Fishing Archive

Collectible Reels

Abu was famous for the Ambassadeur Baitcast and Cardinal Spinning reels. Their original models made in Sweden were characterised by a green body and white rotor. Their Cardinal Spinning Reels were so well made, with such precise tolerance, that the reel was silky smooth upon retrieve. Moving parts were match to precise tolerance. Just grab the rotor and try to wobble it… no free play. Even today’s high end Stella’s (Shimano) and Certate(Daiwa) cannot match this level of tolerance. This picture above shows two of my collection, the famous Cardinal 33 on the right and the later version Cardinal C3 on the left. While the C3 has improved with skirted spool and an additional gearing to slow the spool oscillation, quality suffered as more plastic and graphite were used to lower the weight. Mitchell made the world famous 410 and 300 models. They were the first to use roller bearings and planetary gear resulting in beautiful line laying on a longer spool. Mitchell’s also have some of the smoothest drags in the industry.

While these companies are still around, they no longer are able to match the reels made by their Japanese counterparts like Daiwa and Shimano, possibly the two most famous brands. As always, just like in the car industry, the Japanese are fanatical in this aspect, and are always able to take a design concept and make it much, much better at a much lower cost.

I’ve continued to keep some of these collectible reels and the Abu Cardinals are my favorite because they are so rugged and strong, you almost never have to replace any moving parts. The Mitchells were not as rugged, sometimes using plastic parts (especially the later versions) on the anti-reverse that wear away with time.

The above is my favorite Cardinal 33. While I still have the Cardinal 44, 66 and 77, they are too big for today’s light tackle fishing. The Cardinal 33 is perfect and I still love the revolutionary rear drag made popular by Abu Cardinals. While not as smooth (due to the smaller drag washer area in the body and these can be affected by grease), they are easy to adjust on the go, instead of having to fumble on the front of a spinning spool, when a fish is taking line.

My only wish is that they had taken some of these reel concepts and improved them with age (like adding on a bigger ball bearing roller), slower spool oscillation, longer spool for better casting etc… and I am sure they will be just as good as any of the modern reels from Shimano or Daiwa.

Tackle become obsolete from time to time, but a reliable reel will always be there to catch another fish.

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