A 1980 newspaper ad from Tim’s Tackle Box that appeared in the Orlando Sentinel, December, 1980, for the Shimano MLX reel featuring the Fast Cast System Bail Trigger.

We’ve written pieces before of some of the innovative features in rod and reel development, some of which never really took off within the industry for whatever reason. There are others that you could argue were pretty neutral – not earth-shaking or ground breaking, per se.  But they also weren’t flops and could actually be considered small incremental steps in the overall progression of rod and reel design. Today’s item likely fits in that category.

Shimano is a huge staple in the fishing rod and reel market, and there’s probably not too many anglers that haven’t owned at least one of their products over the years. Back in late 1980 they introduced a new spinning reel feature to the market called the “Fast Cast System Bail Trigger.” Quite simply, it allowed for an angler to only use one hand (or more correctly, one finger) in order to open the bail and make a cast. Up to this point, no other spinning reel on the market had this feature.

One of the original ads for the reel mentioned this as being a real benefit in icy cold waters, though I’m not completely certain of where that line of thinking developed from. I also recall that as this feature became somewhat popular, one of the common casualties was a broken trigger finger on some company’s models.

Still, prior to this development, casting a spinning reel was a two-handed operation, using one hand/finger to hold the line in place and the other hand to open the bail. In the operation of a standard spinning reel, the bail could be in nearly any orientation.  But, for one-handed use, something had to give.

This need got the Shimano engineers to design and develop the “self-centering bail.” Time has proven the longevity of this feature on reels, but now days it seems adopted for only the casual recreational fishing market. I don’t know of any professional angler that uses a reel with such a system in place, or of any high-end reel being manufactured with it. Still, the concept lives on to this day, initially being popular in the early development of the sport, but now more of a “low end” reel selling point.