OVER the past 50 years the Abu Ambassadeur has been an industry standard. The big Swede has occasionally departed from the tried and true and produced a different style of baitcaster, but it’s the classic Ambassadeur that is the flagship reel of the company.
First launched in 1952, the little red Ambassadeur 5000 was an instant success, as was its stable mate the 6000 that followed soon after. After 50 years of evolution, the current reels look little different from their 1953 counterparts. However, internally the Ambassadeur has kept up with technology and changed dramatically. New materials and improved engineering techniques have strengthened the Ambassadeur’s internal mechanism but, strangely enough, the original mechanism itself has stood the test of time and changed little.
To illustrate the point I have chosen three 6000 size Abu classic Ambassadeurs from different eras. The first is the original red 6000, circa 1953, which is a basic baitcaster with bushes. The second is the black 6000c, circa 1973, which is a ball bearing model. The third reel is the current 6500C3CT Mag Elite, which is an ultra-cast model fitted with both magnet and centrifugal braking systems.
The only difference between the 4500, 5500 and 6500 Ambassadeurs is their spool width. The side plates and internal mechanisms are the same but the 6500 lends itself to modifications, upgrading and conversions much better than any other Ambassadeur in the range.
I’ll now quickly explain the model classifications. In the past, a straight 6000 was a reel where the spool shaft ran on bronze bushes. A ‘C’ in the title meant that the bushes had been replaced by two ball bearings. Today, a 6000 has one bush and one bearing – easily upgraded by replacing the bush with a bearing. The ‘5’ in 6500 came when, in 1973, the high-speed 500s were introduced. Their gear ratio was 4.66:1 as opposed to the 6000’s 3.5:1. Later the gear ratio changed upwards to 5.3:1 and today the C4, C5 and other high-speed Ambassadeurs boast a ratio of 6.3:1.
In 1983 the ultra-cast models were introduced, and in the late 1990s a roller bearing replaced the anti-reverse dog. The number after the ‘C’ denotes the number of bearings. A C3 is a three-bearing reel – one either side of the spool and a roller bearing for anti-reverse. In the C4 and C5 reels there are additional bearings in the level wind.
Whether these additional bearings aid smooth casting is debatable. They need constant maintenance if used in the salt, but many of today’s anglers believe that the more bearings, the better the reel. Not so! They may seem super-smooth when turning the handle in the tackle shop, but in actual fishing conditions there is little to be gained, and the more bearings the more maintenance required.
CS (with level winds) reels can have their level winds updated by the purchase of additional bearings and the worm and shroud, so any 6500 or 6600 can become a C4 or C5. You can even purchase a CT cage so that the reel can be converted to a non-level wind for distance casting.
Classic Ambassadeurs have a knob on either side plate, and palming Ambassadeurs (introduced in 1980) only have one knob – on the right-hand side plate. On classics the knobs are used to initially center the spool and then to tune the spool movement so that there is small but discernable lateral movement when the reel is out of gear.
All Abu instruction manuals since 1952 have instructions to tighten up the left-hand knob in classics and the right hand knob in palmers, so that the chosen lure or weight drops slowly from the rod tip. Only do this with light lures and weights under 30g. This procedure with anything heavier can damage bearings – especially on ultra-cast models. Use different brake blocks, different viscosity oil, less (or more) line on the spool or magnetic brakes, where fitted, to control the cast.
Over the years Abu has introduced several Ambassadeurs that have been neither classics nor palming models. The mid-80s saw the low-profile Mag and Ultra Mag reels introduced. Whether this was to do with fashion trends or whether they were “keeping up with the Jones’s” isn’t clear, but I suspect the latter.
These reels were moderately successful in their day, and even more so today. Due to their free-running attributes and magnetic controls, these are the preferred reels of tournament casters worldwide. However, the modifications to get them to tournament level are extensive. My converted 6000 size Mag III is pictured and you can see that the level wind has been removed, a solid bar put in its place, the top bar has been removed and the magnetic control has been modified. Internal parts have been cut away, the magnet carrier has been modified to give the magnets triple the original movement, and the bearing housing in the spool has been doctored. It casts like a dream and the magnets are easily backed off during the cast.
Abu’s current departure from the norm is the Eon 3600 5600 and 6600. The numbering of these reels is misleading. (Incidentally the ‘6’ in the numbering means that it has a thumb-bar release rather than a plunger.) 195 yards of 14lb is the capacity of the Eon 6600 whereas the classic 6500 has a capacity of 300 yards of 15lb. To me, it seems that the Eon and the new Torno low profile reels are directed at the huge American bass market in an effort to gain back market share from the Japanese.
Pure Fishing (formally OTG) is the Australian distributor of Abu reels. Because Australia has a small population and Abu models have to be ordered in quantity, Pure Fishing doesn’t import all Abu product. You can get the reel you want though internet mail order, but I don’t recommend it. I purchase plenty of fishing gear from overseas, but not reels. The hassle isn’t worth it (and that’s without taking into account warranty problems and credit card fraud).
My source for Abu reels is Steve Barratt from Christies Beach, South Australia. Steve stocks all the International series of Abu reels that Pure Fishing do not import: the 5500C3 and 6500C3 Mag Elite in both CT and in C5 - CS forms, the 6500CT Sports Mag, the 6500 CT Elite and the limited edition 6500C4CS Magtrax ‘Florida Surf. Steve’s website is lgf.sea-angler.org. His listed prices are in American dollars.
Steve is also my source for high-speed gears and pinions, ABEC 7 bearings, CT frames, upgrades for level winds and many other Abu-related accessories. Many Queensland anglers have purchased reels from Steve because they couldn’t get what they wanted from their local tackle shop, and there are many anglers converting their 5.3:1 gears and pinions to 6.3:1 (in either brass or stainless steel – models 4600, 5000, 5500, 5600, 6000, 6500 and 6600), their bearings to ABEC 7s, their washers to Smooothies and their small handles to power handles.
The next time you’re in your local tackle shop, ask them for a stainless steel 6.3:1 gear and pinion for an Abu 6500C3 and watch them dive for a drawer, under the counter, and produce one. Pigs might fly!
I won’t delve into the serial numbers on the underside of all Abu Ambassadeurs (except the very early ones), except to say that these codes are important when ordering spare parts. There are 387 Ambassadeur models listed on one particular website, and that’s not a full listing! The model number and the number on the reel foot tell the whole story.
Just one last thing. The black model 6000c shown in the photos was purchased in 1973 for $113. To purchase a 6000c today I’d be up for RRP$139. It gets even better because the new reel has IAR and a faster retrieve.
Nostalgia certainly ain’t what it used to be!
1) The three Abu 6000s. A vintage 1953 Ambassadeur 6000 sits behind a 1973 Ambassadeur 6000C and a current model 6500C3 CT Mag Elite.
2) The internal mechanism of the 1953 Ambassadeur 6000.
3) The internal mechanism of the 1973 Ambassadeur 6000C.
4) The internal mechanism of the 2001 Ambassadeur 6500C3CT Mag Elite
5) The Tournament converted Ambassadeur Mag IIIReads: 22930