If you fish with Shimano reels, you owe a lot to this guy-- Jeremy Sweet, Shimano's Reel Product Manager, with whom I was bass fishing in Alabama a few days ago. Sweet is an exceptionally talented engineering-type guy who could probably assemble the most complex of reels with both eyes closed. He's also a pretty good angler.
I get to pick his brain once or twice a year, and what I found on this visit was that Shimano has what's already a runaway hit for 2009: the new Curado E baitcaster. This reel won "best of show" honors at the ICAST fishing-industry trade show last summer. At 7.6 ounces, the reel is substantially lighter than prior models and-- surprisingly--at about $180 actually costs a little less.
Not that it's cheap. But baitcasting tackle in general isn't cheap either. I recently calculated the average cost of all brands and models of baitcasters in a major mail-order catalog, which turned out to be about $140. When it comes to these sorts of reels, as with all fishing things, you get what you pay for.
I fished with a new Curado E sample, of course, which was as smooth as a baby's bottom. It worked so well that casting and fishing was just a little more fun, which I think makes it well worth the money.