With today’s baitcasting reels, you probably enjoy the smooth casting and laser-accuracy that you can achieve when bass fishing. Kentucky assumed a vital part in the plan and capability of the present reels with The Kentucky Reel. At the beginning of the 1800s, there was a watchmaker and silversmith who also enjoyed bass fishing. George Snyder thought there had to be a way to fish in Kentucky’s numerous rivers and streams and make longer casts.
George Snyder was brought into the world in Bucks District, Pennsylvania. Ironically, the very county that Daniel Boone was born in. Mr. Snyder relocated to Paris, Kentucky, then known as Hopewell Kentucky, in 1803. Non-multiplying reels were the only baitcasters available, meaning that the spool turned once with a single handle turn. Snyder involved his gifts as precision metal worker and fabricated the main American duplicating fishing reel, The Kentucky Reel. The spool turns multiple times for every handle turn with a multiplying reel. This not only helped you to make a longer cast, but it also made line retrieval faster.
In the 1830s, Jonathan and Benjamin Meek took an apprenticeship with T.R.J. Ayers in Danville, Kentucky, where they learned to repair clocks and silversmith. Circuit Court Judge Mason Brown, a prominent Frankfort, Kentucky resident and avid angler, brought the Meek brothers a fishing reel, possibly one of Snyder’s, and asked them to make him a better one. The Meek brothers accepted the challenge and produced a new reel titled Judge Brown. News spread and “J.F and B.F. Meek”, would be the stamp used on the side plates of their earliest reels.
This story goes much deeper. With history that makes its way from overseas and into little shops here in Kentucky. Art Landers and William Hinkebein have created a great book, A Brief History of Baitcasting, Bass Fishing and the Kentucky Reel. Their book is easy to read with great images and illustrations. Art and William have created not just a great written history of the Kentucky Reel but also the history of fishing in Kentucky and the rivers therein. A Brief History of Baitcasting, Bass Fishing and the Kentucky Reel is a great read and a road map to a journey exceeding its title.
My favorite reel in the late 1950s was a Langley. I remember it being black.