Meet the Best Spinning Reel You Can Buy for Under $50

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Whether we’re after slab crappies or super-size largemouths, we want equipment that performs like a Ferrari yet won’t break the bank. We may have found that magical middle ground in the Ardent Finesse spinning reel.

by Mike Disario, FishOnDaily

If you’ve cruised the box stores or big online retailers in search of a new workhorse spinning reel, you’ve probably noticed two things. First, what are presented as “high-end” reels can induce a case of sticker shock for working schlubs like us. Second, there are so many reels in the $30-$50 space that it’s practically impossible to separate the quality from the crap.

Recently, we came across a tackle manufacturer called Ardent that has been flying somewhat under the radar. Ardent does make those “high-end” reels we like to “ooh” and “ah” over, but they also bring that same attention to quality manufacturing and materials down to their more budget-conscious products. A good example of this is the Finesse spinning reel that we picked up a few weeks ago. This $49.99 reel not only looks and performs far above its pay grade, it even comes with a three-year warranty. For me and my fishing buddies, who can put a lot of hurt on a reel in less than three years, that’s a fairly bold guarantee for a reel in this price range.

The Finesse reels come in two sizes—the 2000 and 3000—that cover the range of light-tackle angling. The Finesse 2000 accommodates 4- (265 yds.), 6- (220 yds.), and 8-lb (155 yds) line. It is designed for use with medium action rods in the 6.5-foot range. The slightly larger Finesse 3000 is suited for 6- (265 yds.), 8- (220 yds.), and 10-lb (155 yds) line, and is ideal for medium/heavy action rods in the 7-foot range.

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We aren’t fooled by window dressing, but the Finesse makes a good first impression with its glossy black graphite frame and red anodized aluminum accents. A “dry spin” of the reel ratchets the confidence level up a few more notches. This reel is smooth to turn and the rotor is so precisely balanced you can spin it up to dizzy speeds and still feel no vibration.

Of course, it’s easy to be impressed when you’re sitting on couch. We were anxious to see how the Finesse would stand up to some real-world fall river smallmouth action. In the mountains where we fish, a reel must feed line smoothly and stop when you want it to. That’s the only way to drift the chutes and sweep the tails with any measure of success.

I was surprised at the Finesse’s casting smoothness and distance. I tested the Finesse 3000 using the new Gliss line in 8-lb. test and a 6-foot medium action rod with conventional ceramic guides, throwing a 1/8-oz. curly tail minnow. That is not exactly a long-distance combination, but it is an excellent platform to test line flow. The Gliss spooled out effortlessly, causing me several times to overshoot my target before I got the feel for the reel. Forty-plus-yard casts were no problem. I’ll give all the credit to the 6061-T6 double-anodized aluminum deep-skirt spool. It’s neither elongated nor tapered like most distance-casting spools, but with nearly a full line load (I never fill my spools to the rim), the Finesse casts like a long-range champ.

line keeper

I like a couple more things about the Finesse spool. There is a rubber band integrated into the center of the spool. This is a great feature for those of you who use braided or slick super lines, as the band prevents line slippage. Finally, there is the integrated line keeper. It is one of the best we’ve seen. It uses a large-diameter button recessed into the spool body. The keeper is held in place with a retainer spring located inside the spool, so it gently but firmly grasps your line, making it easy to secure and release.

On test day, the weather was cool and rainy, which allowed us to experience another of the Finesse reels’ attributes—the handle. Now, that may not sound sexy, but it is important when everything is wet and slick with fish slime. The anodized aluminum handle is sized for optimal torque without being obnoxiously large like some reels we’ve used. The user interface is a sizeable and ergonomic rubber knob with a no-slip grip. It didn’t disappoint when things got wet and slick. I can foresee this being a huge advantage in late winter and early spring when my cold, wet fingers need all the grip assistance they can get.

Although the Finesse seems to have been designed with creature comforts in mind, the form certainly does not get in the way of function. At its heart is quick 6:1 retrieve gearing, with 30.2 inches of take-up per handle revolution. Everything spins on a stable 7+1 bearing platform: two main drive gear, one pinion gear, one oscillating gear, one roller assembly, and two handle assembly bearings, plus the infinite anti-reverse roller bearing. There is absolutely no backlash evident in the anti-reverse system; When you cease forward rotation, the rotor stops. This is good because it prevents accidental slack getting in the line when you’re working a fish, and it makes securing your bait to a guide or bait keeper a lot less frustrating.


Another fish-fighting plus is the drag. There’s nothing really special about the multi-stacked drag other than it is super-smooth—no jerky or stuttering drag pulls that can lead to break-offs during a heated battle.

Our day on the river didn’t produce a lot of fat smallmouths, but it did allow us a chance to give the Finesse reel a solid workout in a technical fishing environment rife with long and short casts, precision targeting, slow and quick retrieves, and a few good fights. Performance was everything we would expect in a top-end spinning reel, but without the sport car price. That’s a combination you can’t beat.

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[Editor’s Note: You can purchase the Ardent Finesse reel at a number of independent, big-box, and online retailers, including I am convinced that the Ardent Finesse is the best reel you can buy for $50.]


Ardent Tackle, LLC


Article copyright 2015 by; promoted by Ardent Tackle, LLC

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