Pros: Silky smooth drag, easy one-handed operation
I have owned this reel for almost two years and have fished it about 50 times. It has worked flawlessly and has made me wonder why you need to spend more than $30.00 on a trout reel.
GENERAL: The Syncopate FB can be had for about $35 on any given day (I was lucky enough to hit a sale and got mine for $30). It features a front drag, an auto-centering spool, and Shimano's Quickfire casting trigger. Line capacity is a generous 6/170, 8/120, 10/100. (In case you're new to fishing, those numbers tell you how many yards of a given line size will fit on the spool. For example, if you spool up with 8 pound test line, you'll be able to put on 120 yards).
PROS: In addition to the Syncopate, I have several other Shimano reels, including a Spirex 2000, a Spirex 4000, and a Symetre 4000. These reels cost between $60 and $85 each. I make mention of this because at $30 the Syncopate is an incredible value. I recommend it for any trout fisherman who wants to fish heavier line and not worry about an expensive reel getting thrashed. It is also a great reel for kids because they are a little harder on gear and it can be tempting to get upset with them because they don't treat the gear like you do.
My favorite combination of features on the Syncopate is the Quickfire trigger and the auto-centering spool. Normally with spinning reels you have to hold the line with one hand and flip the bail with the other in order to cast. With the Syncopate Quickfire system, the spool automatically rotates back to the top of the reel stroke putting the trigger right next to your hand. You can then reach the line with your first finger, pinch it against the trigger as you pull on the trigger. This motion flips the bail and you are ready to cast--all with one hand!! This may not sound exciting if you fish from shore or never have to operate the trolling motor, but if you're the driver, and have one hand on the tiller all the time, casting with one hand is a real treat. I use the Quickfire trigger all the time and it has yet to malfunction. I love it.
The reel is also very durable. Mine gets set on the ground frequently if I am fishing from shore (often to stop my daughter from falling in the lake or eating the powerbait). The reel's exterior doesn't scratch easily or get boat rash like I have seen on other reels. My daughter was "helping" me one day and dropped my rod and reel on an asphalt parking lot--one tiny nick in the finish.
The drag on this reel is smooth. Very smooth. I was steelheading one day, using my Spirex when my line broke in the middle, leaving me hardly any line on the spool. Of course I didn't bring the backup spool that comes with the Spirex so my only alternative was to go get the Syncopate off my trout rod and fish that. It was spooled up with 8lb test, just like what I had on my steelhead reel. Well, I hooked three steelhead that day and landed two. All three fish were typical steelhead--lots of head action, with short violent drag bursts. The Syncopate took it all in stride, feeding off line smoothly each time. Often with cheap reels, the drag will be stickier at the beginning when the fish first yanks and then once line is peeling off, even out. Sticky drags are prone to break-offs and ripped out hooks. I am confident that you could fish steelhead and salmon with the Syncopate every single day.
CONS: I have no criticisms for the Syncopate. All front drag spinning reels are almost identical in design. It is mainly and issue of how well they are made. The Shimano Syncopate is well-constructed and is a true work horse. It is the best $30-$35 spinning reel on the market.
CONCLUSION: With Shimano, you will always feel like you came out ahead. The Syncopate does not disappoint. It is worth every penny you pay and will be around long after you're gone. An outstanding value. I highly recommend it.