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Johnson reels were made to fish

A pre-mid-1960s Century Reel model 120-A box, flyer and a Century Reel model 100-A, all in good condition. Photo by - Mark Greenig/Record

One of the first reels I owned was a Johnson Century closed face reel. I grew up only twelve miles from the Johnson reel factory in Mankato. I had a close uncle who worked there. He was a perfect example of it's not what you know, but who you know. He often gave me reconditioned Century reels to fish with. This spinning reel has universal appeal for its' simplicity of use and inexpensive cost. It is one of the most basic reels in the market for beginning fishermen and women. Let me explain.

First, we should describe what a closed face spinning reel is. Simply put, it has a cover over the spool/line and a push button release. A typical spinning reel has no cover or button, thus called an open face spinning reel. The push button style is easy to learn. That's why they are popular with adults teaching their children to fish.

Be advised, closed faced reels are notorious for line twisting. Due to their drag system, each time you turn the handle when pressure is on a fish and no line is gained, the line twists. After some time, the line must be changed or the reel won't function. The Johnson reel is a great example of a product having its' niche in the open market.

There were many different styles of these reels produced by the Johnson factory. I know of at least six different models. Let's focus on their entry-level Century model 100A. This reel had a selecto-dial drag. That meant on top of the reel you turned a small knob to a setting between 0 and 6. The higher the number, the tighter the line tension. Failure to understand this meant lost fish due to broken line or countless line twists when to much drag was set.

This reel came from the factory with six pound mono line. It was the company's first product that offered dual anti-reverse and change easy spool. Those features followed on all later and more sophisticated models.

The reel was advertised to be used on either a casting or spin casting rod, spinning or fly rod. My experience is it's best suited for a light action casting rod.

All parts are salt water resistant and extra line spools were available from Johnson dealers. Understand, this model was designed primarily for light action fresh water use. It was not made for heavy game fish like bass, northern pike or musky.

It may seem silly to collect these inexpensive reels. Yet, I know of individuals who eagerly look for Johnson reels with boxes in mint condition. Keep in mind, each model had its' own style and colors.

The Johnson reel is best recognized in the ever-present metallic green. Specifically, model 100A exhibit's the company's most basic style. This reel is green in color, black base and push button. An early typical two-piece box was made of heavy cardboard. Primary box colors were green, white and black. Each box was accompanied with an advertising flyer illustrating their current line of rods and reels. This flyer is quite beneficial to the collector because of the information and pictures it contains.

As with all reels, it is important to have all the "pieces" which include reel, proper box and literature. Some models will bring more than others, but general value is $10 to $20 each.

Even though this is another example of an entry-level collectible, which can be used, I don't recommend it. Sustained and inappropriate use can damage this delightful piece. Instead, set it on your shelf and listen to "baby boomers" say, "I remember those!" Great home décor and conversation pieces. Until next time, may all your searches be successful.