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Dave from ohio
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I was raised using what we call closed face reels. my dad would tear a tab off a cereal box to get a johnson century. my grandpa used a zebco 33 to fish for bluegill and crappie until the day he died. I have 6 that I keep for the grandkids to use. It is much easier to teach them to cast than a spinning reel, and that is where they shine. Junk, troublesome? yes they are, but they do have a place in my fishing arsenal.
 

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Bill, in OkC
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Dave, the 33s that I used half a century ago were, indeed, great reels. It just seems the quality of the ones made now has gone down the garbage chute.
The reel that I caught my PB flathead with, in 2020, was a big SouthBend spincaster.
It worked great that night. But, I decided to put new, heavier line on it.
A friend was "checking it out". Cast it a couple of times. Worked good. Until I got to the lake, put a goldfish on the hook and cast. Dag blasted thing wouldn't cast past the bank.

That was the last time I baited a hook on any spincaster reel.
Now, it's either baitcaster or spinner reels for me.
Heck, even my youngest grandson won't use a Zebco. For some reason, he took a liking to Shakespeare, and won't use anything else.
 

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Zebco and Johnson joined Pure Fishing about the same time. Look at the foot of a Johnson Century 100B 40th anniversary model, you'll find Made in USA. Look at the 45th and you'll find made in china. In later models I'd find shim washers behind the crank gear.
My first reel was a Zebco 202 when I was 10. Pretty good reel that would last a couple of years for $1.98. When I was 15 I got a Ted Williams T-5000 spinning reel. Found it on Christmas clearance at Sears for $5. It lasted 4 years without any type of service except changing line.
Later I started fishing with my left handed brother-in-law using a right handed reel. Me using a right handed reel he could fish circles around me so I started looking at left handed reels. In the sporting goods section of Central Hardware was a bargain bin. First thing I see is the frame of a Johnson Century 100B. Looked a new one on display at $9. I studied the frame a bit, can be changed to left or right handed. It was missing the handle and nut, Bail nut, bail and cover. I started digging in the bin for the parts. Found the handle first. A salesman walks by, if you find all the parts you can have it for $4. I said, if you find all the parts I'll pay $4. If I have to hunt for the parts I'll pay $1. He made a tag for $1 and left it on the counter. I found all the parts except the nuts. A stop in the nut & bolt section for 2 packs of 12 nuts @ 49 cents. I was able to keep up with me BIL now.
In 2004 I buy a boat. On the rear I build a rig with 8 heavy rod holders, can be used for crappie trolling or cat fishing. On the front I build a rig with 8 lighter rod holders for trolling. I go with 16 ft telescopic rods and Johnson Century 100, 100A and 100B reels. The reels are for line storage only, once set up the reels aren't touched until end of the trip. I'm on ebay a lot looking for the best price on the reels. I came across a few ads with parts for them. I contact the seller. His reply was, I have lots of parts for that reel. You can have them all for $30. I could have built 92 reels if I had enough covers and handles. I was happy with 35.
 

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I have a new in the box Zebco 202. I have not tried to date it, but it is old enough the cardboard box still has a Western Auto $2.45 stick on price tag attached. I don't think they command much collector interest even with the box, but I think I will just leave it on the shelf in the box and let my heirs decide what to do with it.
 

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I love to fish and in the past, there were years when I probably fished 300 days a year. I like to have the best reel for the type of fish and technique that I am fishing with and for. I have literally dozens of ABU casting reels. On the coast, I used the 5000-5500 and 6000-6500 Abureels. them for redfish, speckled trout, and flounder. Now the 6000s are my catfish reels and the 5000 are my bass reels. That said though I fish in ponds a lot and for that, I probably use Zebco 33s more than anything else. I've caught several bass that weighed over 7 pounds with no problem. Bass are not big runners. For crappie and bull bluegills I used Zebco 33s and 22s in ponds and Shimano spinning reels in the lakes and rivers. I don't think that I have ever lost a good fish in a pond because the Zebco 33 failed me. When I carry kids we all fish with Zebcos.

The new Zebcos are probably not going to last like the old ones did but they are cheap and so far I'm pleased with the service that they give me in the ponds. I always have a Zebco 33 on a 2 piece rod in my work truck and have had a ball fishing those out-of-the-way mudhole ponds that are less than an acre in size. Many of them are almost totally unfished and can hold some monster bass. I catch and release anything over three pounds but will keep the smaller ones for a fish fry. Public waters in Texas are almost useless these days for catching a supper of bass. Tiny limits of only BIG bass. I don't kill or eat trophy fish of any species.

The old Zebco 33s were tough. Their drags were not as good as the new reels though so the new reels hold up pretty well. The only casting reel that I have found that casts light lures almost as well as the Zebco 33 is the old Shimano Bantum 100s. I'm sure that there are new reels that cast that well but honestly, I've never worn out an ABU reel or a Shimano Bantum 100. I buy my reels in pairs and like to have different baits rigged up. I always have a topwater ready. It is nice if you are working a plastic worm and see a bass striking something on the surface to be able to just set the worm rod down and make a cast with a topwater bait.
 

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I'm going to say they fell out of favor when better baitcasting reels and spinning reels came out. And we can't disregard that the baitcasters were/are seen on TV programs of tournaments and TV fishing shows. Sometimes spinning reels were/are seen on shows, but mostly baitcasting reels.
I started with a Zebco 202 for sunfish and crappie in the early 1960s at age 10. In a short time I bought a better Shakespeare spincasting reel and used it for sunfish, crappie & white bass.
In time I went to baitcasters and spinning reels for catfishing and other sport fish. My favorite is baitcasters after getting the hang of casting them.
 

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My bestie uses a 808 and 888 every time we fish along with a spinning combo 3 rigs....She's caught Blues and Flats to 50 lbs on them 3 years now and still work fine ....the only down side weve ever had has a simple remedy ...The line cinches down after big fish sometimes and doesn't cast well . I then run line out and attach a good barrel swivel and reel it back in allowing the barrel swivel to take some of the twist out of the line .
 

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The truly GREAT thing about Zebco 33s is that you can take a kid or anyone that has no or very little fishing experience and they can have fun and catch fish immediately. I know several people that ruined their kids on fishing by pushing baitcasting reels on them to start. It isn't fun spending the day picking out backlashes.

I have never lost a fish because I was using a Zebco 33 and it wasn't enough. If I am casting into tree tops where I will need to yank a bass out fast then I am going to want 20 lb line and while they can tolerate that heavy of a line I don't generally like to use that heavy of a line on them. One place where I am different from younger people is that I started my fishing with the old-school knuckle buster reels. You know, the ones that the handle spins when you cast. They had no drag and the spool was heavy so you had to cast only heavy lures and weights.

A lot of the fishing that I used to do with the Zebco 33s is now done with Shimano spinning reels. Back in the olden days when I started fishing the only spinning reels were the Mitchel 300 type. They didn't work for me. I am left-handed casting. Those didn't have handles that you could move to the other side.

There are a few things that I can do with a Zebco 33 that I just can't do well with any other reel. I won a couple of bass tournaments skipping unweighted plastic worms or sassy shad way back under low docks. I also could skip the small Rapala and Rebel minnow lures too. I carried a Zebco in the boat just for that during the summer.

Different reels for different techniques.
 

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I still have a few of those old knuckle buster's, one getting ready to start using again maybe. Learned to fish with spinning reels and don'tremember how hard it may or may not have been but this I'm sure of those old casting reels were a bear to learn on. I think maybe those spin cast reels might be easyiest to learn with. These days most my fishing is either round casting reels, UL spinning reels and getting started over on low profile reels. I tried casting that old knuckle buster the other day, I failed pretty badly! But I know the theory and will keep after it. Really nice old Pflueger! Oh yea, also got a Penn 109!

EDIT:
Just noticed your remarks on the old Mitchell 300. That was my first reel and still have two today. Learned spinning with them and learned casting with a direct drive Zebco! I don't recall that learning to work the reel handle with my right hand or even changing hands whe I cast was all thet hard. What I do know now is I amd not worth a damn with a left hand casting reel and every one of my spinning reels are left hand and don't know if i could use them with right hand retrieve. Strange the things we get used to. I discovered not being able to use a left haand casting reel very well when I found an ABU 6501 in an old shed. Nice old reel but I'll stick to my 6500!

haven't use either of my 300's in a long time and thinking I should take them up to East lake south of bend and use them. That is where I learned to fish. Only difference would be my original 300's were the old half bail. haven't seen one in a good 65 years!
 

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Bill, in OkC
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When I was a kid, the line was,"You don't know how and I don't have time to teach you."
"Stepdad" was a mean alcoholic. And really didn't like kids.
So, I bought my first rod/ reel when I got out of the Army and some friends wanted me to go fishing with them.
The reel was a 33, so I learned how pretty fast.
Then I started driving a truck and didn't fish but maybe twice for 35 years.
The rest is history.
 

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I wasn't aware they did?

Do they have drawbacks? Sure they do but so does each other type of reel. I'll be in the minority and stand up for spincast reels, I like them and just bought my wife a Zebco 404, bought my son a 808 and plan to buy several 888's.

I'd bet outside of sea & coastal fishing Zebco spincast reels have pulled in more fish than any other reels, no I can't prove it but you can't disprove it either.

I just bought 2 Diawa Sealine 47H reels off fleabay for more serious work but if all I had were Zebco 888's I'd not feel out classed fishing for big catfish.

Spincast reels & cockroaches will be doing their thing despite efforts to kill both when the Lord Jesus returns
 

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I posted some of my Besties 808 and 888 fish 20 to 50 lbs .I'm a believer in them to ...I use spinning reels myself but its nice she has plenty reliable closed faced reels when we do get into bigger fish .
Yes sir the pictures I've seen that you have shared cemented my already strong conviction that they still have a place in my arsenal.

I enjoy using them & that's why I fish for enjoyment
 

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I wasn't aware they did?

Do they have drawbacks? Sure they do but so does each other type of reel. I'll be in the minority and stand up for spincast reels, I like them and just bought my wife a Zebco 404, bought my son a 808 and plan to buy several 888's.

I'd bet outside of sea & coastal fishing Zebco spincast reels have pulled in more fish than any other reels, no I can't prove it but you can't disprove it either.

I just bought 2 Diawa Sealine 47H reels off fleabay for more serious work but if all I had were Zebco 888's I'd not feel out classed fishing for big catfish.

Spincast reels & cockroaches will be doing their thing despite efforts to kill both when the Lord Jesus returns
Ya know the most mportant thing about anything you buy is that you like it! Not much else matters!
 

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The day I graduated from a nasty old baitcaster loaded with braided green line on a telescoping steel rod to a Mitchell 300 on an Eagle Claw was liberating! This would have been around 1962 or so. I fished that Mitchell hard until I discovered ultralight fishing with a rod I built on a very light Fenwick blank, coupled with a Quick 110 microlight and 6-pound line. I can assure you that a Rogue River summer steelhead on that outfit was quite a battle. I added a Quick 330 and a 440 for surf and jetty fishing, then turned to a Zebco Cardinal made in Sweden for my go-to for about everything. I do have a line-counter baitcaster for kokanee and an ABU something I used for trolling for salmon and steelhead.
Yet after all these years I really think I should give a baitcaster with the current technology another try. Not sure on which one -- budget isn't a big issue -- but I might mount it on a nice stiff Ugly Stik like the ones Don uses as a dedicated catfish rig. Have both channels and blues in the waters in Texas that I am headed for -- Abilene area.
 

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I also have a Shakespeare Tiger spincast that I never really used,I bought for a cheap surf cast combo just so I would have something to throw into the surf with.I use the rod with my new Kastking reel as it’s a fairly sturdy caster rod til mo’ money.The Tiger reel actually LOOKS impressive for a spincast,has at least 1 ball bearing( it says “ ball bearing” on the top) holds 85 yds of 20# mono,has a switch for a bait clicker and a switch for anti reverse and a sturdy looking drag adj.with what feels like at least 10 lbs drag right now.Another feature which is quite advanced for these reels is the handle is reversible for right or left handlers.I can’t seem to find a parts diaghram for it ,the handle though would have to be removed for takedown ,but I believe there’s a takedown screw also ,where most of these pull out of the housing after the front comes off,this does not just pullout ,there is a small Phillips head screw on back right of the housing I believe is the takedown screw.I am still pre coffee so beyond my abilities right now,I hope y’all understand?I never have had this apart.but for a spincast a fairly advanced design.
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Started with a crude bait caster in the 1950's. Thought it was great because I was fishing. Went to Spin casters and it was an improvement. Graduated to casting equip. while in High school. My dad used Zebo 33's in small rivers for 1-3 pound cat till the day he passed away.
I have a Zebco Bullet setup for friends going fishing the first time. Have used it a few times myself and a good solid setup that works well. Not an Abu but easy for first timers to concentrate on other subjects.
Roy
 
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