Two pristine Waltco Ny-O-Lite reels provided by Kip Gomez. Photo Kip Gomez.

I usually like to start this column with the particular ad in question.  But this time I want to start with a couple of pictures of two beautiful Ny-O-Lite spinning reels.  These pictures are provided by California collector Kip Gomez. Thank you, Kip.

The ad below is from the May 1953 issue of Sports Afield.  It is the introductory ad for this unusual reel.  Whatever else you might think of it, once you have seen a Ny-O-Lite you probably won’t forget it.

Waltco Ny-O-Lite reel advertisement from the May 1953 issue of Sports Afield. Photo Bill Sonnett.

Nylon was developed by DuPont in 1935 and it was just beginning to be popular with the public when Word War ll caused its use to expand exponentially.  After the War many entrepreneurs attempted to ride the popularity of “Fabulous DuPont Nylon”.  Waltco Products of Illinois, a small time tackle manufacturer, took this to a new level with their “all Nylon” spinning reel, the Ny-O-Lite.

In the The Old Reel Collectors Association’s (ORCA) September 2009 issue of Reel News, ORCA member John Tanner wrote a fine history of the Waltco Ny-O-Lite reel.  With John and ORCA’s permission I would like to quote that article here.

“The Ny-O-Lite was in the market from 1953 to 1959.  This company must have had some serious marketing problems.  It operated on a direct sales model, advertising in newspapers and magazines.  While the reel had a list price of $13.50 in the mid 1950’s, Waltco was running ads for $8.50 in 1953 and $6.75 in 1957.  The ads stated that these were strictly promotional sales prices, just to spread the word about the reel.  No more than five persons from each county were eligible for this special price.  I don’t think they made their quota.  If the company sold one reel in each county in the U.S., they would have been sitting pretty.”

Now I have an admission to make.  I actually fished briefly with the Ny-O-Lite in 1957.  I had just purchased a Shakespeare #1755 spinning reel to go with my seven-foot Hiawatha Rod from the local Gambles store.  Boy was I proud of that reel.

I think I’ve mentioned before that a Shakespeare representative visited our little town and put on a casting demonstration.  Following that, he allowed folks to come down and try out the different outfits.  After he patiently showed me how to use it, I knew that hang-down, closed -faced spinning reel was just what I needed, and I saved up my lawn-mowing money and bought one.

We were fishing at the local stone quarry.  Ray, who was the older brother of my best friend, was the only one old enough to drive so he provided the transportation.  On that day he showed up with his new Ny-O-Lite spinning reel.  I made the mistake of bragging about my Shakespeare, and he followed with a sales pitch on his new Ny-O-Lite that would have made Waltco proud – “indestructible” – “never needs lubrication” – “last reel he would ever have to buy” – etc. etc.  He offered to let me use it just to see how much better his reel was than mine.  After a few casts, I knew that I had made the better choice.  Despite Waltco’s claim that the reel “Operates as smoothly and quietly as a canoe through water” the reel was neither smooth nor quiet.  It sounded like the small grinder my mother used to chop nuts.  Did I point out all the faults of his reel to Ray – Heck No!  He was four years older, bigger, stronger with little sense of humor – and it was a long walk home!

Cover of the May 1953 issue of Sports Afield. Photo Bill Sonnett.

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