Veteran bass pro Stacey King says this is what you want to feel when testing reels in a store:
Crisp, sharp release when pushing the button or thumb bar on a baitcast reel. When you turn the handle, the reel should engage easily without hesitation.Smooth, uninterrupted movement of the handle when you turn it SLOWLY. Feel for rough spots in gears. You want it slick as butter.Responsive braking system. Dial back the magnetic braking system and loosen the brakes under the side plate, or the tension knob under the handle. Disengage the spool and spin it with your finger. Note how quickly it turns.Now, add tension with the knob or the magnetic system to make sure it slows down the spoolPrompt closure of the spinning reel bail. Open the bail and turn the reel handle. Did it seem strong and snap completely closed? Was it a fluid closure, or did it hang up?A smooth drag. Loosen the spinning reel drag completely, then turn the spool with your hand, not the handle. While manually rotating the spool, add tension gradually to the drag and notice whether the tension is applied appropriately.