Ok, so a number of things about me before I start asking the questions.
1.) I am CHEAP. I buy good quality stuff, but right now I'm an E-6 putting my wife through college so I have no money. Scratch that, I'm married so I have no money.
2.) I like old stuff. I find that equipment built "back in the day" (pre 1980's) is of much higher quality than all the fancy doo-dads we have now. Too much fancy extra sh*t that you don't really need and that will just break on you, I don't like that. (I'm the kind of guy that thinks the world should just man the f*ck up. Computers are awesome, but do we really need a phone with all those damn gadgets? IT'S A PHONE. REMEMBER WHEN PEOPLE USED TO TALK ON PHONES???)
That being said:
I want to buy my first conventional reel for surf casting. I like Penn Senators (4/0 and 6/0) because you can get them for about 50 bucks on ebay, their simple and sturdy, and they get the job done. However, I'm simple but not stupid. If I can avoid a great deal of headache by getting something with an anti-backlash mechanism, I'll do it. But if it's not torture to do it old school, I would prefer that way.
What do you all think? Is the old way of doing things insane and we should all be glad that we have fancy stuff to make it easier? Or would an old Penn do the job just fine?
If that's a bad idea, what would you recommend for a first conventional reel?
Penn Senators are not surf casting material, they are trolling reels. You will be totally frustrated trying to use them for throwing any distances. Penn Squidders and Jigmasters are what you are looking for. There should be a lot of old ones out there and they still function just fine if they are in good condition.
Also keep an eye out for older Abu's....they made some very simple, yet very reliable and rugged conventionals. The older penn power mags were nice too. Diawa's SLSH series. Try looking on Strippersonline.com classifieds.....click on surf talk and go to classifieds
Sealine-x is a great reel for the money. I've got a 20 and 30 SL on my rods. It's a 6.1:1 ratio with a power handle and you can customize the casting brakes. You can probably find them on line for around $100.00. Good luck.
The ABU Garcia CTs are very basic, easy to work on and very near the best ever made. The Penn 525 is a bit more advanced but very simple as well. Both are great for beginers and the advanced alike. Both are not expensive. All other modern surf bait casters are knock offs of these 2 reels.
You want to go old school Penn for surf casting get the squidder w/metal spool. However, you'll need to educate your thumb/learn to cast old school. How "cheap" are you talking? Cause you could score a used newer reel Penn 525 mag, Diawa Slosh/SHV/Saltist, Shimano Torium 14 for making your learning curve and casting life much easier.
not trying to start anything, but "he (she) who has the gold, makes the rules" keeping that in mind, being a service man protecting her freedom, i'd have to splurge on myself once in a while. Used reels are probably the way to go. Old school squidders are great, a 146 (narrow) would have been the bee's knees for you (if it were still around). I would look for a SL-20/30SH . not SHA/SHX/SHV. Try looking for japanese models as well. Even new you could find these for $120 or less. Just sold one myself NIB for $75, so they're out there. I wouldn't look for old school to be as bullet proof as you might think, when old tanks break, they break for life, and parts are getting harder and harder to find...so when you strip that gear sleeve, torque that screw a little too hard, etc. you might as well have just gotten one of those "new fangled gadgets" with a fast take-down system.