Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Closed-face Spinning Reels

Back in the 1950’s and 60’s my grandfather, Jake Lucas, worked with the Shakespeare Company on closed faced spinning reel design, including the 1810 and other models. He was a bit of a legend – doing trick casting demonstrations at trade shows and on TV, with appearances on Michigan Outdoors hosted by Mort Neff. He would pop balloons out of the air and various other fun casting tricks.  He was quite a character, and a family man. He taught his kids and grandchildren how to do his underhand flip cast – and how to use it on a trout stream.  He pioneered a new way to catch trout using pinpoint casting while wading upstream, while the bulk of fisherman were fishing downstream tossing worms or trying their luck fly fishing.

He was extremely successful at trout fishing because he could place a tiny spinner underneath an overhanging branch across a stream in the most difficult places to reach. And set the lure down gently so as not to spook the trout. He did this with the help of the reels he designed with Shakespeare – closed face spinning reels, like the original model 1810, not to be confused with current reels using the 1810 designation. The original Shakespeare reels are collector’s items and purists are always on the lookout at garage sales and the internet.

Here is what makes the reels unique:

In order to cast the reel, the user backs up the handle a half a turn to release the bail. None of this is visible since the reel spool has a cover (hence close faced).  The reel body is placed very close to the handle of the rod, typically cork, so the user traps the line against the cork with an index finger before releasing the bail. This has several advantages – it is easy to release the line at the right millisecond when making the cast, and it is easy to stop the line with the index finger when the lure reaches the destination. You don’t cast the lure and let it plop in the water – that scares trout. You stop it mid air and inches above the water so it drops in without a splash. The reel was designed around this concept, though few anglers, even 1810 enthusiasts, understand the principals behind the design, or best use of the reels.

Jake was a pioneer in the sport of trout fishing and I occasionally run into people he knew and taught. He was generous with his time and instruction. They need only see me cast and to know where I learned. It’s always good for a conversation.

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3 thoughts on “Closed-face Spinning Reels

  1. John Gancarek on said:

    Been using closed face Shakes for 50 years…most of the reels I have (probably 15 of them) have seen better days…however last summer on Basswood lake Minnesota I landed a 42″ Pike on 8 weight fly rod and my “Wonder reel”. Nothing better!!! Why did they stop making these reels? REEELY wish they would come back!!!!

  2. CincyRedsFan on said:

    Hi, I just bought a Spin Wondereel 1745 from Ebay. I have a couple of spincast rods to use it with. Would the casting technique described above and also demonstrated in another of your articles be best with a very light rod? Thanks

    • Finding the right rod is a bit tricky – if it is too light it is hard to set the hook on a trout, if it is too heavy there is no way to do a proper underhand flip cast. My Guide Series Advantage IM6 (with full cork handle) is a five ft rod rated as ultra light action by the manufacturer. I get great accuracy with it but it is at the lightweight end for handling trout. Some of my buddies that also underhand flip cast use much longer rods – 6 foot and up. I have another longer ultra-light rod which is just too wimpy for casting – so you can’t just go by mfg ratings… If you can find an old fiberglass Shakespeare Wonderod with long cork handle and sliding reel seat (so you can place the reel all of the way back) that may be a good place to start.

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