Frugal Angler

Most serious anglers are looking for something different when it comes to their fishing tackle. They want old, hard to find lures, classic out of production finishes, one of a kind items and replacement parts for their favorite rods, reels, motors and electronics.

If you're in that group, there's no better place to find them — and still stay within your budget — than on eBay, the massive Internet flea market. Private sellers offer all of these items and more at auction. The inventory is constantly rotating, and prices reflect market conditions.

Baits such as Ed Chambers (WEC) crankbaits, original Cotton Cordell Big O lures, the old style Devil's Horse wooden baits and aged Mann's Jelly Worms are all available and ready to ship. Along with that, you'll find parts for your ancient Evinrude, your 1991 Cajun bass boat or your three decades old Abu Garcia 5500, as well as schematic diagrams that'll show you how to install those parts.

eBay is a Mecca for those anglers looking for homemade products, too. You'll never find a better selection of one of a kind swimbaits, jigs and spinnerbaits than you will here. If you can't find it through major Internet retailers such as Tackle Warehouse, you can probably find it on eBay.

For many anglers, all this is a dream come true. You can buy an almost unlimited supply of fishing products you can't find anywhere else. Like most things, however, you need to know how all this works if you expect to avoid problems.

Here are the basics of buying through eBay.

1. Know what you want and how to find it.

eBay has a search engine that operates much like any other. You type in a word or two and then it does its thing. But keep in mind that the eBay search engine is precise, more so than the ones we all use to search the Internet.

For example: As of this writing, "Devil's Horse" gets you 361 hits; "Devil's Horse fishing lure" nets you 71; "vintage Smithwick Devil's Horse fishing lure" will give you 63 selections; "vintage Devil's Horse fishing lure" offers up 56 selections. Get in a hurry and type "hosre" instead of "horse" and you'll get nothing. (Google would auto-correct that error and you'd be good to go.)

You can also use the eBay continuous search feature. Basically all you do is enter the search words and the site will continuously search for an item. When it finds that item, it'll e-mail you and give you a link to find it on the site.

Tip: Often it helps to think about an item from the seller's point of view. Use the words he or she might use to describe an item.

2. Understand the bidding process.

There are several ways you can bid. You can enter a fixed bid; you can enter a maximum price and the site will up your bid a little at a time as is necessary; or you can wait until just before the bidding closes and then enter your best price.

Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Think before you select a bidding process.

Tip: Make sure you know the retail price for an item. It's easy to get carried away and do something stupid — like pay more for something than you should.

3. Investigate the seller before you buy.

There a simple process on the site by which you can determine the reputation of a seller. Each buyer rates a seller after a sale, and each seller rates the buyer. Over time this will give you a pretty good idea of what he or she is like.

Tip: The more people who have rated a seller, the more likely the rating will be accurate.

4. Understand the various methods of payment.

Each seller publishes a list of which forms of payment he or she will accept. Within those guidelines, how you pay is up to you. Make sure you understand how payment will be made before you buy.

Tip: Most people use PayPal. It's a reputable third party company that insulates your financial information from the seller but still guarantees him or her the money.

This should be enough to get you started. If you want to learn more about buying (or selling) on eBay, check out the many Internet sites and publications devoted to that subject. Considering what you can find and the amount of money you can save, it's well worth the time you'll invest.