alright, first decide if you want to get a low-profile type baitcaster, or a more traditional round reel. most bassfishermen perfer a low-profile over round reels for comfort. for any reel, you get what you pay for in all respects, so even if you don't want to break the bank on this purchase i would get a better quality reel in your price range. here are some recommended ones.
Abu Garcia Eminence
Diawa Procaster Series
Quantum MG series
Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 5500 C3
Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 4600AB antibacklash
Abu Garcia EON
Abu Garcia 5600CB
Shimano Corsair 200 or 300
Shimano Calcutta 200 or 250
in my opinion shimano make the best low profile baitcasters on the market. for round reels Abu garcia offers alot of selection and price options for very high quality reels. spend what you can on the reel, keep it cleaned and oiled and you'll get years of good performance.
Check out Cabellas and BassProShops. They always have combo deals in their catalogues and often even slightly better deals in their stores. I believe you can get an AbuGarcia 5300C3 (traditional round style) with a good BassPro rod for about $100. You can get into a Shimano Curado (low-profile style) with BassPro rod for about $150. Remember that you'll have other costs --- line, lures, tackle box(es), but you can start simple and add as you learn.
If you tell us what you want to spend, we may be able to say more.
Others may think differently, but I think you will regret a $30 - 40 low profile reel. But you can often buy a good AbuGarcia 5500C3 (round style)that has been refurbished for about that much. This would be a good deal on a classic, durable, lifetime reel. Not sure what a refurbished Curado (low-profile) would run, perhaps $60. So, if you're trying to save money, check out a quality used/refurbished reel, available from reel repair places. Ask your friends or a sporting good store for the phone number for the nearest repair center. Then plan on spending about $35 - 40 for a good quality rod; you can often get a more expensive ($50 - $60) rod on sale for about $40.
One alternative would be to switch to a $30 Shimano spin reel. Good quality that's likely to last at least 10 years. I would do that before I would buy an inexpensive low-profile reel.
To back up a step or two, you might try casting with your friends' various reels to see how they differ and what you like. If you have the patience, it may help you make a decision. Just get a plastic practice plug and have fun.
I prefer the Lew's Speed Spool over any other baitcaster available.
It really fits my hand and in my opinion the tall narrow spool helps to better control what Jimmy Houston calls "Professional overruns"
There are plenty of great reels out there,but the Lew's is like an extension of my hand.I can cast a mile with it even with weightless soft plastics.They recently introduced instant anti reverse models (not the low profile ones) and they run about $120 in Cabela's.
Okie --- BassPro may have exactly the deal you're looking for. They have their low profile Extreme bait-casting reel with a free rod for $69 or $79, I think it's 79. They say they get very few of these reels back and if they go bad it is bad right away. BassPro is very good about backing their house brand products, as well as the products they sell. The rod is not a slouch of a rod either. You can get it on their website at http://basspro.com. Click on the Order button. Or you can get the same reel in combination with a better ($99) rod for a totla of $99 (more options on rod actions and lengths in the more expensive combo, I think.
They agreed that the cheaper low profile reels are going to be a problem you will regret.