I was told by someone that repairs rods and reels for a living to stick with Shimano and/or Daiwa.
I recentlently purchased a Daiwa 5ia at FishTech for around $40. I am very happy with it. It feels quite substantial in its build quality and is extremely smooth.
I also bought a Shakespeare combo a few months ago when I was just starting to get back into fishing again after a long break ((hmmmm the kids are in college and high school.....)if you get my drift). It does its job very well and I really can't complain.
There is a reel for everybody and every price point it seems now a days.
I guess what your paying for, is the reel's ability to stand up to abuse. If you fish alot or bang you equipment, pay up the cheaper stuff won't hold up.