Are you lookin' for a Quality Tournament free-spool or just a plain-jane baitcaster ~ lure, trolling or bait casting ~ what is the weight range of what you are gonna cast ~ kinda a whole bunch more Qs, but a starter would be a Q to U on how & what are you gonna use it for??
Since you enjoy steelhead fishing, have you ever checked into those St. Croix Wild River salmon/steelhead casting rods for drifting, back bouncing and other methods...put a nice 4500 or 5500 Abu reel on one of them and your set..best reason i guess to get a baitcaster set up to add to your arsenol is it broadens your abilitys to match the fishes additude and the presentation they want!
In certain conditions you might want to use the baitcaster set up for fishing nasty areas where wood and rocks can loose a big fish if you were using spinning tackle and light lines?
I know friends of mine that use fly gear to catch steelhead, but choose to use baitcasting gear for those big boys and when fishing for salmon.
Just some thoughts to help you decide,
As far as the reel goes, I've heard the better quality you buy, the better the reel will perform for you, which is kind of obvious. We have one towards the top that I can use or my dad can use. It has different "backlash" settings depending on how well you can use it. As you use it more, your setting goes down and you can cast further. I think it is worth the effort if you are going to spend the time and energy, plus money. We mainly use ours for trolling.
Sorry i thought maybe you wanted one for steelhead...the guys are right an Abu 6501C3 or C4 (left hand) is what you want. Check out the Quantum Big Cat rods..they come in many actions to catch channel cats or big flatheads and blues.
they have some abu 5600(i think) combos that i think would work for what you mentioned above,i think something along this line would work for an all around rig.the others have good suggestions,but i thought i'd throw in a little something different since you don't really need a baitclicker(unless you want one)or too heavy a rod.something like this is plenty heavy eneough for what catting you would do and light eneough for tossing artificials without wearing your arm out,coupled with the 6'6"or 7 foot med. to med./heavy rod.there should be plenty of outfits in this class and at a decent price.of course i don't know how much you're willing to spend,so there may be more options as the price goes up.
On the plastic thumb bar...i always take them off of my 6500's when i first take them out of the box. I prefer to rely on my thumbing the spool and let off of the spool tension most of the way for long casting. I do this with most of my reels, others i adj. the internal brakes loose like on my Cal. 700's and i have done this for many years..i never get a backlash..but most importantly this style is for those who know thier reels very well, I do NOT recommend this to those ive taught how to cast baitcasters until they are full comfortable with thier gear.
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