old reels

refurb'd reels

I got my shed all fixed up with a workbench, lighting, shelves and a pegboard for my tools. I needed a project to try it all out so I decided to see If I could make some old fishing reels useable. All of these were ‘60’s vintage; the 5000C’s were late 50’s – so these are all classics. I had my Dad’s and some I had personally retired about 30 years ago – 9 reels in all. They included one of those old brown Ted Williams Ambassadeur knock-off’s; a black Daiwa Millioniare (another Ambassadeur knock-off); 3 of the original Ambassadeur 5000C’s (the classics from which all others are measured), a 5000D (a poor man’s 5000C), a 4500 (narrow spool version of the 5000C), and a mini, stripped down ABU 2650. Also an old Pfleuger. The Millionaire, a 5000C and the 4500 were my dad’s. Working on them sure brought back lots of old, fond memories.

I don’t ever recall seeing a 4500 before so that was a new one on me. I can say that with some confidence because I would have preferred it to the 5000C and no doubt bought one. I was pretty much out of the reel buying mode from about 1972-85 so maybe it hatched in that stretch. My guess is that it’s likely the newest reel of the bunch.but it’s the same as the 5000C – silver rather than red and with a narrower spool. Has a stardrag. As best I can tell the parts are totally interchangeable except for the narrow spool which should make it a lighter, more castable reel.

The reels were for the most part totally frozen – no drag, spool locked tight. Covered with crud. I could crank the spool on a couple – but really stiff and totally unuseable. Some looked like they were growing there was so much grib and mold on them. Maybe I could get a couple working by interchanging parts. I started by taking them apart one at a time and soaking the pieces in Liquid Wrench to dissolve the dried grease and kill the growth. Nothing was rusted beyond repair, badly pitted but not structurally problematic and they all cleaned up nicely after a bit of soaking and coaxing. Encouraged, I oiled, greased and put them back together. I started with a 5000C since I used to know those things inside and out. It took me a couple of times breaking down and putting together before I figured it out again and learned the old spring loaded traps again. After that, all the 5000C’s, the Millionaire, and the Ted Williams were a piece of cake. They are identical reel inside.

The 5000D was one of those cheaper, green models. No star drag so it came apart and went together easier. I remember customizing that reel – exchanging plastic gears for metal ones – high speed buzz gears – and exchanging a one knob, balanced high speed handle for the two knob version that came with it. My thought was that without a star drag, the reel would be nice and light and still have the great bearing system of the 5000C. I was right and don’t think I ever used a C again.

The 2650 was a very small reel. It was quite flimsy and cheap but very light and cast like a dream. I remember searching far and wide to find a good freespool reel that wasn’t heavy and this was the answer. It also turned out to be cheap. I caught hell for using such a cheap reel when they were all into the big buck 5000C’s. I had forgotten it had a push button freespool on the handle so that mechanism stopped me for a minute or two during this refurb operation. Somewhere along the way the handle had gotten bent badly and it was more or less a mess. I held this one till the end since I figured it was never going to happen and I have zero spare parts for this particular model.

I remember using the 500D and the 2650 almost exclusively after I acquired them. I was hung up on light weight since a good deal of my fishing was wading where I’d be out for 10 hours with no place to set down and more or less casting the entire time. You’d be surprised how much difference a few ounces makes. It turned out that the 5000D was a great reel for buzzing over the grass since it had a fast, smooth retrieve. I used the 2650 exclusively for top water since I could cast lighter lures and retrieval speed was not an issue. All my buddies fished exclusively with 5000C’s and I know at the end of the day, I’d made many more casts than them due to the light weight of my rigs compared to theirs. I know I also caught more fish because I could fish smaller lures, farther from the boat. I gave up the star drag for pure thumb control but don’t ever remember that being a problem with bass.

Believe it or not, after 3 days, I have 6 working perfectly. Haven’t messed with the pfleuger yet since I never really liked that reel anyway. It has a really wide spool which makes it hard to thumb control. It’s a stronger reel than the 5000’s with a better drag system so I used it on snook and tarpon but cursed it a thousand times a day when using it. I have rods for all of them. Oldies but goodies.

After the refurb operation I took them all down to the dock for a flight test. It’s one thing to have them spin ok on dry land but the proof is in the casting. Beautiful – they cast like a dream and I immediately remembered why I loved that 2650 and the 5000D better than the 5000C’s. As I indicated, neither of these reels have a drag system which adds quite a bit of weight – maybe half the weight for the 2650 – and the spools are much, much freer. I could cast them a country mile and they retrieve with much less drag. You know I now have some fairly expensive Shimano reels with a jillion ball bearings and all the magnetic and super centrifugal spool controls but these newly fixed reels are just smoother. The new reels have centrifugal control with 6 slider weights – these have two; the new reels have 6-10 bearings, these have none or two at most. I have no doubts the new reels are easier to use, especially for a beginner, but these old reels sure feel good to me. I need to change the line since they are currently strung with stuff that looks like rope compared to the new lines but I’m really, really happy with how it all turned out. Next step is to see how well they fish. I know they were trained properly so I’m anxious to see if they still remember all the tricks.

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