The legendary Lew’s BB1 baitcast reels make a return into the marketplace this month with something borrowed and something new. The combination delivers a performance that has Lew’s pros giddy with excitement, and scores of other anglers anxious to get their hands on one.
Just like the original BB1 of the early 1970s, the new model carries several traits that the late Lew Childre first introduced to the industry in his design: low profile body, U-shaped spool, fully disengaging levelwind and no-knob palming side cover. The ingenuity and craftsmanship behind the easy-to-use, easy-to-cast Lew’s BB1 forever changed what fishermen expected in a baitcasting reel.
The Lew’s SmartPlus 6-Pin Centrifugal Braking System allows fine-tuning spool control to casting and fishing conditions.Click to view/download hi-res image.
Brand new, with a modernized look and the latest in materials, are the BB1 and BB1Z, with the “Z” version being distinguished by its Zero Reverse one-way clutch bearing. The one-way clutch is what keeps a reel’s handle from being able to turn backwards at all. On the other hand, the BB1, like the original, has a multi-stop anti-reverse, which is something many anglers, including longtime bass professional David Fritts, prefer.
“It’s hard to explain until you’ve developed the touch, but a multi-stop anti-reverse lets you feel a crankbait better through the reel,” said Fritts, who many consider to be the best crankbait fisherman of all time. “I found long ago that the reel, not the rod, tells you more about what your bait is doing and plays a critical role in detecting strikes. This style of BB1 makes me a better fisherman.”
Fritts also says a crankbait reel must be capable of making long casts, and the BB1 has no rival for distance. On day two of the annual fishing tackle industry trade show, ICAST, he could stand it no more. Fritts spooled up one of the BB1 reels from the Lew’s booth, borrowed a 3/4-ounce sinker and headed out the front door of the exhibit hall into the parking lot, with several curious on-lookers in tow. All lost sight of the cast and discovered why, when Fritts stepped off 67 paces to where the sinker had landed.
“That’s a really long cast, and being able to throw a crankbait that far is going to catch you more bass because not only are you allowing the lure to reach its maximum depth, you’re also keeping it in the strike zone longer. I’m confident the average angler is going to be able to cast this reel 60-plus yards right out of the reel box with a good size lure on the end,” he said.
Making that news even better is the announcement that Lew’s has improved upon the cast control even more since ICAST. Product engineers have upgraded the cast control on both the BB1 and BB1Z from four brakes like on the reel that Fritts was using to a 6-pin SmartPlus™ centrifugal braking system. Four of the brakes are SmartPlus, incorporating a spring that provides automatic retraction as the spool speed slows. The other two brakes are Speed pins that can be turned fully on when maximum control is needed. Any or all brakes can be turned off or on according to angler preferences and casting conditions. A Quick-Release spring-loaded pin affords easy removal of the left side plate for access to the brake system.
“Most fishermen really have no idea how far they are casting a bait, or rather how far they are not,” said Lew’s prostaffer Kevin Short. “Distance perception on the water is deceiving, and while a lot of fishermen brag about 75 yard casts and more, that’s just not so. For an accurate measurement, get out on the grass and let it fly. I’m confident most will find they fall well short of what they think they’re throwing, and they’ll be amazed at how much farther the BB1 casts,” Short said.
Another BB1 and BB1Z casting attribute is the greater distance from the oversized line guide to the spool than what is common in most baitcast reels. The resulting line flow is optimal, allowing greater spool control and casting distance. Both reel series features long 95mm bowed-aluminum cranking handles with custom paddle knobs.
The new Lew’s BB1. Click to view/download hi-res version.
The new Lew’s BB reels have a one-piece diecast aluminum frame, a 10 premium double-shielded stainless steel ball bearing system and come in 5.1:1, 6.4:1 and 7.1:1 gear ratios. Each model is available in a left-handed version, and all models have a line capacity of 160 yards of 12-lb. test line.
“The launch of the new BB1 is a proud moment for me personally and is something that many of us at Lew’s have been working on for some time now,” said Lynn Reeves, the company’s CEO. “We have established Friday, Oct. 26, as a universal ship date to our retail and wholesale partners that have the BB1s on order, so fishermen should be able to find them at many locations across the country by mid-November. This is another big milestone among many for a brand that has been revolutionizing baitcasters over the last 40 years.”