i have used the 400 and the 400s and they work fine. they are expensive but worth it to me. i do clean/washdown after every trip and have them serviced each winter. Abu's are good but there drags need a little "customizing" to be up there with the shimano's. for out of the box performance i'd pick the shimano. have heard good things about the penn 525 but have not owned one. if your on a tight budget take a look at Newell's.....a great reel that is often overlooked around these parts.
again have a 700 that sits on a old fenwick big surf stick and if you ever fish sunset beach it will pitch a bait to the rubble of the ship great reel but also a bit pricey then again YOU GET WHAY YA PAYS FOR!!!!! however look at the tica 300 at 150.00 apx price this is as close to the 700 cal youo will find out there very good and smooth, just make sure that you wash them when your done and they will last a long time
I have several 700's and 400's and used them since they first came out.I just love them but getting parts will be an issue within the next few yrs. Sportsmans center in Trenton (certified repair center for shimano) confirmed the parts will be hard to get since they have been discontinued( pray Im wrong in what I heard).I purchaced a corvalus 400 and it is a dressed down calcutta, same internals,in the $80 range and also replaces the corsair,which also is in my arsenal and discontinued. I must admit Im brutal on my equipment to the point of embarrasment but they are the only reels to put up with my torture and live a decade to boot. This year is the first time in ten that I had to buy parts to freshen them up for the season. Just stock up on the wear items (plastic and sand dont mix EVER)
JD, if you want to look at newell's for the beach take a look at the 229-5 model. i think that avet's are nice reels but do not have any casting brakes(magnets) so they could probably cast a mile but would be prone to birdnest if your not good with your thumb. i also think that they are built to such tight tolerance's that a tiny teeny bit of sand would cause some internal problems in the reel. i have not fished everols' and im not sure if they are designed to be fished from the beach and also with casting far distances in mind. i may be wrong on that.
if they are going to discontinue the calcutta take a look at the Tekota and the Torium. the abu garcia Morrum and newell 229-5 are other reels that deserve a look. abu's are nice but i dont care for there drags but its a reel that you can "trick" out to your likin'.