classic fishing reels
Fishing Talks

More Classic Fishing Reels to Spark Your Nostalgia

Here's our latest installment of famous classic fishing reels that should spark some wonderful nostalgia in many anglers.

We've already looked at five classic fishing reels in our first part of this ongoing series. Included in that group were the Penn Spinfisher 700, Zebco 33, Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 5000, Pflueger Medalist fly fishing reel and the Mitchell 300. Those are great, historically significant reels.

The five reels in this article are just as noteworthy. No doubt some of you have owned or used some of these classic pieces of fishing gear.

Let's see if we can bring back a few memories and shed some light on a few of these old fishing reels.

Pflueger Akron Model 1893

Ernest A. Pflueger began his fishing tackle company, the Enterprise Manufacturing Company, in Akron, Ohio in 1880 or 1881. The business was an instant success, soon becoming one of the biggest fishing companies in America. Inevitably the company changed its name to the E.A. Pflueger Company.

classic fishing reels

In addition to finding success with fishing lures and other tackle, Pflueger manufactured a number of excellent fishing reels.

The Pflueger Akron baitcasting reel was the most widely sold quadruple multiplying reel. First introduced in 1905 as a non-level-wind reel, it came in four different reel models with differing line capacities. The initial Akron model was produced from 1905 to 1913. They can be identified by their ivory handles.

The Akron model 1893 was reintroduced more than once during the first half of the 20th century. These models can be differentiated by mostly cosmetic changes, such as the handle color and material.

The popular model 1893 was reintroduced in 1932 and featured polished "diamolite" with green pyralin plastic handles. That is the model pictured here, which I own, complete with its original box and owner's manual.

classic fishing reels

Diamolite offers an interesting sidebar, peculiar to Pflueger. According to a study I found on fishing rods and reels metallurgy,

"Diamolite is the Pflueger owned, registered, proprietary name for a mysterious alloy (or alloy and treatment) which appears to be some type of stainless steel. Presumably a search of U.S. Patents would reveal it's composition. Amazingly, there is NO information on it available from a search of that word on the internet. The only returns come if linked to the name Pflueger.

Diamolite is highly polished, silvery, corrosion resistant, and very, very hard. To typical fishing reel use it seems to be completely scratch and abrasion resistant. It must also be inexpensive. Pflueger used it for at least 50 years for some of the least expensive, utilitarian, indestructible fly reels ever made."

The Akron 1893 was produced until around 1971. It is a common and popular collectible reel. In good condition they are inexpensive, running around $25-$30.

Zebco One

Sometime in the 1940's R.D. Hull walked into a butcher shop. He saw the butcher yank a length of line from a large spindle with which to tie off wrapped cuts of meat for customers. No matter how quickly the man pulled the line it came off smoothly and without a hitch.

This gave R.D., a watchmaker and inventor, an idea that revolutionized sport fishing. Hull wanted to solve two things that challenged anglers: 1) make casting a line smoother and easier and 2) make retrieving the cast line equally smooth and easy. Thus was born the spincasting reel, and the ability to cast literally with push button ease.

classic fishing reels

Hull designed a great many fishing reels during his tenure at Zebco, and the Zebco One has his fingerprints all over it.

The reel pictured above is mine. It is the original Zebco One, produced in, I believe, 1973. Below is a picture of the reel from the company's 1975 catalog. The featured image at the top of this article shows a Zebco One from the 1976 catalog. The name plates are different on each of these reels, which is one way to date them.

The Zebco One was one of the smoothest reels the company produced, and was very popular. Its production ran from 1973 to 1976, before it mutated into the Omega line of reels.

Abu Garcia 444 spinning reel

Abu Garcia began as a world class watch making company. They took that precision expertise and transferred it to the fishing world, making some of the finest, most durable fishing reels in the world.

The ABU 444 was the company's first fixed spool spinning reel. It was first introduced in 1955. The Abu 444 was in production for 25 years if you consider its variant, the Abu 333 as part of the production.

The reel featured a push button spool release, an offset drag adjustment and an anti-reverse lever. These innovations were groundbreaking and were copied by other companies.

The original Abu 444 was made in Sweden and are rare. The company eventually moved production America. Here it received wide popularity following on the heels of the highly successful Abu Ambassadeur 5000 baitcasting reel the year prior.

Ten years after the introduction of the Abu 444, in 1965, the company introduced its iconic Cardinal series.

Shakespeare Tru-Art Automatic fly fishing reel

The Shakespeare Company was founded by William Shakespeare Jr. in 1897, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 1970 the company moved to Columbia, South Carolina.

Shakespeare is known for a number of fishing tackle and equipment products, including their very popular Ugly Stik fishing rod, first introduced in 1976 and still in production today.

classic fishing reels

classic fishing reels

The Shakespeare Silent Automatic Tru-Art fly fishing reel is a relic from the 1960s. Automatic fly reel use peaked during that era. These days most anglers prefer single action, manual fly reels. But during the age of the 1960s space race and burgeoning technological advancements, the automatic reel was seen as very modern and cool.

It operates on a spring-driven mechanism. The spring is wound as line is pulled out of the reel, and is recovered by pressing a trigger, not unlike an automatic tape measure retrieve. These kinds of reels aren't heavily manufactured today, but a couple of companies still make them.

They're good for anglers with hand and arm mobility issues, who may have trouble controlling the line manually. In fact, automatic fly reels have been used by Project Healing Waters, an organization that uses fly fishing as a healing and rehabilitation method for disabled veterans.

If you're a fly fisherman it might be fun to play around with one of these relics from time to time. You can still find them online or occasionally at garage sales for cheap prices.

Shakespeare Wondereel spincasting reel

Shakespeare gave the Wondereel name to several of its reels, including its baitcasting and spincasting models. The baitcaster (1939) came before the spincaster, and I can't say why the company used the name for different reel models. The baitcaster (below) boasted a "backlash brake" and was a popular seller.

classic fishing reels

As best I can tell, the first Wondereel spincaster was introduced in the 1940s. The Wondereel spincasting reel Model 1700 is the one shown below and was introduced sometime between 1969-1971. But even the spincasting format contained several different models under the Wondereel umbrella.

classic fishing reels

Again, these reels, in whatever format and model they were marketed in, were very popular with anglers. Both of my grandfathers and my dad owned Wondereel spincasters. I even seem to recall my grandmother using one to fish bluegills (she loved fishing for bluegills).

The 1957 Popular Mechanics Shakespeare ad shown below presents an appealing sales pitch:

With Shakespeare's SPIN-WONDEREEL, the line is always at your fingertips; you simply pick up the line, back up the crank, and cast. So simple, you can operate it blindfolded. Even beginners can make long, effortless casts right from the start. No groping for a bail or knob; nothing exposed to foul the line. Smooth adjustable drag.

The model 1755L "non-reverse crank model" also came "factory-filled with 150 yards [of] new, extra-limp 6-lb. test Tynex monofilament line." It sold for $18.95.

Images by the author unless otherwise noted

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