CGi inline reel- garbage?
The only area of performance that I wasn't pleased with out of the box on this reel was the drag, which wasn't very smooth. 95% of the time this isn't an issue with panfish, but for the occasional bass, pike, or monster gill, its nice to be able to rely on a smooth drag. I would recommend adding a thin coating of reel grease to the drag washer, which in reality is just a plastic washer. It still isn't buttery smooth, but I was able to land a 30" pike on 2 lb mono late ice last year, so it's definitely good enough.
A few of my buddies who only ice fish occasionally really liked mine last year and also picked up CGI's and I know they didn't have issues with them either... The only thing I can think of is the retailer somehow got a bad batch? That'd be surprising though, based on my experience with No. 8 Tackle. I'd maybe reach out to them, their CS is very good from my experience with the company.