The landscape for bass fishing baitcasting reels was quite different in the late 1980s than it is today. Most notably, companies like Ardent, Pinnacle, Okuma, Lews and Pflueger weren’t major players, if they were around at all. If you’ll check out this ad taken from the 1988 Bassmaster Classic Report, you’ll see there was another difference – round reels were in. At the very least they were not yet passé.
Granted, this survey represents only the 17 anglers from the 1987 Classic who weren’t affiliated with a reel company. That leaves 24 anglers, so the survey is less complete than it might seem at first. Among the excluded 24 was winner George Cochran (Daiwa), so Abu-Garcia’s dominance might be illusory (does anyone know which reels legends like Ward Cole (22nd), Gary Henderson (23rd), Kenneth “Dusty” Pine (25th), Gary Hardwick (35th), Tim Sullivan (39th) and Bruce Ellison (tied for 40th) used?
Regardless of whether Abu was the dominant player they portrayed themselves to be, the ad seemingly indicates that round reels were a common choice among competitors at that time. Abu did make low-profile baitcasters in the late 80s, but clearly they were more noted for their historically dominant circular sideplates.
Twenty five years later, Abu still makes some round reels, but the lion’s share of their advertising efforts for the bass market focuses on the low-profile Revos. The picture may show that 15 unaffiliated anglers used Abu reels in the 1987 Classic, but I’ll bet that there weren’t 15 round reels spread out among all of the Classic contenders’ boats this year. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that there weren’t five, and if the answer turned out to be zero I wouldn’t be shocked.