What: To start, I think certain items are safer bought through unseen auctions than others. For example, name brand rods and reels are made so well and with great warranties I’m more comfortable making those purchases. If you’re looking to save a lot consider a used rod or reel, but make sure you read through the rest of the blog to hedge your bets. I stay away from clothing because I can’t determine fit from a picture online. I learned the hard way buying a wading jacket which looked like a belly shirt. As a side note, I strongly discourage going to your local fly shop, trying something on only to buy it cheap online. Fly tying supplies is a mixed bag. If it is something low cost I’m willing to take a gamble on it, but there is a lot of garbage out there. When I find a product and price I like I’ll bookmark the seller and if available, view their full site outside of Ebay.
When: I have found a science regarding best times to buy equipment and it follows logic. The close of the season (if there is a close) is the time when people look to ditch old gear, but not necessarily when people are buying. So I have found from September to November, auctions tend to end lower. Once you get into the holiday season they’ll start to go up again. Then early in January people may get rid of rods and reels if they received an upgrade as a gift. Shops also look to move equipment at the end of the year to make room for new product. This leads into another ideal buying opportunity, when products are discontinued or new models come out. I bought two Z-Axis fly rods once they decided to discontinue it in favor of the One. A rod that was $700 one day was half price the next. People were embarking on their own upgrade program selling their used Z-Axis for One cash. And stores were doing the same. Again I benefited when the Lamson Litespeed made recent changes to its design and paired those rods with new reels. One other side note - auctions ending during M-F especially in the afternoon tend to go lower (people at work, not watching, etc.). Sure there are trade-offs and compromises, but if you want premium gear on a budget this is a great way to do it.
How: It pays to be diligent when making a purchase on Ebay. When I know what I want I’ll set up a saved search and watch a few auctions to gauge the market. Once the going rate is identified I’ll hop on the next one that comes up. Don’t get caught up in the winning more than the savings. It’s tough to do at times when bids start pouring in, but know your budget and know the market. With luck there will be a couple ending around the same time to give you options. Ask questions of the seller and if you need more information have them send additional photos. As they say, bid with confidence - good luck and be careful because it can be addictive!