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Bearings vs. Bushings

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It seems that a high bearing count is all the rage in reels. I guess due to the fact that fisherman want the smoothest reel possible. But also it seems that bearings are the first things to act up and fail in reels. In this day of space age polymers don’t you think we could replace 

bearings with super slick bushings? Like the slick surface material used for ice free ice skating. If you took bearing failure out of the equation reels would be a lot more trouble free. Thoughts?

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Interesting idea. I think Penn leans toward fewer than most. Personally I think fewer bearings would be a good thing. Then replace some of the remaining ones with bushings. Some of the younger members here never ran a single bearing 704Z in the surf. I ran one for decades and that was a hand me down from my Dad. The bushing line roller system and handle system on that reel was perfect IMO. They ran flawlessly with a little cleaning. With regard to the notion of how smooth a reel is. The smoothness of my old 704's was ridiculous. They were like butter and stayed that way forever. Looking back the invention of the IAR and braided line are the reasons we are where we are today with spinners.  Those advancements changed the game forever.

Guys starting out today are somewhat luckier than I had been. I was really fishing a lot during  the 20 or so years that companies like Penn and Shimano were pushing out crap. It took them a long time to get it right. I tore through piles of reels, gears and what not. If your new to fishing and pick up a $100 Battle 3 or a Spinfisher, trust me your really really lucky. Even with the present bearing counts, there are good solid reels and are closer to anything that has ever been on the market to being as tough and long lasting as the old school reels.

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I work for a manufacturer and we utilize a wide variety of polymers that are critical for sealing in some very difficult applications.  2 biggest issues we have in our polymer seal products is wear and abrasion.  

A lot of my business centers around the upstream/midstream crude industry.  Sand and other abrasives create a lot of problems.  I could certainly see that being a concern for surf reels.  

In high abrasive applications we use metal seats/seals.  Similar thought process maybe?

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Vespel. It’s a “self lubricating” high strength bushing material. It’s in one of the small low profile bait cast reels that scoobydoo reviewed on the tackle advisors YT channel. 
 

It’s really really expensive though. 
 

It could probably work as a replacement for the main handle bearing and use a standard cheap bushing on the opposite side. 
 

As for the main bearings above and below the pinion, I can’t see that tech completely changing anytime soon. Ceramic bearings? But I think they still can rust due to the metal components required. 

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3 hours ago, redfin said:

Interesting idea. I think Penn leans toward fewer than most. Personally I think fewer bearings would be a good thing. Then replace some of the remaining ones with bushings. Some of the younger members here never ran a single bearing 704Z in the surf. I ran one for decades and that was a hand me down from my Dad. The bushing line roller system and handle system on that reel was perfect IMO. They ran flawlessly with a little cleaning. With regard to the notion of how smooth a reel is. The smoothness of my old 704's was ridiculous. They were like butter and stayed that way forever. Looking back the invention of the IAR and braided line are the reasons we are where we are today with spinners.  Those advancements changed the game forever.

Guys starting out today are somewhat luckier than I had been. I was really fishing a lot during  the 20 or so years that companies like Penn and Shimano were pushing out crap. It took them a long time to get it right. I tore through piles of reels, gears and what not. If your new to fishing and pick up a $100 Battle 3 or a Spinfisher, trust me your really really lucky. Even with the present bearing counts, there are good solid reels and are closer to anything that has ever been on the market to being as tough and long lasting as the old school reels.

Well said. Also, was the 704z really a smooth reel compared with (forget about ball bearing counts) today’s IAR equipped reels without the AR clicker-like dogs used in the old school Z reels? I always assumed the Zs were kinda coffee grinders but haven’t used one myself.
 

I have used many cheaper reels with one BB and an old fashioned AR device under the rotor. They’re usually pretty reliable as long as you keep the one lonely bearing clean & lubed. But there’s nothing enjoyable about using those reels. 
 

The other “biggest advancement” has been “line lay” / “line management.” It was necessary really because of the braid revolution but that adoption rate probably would’ve been much lower if most spinners were to lay line like an old Penn Z reel. 

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One last thought. These reel manufacturers should really just perfect the line roller bushing systems and largely abandon bearings under the roller. It’s the most vulnerable bearing and it’s really not necessary except maybe under the heavy drag pressure of a big pelagic type fish. (Specialized application.)

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1 hour ago, EricDice said:

Well said. Also, was the 704z really a smooth reel compared with (forget about ball bearing counts) today’s IAR equipped reels without the AR clicker-like dogs used in the old school Z reels? I always assumed the Zs were kinda coffee grinders but haven’t used one myself.
 

I have used many cheaper reels with one BB and an old fashioned AR device under the rotor. They’re usually pretty reliable as long as you keep the one lonely bearing clean & lubed. But there’s nothing enjoyable about using those reels. 
 

The other “biggest advancement” has been “line lay” / “line management.” It was necessary really because of the braid revolution but that adoption rate probably would’ve been much lower if most spinners were to lay line like an old Penn Z reel. 

A well greased 704 was pretty darn near silent. Good point about line lay however, it only became an issue when braid really caught on.

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There is nothing wrong with bushings. Come to think of it maybe replaced one. Bearings definitely rust.

Some times less is more like the 704.

Reels that didn’t have instant AR were sloppy. I changed out dogs and ratchets mid season and never had a problem. They still caught a lot of fish.

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7 hours ago, EricDice said:

One last thought. These reel manufacturers should really just perfect the line roller bushing systems and largely abandon bearings under the roller. It’s the most vulnerable bearing and it’s really not necessary except maybe under the heavy drag pressure of a big pelagic type fish. (Specialized application.)

The Stradic FK was a fine reel except it it had a complicated cartridge roller bearing in the line roller. Not easily replaced. 
And,in short supply from Shimano because it failed so often.

A bushing would have avoided much of that bs.

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I polish bushings and oil them in my Abu reels.  Polished bushings are smooth as or better than bearings :howdy:

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ABU used to try to convince people that bushings are as good as ball bearings and they had the expertise/experience to know.  It took them a while to jump on the ball bearing bandwagon.  They probably did it because it is just about impossible to convince people that bushings are as good as ball bearings.  You have to try it for yourself.

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48 mins ago, oc1 said:

ABU used to try to convince people that bushings are as good as ball bearings and they had the expertise/experience to know.  It took them a while to jump on the ball bearing bandwagon.  They probably did it because it is just about impossible to convince people that bushings are as good as ball bearings.  You have to try it for yourself.

I think in a lot of applications this is true.  But in  the higher load applications a bearing is king. Like on a maingear/shaft.

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