Only the older generation of anglers will realise that this summer marks the 60th anniversary of the ABU Ambassadeur reel.
It was the summer of 1952 when, what would then be called the Record Ambassadeur 5000, was launched to the retailers and distributors in ABU Garcia’s own newsletter Fisken vid Disken. The reel was scheduled to be delivered by the end of the year and would cost 150 Swedish crowns.
The features of this reel rocked the fishing world. Its key attributes were a disengaging spool, a slipping clutch with automatic ratchet click, silent retrieve and an automatic backstop, a patented centrifugal drag, adjustable mechanical brake, self-centring ball-bearings, enclosed worm screw, a light metal spool to aid casting, relatively easy maintenance, a corrosion proof finish, and all supplied in a neat leather case with tools and lubricant.
Visitors to an angling exhibition in Stockholm in August that year were given the chance to choose the colour, the majority going for black. However ABU’s managing director at the time, Gote Borgstrom, wanted the reel to stand out, and therefore chose red.
The red 5000 made its debut in the 1953 edition of Tight Lines, Abu’s famous catalogue, in its self a sought after collector’s item today. In 1954, Abu took the Ambassadeur to the annual Chicago angling trade fair and it quickly took the USA by storm! In fact it became known as the “Cadillac of reels!” That same year also saw the introduction of the now legendary Record Ambassadeur 6000 designed for salmon and cod fishing. In 1959 Record was dropped from the name and the reel became known simply as the “ABU Ambassadeur”.
In 1962 or 1963, no one seems quite sure, ABU introduced the Ambassadeur deluxe 5000, a chrome black reel with 24-carat gold gilded chromium-plated parts. The reel was supplied in a teak box and gained you membership to the exclusive International Ambassadeur Club. This reel is still available today as the Ambassadeur CDL!
In 1965 the ABU 8000 was introduced. A bigger reel designed for sea fishing with a unique 2-speed function reducing the gearing from 5:1 to 2.5:1. The first C model with ball-bearings as standard came in in 1968.
It was around this time that I spent £14 on a 6000C. The sum was close to the amount an average working man could earn in a week in the UK at the time. It took me months and months to save for as a near 14-year old hoarding pocket money and doing odd jobs to raise the cash. I still have that reel, and apart from two new side-plates, bought in the early 80’s, as the others were looking scruffy after consistent use, and a couple of sets of bearings and an anti-reverse dog, it’s mechanically all original. It was said at the time, that with care, these reels would last a lifetime, and for me, and many more, it’s proved exactly the case.
This reel was also probably one of the first to be modified to a non-levelwind CT specification too when I started to learn the pendulum cast in the early 1970’s. I bought a new cage for this, but retained the original level-wind cage as well for the option to revert to the originality of the reel, should I ever want to. I also replaced the single grip handle with a twin grip power handle.
So 60-years on the Ambassadeur still thrives, and is a testament to its original designer in that the reels of today would still be instantly recognised by him. It’s also incredible to think that most current competitor 6000/6500 sized reels owe their existence to the success of the original Ambassadeur’s and that the 6000 is probably the most copied reel in the world. And to prove the point it’s no surprise that even today, the world’s top casters competing at the UK and international casting tournaments are virtually to a man casting with modified ABU Ambassadeur’s in the heavier events.
My own 6000C, bought with such effort as a schoolboy, now takes pride of place in my office. Since that time I’ve bought and fished with 5000C’s 7000’s, 7000C’s. 7500’s, 9000C 2-speeds, and a 10,000C bought for my 21st birthday while living in Australia, which is still used for 20lb class blue shark fishing and has had nothing replaced on it so far.
I’ve lost count of the 6500 type reels I own. I currently fish with two highly tuned ABU 6500i TSR’s for all my long range surf fishing, and for out and out distance there’s nothing to touch them. Writing this blog made me realise I’ll have spent a lifetime fishing with ABU. Happy Birthday, Ambassadeur!