The Rest of the Abu Ambassadeurs
  |  First Published: December 2002

LAST month I reviewed the evolution of the 6000 Abu Ambassadeur. This model is the preferred size reel for surf and tournament applications and, world-wide, it’s the biggest seller of all the Ambassadeurs. This month I’ll take you though some others.

Over its 50 years of operation, the big Swede has produced Ambassadeurs in sizes from 1500 to the Big Ambassadeur Game 30. The 1500 is a popular reel amongst the bream and bass fraternity, but the Game 30 has long since been discontinued. The largest Ambassadeur in the current range is the 10,000C.

I haven’t used the 1500c because I seldom fish lighter than 3kg line and find the next model up, the 2500c, better suited to my needs. The 2500c has a capacity of 160 metres of 0.25mm line, and is a superb caster of the lighter 5-7g lures.

Tuning these small reels is very easy, but the oil in the bearing must have a low viscosity. Singer sewing machine oil by itself is a little too low, so I use one drop of Singer and one drop of Yellow Rocket Fuel in each bearing. With this formula, two small brake blocks tame the reel for no-hands casting, but the oil in the levelwind must be the lowest viscosity you can find. This applies to all levelwind reels, not just the smaller ones.

There’s no advantage in removing the level wind on any size reel below a 5500. Sinker and lure weight won’t be enough to create spool slip on the cast, and little distance will be lost by traveller movement. Think carefully before you buy a reel with a level wind which disengages when the gears are disengaged and/or when the drag is giving line. They have to be fished carefully to avoid line bunching up at one side of the spool. Also, unless the traveller is situated in the centre, the acute angle when the traveller is at one side of the spool and the line is coming off the other side can be enough to break the line. Synchronized level lines are the way to go.

The other anomaly with Ambassadeurs is the classic versus the palming reel. On the classic models there is a knob on either side of the spool, but on palming models there’s only one knob situated on the right hand side plate. This is so the reel can be held in the palm of the hand when retrieving line or fighting a fish. On classics the shaft is anchored in the left side plate by a brass bullet, but the palming models have a plastic idler which incorporates the cog for the levelwind. On the 4000, 5000 and 6000 palming models you can substitute a bullet for the plastic idler and, while it’s of little benefit on reels used in cast and retrieve situations, it’s beneficial to substitute the plastic idler in reels used for distance. Cast and retrieve creates spool speeds of around 10,000rpm, whereas distance casting has the spool revolving in excess of 40,000rpm.

The twin knobs on classic Ambassadeurs are used for centring the spool, and the user manual tells you to tighten the left knob to put pressure on the spool to prevent overruns. If you’re using an ultra-cast model, beware – all the tightening does is put undue pressure on the bearings. Use higher oil viscosity, more or bigger brake blocks, more magnetic control, or less line on the spool to prevent overruns.

Most Ambassadeur models come in either 500 or 600 versions. 500s disengage the gears via a plunger situated on the top of the left side plate, whiel the 600s use a thumb bar.

Internal mechanisms are basically the same on 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, and 6000 models, but once you reach the 7000 things start to change. There are four arms for the brake blocks instead of two (although I don’t know anybody who uses more than two blocks in a 7000), and the shaft is not ultra-cast but incorporated into the spool. The 8000 and 8500 models are no longer available, but the two-speed 9000 and 10000s are. These are beautiful engineered reels with brake blocks hidden from view and two gears activated by drag pressure. Because of the gear changing mechanism these reels are quite intricate to dismantle, unlike their brothers up the size chain.

The Abu 20 and 30 were introduced in 1975 and lasted only 10 years. Stainless steel with heavy chromed brass spools, they were heavy in comparison to other lever drag reels of the day. They were also stronger and more user-friendly. The names ‘20’ and ‘30’ indicated line class in pounds, but capacities were woefully small for a game reel and neither was capable of loading 1000 yards of their line class.

Jack Erskine did an alloy spool for the 20 and, apart from being a fraction of the weight of the chromed brass original, it also carried more line. I used one on the 8kg SEQ game circuit for many years, and it never failed to do everything I asked of it. I’m not sure why Abu discontinued these lever drag reels; I assume that they became uneconomical to manufacture. It’s a shame because they’re amazingly easy to dismantle, service and re-assemble and, as the photo shows, instructions are printed on the pre-set cog which is the first thing you see after you remove the side plate.

There have been over 400 Ambassadeur models since the original 5000 was introduced 50 years ago, and Abu’s reputation for longevity and after-sales service is second to none. I believe Abu Ambassadeurs lead the field as far as baitcasting reels are concerned, and the Asian manufacturers (apart from Daiwa, who did a good job at cloning the Ambassadeur with their Millionaires) can’t equal the adaptability of the Scandinavian product.

Threadlines are a different kettle of fish. Even in the early days Abu’s Cardinal threadlines were in the shadow of Mitchell and DAM, and today the Asians lead the field in threadline technology. This has as much to do with the domestic fishing scene as anything else. Asians aren’t renowned for using baitcasters, with most preferring threadlines.

Much of the Asian manufacturing practices are based on the OEM system. This involves many parts being farmed out to different small companies – originally in Japan, then in Taiwan and Malaysia, then in Korea and now in China. Many of the small companies that originally made parts for the major Asian manufacturers started making reels themselves when the bigger companies moved to countries with cheaper labour. Because there are now more players the competition is keener, keeping prices reasonably low. In addition to this, most Asian tackle giants have other strings to their bows and this helps with economy of scale.

Abu makes only fishing reels, and manufactures them in Sweden (the Ambassadeurs are made there, anyway). World-wide, there are very few companies that can afford the luxury of domestic manufacturing, but Abu’s strength is the fact that little changes. The company has built a better mousetrap and the world continues to beat a path to its door. The side plates of a current Ambassadeur are almost identical to the 1952 product, and the retail prices have, in no way, kept up with the consumer price index. As I’ve said before, a 6000C purchased in 1975 cost me $119 and I can get one today for RRP$139. I’m fond of saying ‘you get what you pay for’, but with Abu Ambassadeurs you get much more!

1) [L-R] Classic 4500c Ambassadeur, Jack Erskine Royal Express 4600, Classic 5500 Ambassadeur.

2) A brace of Classic 2500cs.

3) The two-speed 9000c.

4) Abu Ambassadeur 30 with spare chromed brass spool.

5) Abu Ambassadeur 20 with spare chromed brass spool and drag disc.

6) Simplistic instructions printed on the pre-set cog. How easy is this?

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