"for most freshwater fishing, the reel is nothing but a glorified line holder. "
That is probably the case in Southern MA.
On rivers like like the lower Sac and Yuba, you will get into fish where a reliable, smooth reel is nice to have. Even if the reel only holds line, I like a strong durable reel that will still turn if it gets dropped. For me, this means a machined reel as cast reels just aren't as tough.