The D.O.A. Lures 2015 Writers Festival was a gathering of product manufacturers, fishing guides and journalists. The purpose of the Jensen Beach event was to match up guides and writers for a day and a half of fishing and the opportunity to use D.O.A. and other sponsor products. Plenty of photo ops and story materials were made available to the writers.
The event is like a working vacation for the writers, another day’s work for the guides and a great opportunity for the sponsors to let folks know what’s new.
A hands on look at the new Shimano Stradic C-3000 and a visit with Spencer M. Marchant of the Don Coffee Company revealed an interesting relationship between D.O.A. Lures and Shimano fishing reels.
“Shimano is in cycling and fishing,” stated Marchant. “We do a little in automotive. That is all we do, so this is our industry. This is what we do. We build gears to go fish, and you have never met a more fanatical fisherman and gear nut than a Japanese angler. They just don’t exist.”
Marchant is a student of the manufacturing process. “It has been very cool how the process has worked and it has always been that way. It has always been very organic. I am an American and I am a salesman. What ever it is, I want it now. The one thing I have had to learn is patience. If you walk into Shimano headquarters the first thing you see are two large Kanji symbols. What they mean is, always be true to the product.”
Based on that Kanji slogan, improving reels and catering to the wants of the fishing public is a core philosophy at Shimano.
Ask any fishing guide and they will tell you they have downsized their reels over the years as they got smaller and better. The Stradic has always been a popular reel, but the C-3000 is an excellent example of the much improved reels on the market today.
Improvements can to some extent be attributed to supplying anglers with what they want. “Mark Nichols created this event years ago,” stated Marchant. “Over the years we have been bringing Shimano engineers to this event to see the fishery our reels are used in. In reality, reels of that size are not designed to deal with the torque requirements and the drag requirements that we put on them in this fishery.”
Marchant compared the striper fishery and the snook fishery to make his point. “There are snook in this fishery that are the equivalent of stripers in other areas, but you would be using boat rods common to that particular style fishery. You would not be perusing them the way that we do here. A snook and a striper in the 12- to 15-pound class are two very similar fish that pull very similarly. The way that you would approach and pursue them is entirely different. The snook here in Florida are pursued on light tackle. True light tackle.”
“The reels that have been available in the past are the correct size for weight and size of the lures that we are throwing,” explained Marchant. “Nowhere, however, does it exist that you would peruse that type of quarry (snook) with tackle that small, tackle which is designed for bass and trout and things of that nature.”
Based on their experience gained while attending the D.O.A. event, Shimano engineers addressed the issues they found. “They introduced the Hagane construction technology in the iconic reel that is the Shimano Stradic,” explained Marchant.
The construction technology relates to the way that the main drive gear is forged. “There is no other company that can cold forge a gear the way that Shimano can cold forge a gear,” declared Marchant. “There are a variety of reasons behind that claim. The number one reason is that there is no other fishing brand that is building cans with gears inside whose pedigree comes from doing gears for other stuff. Shimano began building gears in the cycling community and now we are cold forging gears for transmissions and other things in the automotive industry as well as the fishing industry.”
The competition out there is cold forging gears and then finishing them with a machine process. “Shimano engineers are using a huge press to stamp that gear out and it is done. The gear comes out absolutely perfect. It is precision, it is done.”
“The forging process relates to the precision and the perfection of the main drive gear,” explained Marchant. “That gear is really the cranking torque we use against the fish.”
“What reels in this class have never been asked to do is to have a torque element,” continued Marchant. “They have been asked to provide drag and then put line back on the reel. They have never been asked to also let you crank to bring line in. A new feature called X-Ship adds rigidity and cranking power to the Stradic.”
In what is a rather technical explanation, Marchant explained the notion of X-Ship by using a mental image of a dowel rod. “One way that I can easily explain it to you is to give you a dowel rod with some line and a weight on it” instructed Marchant. Now, hold that dowel rod out in a horizontal position with one hand and attempt to wind the line up on it as if it were a reel spool. It is a little difficult because of its stability.”
X-Ship technology starts by addressing that issue. “Imagine that the dowel rod is the main shaft of the reel,” said Marchant. “The force, which is the weight, represents the fish pulling on your line. That force is actually bending the shaft and you can’t crank effectively because the shaft is not meshing with the gear.”
“Now, if I tell you to put two hands on it, one at each end, it becomes significantly easier to wind. So, the number one thing we did with X-Ship is support that shaft on two sides so the weight doesn’t bend it. That’s pretty good, but we went further.”
“Since we have a gear that is capable of generating torque we can shorten the trajectory of the torque and keep the gears lined up under load. With a longer trajectory of the torque over the shaft the gears can get out of line. That is what we wanted to avoid.”
“So, using the model that I described, I have allowed you to have two hands (two bearings supporting the ends). Now I am asking you to pull the dowel rod closer to your body and support it. Much much better. You are shortening the lever therefore increasing the mechanical advantage of that torque over the lever and the system generates torque power while keeping everything in line.”
The next change was adding geometry to the body of the reel. “If you take a piece of aluminum and shake it, like the old thunder clappers in the radio days, it is just a piece of metal. If you add geometry by diamond stamping it the aluminum suddenly becomes rigid and you can build something strong out of it. So, by adding geometry to our body we are able to keep the body small and also increase the rigidity to deal with the torque, to deal with the power that we are trying to transfer. We accomplish this using the already smooth drag that we know we have.”
The remaining features of the new Stradic, like the drag system are things they already do well. “We have always used stainless bail wire,” said Marchant. “We have long incorporated a ball bearing into the roller bearing to keep the line from twisting. The handle is screwed directly into the main drag gear so there is no play in the handle. Everything is aimed at keeping the system tight. We also make sure those handles are also forged vs. cast. All together the design features are a big deal.”
The introduction of braided line impacted what consumers wanted. When braid came around consumers began to recognize they didn’t need a 4000 series reel. They started choosing 2500s because the 20-pound braid would fit. The problem was that the torque and the bulk of the different size gears are very different. So what we did was embraced that shift of downsizing tackle with a new construction process.”
“In the offshore community we now have 50-pound class tackle that a person can reel much easier because it is smaller. You have the same amount of line because of braided line. You can generate torque and power through our gearing process. By adding geometry to the designs you can make them more rigid and more durable by using materials that were not available in the past.”
“I think you will see a general scaling down of all of our equipment as we move forward,” predicted Marchant. “Shimano has always been the ones to innovate. We will never follow, we will always innovate and define what a given category means and allow the competition to decide which part of the game they want to play.”
“The best thing about Shimano is that we don’t buy production. We make the machine that makes the machine that makes the screw, that screws into the reel, that we designed and built. We own the process from beginning to end. We don’t just buy production, spray paint it and label it.”
“All the lessons that we learn across all the different channels that we are in help each one of the channels become better and push the envelope. The designers are charged, not with making something to occupy or hold a place, they are charged to use their imagination and operate on the principle of ‘What if you could have what ever you wanted?’ The answer to that question is given to our engineers with the message that this is what we want, and they build it for us.”
It is feedback over the years that brought the new Stradic to its current form. “Over the years of attending this event we provided prototypes to be tested,” explained Marchant. “Each time we would get feedback. They would say, ‘We don’t like this. This has got to change. This has got to be adjusted.’ We would ask why and they would explain. So, we would bring it back in a new configuration and they would torture it again.”
“You know, I guess one of the most important things I could say is very interesting with respect to the Stradic. It is going to be a global product this year and the homespun, grass roots, organic corniness of the D.O.A. event is where it all began. The fellowship here, the angling, the sharing of stories, spending time with one another is what its all about. I can’t appreciate Mark Nichols and his D.O.A. crew enough for what they have done.”
What is really interesting about the new Stradic and its technology is that it developed right here in Florida on the Indian River Lagoon. “What started in this fishery is now a global product,” exclaimed Marchant. “The folks in Australia and the Great Barrier Reef, that are perusing these larger snappers and other species, are going to be doing it with lighter tackle. It is going to bring that paradigm shift of smaller lighter tackle to other pockets of the world based on what the engineers saw and learned in this small fishery in Florida.”