1980 ABU Garcia Ad May-June Issue Bassmaster Magazine

If you’ve been reading this website for very long, you understand my affection for ABU Garcia.  My first two casting reels were ABUs and over the years I’ve owned more than a couple dozen that I fished hard.  Well, today in ABU Garcia 1980, we’re going to talk about the end of ABU’s reign at the top, one they enjoyed for three decades.

If you remember from a couple months ago, we posted a piece on Shimano and Daiwa and their introduction of the Bantam and Procaster series of casting reels.  The year was 1978/79 and Shimano had recently broken away from Lew Childre and Sons after Childre’s death in 1977.  Daiwa, on the other hand, had been building their Millionaire for years, which couldn’t hold a candle to ABU.  Their introduction of the Procaster showed they were impressed with the Speed Spool too.

Both the Bantam and the Procaster brought to market reels that did a lot more than the ABUs of the day.  Like the Speed Spool they both had palming side plates, disengaging levelwinds, better drag systems, and were low profile.  Both also allowed the angler to use line as light as 4-pound and not have to worry about the line going behind the spool.

Let’s move on to this ad.

Placed in nearly all the 1980 Bassmaster issues I went through, this ad I believe was designed to ensure the staunch ABU supporters that ABU wasn’t about to let two other companies steal their glory.  They’d been at the top for 30 years and they were going to continue to stay there.

If you read the first line of the ad they instantly set the stage that they’ve been at the top for decades.  They go on to say that all the current state of the art updates to reel technology were first introduced by them.  Not so.  Just compare the BB1 Speed Spool to an ABU 5000C and you see Lew Childre out engineered them in 1974.


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In the third paragraph, ABU finally states that they have competition but that their competition is trying to catch up to ABU.  I can’t believe they actually said this, but I guess you don’t want to show any weakness in this industry.

So let’s look at the improvements that ABU made to their reels in 1980.

For the 4500C and 4600C they came out with lighter sideplates and moved the spool tension knob from the left sideplate to the right sideplate.  This allowed them to make the left sideplate a palming plate.  The series was called the Light Cast CB.  They also re-engineered their levelwind so it would self-center upon a cast.  Both of these features were already available on the Speed Spool in 1974 and carried over to the Shimano and Daiwa reels of1978/79.  About the only improvement that ABU could lay claim to was the multi-disc drag system, which placed drag washers on each side of the main gear.

Their next two new reels were the 5500CA and the 5600CA.  Again, they added a palming sideplate and dual drag washers.  On these reels they didn’t offer the self-centering levelwind.

What ABU did have that neither Shimano nor Daiwa had was the ThumBar.  That was really the only game-changing innovation ABU had come up with in the past 5 years.  And it was a game changer as you can’t buy a casting reel today that doesn’t have one.

I can tell you from experience, the ABU Garcia reels continued to be our biggest selling reels at this time and through the mid-1980s based on their history of being bulletproof.  We sold the Shimanos and the Daiwas but not nearly in the volume that we sold ABU.

Still, the volume of sales that Shimano and Daiwa had during those early years must have put a dent in ABU’s bottom line.  I say that because in 1982 ABU would release a new reel to compete with its rivals from the Far East.  But I’ll save that for the next article.