1980s Spinning Reel Efficiency?

Can you identify the unique reel feature in this ad?

Can you identify the unique reel feature in this ad?

We’ve focused recently on some of the innovations on rods and reels that never really took off within the industry for whatever reason. Along a similar line, there are some that you could argue were pretty neutral, not earth shaking or ground breaking per se, but also weren’t flops and could actually be considered small incremental steps in the overall progression of rod and reel design. I would submit that today’s topic fits that category.

Shimano is a huge staple in the fishing rod and reel market, and there’s probably not too many anglers that haven’t owned at least one of their products over the years. Back in 1980-1981 they introduced a new spinning reel feature to the market called the “Fast Cast System Bail Trigger”. Quite simply it allowed for an angler to only have to use one hand (or more correctly, one finger) in order to open the bail and make a cast. Up to this point, no other spinning reel on the market had this feature. One of the original ads (below) for the reel mentioned this as being a real benefit in icy cold waters, though I’m not completely certain of where that line of thinking developed from. I also recall that as this feature became somewhat popular, one of the common casualties was a broken trigger finger on some companies models.

Still, previous to this development, casting a spinning reel was a two-handed operation, using one hand/finger to hold the line in place and the other hand to open the bail. In order to pull this off, Shimano also had to develop/utilize the self centering bail. Time has proven the longevity of this feature on reels, but now days it seems adopted for only the casual recreational fishing market. I don’t know of any professional angler that uses a reel with such a system in place, or of any high end reel being manufactured with it. Still, the concept lives on to this day, initially being popular in the early development of the sport, but now more of a “low end” reel selling point.

A 1980-81 original ad for the Shimano MLX reel featuring the Fast Cast System Bail Trigger.

A 1980-81 original ad for the Shimano MLX reel featuring the Fast Cast System Bail Trigger.

  • One more thing to break. One more thing for line to get wrapped around. I don’t know anyone who ever actually relied on it.

  • cc

    I still have a MLX 200 from that time peiod and it’s in cherry condition. I took it into the Shimano service center in Irvine near where I worked and the kid took it around to show all the other techs – an archeological find of some sort. I never used the quick cast feature but liked the reel. Shimano was just breaking into the market if memory serves me.

  • Robert

    This was actually first developed by the Brandle Corporation from Morristown, New Jersey. It was called the “Trig-matic” model s-410. The “trig” being short fro trigger. It can be seen on page 250 of Tom McNally’s “Fisherman’s Bible, 2nd Edition.

    • Robert, my McNally’s is in one of about 50 book boxes in my garage right now. Would you be able to take a picture of the reel and send it to me at terry@bassfishingarchives.com so I could post it here?

      Thanks for the info.


  • Bill M

    I actually found one in a creek that used to be stocked with trout, but hadn’t been for at least 10years. Shimano Rod and Reel under water all that time..Ultra Light setup, but the reel was easy to get working again. Sitting in the bin downstairs.

  • JWM

    My father will not use a spinning reel without the “Quick Fire” trigger. He used the early ones, got used to being able to use one hand and has never gone back to the conventional bail.

  • George Walker

    This trigger device is by no means the first actual ‘spinning’ reel design (i.e., fixed spool, open face with a gear-driven rotating line pickup device) that you could work the casting process with the fingers of your rod hand only. I know of at least four others. A purist might argue that these are not ‘true’ spinning reels because none sport a bail, but I think they’re allowed because the core philosophy from which these designs emerged from the goal of eliminating the bail from a spinning reel. Perhaps the first was Edward Small’s design that was released in the 1950s as the Ocean City 350 Spinalong, which had a pickup arm that could be pushed aside with the index finger once it had grabbed the line–awkward, but workable. Next was another design by Small sold by the Holliday reel company (two Ls) whose line pickup was incorporated into the rotor with an angled slot leading to it. A version of this was also used for the Sears Ted Williams bail-less spinning reel. Then there was the Harrison AutoMax 100, which used a tiny pickup arm that trapped the line into it by it pivoting under a recessed lip at the top of the spool when the handle was turned; backing up the handle pivoted the arm out and so freeing the line for the waiting finger to grab. Finally there is the Roddy Gyro (also marketed under license as the Heddon Spin/Matic) having a small arm that similarly terminated under a recess in the spool to trap the line for reeling, but its mechanism swung up and out of the way like a tiny bail when the trigger plate was pushed down by the thumb while the index finger waited for the line to release. I believe they all failed because they were all ‘unnatural’ in their method and required too much concentration and.or were overly complex and thus unjustifiably expensive for the ambiguous advantage they were providing. The OC and Roddy were particularly awkward. The AutoMax suffered several problems, including poor design features like a mainshaft too small in diameter and too soft so that it bent with modest lateral pressure to the spool, a synthetic micarta drive gear (the Einstein who thought this was a good idea should have been dissected and examined), and the need to keep the anti-reverse off to get sufficient rotor travel while backing up the handle to pivot out the pickup arm (another “duh” in the design). I think the trigger fell out of favor because it too was somewhat awkward, had a tendency to get line caught up in the trigger, and required a ‘self-centering’ bail providing only a single anti-reverse catch for each rotation of the rotor.

  • Andy Williamson

    According to the Mitchell Reel Museum, the first auto bail was the Mitchell Otomatic released in 1955. I have a Garcia Mitchell 330 of the 1960s with that feature. In order to open the bail, simply use your rod hand index finger and pull BACK on the bail and it flips open.