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Old Fishing Gear Just as Good as the New Stuff

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January 31, 2013

Old Fishing Gear Just as Good as the New Stuff

By John Merwin

I review and report on lots of new fishing tackle over the course of a year. Some reels and rods are inevitably much improved, and I love the technical innovations. But I occasionally think that maybe I’m too enamored of new things. So what about the old stuff?

In pondering this, I decided I could be perfectly happy fishing with the same things I was using 20 years ago. In fact, some of the “old stuff” doesn’t seem old at all and still functions perfectly. Here are some examples:

One is Abu Garcia’s round-type baitcast reels, as shown in the photo. These were a great design decades ago and they still are. There have been various model tweaks over the years, but the fundamental design is unchanged. I still have and use both 5000- and 6000-series models, most often when pike or striper fishing.

Similar reasoning applies to much of my fly tackle. I have a Fenwick HMG graphite 9-foot, 5-weight model that I built from a blank in the mid-1970s. Back then, graphite was new and Jim Green, Fenwick’s ace rod designer, was a pioneer in applying it to fly rods.

The rod, of course, still feels very light in the hand and casts superbly. I would have no trouble using it for most of my modern trout fishing.

None of the foregoing means that I’m less enamored of new tackle. I still lust for new rods and reels, just to try them out and see if they are indeed better. What it does mean, though, is that I might not be quite as quick to abandon old-tackle friends for new ones, no matter how much greener the grass looks. 

Comments (11)

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from -Bob wrote 1 year 11 weeks ago

How about the Garcia-Mitchell 308/408 series of ultralite reels? I got my first one as an eighth-grade graduation gift in 1977...still use it every summer.

Here's another timeless design -- the Grumman 17' aluminum canoe. Big enough for week-long float trips, light enough to hump around by yourself. -Bob

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 11 weeks ago

No doubt, John. Being a recent newcomer to the tackle and rod game(3 years now), I keep buying newer stuff to build and try, only to sell it to buy more to try. It's a vicious cycle, but what I've noticed is that as much as a company's offerings change, I have found that the ones that aren't being changed are that way for a reason.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 1 year 11 weeks ago

I have a number of the Abu Garcia 4000's and 5000's. Every two years I take them in and get them cleaned and checked over. Once in a while a new part is needed but those reels just keep going. I've got one rod that I bought in 1985 and it is still being used. If you take good care of quality rods and reels I don't think you can really wear them out.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from santa wrote 1 year 11 weeks ago

John, I started fishing with a very cheep South Bend baitcast reel and was overjoyed when I finally got a hand-me-down Pflueger Supreme. Then I got my first Abu 5000 in the late fifties. With all these reels, the levelwind went zing back and forth when you cast because it did not disengage for casting. Mr Robert Baenziger had designed a reel for Heddon that did disengage the level wind for casting, but during the early sixties I did not know about it. Then in the late sixties, Lew Childre took my Abu 5000 from me and replaced it with a Heddon Mark IV reel built in Japan with the disengaging levelwind. Wow what a difference of not having the drag of the levelwind when casting. I went to work for Lew a few years later and was one of the people put on the BB1 project. While on the BB1 project I met Mr Baenziger who had designed the earlier reels for Heddon. His earlier Mark III reels had been made in Sweden by a taxi cab meter company but when the production became too expensive there, it was moved to Japan where the Mark IV's were made. The BB1 design went much farther with the disengaging part of the spool than the Heddon reels and ended up being the first ergonomic, low profile, "completely and totally" disengaging levelwind baitcast reel for the bass industry. I still have serial #6 of the first ten proof of tooling BB1's ever built. I still use it and it is very hard to find a better reel made even today. The BB1 manufactured by Shinamo for Lew made such an impact on the industry that even Abu had to start building a disengaging 5000 series reel. Then a number of years back, Mr. Baenziger started working on the next generation of levelwinds for reels. The old worm and pall drive for levelwinds had always been a high wear weak point of reels especially when when around salt water. His new levelwind did away with the worm and pall and after much testing proved to work as well or better than the old worm and pall system and hold up much better in saltwater conditions. US Reel started to manufacture a reel using the new patented levelwind and it is the best improvement made to baitcast reels since that old fold the guide forward, Heddon Mark III made in Sweden. As to rods, I still like my old fiberglass Speed Sticks best. They still have a better parabolic curve than most of the newer carbon fiber rods. I still like the old lures that I grew up with like the Heddon Vamp Spook. I have to admit that except for the levelwind in my old BB1's I overall prefer to use vintage tackle and on most days can still out fish the majority of my peers.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from nuclear_fisher wrote 1 year 11 weeks ago

I agree with your sentiments. Two comments: I blew out a pin on the arm on my primary reel this summer and Daiwa couldn't replace it b/c it's 14-15 years old and they no longer carry replacement parts. I popped a bent nail in there thinking it would work for the time being. Well, guess what, its still in there and its still my go-to reel even though I've got newer, "better" gear. Second, at our Ontario house, on all of our lake trout set-ups we use old Pflueger deep sea reels from the 50's. My old man finds them on ebay for $20 and they work perfectly fine for deep lake trolling. My great uncle's got an even older one where the "drag" is a piece of leather over the spool for you to push with your thumb. We boated a laker with it 2 summers ago.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark Orlicky wrote 1 year 11 weeks ago

You can continue this argument for fishing lures and flies. My two favorite spinners are Mepps Aglia (size 0 or 1) for shallower streams and a Panther Martin (size 1) for deeper stuff and for longer casts. My Dardevles still catch lots of fish. I've used both the floating and countdown Rapalas since they came out (giving my age away here!). Those two stickbaits are as good as they come! Some of the older flies and streamers are still as good or better than the newer ones. My Prince and Pheasant Tail Nymphs will always catch fish... and my Muddler is still the best streamer around (not just my opinion!)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian Phipps wrote 1 year 11 weeks ago

After about 15 years my abu 5000 series is still my go to reel, its handled 1000's of pike and doesn't owe me a dime. Over the years I have gotten new reels with new features as well but I don't go into the boat without it. I couldn't have asked for a better reel to learn bait casting on.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tom-Tom wrote 1 year 11 weeks ago

John, I still fish with 40 and 50 year old Garcia reels on rods that are of the same vintage. I did give in and buy one of the Fenwick Flippin' Sticks for $19.95 and it still comes in handy. I'll match my old lures against the current crop anytime. Bill Dance told me once that whatever you use, it all comes down to confidence. And for pure fun, take a cane pole with braided line, a red and white bobber, and a #8 gold snelled Eagle Claw hook and a can of garden fresh worms and visit your favorite farm pond and its resident bluegill this coming May.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from pa pheasantman wrote 1 year 11 weeks ago

How about the good old shakespeare "white glass fly rods and the original Pflueger medalist fly reels?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bladnoch wrote 1 year 11 weeks ago

Absolutely, John. My ABU 50001C has been all over Ungava, Yukon, Nunavut, NWT, Labrador, Quebec arctic etc on canoe trips as part of my 'meat-getter' rig and has never failed once. And it has landed a LOT of very big lakers and char. Plus, I have a 7-foot-3 one-piece baitcasting rod I made up in 1984 on a Browning glass saltwater blank. It has caught everything from grouper to muskies and is still my favourite heavy rod. Oh, and there's my ultra-light Daiwa Whisker graphite spinning reel from 25 years ago that is still my fave light reel and was utilizing the small-reel/large-spool idea long before US Reel.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bill Sonnett wrote 1 year 10 weeks ago

Fishing with vintage equipment is fun, just as hunting with a bow or a flintlock is. The Missouri Old Time Takle Tournament is held each year near Kansas City, MO and all equipment: rods, reels and lures must be made before 1940. We catch lots of bass and have a ball doing it. About half the contestants have such a good time they use only vintage tackle the rest of the time.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Koldkut wrote 1 year 11 weeks ago

No doubt, John. Being a recent newcomer to the tackle and rod game(3 years now), I keep buying newer stuff to build and try, only to sell it to buy more to try. It's a vicious cycle, but what I've noticed is that as much as a company's offerings change, I have found that the ones that aren't being changed are that way for a reason.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from -Bob wrote 1 year 11 weeks ago

How about the Garcia-Mitchell 308/408 series of ultralite reels? I got my first one as an eighth-grade graduation gift in 1977...still use it every summer.

Here's another timeless design -- the Grumman 17' aluminum canoe. Big enough for week-long float trips, light enough to hump around by yourself. -Bob

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 1 year 11 weeks ago

I have a number of the Abu Garcia 4000's and 5000's. Every two years I take them in and get them cleaned and checked over. Once in a while a new part is needed but those reels just keep going. I've got one rod that I bought in 1985 and it is still being used. If you take good care of quality rods and reels I don't think you can really wear them out.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from santa wrote 1 year 11 weeks ago

John, I started fishing with a very cheep South Bend baitcast reel and was overjoyed when I finally got a hand-me-down Pflueger Supreme. Then I got my first Abu 5000 in the late fifties. With all these reels, the levelwind went zing back and forth when you cast because it did not disengage for casting. Mr Robert Baenziger had designed a reel for Heddon that did disengage the level wind for casting, but during the early sixties I did not know about it. Then in the late sixties, Lew Childre took my Abu 5000 from me and replaced it with a Heddon Mark IV reel built in Japan with the disengaging levelwind. Wow what a difference of not having the drag of the levelwind when casting. I went to work for Lew a few years later and was one of the people put on the BB1 project. While on the BB1 project I met Mr Baenziger who had designed the earlier reels for Heddon. His earlier Mark III reels had been made in Sweden by a taxi cab meter company but when the production became too expensive there, it was moved to Japan where the Mark IV's were made. The BB1 design went much farther with the disengaging part of the spool than the Heddon reels and ended up being the first ergonomic, low profile, "completely and totally" disengaging levelwind baitcast reel for the bass industry. I still have serial #6 of the first ten proof of tooling BB1's ever built. I still use it and it is very hard to find a better reel made even today. The BB1 manufactured by Shinamo for Lew made such an impact on the industry that even Abu had to start building a disengaging 5000 series reel. Then a number of years back, Mr. Baenziger started working on the next generation of levelwinds for reels. The old worm and pall drive for levelwinds had always been a high wear weak point of reels especially when when around salt water. His new levelwind did away with the worm and pall and after much testing proved to work as well or better than the old worm and pall system and hold up much better in saltwater conditions. US Reel started to manufacture a reel using the new patented levelwind and it is the best improvement made to baitcast reels since that old fold the guide forward, Heddon Mark III made in Sweden. As to rods, I still like my old fiberglass Speed Sticks best. They still have a better parabolic curve than most of the newer carbon fiber rods. I still like the old lures that I grew up with like the Heddon Vamp Spook. I have to admit that except for the levelwind in my old BB1's I overall prefer to use vintage tackle and on most days can still out fish the majority of my peers.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from nuclear_fisher wrote 1 year 11 weeks ago

I agree with your sentiments. Two comments: I blew out a pin on the arm on my primary reel this summer and Daiwa couldn't replace it b/c it's 14-15 years old and they no longer carry replacement parts. I popped a bent nail in there thinking it would work for the time being. Well, guess what, its still in there and its still my go-to reel even though I've got newer, "better" gear. Second, at our Ontario house, on all of our lake trout set-ups we use old Pflueger deep sea reels from the 50's. My old man finds them on ebay for $20 and they work perfectly fine for deep lake trolling. My great uncle's got an even older one where the "drag" is a piece of leather over the spool for you to push with your thumb. We boated a laker with it 2 summers ago.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark Orlicky wrote 1 year 11 weeks ago

You can continue this argument for fishing lures and flies. My two favorite spinners are Mepps Aglia (size 0 or 1) for shallower streams and a Panther Martin (size 1) for deeper stuff and for longer casts. My Dardevles still catch lots of fish. I've used both the floating and countdown Rapalas since they came out (giving my age away here!). Those two stickbaits are as good as they come! Some of the older flies and streamers are still as good or better than the newer ones. My Prince and Pheasant Tail Nymphs will always catch fish... and my Muddler is still the best streamer around (not just my opinion!)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian Phipps wrote 1 year 11 weeks ago

After about 15 years my abu 5000 series is still my go to reel, its handled 1000's of pike and doesn't owe me a dime. Over the years I have gotten new reels with new features as well but I don't go into the boat without it. I couldn't have asked for a better reel to learn bait casting on.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tom-Tom wrote 1 year 11 weeks ago

John, I still fish with 40 and 50 year old Garcia reels on rods that are of the same vintage. I did give in and buy one of the Fenwick Flippin' Sticks for $19.95 and it still comes in handy. I'll match my old lures against the current crop anytime. Bill Dance told me once that whatever you use, it all comes down to confidence. And for pure fun, take a cane pole with braided line, a red and white bobber, and a #8 gold snelled Eagle Claw hook and a can of garden fresh worms and visit your favorite farm pond and its resident bluegill this coming May.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from pa pheasantman wrote 1 year 11 weeks ago

How about the good old shakespeare "white glass fly rods and the original Pflueger medalist fly reels?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bladnoch wrote 1 year 11 weeks ago

Absolutely, John. My ABU 50001C has been all over Ungava, Yukon, Nunavut, NWT, Labrador, Quebec arctic etc on canoe trips as part of my 'meat-getter' rig and has never failed once. And it has landed a LOT of very big lakers and char. Plus, I have a 7-foot-3 one-piece baitcasting rod I made up in 1984 on a Browning glass saltwater blank. It has caught everything from grouper to muskies and is still my favourite heavy rod. Oh, and there's my ultra-light Daiwa Whisker graphite spinning reel from 25 years ago that is still my fave light reel and was utilizing the small-reel/large-spool idea long before US Reel.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bill Sonnett wrote 1 year 10 weeks ago

Fishing with vintage equipment is fun, just as hunting with a bow or a flintlock is. The Missouri Old Time Takle Tournament is held each year near Kansas City, MO and all equipment: rods, reels and lures must be made before 1940. We catch lots of bass and have a ball doing it. About half the contestants have such a good time they use only vintage tackle the rest of the time.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment