Vintage Ultralight Mitchell 308 Spinning Reel Restoration
In this account, I aim to share my thrifty adventure, a story of resourcefulness and craftsmanship, with the hopes of transforming a simple flea market find into a high-quality ultralight spinning reel, just in time for the arrival of spring.
Once the smallmouth bass have disappeared for the year and the stocked trout have been fished out (our native trout are under pressure here, so I leave them be), I turn my attention to winter fishing projects. It's a good time to get organized, service the equipment used earlier in the year, and be fully prepared for the upcoming fishing season. It's a ritual I eagerly anticipate.
On my to-do list this winter was the restoration of a vintage Mitchell 308 - my preferred reel for fishing in the 4-8 lb test range. During my travels earlier in the year, I stumbled upon this reel buried under a pile of neglected fishing equipment. Despite missing essential parts such as the spool, handle, side plate, screw, and oscillator mechanism, the reel appeared to be in decent condition, albeit a bit dirty. The vendor, unaware of its true value, offered it to me for a mere $3. Such a bargain, especially considering the spare parts it could provide.
My first task was to give it a thorough cleaning and assess the extent of the damage. The absence of a side plate for all those years had allowed dirt and grime to accumulate, making the task challenging. To my dismay, the screw holding the side plate was broken off in the frame. After soaking it in 3 and 1 oil overnight, I managed to extract the stubborn screw using a pair of needle nose pliers.
With the missing parts identified, I scoured online platforms like eBay to find replacements. I managed to locate all the necessary components for a total cost of $82. However, with additional expenses such as tax and shipping, my initial $3 investment started to look more substantial. Determined to keep costs down, I reached out to fellow fishing enthusiasts and managed to trade spare parts, further reducing my expenses.
After cleaning and assessing the parts, I noticed some corrosion on the main shaft. With a gentle touch and some fine steel wool, I managed to reduce the damage. The remaining pits, I believed, wouldn't significantly impact its performance. I also replaced the bent bail wire, reserving the original for future use.
The reel was then reassembled, following the reverse order of disassembly. Despite my experience, I revisited online tutorials for a refresher on proper lubrication and assembly techniques. I used Napa white lithium grease, a choice recommended to me by an senior angler, despite the various modern preferences among enthusiasts.
As for the handle, I selected one that complemented the reel's vintage charm. Once all the pieces were in place, the reel operated flawlessly, earning a perfect score of ten for functionality and an eight for aesthetics. However, it's important to note that this reel was intended for practical use, not as a museum piece.
In conclusion, my advice to fellow anglers is to keep an eye out for vintage reels, even if they seem beyond repair. Spare parts can turn a seemingly insignificant investment into a valuable asset. In my case, I now have a fully functional reel ready for the first day of trout season, all for a mere three dollars! I hope this account has been both informative and enjoyable. Feel free to stay updated by checking back or by following us on socials. Until our next encounter, fish vintage and fish often!