Uncle ABU -A big Part of Australia by David Magner
Those of us who are old enough to have witnessed the development of sportsfishing in this country will understand what an important part Abu played in those formative years. You see, back in the 1960’s as the first murmurings of the ANSA movement were being heard, Vic McCristal was venturing north, chasing barra and a whole host of other tropical sports fish on artificials. As he did, he wrote about his adventures in books and magazines like the old Australian Outdoors. These articles helped to spread the word about this wonderful new style of fishing, where the fish were taken on tackle that gave them a fighting chance and the success of the trip didn’t depend solely on the number of fillets you brought home at the end of the day.
Of course, there were photos to go with those early stories and I’d hazard a guess that’s where many of us got our first glimpse of those new fangled Swedish Ambassadeur baitcaster reels, and deadly Killer lures.
As always, Vic was ahead of his time having quickly realized what was required for this sort of rough house tropical fishing. Clearly it called for quality tackle and that’s where Abu has always shined. Right from the outset, those cunning Swedes built fishing tackle up to a standard, not down to a price and their engineering had a real sense of craftsmanship about it. Abu produced reels with tight tolerances and unrivaled strength and durability and even in those early days, Abu reels were considered to be the standard by which other baitcasters were judged.
Some people would say that not much has changed today. Abu reels are still amongst the best baitcasters money can buy and the new Revo range has certainly taken back some of the ground which had recently been lost to the high tech, low profile reels from the land of the rising sun. Of course, the traditional round style baitcasters are still available and indeed, new versions of the old classics have recently been re-released with the 1500c and 2500c getting a new lease of life just this year. Interestingly, even by today’s standards they are considered to be awesome light tackle casting reels.
Not being able to stretch the finances to a new Revo, I must admit that my small collection of Abu baitcasters is mostly limited to the classic round style Ambassadeur reels. This is hardly a disadvantage though, as this design has really stood the test of time. In fact, I have a little old red Ambassadeur 5600 which has been well used over the last 20 or 30 years and is still going strong. The only reason I can’t date it more accurately is that I bought it second hand (like most of my Abus), for all I know, it could be even older than that. Apart from a new level wind or two and a few scratches it remains in perfect working order and is still more than capable of knocking over the largest impoundment barra.
I actually bought another one of those base-model 5600’s for a mate at a garage sale once. It was sitting on a bench all seized up and I bought if for the princely sum of one dollar. The bloke I bought it off assured me it as ‘buggered’ and only good for parts. Well I took that little red Abu home, gave it a good clean inside and out and sure enough, it was came up ok. All it needed was a new level wind, which I purchased from the tackle store for about $20. For $21 it was a very nice little pickup and it has since landed everything from barra to tuna for my mate and it’s still going strong.
At last count there were 10 Ambassadeurs in my shed, all of which are still in excellent working condition. There is the red 5600, a Royal Express, a 6500C4 High Speed, a 6500C3, a 4500C, a pair of Black Max’s, an Ultra Mag XL1, a Max Lite (a real cheapie and not really worthy of the Ambassadeur heritage in my humble opinion) and even a 1022 Plus. The 1022 Plus is one of only two low profile Abus I have ever owned. This particular reel represented a move away from the traditional metal construction to modern graphite making it a lightweight reel which was a delight to use. Unfortunately it also made it almost impossible to service due to the number and complexity of parts inside. I can’t say I was surprised when this particular model was discontinued.
I have a couple of Abu spinning reels too, however for some reason the quality of their baitcasters never quite seemed to translate into their spinning reels. Don’t get me wrong, the old Cardinals were ok, just not up to the same high standards set by the Ambassadeurs. The same might also be said for Abu’s rods, which were never held in quite the same high regard.
When it came to lures, there was no doubting the effectiveness of the Abu product however. Abu were masters of metal and their Tobies must rate up there as one of the greatest lures ever made. Many’s the time I recall reading as McCristal waxed lyrical about the fish catching magic of the original Toby. These long, slender recurved spoons were effective on everything from tailor to trout and anything in between.
Then there were the Killers of course. Again, Vic McCristal’s writing highlighted just how effective a well worked minnow lure could be. No doubt those Killers and the fish they caught helped to cement the trend to lure fishing in this country and led to the development of the wonderful home grown product we enjoy today. As you can see, Uncle Abu has played a big part in the way fishing has evolved in this country over the last half century or so.
But enough of the history lesson. The other reason for penning this piece is to let other Abu fans know about a great little Aussie website I have recently ‘discovered’. It’s called Reals Reels and you guessed it, it’s a website dedicated to everything Abu.
Real’s Reels is the creation of Wayne Real, and if owning 10 Ambassadeurs makes me a fan, than his collection of over 250 reels make him a genuine Abu addict! And that’s without mentioning the absolute mountain of other Abu gear he has crammed into his collection. Wayne, who proudly claims he has never sold an Abu reel, has had the site up and running for just over two and a half years now and in the last twelve months alone it has racked up over 22000 different IP address hits from Abu fans the world over, making it one popular place. Seeing there are so many dedicated Abu users in this country, I guess it’s the sort of site that other readers might find interesting, especially on those rainy days when we can’t get out on the water.
On Reels Reals, you will find almost everything you have ever wanted to know about Abu Fishing tackle. There is a history of the company from it’s humble beginning as a watch maker right through to the current day. You will find all sorts of information on the Abu product, as well as links to help you track down a bargain Abu reel or two or perhaps source that hard to find part. You can even find out how to have your old Abu professionally modified to turn it into an even better fish catching machine.
If you are a tackle tinkerer, you will no doubt find all the reference material very handy. There are manuals for the various Abus, like the printed ones which used to come in the box when you bought a new reel. There are even pictorial guides to servicing and rebuilding Abu reels which help to remove some of the guesswork for first timers.
Best of all however, Real’s Reels is a not for profit site and Wayne Real who runs the site has built up a great relationship with the home of Abu and he has managed to secure some great Abu reels to give away. Each month, he runs a competition of some sort and one lucky entrant wins a brand new Abu reel (it might even be a Revo!). If that doesn’t get you checking out the site, then you probably aren’t a real Abu fan. If you are, you’re probably already online, where you will find the site at: www.realsreels.com.