Mitchell History

We hope you enjoyed the reading of the Mitchell prehistory and that you are curious to know what happened in the more recent past.

Léon Carpano and Charles Pons, astonished as they were by the success of their first models, soon decided to design and to market a left-hand version of this reel; (approximately 1953). This was followed by a lot a larger reel developed for sea angling. The name "Salt Water" chosen for this heavy-duty model was rather obvious. The Salt Water model was originally designed with a half bail arm, similar to its smaller brother, the 300.

View of Cluses in 1950

View of Cluses in 1950


Things changed a lot in 1954 when the Hardy-patent for the full bail arm expired. The "Mitchell" and "Mitchell Salt Water" was fitted with a full bail and an optional manual pick up system. The CAP-reel, already in existence for a number of years, made by Carpano & Pons, became part of the Mitchell family. It was known as the "Mitchell Cap", also called "Cap 54" which also represented the year Free-Trade status was granted in the US.

The family was steadily growing: the "Otomatic", first reel ever with fully automatic bail release, was born in 1955. It was also in 1955 that the 10.000th packing case of reels ready for export to the U.S. was celebrated.

10.000th packing case

10.000th packing case of reels


The "fast retrieve" version (ratio 5/1) of the "300" was baptised "Rapid" in 1956. In April 1957 a decision was reached to add a number to the name of each existing model. The first born "Mitchell" became "Mitchell 300", the "Salt Water" received number "302" engraved on its side-plate, and the "Cap" will be for ever known as the "304". The "Otomatic" was changed to "Otomatic 330" and later to "Mitchell 330". The "Rapid" changed into "Mitchell 350 5/1". At the request of Garcia, Mitchell incorporated the shipping number that was assigned to different models, for ordering purposes, to be used as the model number for the respective reel.

The "Intermediate" model "306" joined the family in 1958. The "308 Prince" -first ultra-light- model came in 1960 and his "speedy" brother "358" one-year later in 1961. The first "luxury" model "300DL" dates from approximately 1961. This same year, on December 24, the 5,000,000th reel was produced. The first model with a skirted spool, the "316", was welcomed in 1963.

The assembling of the 300

The Assembling of the 300


The first conventional reel, the "600", was released in 1964. The first "low budget" model, the "320", was marketed in 1965. Mitchell’s automatic fly reel "710", was born in 1967 and the first conventional fly reel "752" in 1971. One of Mitchell’s most outstanding design reels, the "510" made its debut in 1969.

When Charles Pons died in 1965, Mitchell and the other divisions became independent companies. In 1966, the birth of the 10,000,000th reel was celebrated with the issuing of a gold plated model (?) and a sterling silver commemorative medal.

Commemorative Medal

Commemorative Medal


Production reached an amazing number of 12,000 reels per day in 1970. No wonder that already in 1971 the 20,000,000th reel was celebrated with a silver plated model of the legendary "300".

In 1974, Garcia (see also here) was a dominant force in the fishing tackle market and became a major stockholder of Mitchell. The Carpano&Pons family acquired 27% of the Garcia shares. This deal became official on June 14, 1974 and was commemorated with the special issue of a 300DL-model (see here). Perhaps the moment wasn’t right: the effects of the first oil crisis became distinct and were felt all over the globe.

By 1978, due to financial concerns, The Garcia Corporation would restructure the distribution of Mitchell but it was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1979. By 1980 these two brands would become independent and go their separate ways. But not forever as we will see!

Even the introduction of the French made "square bodied" reels of the 4400, 3300 and "Full Control" series in 1980 couldn’t change the destiny of events. The climate created by an economic depression and the increasing competition from the Pacific Rim manufacturers prompted Mitchell to declare bankrupcy in 1981.

Image Philippe Blime

Philippe Blime


Philippe Blime took over Mitchell in 1982. A strong believer in the future of the brand, he fought to turn the company around using Mitchell’s prestige and its tradition of quality and reliability. He wanted to innovate and rebuild the whole company with respect for the tradition. The Browning Company became distributor of the Mitchell brand in Northern America and a major shareholder. By 1983, with only four years of involvement with Mitchell, Browning relinquished its control and was no longer involved with Mitchell. During the same year, the high cost of manufacturing in Europe became a factor in Mitchell’s decision to move the manufacturing operation and distribution to countries in the Pacific Rim. Mitchell, then and now, still maintain total control of design, research, development and engineer of all Mitchell products.

From 1984 to 1990 Mitchell of France created a new controlling entity for their North American distribution called Mitchell Sports USA. Mitchell Sports USA was part of Mitchell of France and a major shareholder in the Mitchell corporation. By 1990, a decision was reached by Mitchell of France to sell distribution and partial ownership of their company to JWA.

The new plant in Marignier

The new plant in Marignier


By 1990 Johnson Worldwide Associates (JWA) ("Johnson Wax" was the source of their success) bought the Mitchell Company. The company moved its headquarters and R&D to Marignier -only 5 kms away from Cluses- where it is still located today. Since its introduction in the late 1940s, nearly 30 million Mitchell 300s had been sold worldwide.

In 2000 Mitchell was purchased by Pure Fishing as part of the JWA fishing products acquisition. Mitchell is now part of a leading family of famous fishing tackle brands like Berkley, Abu Garcia and Fenwick. Have a look at this great family here.

Recommended reading:

"Mitchell Story" published by France Régions;

"100 Ans d’Aventure Industrielle, d’Eau et d’Electricité" published by the Town Archives of Cluses;

All images on this page are from above-mentioned books.


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