[Ed’s Note: Bill Sonnett has been a friend of the Bass Fishing Archives since we started back in 2012. He has helped me with a number of articles over the years and we are happy to have him back contributing to the site with his vast knowledge of everything bass fishing. We hope you enjoy his piece on his first experiences with spinning gear: A Historic Reel – The Dawn of Spinning in America.]
I don’t run into people under 60 that can remember what fishing was like before the coming of the spinning reel. I still remember my first sight of an open-face spinning reel around 1952. It was green (I have no idea what the make or model was) and a young man of 16 or 17 was standing on a rickety wooden dock, reeling in his line as my father and I passed by in a boat. The reel with its revolving bail and odd “hang down” configuration were so outside my experience, it could have just arrived from outer space. I asked my father what kind of reel it was and after some thought, he allowed that it might be one of those new spinning reels he had heard about. I would not see another spinning reel until 1956 when a representative of the Shakespeare Company visited our hometown and put on a casting demonstration in the local gym. After he demonstrated fly-casting, baitcasting, and spinning tackle we were invited down to try out the tackle he was using. He handed me a spinning rod with a hang-down closed face reel and after the first cast I was a believer and saved up my lawn mowing money to purchase that exact reel in 1957.
The advertisement that is shown above is from the July 1939 issue of Outdoor Life. It is truly historic in that it introduces the first spinning reel to the American public. A careful reading of this ad tells us that this is a new method of fishing called “European Spinning” and it also describes the bamboo spinning rod that is available with the reel as well as the available types of line.
In January 1976, Field & Stream printed a long and wonderful article by A. J. McClane entitled “The Evolution of Spinning in America”. A more significant article on the recent history of American fishing has seldom appeared in the popular ‘Outdoor’ press. It is impossible to improve on what Editor McClane had to say in regards to this reel. He is quoted here with the kind permission of Field & Stream .