As Terry Battisti has documented here, here, here and here, by the late 1970s the flipping technique was firmly established in the pros’ repertoires and in the bass public’s consciousness. Fenwick was one of the tackle companies that jumped on the flipping train early in its route, but others were slow to pick up the pace. Sure, some manufacturers rushed items to market that fit the parameters of the technique – namely 7’6” broomstick rods – but not all of them were truly suited to the task.
By the mid-1980s, Shimano made an effort to capitalize on the technique’s increasing acceptance and popularity. The Japanese reel manufacturer introduced the Bantam Brush Buster baitcasting reel, which noted on its hood that it was “Designed Exclusively for Flipping.”
In contrast to today’s widely-accepted belief that flipping reels should have a high speed retrieve ratio in order to winch fish out of thick cover, the Brush Buster featured a 3.5:1 gear ratio that was said to provide increased power. Furthermore, the reel had no levelwind and could hold only 25 yards of 25-pound test monofilament. As a result of that low line capacity, it couldn’t have been used for anything but short line techniques. Unfortunately, despite being ruggedly made, the Brush Buster never really caught on and was out of the lineup a few years later.
Of course, there have been subsequent reels aimed exclusively at flipping, like Shimano’s dual thumb bar Castaic and the Ardent Flip-N-Pitch, based on a design by FLW Pro George Jeane. The latter reel, like the Brush Buster, has no level wind. However, it does have a 6.3:1 gear ratio and holds enough line to be used for other techniques, if desired.
During the 1980s, as Shimano gained an increasingly large share of the reel market, they attempted several other improvements on existing tackle. One was the “Fightin’ Rod” series of bass sticks, technique-specific rods that had no distinction between the blank and the handle. The latter was just an extension of the former, made of the same material.
On the reel side of the aisle, Shimano introduced its “Fightin’ Star” drag system in both its spinning and baitcasting lineups, including the Brush Buster. This allowed anglers to set the drags on their reels at a preferred level of tension and then lock it in, enabling them to find it again instantly. Shimano noted that you could “lock your drag, for bone-crunching hook sets, then return instantly to a drag setting that makes it virtually impossible for Super Hawg to break your line – no matter how big he is or how hard he runs.”
The company added that “big game fishermen who leave nothing to change, use lever drag reels almost exclusively….The problem is, they have never been available in smaller sizes for most fishing.” While the feature worked as advertised, it does not appear to have caught on among bass anglers.