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Questions about Antique Reels: Rod/Reel Combinations

Q1: (Benson reel, Kaufman Mfg. Co. See Question 4 on the "brands" FAQ page.)

Q2: I recently acquired a most unusual fishing reel and was hoping to find out a little information about its age, it is Master Kaster #2 made by the Utility MFG. CO., Wheeler Ore. It is a bait caster with a level wind but is mounted on a handle and is operated by pumping a slide up and down on the handle. It says "Pat. pend." on it and also has a fish stamped on it with the name Rinehart inside the fish. My price guide lists it but I can't find any other information on it. Anything you could tell me will be greatly appreciated.

A: The reel is, perhaps, the last and best known of a long line of pump-action reels dating back at least to 1896. These reels are rotated through various complicated systems of gears by pumping some kind of sliding mechanism up and down along the rod. The gearing must permit the rotation of the spool in one direction as some sliding device, usually a sleeve around the rod butt, is moved back and forth. The rotating spools could be mounted within the rod butt or outside of it, like conventional reels.

In addition to the Master Kaster, perhaps the pump-action reels best known to collectors are those invented by Allen Hall and William Smith in 1903 and by John Ricketts, whose inventions and improvements were patented in 1912 and 1929. The rotating spools of both mechanisms were mounted externally.

The Master Kaster was patented by Joseph C. Berry, Seattle, Wash., in 1936, and the patent was assigned to Utility Electric and Machine Works, Inc., Wheeler, Ore. The rotating mechanism was similar to that used in "Yankee" screwdrivers. Despite the patent, Dr. Harvey Rinehart, whose name was included in the logo, was credited with the reel's invention by one author. It is likely that Berry and Rinehart collaborated.

Q3: I recently bought a fishing rod with a reel built into the rod butt named Hurd Supercaster. Do you have any information on this reel?

A: The Hurd is one of the more recent rod-and-reel combinations that collectors find. A couple of different models ("Caster" and "Super Caster") were made in Detroit during the late 1940s. They competed with the "Gentleman Streamliner," another rod/reel combination made in Chicago.

American reelmakers have been manufacturing rod/reel combinations since the first was patented in 1865 by William M. Stuart, of Newark, N.J. Stuart's invention included a very complex multiplying reel housed in a cylindrical tube, but virtually every type of reel has since been built into the butt sections of rods.By the end of the nineteenth century, about two dozen patents had been issued for reels built into fishing rods. Some were small reels with diameters barely wider than the rod butt, like Stuart's; some were single-action trolling reels with large-diameter, skeleton spools; some were automatic reels.

Manufacturers continued to build integrated rod and reel combinations during the first half of the 20th century. Among the more common models were the "Stubby," with a narrow, large-diameter spool, and a Benson combo with an integrated Indiana-style reel.

After World War II, even more integrated reels appeared, including the Hurds and the "Streamliner" mentioned earlier. Those devices incorporated baitcasting reels within the rod butts, but spinning reels built into rods also began to appear. Good-All Electric, Nebraska, made an integrated closed-face spinning reel, as did a number of other companies. One of the best known spinning reel and rod combinations was the Great Lakes Whirlaway, which had a large, bulbous housing for the reel on the end of the rod. The St. Croix "Fishing Machine," the Johnson "Uni-Spin," and the Popeil "Pocket Fisherman" are examples of even more recent combination devices.

Q4: (Good-All, Ogallala, Neb. See Question 3 on the "spinning" FAQ page.)

Q5: I just was given a rod and reel combo by a friend. It's a "Whirlaway" from Great Lakes Products, Detroit, Mich. What can you tell me about the combo, which I display proudly on my wall?

A: The "Whirlaway," with a spinning reel that swivels within a bulb-shaped housing at the end of the rod, was sold during the 1950s. There were several models. The combo was based on at least four patents, two issued in 1942 and 1956 to Franklin Lind, of Randolph, Minn., and two issued in 1956 and 1957 to Stanley Clay, of Northfield, Minn., then Pontiac, Mich., who assigned his to Great Lakes Products. The housed reel was pivoted to alternating casting and retrieval positions.

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