Notes from the Tackle Room: The Ted Williams Spinning Reel

Associated Press

Ted Williams, “the greatest hitter who ever lived,” was also a star in the sport fishing world and a member of the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame. Although he never fished on the Island, members of the derby committee and the Chamber of Commerce traveled to Fenway Park and presented him with a striper caught in one of the first derbies.

In the early 1960s, after his baseball career ended, he imported a line of spinning reels from Turin, Italy, that were sold under the Ted Williams, Inc. label out of Miami. The reels were a handsome dark grey-blue and constructed of aluminum alloy that was impervious to saltwater corrosion. Their most distinguishing feature was a patented fixed-finger line pickup with a roller guide. With a bit of practice, anglers could turn the reel handle at the end of the cast and the “magic pickup finger” would retrieve the line and wind it onto the spool.

Other spinning reels have a spring-loaded full bail that is subject to breakdowns, or a manual bail that requires the angler to manipulate the line onto it. The Ted Williams line pickup combines the best features of both and is virtually bulletproof.

For reasons I could never understand, the reels did not catch on. However, I was a big fan and acquired several, some of which I still use. I caught countless blues and stripers up to forty pounds with the model 550 spooled with twelve-pound test monofilament, while the smaller model 450 is my go-to travel reel. Definitely a postseason home run.