Tinkering with Abu CT Tournament reels

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Ron Mc
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Tinkering with Abu CT Tournament reels

Post by Ron Mc »

When we were all housed-in in April, many of us took on projects. My buddy Lou took on a wooden kayak.
I took on remaking two Abu CT tournament reels into new reels for me.
I bought two 1995 Ambassadeur C3-CT non level winds with the goal of making better Talbots.
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One is a US-model Blue Yonder, and the second came from the UK, sold in the rest of the world as blue Elite.
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I started this because I saw the beautiful barstock frames available from the UK, where they love these reels in the surf.
Here's a good history write-up of the Ambassador CT Tournament reels - http://www.realsreels.com/customABUReco ... Brown.html

Also keep in mind, both reels have been fished in the surf for 25 years, and I intended to have new reels inside and out.
One of the original frames was already showing pitting beneath the chrome - kinda made me feel good that I could justify these barstock frames.
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Decided to build one to 5500 width for lures both inshore and the surf, and keep one at 6500 width for 2-oz spider weights in the surf. The spools are Avail microcast from Japan, made shallow and light for braid - 200 yds on the 5500, and 300 yds on the 6500.
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Also used the Avail internally-adjustable mag add-on, which helps with both light lures and wind in your face.
Most of the new slick went into the spools, and the mag is the way to control them while still getting out-of-sight casts
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Again, since these have been fished in the surf 25 years, went for all new drives with stainless gears - found it was cheaper to buy fully assembled brake plates with ball bearing drives from Rocket Reel Co., than to buy the parts individually.
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Also replaced the IAR roller bearings with new stainless. Raced out bearings in the spools, and even 3 ball bearings added to the spindles.
Counting the handle knobs, they went from 2+1 BB to 10+1
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Since they had to come apart anyway for lube, I moved the complete new drives to the original brake plates.
The drive shaft BB has a shouldered thrust washer beneath so the outer bearing race is free
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btw, both reels showed outrageous pinion gear wear
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They shed a lot of weight, e.g., chromed brass frames replaced with barstock alloy, and 90-g steel handles replaced with 20-g alloy and titanium handles.
Here's what I ended up with
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Since the reel feet on the frames are 78 mm long, it also required a custom rod with a split reel seat (L3 on one-piece reel seats is 75 mm).
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I had Rich Hedenberg build my first rod, and it just arrived Tuesday.
8' 1-pc light in hand Toray graphite, moderate action, 1/4 to 1 oz. Rich was trying to get the rod to me before our Estes trip, but sadly, lost his father in the current health crisis.
So I'll fish it next trip.
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Later I'll have Rich build me an 11' 1-4 oz rod for the 6500 surf reel.
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You cast these reels without end tension, and with 1 mm end play on the spindle. Centrifugal brakes only apply in the initial acceleration, and tournament casters don't use those. The primary casting brake, mag brakes are linear with spool velocity, and the kind the tournament casters use are turned off while waiting on their long cast. I have the Avail mag that matches my spools, and want 2-pin centrifugal for start-up, because I want reliable casts without backlash for fishing - I don't care about giving up the extra 50+' that matters to tournament casters. Likewise, I need to see the lure land.

It casts like a dream. I was throwing a Trout Support Lure (1/4 oz) in the back acre, because that's the lure I'm targeting for the 5500.
150' casts were easy, and repeatable, made a couple of mag standoff adjustments in 15 casts, and it's fairly idiot-proof casting.
In 15 casts, I did get one minor backlash, but only because I was trying to defeat the mag with aggressive movement.
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In comparison, this cast distance about doubles what I normally fish on my Lew's Super Duty casting the same lure on 7' MM, or my 7' ML with Lew's Inshore and 1/8-oz.
The big difference comes from not needing to use spindle tension (Cast Control on graph), larger diameter spool, along with the raced-out spool bearings. Compared to other round baitcasters, it simply doesn't have the inertia of moving the LW mechanism, similar to modern low-profile reels (and those great 100-y-o Meek and Talbot NLW).

Where I was discussing this project on FFR, people questioned the absence of level wind. Playing with them today, as I anticipated, line stacking is not an issue with the thin braid, as long as you install the 200-300 yds with hand level wind.
Working line can't stack high enough to affect the spool,
if you do need to adjust the line lay, it just needs an occasional thumb touch.
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If you get a really big fish that takes you down the spool, you'll be holding the front grip anyway, with easy thumb level-wind on your recovery.
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and like fishing your 100-y-o Talbot with silk braid, you can restore your level wind after you get home using a line winder.
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ps - took the combo to the back acre again today for some focused two-handed casting. Keeping the lure low, 150' no problem. Aiming up, it was going a lot farther, and quit after I threw one over the fence. Nothing even close to backlash. I'm sure I could fish this reel in the dark as long as there was nothing out there to hit; i.e., in the surf or from Arroyo dock
If I want to cast farther, will have to take it to the park - or take it fishing.
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kyreels
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Re: Tinkering with Abu CT Tournament reels

Post by kyreels »

Really great article, I want to try that sometime. Inspiring for sure.
I don't get to surf fish often, but I went through a time when it was my main passion. I am due for a reset on that soon.
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Re: Tinkering with Abu CT Tournament reels

Post by Ron Mc »

thanks - I haven't fished the surf hard since the 90s, myself.
I really wanted the tinkering project, and the 5500 mod with braid and 8' rod, 1/4-oz lure, is light enough to fish inshore, as well, which I do a lot.
http://www.texaskayakfisherman.com/foru ... 8&t=252700
While surf fishing is manly sport, it's no more so than paddling a kayak 8 mi in coast wind.
http://www.texaskayakfisherman.com/foru ... 5#p2310965

There are very nice reels out there, with Akios, Rocket Reel Co., and Zeta making their updates on these same reels (with interchangeable parts) - and of course Abu offers their newer Blue Yonder with mag control.
While it might have been cheaper to buy one of those, it wouldn't be exactly what I wanted, and this way, I get exactly what I want and have a fun project.
I'm adding deeper mono spools for both reels as well, and trying the different axle and spool bullet set ups.
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Here, the 6500 has the bullet, and you'll note the axle it uses won't even accept the clicker cog. But can set up either reel either way, and will probably end up with the clicker on the 6500 for surf bait alarm.
(that, I don't need on the 5500 for throwing lures)
But I plan to set up and cast both reels both ways - this is the first one I'm going to try mono.
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btw, here's my buddy Lou's wood kayak project on its maiden voyage
http://www.texaskayakfisherman.com/foru ... 1&t=252288

For any of you Abu guys who want to slick up and lower inertia in your LW reels, here's the best website for parts
https://japantackle.com/tuning-parts/br ... inder.html
There's also Mike's Reel Repair in BC, but the site just above is a lot easier to navigate.
Post from Canada and UK is about the same as DHL Express from Japan, but the latter gets here in 3 days v. 30.
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Re: Tinkering with Abu CT Tournament reels

Post by Ron Mc »

I was never quite happy with the A/R roller bearing alignment on the Blue Elite side plates, plus these plates had minor rash.
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I moved the better Blue Yonder plates over to my 6500 surf-bait reel, which needs the bait-feed clicker.
Bought a set of ZZeta side plates with A/R bearing for my 5500 surf-lure reel, which doesn't need the clicker.
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Last edited by Ron Mc on Tue Oct 19, 2021 11:00 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Tinkering with Abu CT Tournament reels

Post by Shellbelly »

What a masterful job with those reels. I found that the rod length paired with the reel provides a perfect casting experience. I'm at 8'6" with a C3 using top dogs in a flat surf. My experiment was pretty simple. I cut off a All Star Gulf Stream that I found damaged, bought a Loomis blank and shoved it into the All Star. Trimmed it out and and took it on a run. The C3 really loves that rod and casting it is so simple. Headwind is its only nemesis. It is my go-to for specs under birds. For my stature, I believe if I go over 9' I'll be overcompensating somewhere...especially if I'm chest-deep and bouncing swells.

It's not much to look at and my wraps are less than artistic but it does what my brain wants it to do and it will handle 10-15# fish. It's a blast on reds but I don't target them with that rig....it just happens.

Those blue ABU reels of yours look really great. Thanks for posting those pictures. I like to hear from surfers and see what they're doing.
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Re: Tinkering with Abu CT Tournament reels

Post by Ron Mc »

Thanks, I love my 8' RH Composites - Rich did a great job for me.
Light, 1-pc, and casts a half-ounce an honest 75 yds - farther than I can fish it.
I have the headwind solved with mag brake - internally adjustable, but set for the lightest thing I'm ever going to throw.
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My 6500 is on a 14' 2-5 oz ZZI-Plex Trinity.
Not done with it, but I'm planning spiral wrap per Ralph O'Quinn to have the fewest possible guides on the glass tip section.
I plan to work it out first with blue tape wraps, trips to the park to cast 2 ounces.
When I'm happy, wrap over the blue tape with clear wraps.
I love these saddle clamps.
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ps - if you're using full-flange deep spools, the easiest mag brake is an externally adjustable knobby mag, add-on to the tail-plate.
https://surfcastproshop.com/shop/ols/ca ... o-mag-kits
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Re: Tinkering with Abu CT Tournament reels

Post by Paul Roberts »

Ron, thanks for posting this. I can’t wait to get time to actually read it! A bit busy here lately. We just purchased a new home (with a pond, small lake, and river access) and are in the throes of moving. Ugh!
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Re: Tinkering with Abu CT Tournament reels

Post by Shellbelly »

Me too, Paul. I have made a couple of quick outings, but being able to dedicate my fish brain to the water has been impossible. Too many settling in tasks are distracting. Seeing these posts is making me quite impatient. We are moving into the cooler water temps here, then add in waterfowl season and I'm really scatter brained. My bird calls are still packed somewhere...probably along with all my spoons.

Ron, you're not helping our condition!
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Re: Tinkering with Abu CT Tournament reels

Post by Ron Mc »

I've become a junkie for casting threadline braid on baitcasters. Spools can't get too shallow, too light, or too fast for me.
When I discovered Zzeta made a CT frame for 4500 (also 3600), a project made my list, and finished it out in the heat of this summer. Was also able to fund this with a capital rebate from my electric cooperative.

First off, here's the family:
6500CT with bait-feed clicker, Akios barstock frame, 6500C3CT Blue Yonder side plates;
5500CT with Akios frame and Zzeta side plates (no clicker, no spur gear);
4500CT with Zzeta frame and side plates
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Gold was the only frame color Kwang (SurfCastProShop, MD) could offer, so I decided to give this reel the Conquest look - really tough glare for photography, though.
Already had most of the drive parts I needed or wanted, 6.3 gears, clutch links, upgraded the main shaft to RocketReelCo ball bearing - - so I just had to buy a new brake plate and 4500 spool spindle from ereplacement parts.
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I'm shooting to cast 3-g micro-jigs on this reel, with a target for imitating Arroyo winter glass minnows for snook and seatrout.
The Avail 5-mm deep spool has a good working capacity of 160+ m 22-lb X-braid (PE#1). The Roro micro spool bearings are rated to cast up to 10 g. If KTF restocks their 1040 micro bearings, will upgrade these later.
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Used my favorite lightweight Abu 6-pin centrifugal brake for the pinion link, and may engage 2 brake shoes for casting up to an ounce,
but most fishing below a half-ounce will be with no centrifugal shoes engaged.
Here's the Avail mag brake that takes care of wind and mid-cast backlash with light lures.
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Show and tell
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Spooling the initial hand level-wind is a slow process, and if you can gradually build a slight concave line lay, you'll never have to worry about your working line getting behind the spool.
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If you're daunted by the threadline braid, the Avail spool will hold 80+ yds of 8-lb mono.

So far, I've only been able to cast this on my 8' ML surf lure rod, rated 1/4 to 1 oz.
But even with the wrong rod, I was getting consistent 90' casts with a 2-g loaded jighead.
I'm hoping to modify the reel seat on an 8'9" JDM shore light jigging rod rated to fish my 3-g target, and expect it to cast well beyond 130'
Last edited by Ron Mc on Mon Oct 10, 2022 8:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tinkering with Abu CT Tournament reels

Post by Mike N »

Good stuff, Ron.

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Re: Tinkering with Abu CT Tournament reels

Post by Ron Mc »

thanks Mike - it's fun tinkering and the reels come out really nice - a better Meek or Talbot.

BTW, I've tried shielded spool bearings (orange-seal, etc), and much prefer unshielded spool bearings, adding a drop of oil for every month of use.
Seals cost distance and especially in the salt, seals just let the water in, steam out, and concentrate salt - you're flushing them continuously when you oil unshielded bearings.
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Note the KTF IXA double spool bearing - the inner race spins on the cast, and the outer race on big drive loads.
Getting mass and inertia down improves spool response to braking and can make your reels 100% backlash-proof, in addition to faster with light lure weights.
Last edited by Ron Mc on Fri Oct 07, 2022 5:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tinkering with Abu CT Tournament reels

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Re: Tinkering with Abu CT Tournament reels

Post by Ron Mc »

I have one more bench Ambassadeur surf and inshore reel to show and tell.
This will probably be the last off my bench - at least for long while - throwing in my LP and spinning tackle, I have enough to retire.

In 2016, and again in Apr '21, Akios offered a limited run of Sportcast barstock LW frames. Both times, they sold out within a month.
Nobody is letting these go, but I found a tackle shop in Japan with a small cache of the new stock limited UK frames, examples in four colors, and selling on Yahoo.
While the first run included 5500 width, the 2nd time were only offered in 6500 width
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- I decided to build a custom 6500CS Rocket from parts.Image
While I was getting my parts together, I solved a design problem on the Akios frame.
The problem was free play in the top line guide bar, allowing both ends of the line guide bar to both rock and rotate to their freedom limit -- the retaining yokes on both sides have larger diameter and smaller key than fits in the line guide groove.
(though these photos show already fixed with my mod)
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I solved it with parts from McMaster - square section 4x1x1-mm o-rings, and higher-torque hex-socket flat screws that let you compress the o-rings. The expanding o-ring fills all the gaps, and pins the bar centered and perfectly aligned - it's rock-solid now.

My custom 6500CS has Avail mag brake and my favorite 2-6-pt centrifugal.
RocketReelCo stainless drive with ball-bearing main shaft.
Fourteen ball bearings total, including 5 on the spool, and 4 on the LW.
The handle is Whiplash Factory, and knob trim matches the silver-blue side plates exactly.
Avail trim parts; Valleyhill dual-BB worm gear and B-trap drag washers; Kagawa dual-BB idler gear.
The ball-bearing L/S bullet is made by ReelCustomReels, who has a website and sells on ebay.
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The frame lowers the spool 8 mm closer to the rod, but the real beauty is the thumb access, allowed by the barstock stiffness.
Avail 5-mm-deep spool, and my plan is load it with 240 yds PE#2 X-braid, 36 lb YGK.
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Also, like the CT frames, it has a 78-mm foot, so the only rod for it is my RH Customs two-hand 8' surf-lure rod with split reel seat.
Here, it's loaded with the PE#2 X-braid.
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Two-hand cast on the 8' rod, it will send 1/4 oz past 130', which compares to my 6500CT casting the same light weight, and pretty impressive for a LW Ambassadeur.
Though my custom 5500CT on the same rod will send the same 1/4 oz past 200'
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Here's my family of custom Ambassadeurs
4500CT, 5500CT, 6500CT, 6500CS Rocket
4600 Express, 4500C, 1500CI.
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Re: Tinkering with Abu CT Tournament reels

Post by kyreels »

I can't let this thread end without asking about the rods used. I have been wondering of late if I need to revamp my rods used in kayaks, canoes, and wade fishing to include the shorter cork handles that seem to work better and seem to be harder to find new since for some reason the fishing industry seems to prefer the larger two handed and longer levers that don't work well with small boats.

Your rods must work well with smaller baits, confined spaces, and large fish. What are some of the rods and characteristics you look for? Any tips on refurbing the cork handles? Your handles look entirely better than I can find.
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Ron Mc
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Re: Tinkering with Abu CT Tournament reels

Post by Ron Mc »

kyreels wrote: Mon May 15, 2023 1:22 pm I can't let this thread end without asking about the rods used. ...
Hi Matt, you caught me on the water over the weekend
(see my Coast-kayak-monsoon trip report - it has a lifetime fish tale)
I have 3 two-handed rods for the surf reels that match with the long reel feet on the barstock CT frames.
The Akios frames have 78-mm-long feet, and need reel seat L3 opening at least 75 mm.

My 8' surf-lure ML, 1/4 to 1 oz, is a Rich Hedenberg (RH Custom) SS-961 1-pc. A delightful rod, relatively light in hand, moderate taper, a lot of power, and will throw 1/8 oz well-enough for me to use that light weight to set an internal mag brake.
Rich made this for me with a split Fuji reel seat to get the long L3.
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I've also taken this rod inshore on kayak, where it does quite well, but has a go-to queue of inshore combos ahead of it.

I have a 14', 3-pc, glass-tip true tournament rod, ZZIPlex Trinity, 2-5 oz, spiral wrap, and uses saddle clamps on the long reel feet.
It fishes meat + spider weights in the surf.
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The Zzeta barstock 4500CT frame has a 72-mm foot, and can get away with a smaller L3.
I fell in love with a $100 8'9" Abu Japan shore micro-jigging rod, 3 to 30 g, and bought a 2nd one to modify the reel seat hood to accept the long gold foot. True 1/8-oz rod, with line speed for micro lures, but doesn't load deep or cast heavier weights toe-to-toe with the RH 8' 1-pc.
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Those are all my surf and shore rods
__________________________________

And I know you were really asking about the short-grip offset-handle rods I use for river kayak fishing.
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These are modern Japanese rods made for round reels, Ambassadeur and Isuzu-bench-built Japan synchro reels.
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They have offset reel seats and use butt-ferrule rod blades just like the old-school glass rods.
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I put the whole story in a post on Bass Resource forum
https://www.bassresource.com/bass-fishi ... nt=2970825

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  • Top is custom Ambassadeur 4600 Express on Smith 6' MH graphite SS-60GMH (Reservoir Magnum), which is my frogger, rated 1/2 to 1 oz

    Custom 4500C on Bright River 5' glass MM Concorde, rated 1/4 to 3/4 oz.

    Isuzu-built Smith Plugger baitcaster on Smith 5-1/2' glass ML FO56 (Top Water Light), rated 5 to 18 g, and stated to be optimized for 3/8 oz, but it fishes down to 1/8 oz for me, and caught that bass I show above, and here again.
Here's what I like about them - progressive taper gives wide lure range with fish-turning backbone.
They fit in the tightest spaces and skip-cast under cypress overhang better than any other rods out there.
The handles (and reels, excepting Isuzu) themselves are not light, but the rod blades are very light, and not tip-heavy.

The glass ML rod had plenty of backbone to turn the bass when it wanted to go under my kayak over shallow flagstone.
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If you're looking for straight-reel-seat light-in-hand graphite rods, 13Fishing puts some nice one-hand grips on their bass and inshore rods, though nothing quite as short as that 4" Bright River grip.
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I started a favorite one-hand-grip casting rod question on BR forum, and I'll link it here in case it gets promising responses -
- might give it a few days for the tournament guys to add their comments.
https://www.bassresource.com/bass-fishi ... nt-2972666
ps - So far St. Croix Mojo Yak rod is the best answer for a modern low-profile reel - it has a very short split grip, and offered in all-around 7' MF.
Also might want to search through NFLCC to see if anyone can find QED's vintage Shimano Colifor recommendation.

If the (spendy) modern Japanese glass interests you after reading the first BR post I linked, I'll coach you.
The Japanese market changes quickly, because runs are limited and sell out - have to look at what's available now or worse, keep up with the market to wait for follow-up limited runs.
IMO, the effort is worth it for the quality of this tackle.
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