Author Topic: An expanded History of the Johnson Reel (by Waders for Timmy)  (Read 697 times)


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An expanded History of the Johnson Reel (by Waders for Timmy)
« on: August 25, 2016, 07:34:04 PM »
How many of you have ever used a Johnson reel? I know for many people their fishing adventures started with one of the many models produced by the Johnson reel company. Loyd Johnson introduced the world to the “American Type” spinning reel in 1949. It had a covered spool unlike the spinning type reels produced in Europe by the Mitchell company. Johnson’s reel had another unique feature in that it released its line from the side of the reel, this feature made it impossible for the reel to backlash.

This first Johnson reel was called the Model 10. It was only produced in very limited numbers and for a very short time before the second model, the 10A took its place. This second model was also very short-lived and soon gave way to Johnson’s 3rd reel the Model 20. This reel had some improvement to the drag and a beefed up center pin.

From 1949 to 1954, Johnson’s sidewinder reel would change 7 times with the main changes taking place in the drag system. sidewinder Johnson models are 10, 10A, 20, 40, 40A, 60, 80. There were 2 other variations of the reel produced as well, the 22 and the 44. Today, these unique reels still fascinate anglers of all ages and are very fun reels to try your hand at a little crappie fishing.

In 1955, the company released the iconic Century Model 100. This little green reel revolutionized the sport of fishing because it was so simple to use that anyone who wanted to learn how to fish could use it. It could be mounted on both casting and spinning rods, the handle could be moved from the right side to the left and the spool reversed to complete the change. The cast and retrieve line smoothly and with their all metal construction they lasted forever. This reel underwent a couple of changes between 1955 and 1962. First, it became the 100A in about 1957, and then the 100B in 1962. This reel stayed in production until 1979. Some other reels that the company built in the 50’s were - the Citation Model 110 and the Centennial Model 120.


As the 50’s gave way to the 1960’s, the Johnson reel company began to produce many different models. These included the Sabra Model 130, which featured an improved drag system. The Sabra Model 130 reel went through a couple of changes, first becoming the 130A and then 130B. The 2 later versions featured an oscillating spool and automatic transmission which allowed the reel to shift from direct drive to drag mode.

Some other models that followed were the Laker 140, the Model 710, and the Commander Model 150. The Laker 140 was produced at a lower cost and was aimed specifically at the young angler. The Model 710 was a smaller version of the Sabra. Last came the Commander Model 150, which was basically a Model 710 with a new feature called Accucast this allowed the angler to feather the casting button for pinpoint casting accuracy.

In 1969, the Johnson reel company was sold to the Johnson wax company. This began a whole new era with many, many new reels being made. Even though Lloyd Johnson sold his company, he remained at the helm and he continued to engineer new reels produced by the company until his death in the early 70’s.

The 1970’s brought with them some wonderful new reels including the guide series of reels - Models 155, 160, 165, 170. Most of these reels featured Accucast, an oscillating spool, as well as a unique double drag system. The company at this time started producing reels in Hong Kong as well as their Minnesota location. These reels were made using cheaper materials and were aimed at the lower cost spincast market dominated by Zebco. There were several Hong Kong made reels including the Skipper Model 125, the Chevron, Cisco and a few others.

As the 70’s gave way to the 1980’s, we saw a drastic change come over the Johnson reel. Gone were the heavy all metal body frame and mounting foot. The old design was traded for a new graphite composite frame that was much lighter weight. Many models were made in this material until the early 1990’s. Graphite models included - the Century Model 225, Country Mile, Tangle Free 10 and many others.

In the mid-1990’s, Johnson released the 40th anniversary Century 100B. This reel was just like the old 100B with its green all metal body, heavy weight, and was a beautiful work of art. In many ways, I consider this reel to be the last hurrah for the Johnson reel company. It must have been incredibly expensive to produce a reel of this excellent quality here in the United States at that time. They continued to produce this reel along with a cheaper made version of the Tangle Free line of reels until 1997. At this point, the great American type spinning reel would never be made in America again.

Since 1997, all Johnson reels have been made in China and, as you may have guessed, they are now just another low-quality spincast reel. The rights to the Johnson Century are now owned by the Abu Garcia company, and, to my knowledge, are not even marketed in North America.

From 1949 until 1997, the Johnson reel company of Mankato, Minnesota engineered and produced some of the finest quality spin cast reels ever made. All of their reels were designed to last a lifetime and when something broke or wore out, you simply sent it back to the company and they fixed it for you. They made so many different models and variations that I could never name them all. Even though I own many of the Johnson reel models, I am certain I have not discovered all of them and probably never will. I can only hope that some day, the Johnson reel will come home and be made here again...
« Last Edit: February 24, 2017, 08:19:45 PM by OCauto »


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Re: An expanded History of the Johnson Reel
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2017, 10:33:27 PM »
I have a 100B 40th Anniversary that has been my main reel since I got it brand new. I picked up a 45th Anniversary model last week and will be taking both of them out on Sunday to see how they compare. This article is very informative and glad to see that there is still a community that knows about and uses these reels.


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Re: An expanded History of the Johnson Reel
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2017, 10:41:29 PM »
Welcome.  Post some pictures of your catches. 


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Re: An expanded History of the Johnson Reel (by Waders for Timmy)
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2017, 11:22:36 AM »
Hey chinkelmann,
Wondering how your comparison went. I have a few 40th's and am very pleased with this model. I know the 45th was made in China, I don't have any of these so I'm very interested to hear what you think. I have two DLX Century's one U.S. made one China made and there is a big difference in them.