Let’s Look Back: And Then Came Something New – Part 1

Here's the little Zebco Pro Staff 2010 close face spinning reel I showed thousands of folks how to use over many different parts of the world for many, many years.  Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Here’s the little Zebco Pro Staff 2010 close face spinning reel I showed thousands of folks how to use over many different parts of the world for many, many years. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

I was there when it first hit the market.

And now “Let’s Look Back” and take a closer look at just what the heck I’m talking about.  One of the primary reasons I started doing these columns for my good friend Terry Battisti is the opportunity it provides to share how some of today’s most popular items of fishing tackle first made an appearance on the tackle shelves.

Having hung around the fishing scene as long as I have has provided ample opportunity for that sharing I’ve mentioned.  I began doing a fishing column for a daily newspaper in Washington State away back in 1946.  There’s an awful lot of gear folks now use to put bass in the boat that didn’t exist when I did my first outdoor columns.

I remember, for example, when in the mid-1950s I received a package from the Zebco folks.  That company knew I was already doing a little exhibition casting here and there.  Their public relations people also knew I was sharing news about interesting items of new tackle with my column readers.

When I opened that box from Zebco it provided my first opportunity to eyeball a closed face spinning reel.  The product was also called a spincast reel.  Zebco had been working on the development of this reel for some time.  It’s my understanding that marketing of the new reel actually began in the 1953/54 time period.

I’ve mentioned having been around for awhile.  I was reminded of that once when I gave a casting demonstration at an outdoor show in Victoria, Texas.  I always signed my Bass Hall of Fame fishing cards for those who wanted them following my demonstrations.

One of those who asked for an autographed card was a little boy who said he really wanted to learn how to cast.  He also had a comment and a question.  “Mister,” he said, “you’re really old.  When did you start fishing”?

“Son,” I replied, “Do you remember what you learned in Sunday School about how they found the baby Moses in the bulrushes by the river”?

“Yes sir,” the kid replied, “I remember that.”

“Well son,” I responded, “when they pulled young Moses out of the bulrushes I was right around the corner throwing a spinnerbait into the river.”

For a heartbeat or two I think that little boy wasn’t too sure I was telling the truth.  But we both had a good chuckle before our brief time together was over.  I also had opportunity to explain to that youngster and his companions certain details associated with the use of the closed face spinning reel.  I had touched on these details as I always do during my actual casting exhibition.

I share this little story about the closed face spinning reel here for a purpose.  The purpose is this: There is no finer tool with which to get young boys or girls into fishing than the closed face spinning reel.  Provided, that is, you know the right way to go about showing them how to use it.

Got kids you want to teach how to fish?  If they're just starting out you're not going to beat the closed face spinning reel as a great tool for that purpose.  Every outdoor show I ever did there was always keen interest from the youngsters who we there.  Photo Stan Fagertrom

Got kids you want to teach how to fish? If they’re just starting out you’re not going to beat the closed face spinning reel as a great tool for that purpose. Every outdoor show I ever did there was always keen interest from the youngsters who we there. Photo Stan Fagertrom

Got a child you want to get interested in fishing?  Then listen up because in my next couple of columns I’ll tell you the best way to go about fostering that interest.  I’ve had the tremendous good fortune to show what I’m talking about to thousands youngsters and their parents in the countless casting exhibitions I did for many years over a sizeable chunk of the world.

How can I be so sure I know the single best way to foster interest in fishing among youngsters?  It’s because of one of the questions that have come my way again in those casting demonstrations I’ve mentioned.

That question usually goes something like this: “I want to teach my little boy and girl how to fish. What kind of a reel would you recommend for them to start with?”

My recommendation is the same today as it was darn near half a century ago when I got my first look at that new Zebco 33.  There is no better reel for a child to get a “feel” for casting than the closed-faced spinning reel and a lightweight rod to go with it.  I’m talking now about smaller kids, not those who are old enough to use more sophisticated equipment.

But just saying that a closed-face is best doesn’t begin to tell the whole story.  Today not all closed-face reels are the same and there are a couple I especially favor for kids.  One I used in my demonstrations for many years was a Zebco Pro Staff 2010.

I understand there have been some changes in Zebco’s closed face reel lineup since I quit doing casting exhibitions.  You may not be able to find the reel I’ve been talking about.  The Zebco 2010 was small enough for a kid to get a good grip on.  It wasn’t at all expensive and you could do a good job with it.

The open face reel I like the best of the bunch is a Daiwa Goldcast Model GC80.  The last time I looked this reel came in three different sizes.  It’s a top quality spincast reel and like most other stuff the best is going to cost more bucks.  The GC80 is worth it.

I mention these reels primarily because they’re small enough for a child or a woman with small hands to handle.  Both reels are made in different sizes.  The ones I’ve listed are the smallest and that’s what you’ll want for your kids.

The reel’s small size is important.  There are big closed-faced reels out there that I have a hard time trying to grip comfortably myself.  For a child or a gal with small hands it’s next to impossible.

My wife isn’t and never will be an ardent angler.  But when the panfish are biting she often chooses to come along with me.  She loves her closed face reel.  It’s all she ever uses or ever wants to use regardless of the species we’re after.

Be assured I’ve shown her the procedure I developed with that first Zebco 33 that gives its user a chance to get accuracy with it.  The manual that came with my Zebco 33 said to depress the reel’s thumb button, then release it when you wanted your lure to fly out.  That same manual as I recall, then said press the thumb button in again when you wanted to stop the flight of your lure.

As I’ll detail in my next couple of columns this procedure flat won’t let you get the kind of accuracy we all want for our casting.

They won’t have that problem with the reels I’ve named.  I teach a technique, and it’s one you should teach your own youngsters, where the line is actually controlled with the forefinger of the left hand.  I’ll give you the exact details on how to do that in my next column.