I fished Lew's reels until they went out of production a few years ago, after Browning took them over and then Bass Pro Shops. At one point, I was so taken with those reels that when Bass Pro Shops priced them at $49.95 for some Midnight Madness sale, I bought 50 of them.
Lew's came back into the fishing market in 2012, and we resumed the fantastic relationship we had for so many years. I have been working with them all year to get that old BB1N reel back on the market, and as of Oct. 26 I can sit back and know that I'll never need to buy another reel.
Lew's new BB1 reel should be on the shelves of tackle shops and in catalogs in time to make somebody a great Christmas present. I'd say it should be on everbody's wish list because it will outcast any reel on the market by 10 yards - easy. This new reel has all the features that made the old BB1N great, but they've just been improved and updated by the new materials and technology that wasn't available back in 1993 when I won the Bassmasters Classic fishing a BB1N.
I have been working with the prototypes for these new reels all year, and I've been really putting the finished product through some testing the past two months. I can cast a ¾-ounce lipless crankbait 69 yards with it - I've measured almost ever cast at between 69 and 70 yards. I can't get quite the same distance with a big deep-diving crankbait because the lip catches more air, but it's close, and I can say it coming out is probably one of the best things that's ever happened to crankbait fishermen. It will outcast any reel on the market by at least 10 yards, and to me, that means being able to get a crankbait at least two or three feet deeper.
This reel comes in three different styles, with speed of retrieve being the big difference. The one I'm using for crankbaits has a 5.1-to-1 retrieve ratio - it brings in 21 inches of line per turn of the handle, which is the same as the old BB1N. They also have 6.4-to-1 and 7.1-to-1 retreive reels for fishing worms and spinnerbaits, jigs and other baits. But it's mainly that crankbait reel that has my attention.
The improvements over the old BB1N include an improved braking system. The old reel had a 2:10 braking system, and this one is 6:10. Also, the old one had three ball-bearings, and this one has 10. It's downsized a little, but it's still sort of tear-drop shaped, and even though it's slightly smaller, it has the same spool capacity: 165 yards of 12-pound test. You can crank all day and it won't wear you out. It's got that big spool and powerful gears, and you can fish it all day.
I went to Grand Lake of the Cherokees in Oklahoma for a week back in October where we introduced it to a bunch of outdoor writers, and they were really impressed - everybody was impressed.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Lew Childre was just so far ahead of everybody else when he was designing rods and reels 30 years ago. He got Shimano to make the reels for him first, and he kept improving it and perfecting it, and when Shimano started to build their own reels, he had Ryobi make them, and then Browning started marketing them. Everbody who was a good crankbait fisherman had those old Lew's reels. They had to; if the fish were on a crankbait bite, nobody could compete with you if they didn't have a Lew's reel, and I feel the same way about this newest model.
So if you've got to drop some hints to your wife or other family members about something you might want to find in your Christmas stocking, you could do a lot worse than the new Lew's BB1. I'm convinced it will be your favorite reel for years to come.