May 02, 2013
Vintage Tackle Contest: South Bend 550L Level Wind Reel
By Joe Cermele
It's been a while since we've had a reel featured as the winner of the vintage tackle contest. This near-mint South Bend was entered by Dan Mikalian, who inherited the reel after his grandfather and fishing mentor passed away. I chose it because I feel like I see similar reels at antique shops and flea markets often, so I wanted Dr. Todd Larson of The Whitefish Press and "Fishing For History" blog to let us know if they're worth picking up. Turns out the answer is yes and no.
Dr. Todd says:
"You've got a great example of a classic mass-produced casting reel. As the box says, it's a South Bend No. 550L Level Wind Anti-Back-Lash Reel, but there's more to this story. First of all, the massive South Bend Bait Co. never manufactured any fishing reels. All South Bend reels were outsourced, largely to the Wm. Shakespeare Co. of Kalamazoo, Mich., who made this reel. Second, it's a great reel that comes in the box with paperwork, which makes many people think they've struck it rich. The truth of the matter is that even in nice condition with all the bells and whistles, South Bend (and other companies like them) sold so many of these reels that they are readily available, and only worth around $20-$30 in the box, and half that without a box. The upside is that it makes these reels affordable even to beginning collectors, who can amass a great collection of reels in boxes for a modest price. The reel dates from the 1940s and if you oiled and cleaned it, could still be used today!"
Nice find, Dan, although perhaps the appraisal price is a bit bittersweet. I'd take the Doc's advice and get that classic on the water. Thanks for sending and keep an eye on your mailbox, because there's a set of Berkley Aluminum Pliers headed your way.
If you've already sent me photos of your vintage tackle, keep checking every Thursday to see if I chose it for an appraisal by Dr. Todd. If you haven't and want to enter the contest, email photos of your old tackle to email@example.com, along with your name, mailing address, and story of how you acquired the gear. If I use it in a Thursday post, you get a pair of Berkley Aluminum Pliers (above) worth $50.