Here’s a confession: I secretly wish I had the talent and money to restore old cars. It’s been a life-long dream of mine to buy a ’77 Bronco and rig that sucker to the nines. But the truth is I can barely change the batteries in my keyless entry remote let alone fix an engine or paint a truck body. I’d have no choice but to pay top dollar for a Bronco someone else has already restored, and that’s not on the short list of things I can afford. The same goes with custom reels. Try as I might to pick up cheap flea market junkers and turn them into mean, modern fishing machines, I inevitably lose a spring or bend the shaft while tinkering.


Custom reels are far more prevalent in the saltwater world, particularly with surfcasters. And while numerous old brands can be found on the beach or at tackle shows with revamps, Penn reels seem to be the most commonly chopped and refinished. The vintage 704Z above is not only sporting a copperhead snake finish, but an upgraded aluminum power handle and gears greased with modern synthetics. You can buy this gem right now on eBay, by the way, for $400.

I once tried to paint a reel. If you try to paint a reel, don’t use regular spray paint. Half of it chipped off by the end of the first day I used it. Though I love flashy paint jobs, this copperhead custom only scratches the surface of what can be done to a spinning reel. You’ll often see models like this with drain ports cut out of the spools, new fancy seals that make the bodies water-tight, and updated carbon fiber drags. I know many of you dabble in rod building, but has anyone ever tried to pimp out a reel? If you’re any good at it let me know…I’ve got a box of Penn Greenies that I want painted to look like all four Ninja Turtles.