Conventional Surf Fishing Reels for Plugging - Reel Reviews, History & a Place to Share Your Thoughts/Insights

214 posts in this topic

This thread is not about Conventional Reels for Surf Casting with heavy sinkers & chunks. It's about using Conventional Reels for Plugging with Tins/Metals, Bucktails/Rinds, Jigs/Soft Plastics, Live Lining Eels & of course Plugs/Lures. We will examine the situational benefits of Conventional Reels used for Plugging. Patrolling the beach with Conventional Reels originated back in the Pre & Post World War 2 days. Spinning reels showed up & largely replaced the use of Conventional Reels - for many good reasons, but a percentage of die hard "Tin-Heads" as I like to call us, still use Conventional Reels - either exclusively or as part of the mix of the trade. 


The truth is, there are many times & numerous situations when a Spinning Reel is the better choice. That said, the reverse is also true. Many younger anglers today really don't get exposed to using Conventional Reels for plugging - not a lot of guys are out there still doing it & sharing the knowledge so these young wippersnappers can pave the way forward for the sport.


The real goal of this thread, for me, is to open some eyes. My hope is that this knowledgeable & awesome community full of great people who share a common love of Surf Casting can come together & create something I can't. Something great. Something informative. Something fun to read. I have no idea where we will go with this, but I'm really looking forward to the ride.  


We'll get into the history of how this type of fishing originated. We'll look at some of the key companies (in no particular order) that manufacture, or manufactured, some of the best reels on the beach. We will also look "under the hood" & review the reels of yesterday & the reels made today. 


I want to dedicate this thread to three very special people. The first is Ralph Votta, who has carried with making the legendary Charlie Graves Tins and in so doing - has acted as a link between the history of the past & the present. I visited Ralph's shop many a time as a younger fisherman & though he would only know me as a rather quiet customer, interacting with him was always a marvelous experience & one that I paid very careful attention to. 


The second person is Stewie, who is a member of the Ditch Trolls, an avid & truly passionate user of Conventional Reels & someone who struck me as a truly amazing person when I met him on Canal a number of years ago. His fishing knowledge aside, it was his honesty, his integrity & his happiness to share information that made me aware, even then, that I was in the presence of a truly special person. There isn't a better, humbler, more deadly Tin Head on the planet earth - even though he loves Darters. 


Lastly, I want to dedicate this thread to the Jamie from PMR Reels, who just oozes passion as he rips apart reels & teaches the world all sorts of cool things about Conventional reels. Jamie has has done more amazing things to fishing reels than anyone I've ever met. He also made me my personal favorite fishing reel - which I'm not going to share yet but I will do it as the thread evolves & the time is right. 


And now, with a tip of the cap to all Ditch Trolls & a warm thank you to the SOL Moderators for giving us this Fantastic Four-um, let's roll & as I like to say




So grab some Porter,


have a nice Chocolate Donut


& fire up your favorite cigar and hang on...



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33 mins ago, R.R. Bridge Fisher said:

This is very interesting stuff. Thanks for putting it together. 

Absolutely my friend. Enjoy!! I spent a few rainy days & late nights getting the basics down. There is a TON more to cover, but I think a good, long pause is order to let readers get their tentacles around Squidding & I picked two of the grand daddies of them all with Abu & Penn to get some ink in the water & see what happens next. Let's get some of your vintage Abu shots in here at this juncture. Love that one with the fat boy swimmer on the rod. 

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2 mins ago, CaryGreene said:

Absolutely my friend. Enjoy!! I spent a few rainy days & late nights getting the basics down. There is a TON more to cover, but I think a good, long pause is order to let readers get their tentacles around Squidding & I picked two of the grand daddies of them all with Abu & Penn to get some ink in the water & see what happens next. Let's get some of your vintage Abu shots in here at this juncture. Love that one with the fat boy swimmer on the rod. 

Will do.... 

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Posted (edited)

A cautious thought, or maybe even two.


Spinning has overtaken conventional casting as the general purpose tool of choice. There is nothing, nada, zip zero, wrong with that, and most of my casting is now done with the spinning reel. My thoughts on choice of tool are entirely specific to the situation.


I would rather fish an eel (live, dead and rigged, or plastic) on a conventional reel because the cast isn't going to be much more then a lob anyway. Eels have the worst aerodynamics of any category of plug. There is no such thing as distance casting with an eel. OTOH you will always feel more of what your lure is doing, AT SHORT RANGE, with a conventional reel. I like crawling an eel through and over and around whatever's out there. I will feel whatever happens to said eel more quickly on a conventional reel. There are channel edges I can reach that I like to poke at with a heavy tin or bucktail, and that's on a conventional too (Penn 525 mag, a Newell 220 or 229 if I'm feeling nostalgic. I feel happier when hauling on a fish in current on a conventional reel, but that's more a lifetime habit then anything else.  


If you're a surfcaster, you're going to want distance, or at least the option of maximum distance. Braid has, IMHO, erased the old advantage in casting for distance that conventional reels once held. I don't know or care what the records are, I'm talking casting while fishing. Sand moving under your feet, or mud underneath, not a firm lawn, or uneven rocks that might have a little algal slime on them. Very little surfcasting gets done from a nicely graded lawn.


Torque. Now let us speak of torque in the mechanical engineer's sense of the word. Umpteen years ago, I opined that a conventional reel, like the 525mag then under discussion, would outpull any spinner being made. Ditch Jigger responded that his Saltiga would pull my 525mag inside out. I am sure he's right, he knows more then I do - but I can buy four 525s (or current equivalent) for the price of his Saltiga. At a given price point, I suspect this is still true. But does it really matter?


(It would be interesting to see what would happen if a line was shared between two top-end reels, one conventional and one spinning, on two very durable rods, with a knowledgeable angler at each end. These days, I think there would be no winner. The users would die of oxygen shortage and lactic acid buildup long before either reel showed signs of strain ... though a small, gear-shift conventional, one of those fierce little tools from Accurate or Avet, might still have an advantage.* SOL Reel Torque Fling, anyone? Winter is coming.)  


Conventional advantages in sensitivity and torque come from the simpler load vectors of the type. The line goes straight onto the spool, whereas a spinning reel's load vectors involve a rotating right-angle turn. How much does this matter? Again, it's a matter of the fishing situation. If you're a halfwit who just HAS to crank continuously, even as a fish runs, the conventional will not screw you up. If you have to lift a fish up onto a bridge or pier, and it's big, you're better off with a conventional. I have never, ever, ever seen anyone whose opinions I take seriously recommend a spinning reel for that kind of use. Sudsy's review of the Lexa 300 (the best reel review I think I've ever seen here) involved plenty of that use, and the reel was fine.


Conversely, most of the reels used to cast 5 oz. jigs at the Cape Cod Canal, and being retrieved with three-pound weed balls against strong currents, are now spinning reels. How much more torque do you need?  You might need to spend a bit more for a spinner then a conventional reel, for that kind of torque, but the faster retrieve of the spinner will save you money on jigs.  You'll be less prone to hanging up.   


Here's a situation I meet a lot more often. I live on Long Island.  I'm fishing an open beach, or a back bay, and the wind is variable. Maybe I don't find anything, while exploring, with a tin. (I love tin.) Maybe I want to switch to a small plug, a fancy Japanese minnow of one kind or another, that has a fraction of the density of that tin. Now, if I switch loads with any of my small conventionals (I'm including baitcasters, like my Lexa 400 and Calcutta 300 here) I know that I'll have a problem. My thumb will NOT reset itself, from a high-density, aerodynamic payload like a Graves tin or a bucktail quickly enough to avoid a backlash. I don't entirely trust the antiblacklash cast control in any reel I own.


In daytime, OK, I can do that, and carefully watch the developing fluffy. This schools my thumb, so I'll be OK. If it's dark out, I'm begging for a mishap. Undoing a backlash in braid can be maddening. With spinning, no problem at all. This matters a hell of a lot more then my chance of sticking a yellowfin tuna from Democrat Point. 


I have not killed my Daiwa 2600 in twenty-plus years, or the Mitchell Nautil 7500 or 6500 in almost as long, and my Daiwa Emblem Pro is just as durable. If I were a regular in the CCC, I'd probably go upscale to a Saltiga, or something. 


Sticking to the OP's request, I will not get into bait, or boats. As we all know, boat fish don't count anyway.  ;)


* What was the West Coast firm that was making two-speed reels, including one in a surfcasting size, that shifted gears automatically? They got out of the business. I never got one of their reels, but they apparently worked well. 



Edited by BrianBM

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