Quest Exclusive!

A Dozen questions with Leon Hanson - Master Reel Maker

Q- Is Float Fishing a natural progression that anglers might go to? Like from Spin casting, spinning, baitcasting, fly fishing, spey, and then to centerpin?

LH- Some People go though that and other guys... I'm not going to say they see it and they go "Oh buddy I gotta do that because those guys are catching fish". You'll see the aggressive learners say they don't go though that, they're hooked and they see the guys doing it and say "I've got to get one of those". Those guys are hard to beat. They turn out to be good fishermen. So, some do. I started with making fly rods when I was in 6th grade out of a spinning rod. Going from that all the way through making bamboo fly rods and then fishing. One year I fished every day with a bamboo rod, Steelhead, Salmon, everything and I caught fish every time... or not every time, but most of the time. Then I decided I didn't need to wreck these really expensive rods on stupid fish like this so then I started fishing with plastic. I ended up moving towards one handed spey, I didn't like 2 handed spey, and then I ended up picking it (centerpin) up. Six or seven years ago we started using these things.

Q- Why use a Center Pin instead of other methods of downstream presentation (ie, bait casting rods, spinning, fly, etc..)?

LH- It all comes down to getting the perfect drag free drift. The spool spins easier because of the mechanical advantage of a large spool over a small spool. It's like a lever, the longer the lever the easier the job is to get moving. Also, the line doesn't have tight coils so it's much straighter as it comes out. You end up with less guide friction. Additionally, the friction of the spool, when it's large and it's going, you have centrifical force working for you where on a little tiny spool you don't have that. With spinning rods, trying to do the same thing, the line has got to keep coming off the spool so you get spool friction and guide friction because the line is kinked and often you get spool catches. Every one of those changes the way the drift goes and generally slows it or jerks it, which makes the fish move. You've got to wait for 15 more feet of drift before you've got clean fishing again.

Q- What got you interested in Float Fishing in the first place?

LH- Seeing Peter Micol catch fish and I wasn't!

Q- Why did you start making your own reels?

LH- I couldn't get one to do what I wanted it to do under very tough winter conditions. In Michigan, like the Big Man, Betsie, or lower PM, those big slow winter holding waters with a lot of junk is where most of those big fish stay, and you can't get a drift in any other way. The water is so soft current wise that it's barely moving along, and you've got to have a spool that has basically a friction free run with a very very light spool so that it doesn't keep carrying and starting that spool up all the time. Start up was the critical part. Because the spool can change to fit the velocity of the current, you've got it made. Then your drifts are the cleanest. It's not as easy to wind them in because you've got less mass on the spool so you can't batt it as easy. Most of them were too wide, most of them were too heavy, most of them had heavier spools than we liked, most of them had hard to use clicker engagements. We had to change all that and come up with different systems from a different prospective and make it. That's what we've got. And some ideas that aren't on any of them like tapered knobs. No one had tapered knobs. I can't comprehend not having tapered knobs when you've got line catching on them all the time. I wanted a lever instead of a button to engage. It's so much easier to engage in the winter time with gloves on. Put it on the bottom, not under your hand. Most of them were under your hand. You've got to move your hand to engage it, why? Put it a little lower and make the clicker work for you. That's the kind of stuff that we did. Engineered for the fishermen that's fishing.

Q- When did you start making your first reel?

LH- 2 years ago I was in the process, going into the 3rd year right now.

Q- Where did you go for help?

LH- Well, there's a whole bunch of us that worked together; Peter and Larry Fredrick, Pete Micol, Ray Colesso and my son Karl, Brian Sousa, Ken Judkins. We all sat down and hammered out what we wanted in a reel. What we liked and what we didn't like in reels, and we started to draw them up, and then we tried to manufacture them. Found out some stuff worked and some didn't. Modified the process until you end up with what you want.

Q- Was there anyone in particular that was the most help?

LH- Ray taught me a lot about fishing!

Q- When was your first prototype fishable?

LH- Around the first of the year (Jan 2002), by March I had 3 more.

(Prototypes #2, #3 and production model)

Q- When was your first production model ready & when did the 1st shipment go out?

LH- November 10th we assembled the first three (of one-hundred) and on the eleventh we were fishing on #### (on an Erie trib) and landed, on those 3 reels, 29 fish in 2 1/2 hours. Our first shipment went out last week (1st week in December 2002).

Q- What are the reviews so far?

LH- Everybody loves the start up, the run, they love the light weight, the finish, and the fit. Larry Fredricks saw Kenny's, he's got two of them on order, one for use and one for collectibility. He goes "Leon, I can't believe how nice that clicker on the back works. That's the first left handed reel that I've found that I really like."

Q- Is there anything you'd like to change or are planning on changing?

LH- I don't know if I will. It took so much energy to build this I don't know if I'll change it. I really don't. There are enough advantages in this one. Guys right now they don't need another one.

Q-Do you have any words of wisdom for the beginning float fisherman?

LH- Practice in the yard, practice in the yard, practice in the yard! Start heavy, fish heavy and get your timing down and your casting skills down and then you can go lighter and lighter. That's really critical. Don't worry about fighting fish, that's the easiest part. Honestly, it's not hard at all. You've got a long rod, it gives you so much time, your fingers get really educated on the first fish. Not a problem what-so-ever. When it wants to go you know, you can read it off the rod and deal with it. Palm with your rod hand, don't palm with the other one. You don't need it.

Q- What are your future plans, what's next?

LH- Well I have one (another float reel) already drawn up and designed to be fished in saltwater for bait fishing Tarpon and such. It has an engageable drag on it. It's really nice. However, the bids on processing and engineering are a bit on the high side. I don't know if I will (build it).

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