~ MITCHELL'S ~
First Version Tournament Casters
We continue our research into the world of Mitchell tournament reels. It was 1961, approximately, when Mitchell introduces their first tournament caster. Designers focused their efforts with experimental versions into four areas; the spool, gearing, locking mechanism and retrieval system. Considering the requirements of professional casters, Mitchell engineers made changes in these areas based on performance requirements. Distance was paramount!
When Mitchell experimented with tournament casters, they realized the spool would be the key component. A conic shaped spool was tested having a pronounced 79º angle. It was determined this geometry was perfect for maximizing distance during casting. Their main goal was to develop a design that allowed line to “spool” off the reel with a minimal amount of friction and at an angle of incident that would be conducive for maximum distance. This resulted in the radical shaped spools that Mitchell developed for their reels. One of the first problems encountered was how to maintain the line on the spool during the cast without the line falling and bunching at the bottom of the spool. Mitchell experimented with various spool material such as, foil, unpolished aluminum, and composite material for maintaining frictional contact with the line and to hold it in place during the cast. This still allowed for good casting ability. Users of the reel still wanted more “hold” and either sanded the spool to create a rough surface or created serrations on the spool surface so the line would have something to hold. Overall, these methods were successful to some degree, which allowed the cast to be completed effectively.
Another important feature on these reels was the locking system. It provided a means for completed casts to be “saved’ and prevent line movement. The locking mechanism was different on this version of tournament reel than on later models. It consisted of a large disk that was connected to the inside of the handle hub. When turned, it would prevent rotor movement. Any movement of the line after the cast came to rest could be reasons for points to be reduced or disqualification. The anti-reverse system on these models is intact but not functional on this & other distance casters. The reason for this is because the reel is not used for fishing and if disengaged, could cause line movement after the cast. For Skish or Arenberg models, also called “Precision Casting Models” are provided a full functional anti-reverse system.
The next modification centered on the inclusion of an extra re-directional gear. This additional gear provided a change in rotor direction to a clockwise rotation during retrieve. The premise was to allow casters easy line pickup during cast. The Clockwise rewind also enhanced “line flow “ off the spool during casting.
The line rollers were the last area of re-design, The MP/ PUM system was tiered to allow line to be stored evenly on the lower level of the spool. The spool was designed as a two-stage system. Top section hand wound for leader material and the lower section for line. The line roller only gathered line on the bottom section of the spool.
Mitchell made three versions of the first series of tournament reels. All three versions are the same except that the spool was different for each. Professional casters, on occasion, would custom order special spools that were made with a slight different geometry and size then originally offered. Additional, these spools were cut from industrial grade, one piece aluminum bar stock The original offering came with an aluminum spool that was either polished or unpolished. The second version was covered with a very thin cover of foil, “shrunk” fit to the spool. The thinking was to minimize line friction during casting. The third version was unique! The spool was made from a very hard “rubbery composite.” We cannot determine the rationale behind this concept but it appears it had an effect on reducing friction and minimizing “line fall.”
Line fall happens on these types of spools due to a combination of gravity associated with a steep angle. Sheer line material (usually silk) has nominal adhesion properties thus causing the line to bunch up at the bottom of the spool. It would seem plausible that Mitchell, in an attempt to remedy the situation, developed this spool material to counter the effects and to enhance adhesion. Of the different version spools, the composite spool is a very obscure item!
Mitchell also made a tournament reel with a vendor's name inscribed on the body. This was only completed for one vendor during the course of production of this model. Albatros of the Netherlands had Mitchell produce these models in extremely limited quantities for select Pro-casters.
All tournament reels were made in limited quantities, which make these reels very desirable with collectors. Distributed mostly in the UK & USA.
The spools for these types of reels operate a little different than one would assume. After casting, the line was retrieved using the bottom line guide. The bottom line guide only gathered line up to the middle of the bottom section of the spool. The caster would then take the line, place it onto the top line guide, and complete the rewind process gathering line on the upper portion of the lower tire. In essence, both line guides only rewound line for the bottom section of the spool. The top section of the spool was hand wound with leader material. There were times that casting line was extended to the upper section of the spool. The basic concept of the spool was line on the bottom and leader material on the top.
These versions of tournament reels listed above, were utilized for distance casting only. Later in Part 3 of this series, we chronicle Mitchell's “Precision” versions of tournament casters used for Skish & Arenberg contests. Skish models were built different and were designed for accuracy. Mitchell made a few different Skish models that we will explore in more detail.
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- Mitchell Collectors International