~ MITCHELL'S ~
TOURNAMENT “WEDDING CAKE” REEL
New York State in the fall is quite breathtaking. The ever-changing landscape and sense of urgency to accomplish tasks before winter sets in is almost primal. The year is 1862 and intertwined between the birth pangs of a country, is the beginning of a new design on an old ritual. Tucked away between the tall monolithic structures and what is soon to become the New York City skyline, is the NY Sportsman's Club. Born to be a place where gentlemen meet and sports are the topic of discussion. It was here, where many sports were nurtured to become America's pastime. One of those emerging new sports became a derivative of the World's passion to fish, tournament casting! With the excuse of “down time” during the winter months, fisherman experimented with both distance and accuracy casting. This exciting new endeavor of patience and perseverance was soon to become a fixture of organized competition played by the rich and famous of that day. It was their crème de la crème activity for social gatherings among the “upper-class”. Years have since changed, and participation went from the few to the many and by the early 1930s, everybody of all economic and social levels had a chance to enjoy this wonderful sport.
The Europeans also enjoyed tournament casting at the same time America was experimenting with the sport in the early part of the 20th-century. It was in 1907 that the sport officially became organized in the US with rules and structure. This new organization was called, the National Association of Scientific Anglers Club, N.A.S.A.C. It would later be changed to the National Association of Angling Casting Clubs; N.A.A.C.C., in 1939 and then to its current title of American Casting Association, A.C.A, in 1960. The A.C.A is also a member of an international umbrella organization called the International Casting Federation, I.C.F., which is involved with many nations that compete on a World level. The IOC, International Olympic Committee, recognizes the ICF and member clubs.
As the sport evolved into a well organized event of rules and purpose, demand for specialized equipment increased. Conventional tackle was the primary instrument used for many years. Competitors wanted more and manufacturers started producing very limited editions of standard conventional reels that were redefined or re-engineered into a special casting or tournament grade reel. By 1950, spinning reels became the predominate reel used for fishing and eventually found a place in tournament casting. In the later part of the 1950’s, spinning reel manufacturers started to produce Tournament grade reels with applications specifically designed for this use.
Mitchell, in 1961, issues their first version tournament grade-casting reel! The sport was at its peak and request for special spinning reels to go further and more accurate was in great demand. Mitchell excelled in this area and produced several models that were not for general sale to the public. These reels were sold or given to professional tournament casters actively involved in the sport. Mitchell made three different style tournament casters. The first and second versions were designed for distance casting and were manufactured with a pronounced conic shaped spool. The third model was made for accuracy competition, “skish”.
Mitchell's second offering; pictured left, was Issued in 1963. Mitchell's R&D team, with the help of professional casters, developed a design with an internal system that was considered “state of the art” for its time. Mitchell, utilizing a 300 body, made some modifications that resulted in an extra gear for changing direction of the rotor to clockwise during retrieve. The reason for the change of direction was to allow the right-handed caster to have the line presented directly to his/her pickup finger, and allow the line to follow a more natural flow during the cast. This increased casting distance. Mitchell also added an elongated shaft to hold the 8” long, 4-stage conic casting spool; (Wedding Cake). A special locking mechanism on the handle was added to provide a method to lock the cast after it was completed. If the line moved due to accidental movement of the spool, the caster would lose distance or be disqualified. A special 3-tiered line guide retrieval system was added which allowed the caster to rewind line onto each tier of the spool. Each line guide was for a separate tier. The reel was built with special horned gearing and precision fitting. Mitchell made less than 60 of these very exotic & expensive tournament grade reels. No manufacturer ever came close to replicating this unique and envelope-pushing design. It was without equal!! In the realm of competition, these reels were in the highest demand by casters. Competitors waited approximately one year to receive a reel.
Pro-casters and collectors alike refer to this reel as the “Wedding Cake” because of the unique spool concept. The spool design permitted “threads” of different weights or same weight to be utilized at each level of the spool. For various weighted threads, connections were made at each tier. This spool concept enhanced distance and accuracy as a result of each tier having a limited amount of thread bulk. The top tier held “leader material” which provided a cushion during the cast to reduce line stress, break-offs, and to improve distance. This section was hand-wound before each cast.
It was not until many years later that other reel manufacturers utilized this concept on their reels to increase casting distance. After it's introduction, the reel became the favorite with many casters and was considered one of the best in the sport. Many records and awards were achieved with this reel during the years in competition. It remained at the top of the game for many years and still today, you will occasionally see one in competition. Professional Tournament Casting is a very demanding sport requiring concentration and coordination to achieve its purpose. The sport is comprised of two primary disciplines: Distance Casting; the farthest cast with a pre-determined weight and hand grip, and Accuracy Casting; also known as “Skish” placing a casting weight into a circle or group of circles or specific area with the caster standing in different positions. There are variations of this but most of the different organizations scribe too much of the same rules and requirements.
One of the more successful and accomplished competitors during the sport's golden years was a Belgium gentleman by the name of Guido Vinck. Guido was an accomplished caster and was one of the primary testers and users of Mitchell products for tournament casting. Unfortunately, spinning reels designed for tournament application, were short lived. The special made Tournament reels were only in circulation from 1958 to 1972. In those short 15 years, manufacturers that indulged, made some of the best designed casters of this genre. Those days are gone forever but the sport is still well attended and may soon be accepted by the IOC for future Olympic competition. The American Casting Association has announced the sight of their 2003 USA National Tournament to be held in San Francisco, CA at the end of July through early August. Visit their web site to get more information on scheduling events including the 2005 World Games.
If you would like to know more about this fascinating sport, its origins, and rules, the following web sites should be helpful.
In the next issue, we will explore Mitchell's other tournament grade casters that followed both before and after the “Wedding Cake”.
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- Mitchell Collectors International