Way Before the Revo

ABU 2600 and 2650 circa mid-1960s. Both are freespool reels with centrifugal cast control.

ABU 2600 and 2650 circa mid-1960s. Both are freespool reels with centrifugal cast control. Note the button on the handle acts as the freespool button.

A B Urfabriken, or ABU as it’s more commonly known has been making fishing reels since the World War II era. It wasn’t until the mid-1950s, though, that United States anglers got see a new style and quality casting reel. That’s when The Garcia Corporation decided to market the ABU reels in the U.S.

The first reel to my knowledge that came over was the ABU 5000. The ABU 5000, marketed as the Record Ambassadeur 5000, introduced a number of new design concepts in casting reel design. One of these was the centrifugal brake system that nearly all reels today incorporate. The 5000 came in a number of models and versions over the years and include the 5000C (Bearing model) and the 5000D (direct drive model).

As a kid my first reel was an Ambassadeur 5000C, which I still have. When I turned 14, I got a job at a tackle shop that not only specialized in bass gear but also offered reel repair and custom rod building. Because of the reel repair, we took in a lot of reels for repair – and a lot of old ABUs. Some of my favorite were a series of reels produced in the 60s. These reels were considered crossover reels as a number of them had a freespool mechanism but still didn’t have a standard star drag and anti-reverse system. In other words, when the fish pulled, the reel handle went backwards. Their model numbers were the 1750, 1750A, 2000 and 2050, 2500 and the 2600 and 2650.

ABU 2600 and 2650 left sideplate view.

ABU 2600 and 2650 left sideplate view.

These reels were produced between 1962 and the late 60s (the 1750A was produced through 1970 from my understanding) and had a decent following amongst anglers not wanting to spend the money on a 5000-series reel.

I’m lucky enough to own both a 2600 and a 2650 – both freespool models. One thing you’ll notice from the pictures is there are no star drags on the reels and there appears to be no freespool button – which is actually located on the handle cap. Spool speed is controlled by ABU’s patented centrifugal brake system on the spool along with end-cap tension and, of course, your thumb. From time to time I’ll spool these things up with new line and take them out for a spin, so to speak. They cast well but their retrieve ratio leaves a lot to be desired at a blistering 3.1:1. Coupled that gear ratio with a small diameter spool and you have a heck of a time even slow-rolling a spinnerbait.

The fact remains, though, these two reels are probably my most-cherished fishing possessions. They’re fun to look at and play with and even more fun to take out of the rod locker and cast. I do hate it, though, when a fish decides to eat the bait I’m throwing and then decides to take some line. I’ve had my knuckles bruised more times than I care to admit.

  • Stan Fagerstrom


    I had a couple of the first Ambassadeur 5000s brought to the Pacific Northwest. Nate Buell, the rep for the Garcia Corp. that was selling the reels, showed them to me in late 1951.

    He said he gave them to me along with a pair of Garcia/Conlon rods to use if I’d come to the old Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles that was to be held in April of 1952. He offered to pay my expenses but that was it.. I jumped all over that invitation.

    I did so partly because they were the finest level wind reels I’d ever had my hands on. The pair I’m talking about were Ambassadeur 5000s.

    I thought I was a pretty good caster when I went to Los Angeles. At the end of 11 days of almost continuous casting I really wasn’t too bad. It was really the beginning of a career that saw me give casting exhibitions for many, many years all over the the United States and in a number of foreign countries.

    There’s just nothing like getting paid for something you love doing. I like to think it also gave me opportunity to help at least a few show visitors with some of their own casting problems.


    • Stan,

      You’re dang right baout that. Making a living at what you love to do has to be a dream come true for you. Not only that, but you did an amazing job while doing it. The number of people you helped is probably uncountable.

      Thanks for the comment and look forward to your next column next Tuesday!