Big Game Fishing Reels
What Makes A Reel A Big Game Reel -
In a discussion about antique big game fishing reels, the first question that we have to answer is what separates a big game reel from a regular saltwater trolling reel, the answer is size. The second question would then be, what is the cut off on the small end of the size scale for big game reels? A 10/0 size reel would be considered the smallest size big game fishing reel. 10/0 size reels are approximately 5-1/2 inches in diameter (measuring the length across the side-plate) by about 3-1/2 inches across the inside of the spool (the length of one of the reel's pillars). There is no cut off on how large a big game reel can be, for most collectors the bigger the better. Reels that are 10/0 and larger are considered true big game fishing reels. Most companies made their reels in the 10/0, 12/0, 14/0, and 16/0 sizes, however, there were some anomalies.
Fin-Nor of Miami Florida made their first big game reels in 1935 and cataloged them 15/0 reels. The Schauffler reel built by Kohlhepp & Kimsey in New Jersey in the mid to late 1930's cataloged a 13/0 size reel as well as an 18/0 size reel that was an absolute monster. Very few Companies made what is considered to be the Granddaddy of all reels, the 20/0. Due to lack of demand and cost concerns only a hand full of these huge reels were ever made and even fewer exist today. The measurements of a 20/0 would be between 9 to 10 inches in diameter, and between 5-1/2 to 7 inches across the inside of the spool. There may be larger reels out there so be on the lookout.
Next, we have to determine the time period for collectible big game reels. The first true big game reels (10/0 and larger) were built somewhere around the early to mid-1920's. The collectible period ranges from the mid-1920s up until the advent of World War II.
During this time period, there were several individuals and companies that were producing small quantities of high-quality big game reels by hand which, for the most part, were very expensive. Because these reels were high-quality handmade reels made in small numbers for a short period of time they tend to be valuable as collectibles today.
Around the mid-1930's the first massed produced big game reels started to find their way into the marketplace. These inexpensive reels slowly started squeezing the smaller high-quality makers out of business. These mass-produced reels were considerably less expensive than their handmade counterparts and as fishing reel technology and fishing techniques got better, the need for the larger more expensive tackle diminished. Only a few small companies remained in business at the close of World War II. A couple of companies tried to jump into the market producing high-quality reels after World War II however they met with little success.
Next, we need to get one piece of big game reel terminology straight, the /0 system. When people talk about salt water reel sizes they talk in terms of 1/0, 2/0, 3/0 .... etc. up to the 16/0, 18/0 & 20/0. The /0 on the end of these terms simply meant "OCEAN" or reels built primarily for saltwater use. Did all companies make their reels in all of the /0 sizes? No, some companies made only smaller reels and some companies made only larger reels. Only a few companies made reels in all sizes.
Unlike many universal standards of measurement, the /0 sizes were not standardized throughout the industry. Although most companies' reels were quite similar in size it is not uncommon to find one company's 16/0 reels to have different dimensions and line capacity than other company's 16/0 reels. Even within the same companies the size and line capacity of one particular /0 size might change over the course of a few years. Also, not all companies used the /0 system to size their reels.
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Big Game Fishing Reel Manufacturers
Below is a list of companies that produced Big Game Fishing Reels.
This list represents most of the large and small big game reel manufacturers whose reels that are now considered collectible. I have intentionally left some of the larger companies that mass-produced reels off this list. There are also many reels that are not marked and cannot be attributed to a specific maker and therefore can't be added to this list. If you have any reels that are, or are not, on the list or have no markings, please give me a call and I will help you identify the reel and give you an estimate of its value. I also buy high-quality reels
American Big Game Reel Makers -
- B&M - Santa Monica, California
- Bannister, Bryant - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Bronson-Coxe Co. - Bronson, Michigan
- Coxe, J. A. - Los Angeles, California
- Crawford Hawaiian Sword Fish Reel - Hawaii
- Endicott-Wilson Corp - Detroit, Michigan
- Fin-Nor - Miami, Florida
- Gar Wood Jr. - Miami, Florida
- Garey, George W. - Tocopilla, Chile
- Gayle, G.W. & Son Co. - Frankfort Kentucky
- Hoesel Reel, Hallen Co. - New York
- Holzmann, Ernest - New York
- Klein, C. R. - Santa Monica, California
- Knowles Tuna Reel - Miami, Florida
- Kovalovsky, Arthur - Hollywood, California
- Lee's -Miami, Florida
- Lenz - Issaquah, Washington
- Martina, Joseph - Hillside, New Jersey
- Meek, B.F. & Sons - Louisville, Kentucky
- Montaque - Brooklyn, New York
- Ocean City Co. - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Ohio Tool Co. - Cleveland, Ohio
- Reel King by SOMACO - Greer, South Carolina
- Schauffler Reel, Kohlhepp/Kimsey - New Jersey
- Shakespeare, William - Kalamazoo, Michigan
- Stead, A. J. - Los Angeles, California
- Stevens, George - Miami, Florida
- Vom Hofe, Edward - New York, New York
- Vom Hofe, Julius - New York, New York
- Zwarg, Otto - St Petersburg Florida
Australian Big Game Reel Makers -
- A.C. Reel Co. - Andreas Reel
- Bennett Engineering - Graeme Reel
- Bush E.G. - Marlin Reel - Super Marlin Reel - Little Giant Reel
- Elder & Smith Co. - Cowell Reel
- R. Taylor & Co. - Imperial Montague Reel
- Rogers Bros. - Ebro Reel
- Smith, Frederick C. - The Errol Bullen Atalanta Reel
- Tilley, Ernest W. - Samson Reel
- Willis, L.T. - Barrier Reel - Landem Reel - Makoora Reel - Neptuna Reel - Swordfish Reel - Tasman Reel
Visit our Big Game & Salt Water Reel Gallery for information about the men and companies that made big game reels. You will also find lots of photos of the reels that they made which may help you to identify your reel.
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IF YOU HAVE A REEL THAT YOU NEED MORE INFORMATION ABOUT, OR A REEL THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SELL, PLEASE CONTACT US.