitable choice because they aren’t forced to put up with much working strain and aren’t exposed to corrosive saltwater environments.  

Alternatives to Buying Chinese Fishing Reels

For those anglers who are fishing in conditions that Chinese fishing reels wouldn’t be suitable for, there are other options available where you can get a better fishing reel and still manage to save money. 

Here are some of the alternatives to buying a cheap Chinese fishing reel: 

  • Buy secondhand: Fishermen are upgrading their equipment all the time, and chances are you’ll be able to find a high-quality reel at a significant discount. Newspaper classifieds and online classifieds like Craigslist or Facebook markets are a good place to look for secondhand equipment. You’re unlikely to get any kind of a warranty, however.
  • Sales at outdoor shops: When new models of reels come out, slightly older models are often discontinued and subsequently sold at a large discount at retail sporting outlets. Check for sales often to get good deals locally. With a receipt from a local storefront, you shouldn’t have a problem getting a refund or replacement either if you have trouble.
  • Check online: While you can find plenty of cheap Chinese reels online at websites like eBay or Amazon, there are also often used brand name reels available in good condition from reputable vendors. 

Chinese Fishing Rods Are A Toss Up, Depending on Your Fishing Needs

Chinese fishing rods can be a good value for those who don’t require high quality in their fishing equipment, such as children or casual fishermen. But for serious anglers who care about strong, durable materials and quality control during the manufacturing process, they should seek their reels elsewhere. 

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