2000 Convention – Rochester, New York

2000 Convention – Rochester, New York

Although the total number of tables might not have compared to some of the major shows of the lure collectors, it was great to look down an aisle and see nothing but the glitter of brass, nickel and German silver. Fly reels, bait casters, spinning reels, and even those giant offshore big game reels as far as the eye could see! The Old Reel Collectors Association was in town.

Collectors from coast to coast returned to one of the cradles of early reel-making for the second ORCA Annual Convention and Show in Rochester NY on September 13-16. Collectors started showing up on Wednesday, and that evening a gathering was held in the restaurant of the Rochester Radisson. Most of the members were surprised at how many ORCA devotees came early, but were happy to have some rooms full of reels to look at. There were about six rooms open Wednesday evening and everyone had a great time rehashing old stories.

There were no formal activities on Thursday, but by evening there were over 30 rooms occupied, and lots of handle spinning going on. Members from Michigan, Idaho, Georgia, and all parts in between occupied the time with room searching, and socialization.

The Show

After the conclusion of the casting contest on Friday, the ORCA members were becoming restless, and were pleased to be able to set up their tables.

It was a chance to look at the new stuff that was not seen during the room to room phase of the show. The ball room literally shown with the reflection of all the neat stuff available for reel enthusiasts. Some was for sale, and some was only there to look at. But there was something for everyone.

Seely Pratt, the son of the founder of the Union Steel Chest Corp., of nearby LeRoy, NY had a display of the company’s old metal tackle boxes. Union has been out of business for many years. Everyone was wowed by his solid copper box.

Across the aisle were spinning reels displayed by Show Co-Chairman Ben Wright that 99% of the members had never seen before, and would probably never see again. As always, Ben was more than willing to show anyone how these intriguing reels worked, and explain where they came from.

Who would ever expect to see three Billinghurst reels in one display (photo to the right), including a rare large size? Rochester resident Kyle Kuba had those reels as a part of his “knock your eye out” rare reel collection.

And then there was the Ricketts reel mentioned on the “Back Page” column of Reel News Editor Phil White in the Summer issue of the Reel News. When the column was written it was thought that none of these reels existed. Phil later learned that weird reel aficionado Steve Vernon had one and they decided to put together a display for this show. Before the week started, Vernon had added another Ricketts reel to his collection and the display was to feature the two reels.

The day of the show, Kyle Kuba brought out his Ricketts reel, and turned the two reel + book display, into a three person joint display. Kuba had a nickel plated version mounted on a tubular rod.

Then there was the spectacular display of South Bend 1131 reels that illustrated the well researched article of Len Sawisch’s that has been running in the Reel News. The display was well set up and very informative.

If you didn’t want to just stand and gawk at the great “do not touch” stuff, there was always the wonderful reels Andy Foster carried with him from Iowa, or the hundreds of reels that filled the tables of Henry Caldwell. Andy did brighten the room with a very unusual brass Talbot reel. No one present could remember ever seeing a brass Talbot.

Well known metal collector Steve Hays had a fine display of books that were useful for all collectors, and the books of Steve Vernon, Phil White, Dennis Roberts, Ben Wright and all our member-writers were there to educate us all. Vernon also had a tremendous assortment of vom Hofe big game reels.

The show finally closed down at 9:00 PM, with everyone retiring to somewhere to eat or just sack out.

Saturday the show opened to the public at 9:00, and it was more of the same. Reels everywhere, and everyone having a great time. I believe all would have liked to see some great upper NY reels walk in the door, but it didn’t happen.

Around noon a halt was taken when show host Dale York (photo to the left) thanked all his helpers, and all those who did such a good job on this show. The ORCA Officers present were all introduced – Ben Wright – Vice President, Roger Schulz – Sec-Treasurer, Steve Vernon and Andy Foster – directors, and Phil White – Editor. Harvey Garrison, ORCA Librarian was also introduced. ORCA was also pleased to have the support of NFLCC President Doc Herr, and NFLCC Regional VP’s Dave Hartranft and Steve Hays.

During the morning a three person judging panel looked over the displays, and after a great deal of pondering came up with their decision. The Reel Display award is based on a combination of the reels, the presentation, and the educational value. All reels should be labeled and their story told in a pleasant manner so that the observer can learn from just looking at the display. There were some wonderful displays, and it was too bad that all members who took the time to participate couldn’t be a winner.

The display winners were: Best In show – Len Sawisch for his South Bend 1131 Anti Backlash Reel Display (see picture to the right). It was as complete and comprehensive as Len’s articles currently running in the Reel News. Second place was awarded to Phil White for his Yawman & Erbe display, and the third place winner went to the conglomerate of Steve Vernon, Phil White, and Kyle Kuba for their display of J. A. Ricketts material and Glide Reels. A new award was the best individual reel in the show. This award was presented to the one individual reel that was a “Reel Wowser”. It doesn’t have to be the rarest, most expensive, or shiniest reel. The award goes to the reel that the judges feel best makes you want to say “Wow! That’s really neat!” The winner of this Best Reel In Show was Bill Holbein for his 7″ giant Billinghurst reel. Bill is a new ORCA member that has been collecting for many years, and has a powerful collection. The Billinghurst was the type of reel the judges were looking for. When you saw it you had to say it was one awesome reel.

After the meeting ended, there was an auction held for some things that came in the door, or were offered by members in attendance. There were several lots of nice stuff that went for bargain prices. By the end of the auction most of the attendees were ready to call it quits for the day, and the tables were cleared, boxes packed and hauled off, and a lot of reely happy people headed for their cars or planes for the ride home.

As soon as possible, the date for the 2001 ORCA National Convention and Show will be announced. The Board of Directors met at Rochester, and have many hopes for a new concept in a weekend full of fun for members. Stay tuned for more to come.

Meanwhile, many thanks to Dale York, Ben Wright and their helpers for a show well done.


The annual ORCA National Antique Tackle Casting Tournament was the first of the organized events, beginning at Noon Friday. It started up with eight participants, but ended with nine contestants. Pat Bianchi did a great job of organizing the event and running it smoothly between wind gusts. The entrants were all happy to keep Pat distracted and lower his score.

The Non Level wind events were held first, with George McCabe winning the distance event, and Phil White the accuracy event. George was casting with an E. F. Payne 6′ model 304 bamboo casting rod, and a B. F. Meek & Sons No. 3 free spool reel (Wow!). Phil used a five foot Thomas Wilson tubular steel, four piece rod, because it was the only one that fit into his suitcase. His reel of choice was a narrow spool J. A. Coxe 25C.

Among the crowd observing the events, was lure guru Joe Stagnitti. Joe who is an avid bass fisherman, became intrigued, and tried out his hand with a rod and reel borrowed from contest chairman Pat Bianchi. Joe was encouraged to enter the upcoming level wind events. Little did everyone (including Joe) know what was in store, as Joe ended winning both events. Joe was casting a Heddon Pal 5-1/2 foot rod, and a Coxe 95 reel.

After this sterling performance by Joe, it was decided to let the ringer cast for the overall trophy by reopening the non level wind events. He did well, but not quite well enough to win the overall, or change the results of the first two events.

Little did Joe realize that the whole scenario was a plot, for before the day was over he had purchased a Shakespeare #1740 Tournament reel, and was preparing himself mentally for next years events. Then on Saturday he added to his tournament arsenal by purchasing the rod and reel that Pat Bianchi had loaned him to use in the tourney. Soon he’ll be seen purchasing various oil weights and testing them in all kinds of weather, stripping light lines off old reels, and so on – for he’s hooked.

After all the points from the four events were tallied, the overall winner of the casting contest was ORCA Editor Phil White (photo to the right) who proved that luck is more important than talent. Phil cast both events with that old Thomas Wilson tubular steel rod, and a pair of JA Coxe narrow spool reels. You didn’t know Coxe made a non level wind reel? Just find one with a broken level wind, and pull out the mechanism and gears and throw them away. The hole on the inner side of the faceplate makes a great port for oiling the gears.

All you spinning reel collectors get your old reels and rods ready for action, for next year you’ll probably be forced to back up your words with action, as there are plans underfoot to streamline the existing events and add some additional classifications.

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