The other day I got an email from reader Richard R. in California that read: Dear Joe, I have a Garcia Mitchell 410 spinning reel in need of repair, and have not been able to find anyone to do it. Do you know of anyone? Unfortunately, I had to tell Richard I did not know anyone that could help him, but perhaps even more unfortunately, his note made me realize that reel repair shops and repair service within tackle shops seem to have become things of the past. Maybe that’s not the case where you live, but it is in my area of the Northeast. I have vivid memories of reel repair counters in local tackle shops when I was a kid. It seemed like every part for every brand and model was in an old metal drawer or hanging from a peg board. And if you needed it fixed, someone at the shop would take care of it in a day or two, if not on the spot. Today I know of exactly one local shop that offers this service, though they send everything out, which takes a fair amount of time and repairs can be costly. There are many reasons why I think reel repair shops and parts in tackle shops have gone away, but I can’t help but wonder if the main reason is that nobody bothers to have reels fixed anymore.
I won’t mention the brand, but I had a saltwater spinning reel in my teens that needed a dog spring replaced about every three weeks. I got so tired of ordering the part after a while, I just tossed it in the junk heap and ponied up for a newer, better reel. I suspect that many anglers these days (myself included) fish it until it goes, then go buy another one. This, I believe, is a product of reels of decent quality becoming less expensive, though they’re not quite quality enough to stand the test of time, especially if you fish hard. In the case of Richard’s Garcia, it might not have cost a ton new, but it was made to last, hence worth fixing. It probably gave him years of faithful service before needing a fix.
Because there are so many more reel models on the market now than decades ago, it’s also got to be about impossible to stock replacement parts for all of them, if the company even offers loose parts for sale. I do realize that many companies offer warranties, but factor in the time it takes to send a reel that costs, say, $50 to $80 back to HQ for a fix or replacement. If you don’t need it for the season at hand, not a huge deal. If you do, I’d bet you’d just go buy a new reel before packing, shipping, and waiting. From another angle, I would likely not bother having a reel in that price range fixed because I’d assume that if it—whichever part “it” may be—failed once, it’ll probably fail again like my spinner with the wonky dog spring. Granted, this is just my way of doing things, but I’d write off that reel entirely and get a completely different model or brand.
Do mom-and-pop reel repair shops and services still exist in your area? If so, do you use them?