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Reel Review

America's Best Selling Reel? (continued)


Power: The Spincast 33 comes with a super low gear ratio of 3.3:1 that picks up approximately eighteen inches (18") of line at full spool - so expect less than that after your cast. The reel's power is not very good given the size of its gearing but honestly, no one is buying this reel to throw deep diving cranks or to flip into heavy cover.

Seeking more refinement in your spincast reel? How about the Zebco 33 Platinum?

Features: Two of the surprising features of this reel are its stainless steel front and back plates and its very comfortable 84mm handle. The afore mentioned Bite Alert lever doubles as the reel's back-reeling button. With the Bite Alert enabled, the drag is still engaged, but you also have the option of controlling your catch by reeling forward and backwards if you so choose.


The Zebco 33 Platinum features all metal construction.


The reel comes with one bearing to support line management and unfortunately, the plastic knobs on the reel's handles are riveted to the handle, so you there's no opportunity to upgrade the knob's bushings aftermarket - assuming there are any plastic bushings under the knobs. Speaking of the handle, it is swappable left to right, just like most spinning reels, so you can set this reel up according to your preference.

This reel also weighs almost an ounce more than the original Zebco 33.

Design & Ergonomics: This is where the Spincast 33 starts to lose some points. This reel is heavy I'm sure thanks in part to the super cool stainless steel front and back plates. Even so, because it is essentially a spinning reel mounted on top of your rod instead of under, its weight is accentuated. Because of this bulk on top of the rod, unless you have really big hands, it's difficult to palm. On a standard, non pistol grip rod, there's a tendency for the combo to want to rotate in your hands because it is so top heavy and the standard, round handle on a rod doesn't give you a lot of leverage to resist this rotational force.

Unfortunately, spincast reels are not very ergonomic.

Granted, none of this is as impossible to manage as my description may sound, but all of that imbalance is there. It's just something you come to accept with reels of this type. That's why in most children's spincast combos, the rods come with a pistol grip design - making it easier on little hands. Of course, those reels are also mostly plastic so the weight is not as much of an issue either.


Design & Ergonomics Ratings for Zebco 33 Spincast Reel

Handle Length (1-5)
Knobs (1-5)
Palming (1-5)
Overall Weight (1-5)
Ease of Breakdown (1-5)
Rating (= Tot/Pos * 10)


Application: Spincast reels are typecast as tools for the novice angler. Truth be told, my interest in trying out the Zebco 33 was as a stealth BFS tool. Think about it, spooled with lighter line, these reels should be able to cast just about any finesse bait setup you can put together - just as any spinning reel can. Unfortunately, I was thwarted by the reel's ergonomics.

A hidden feature on the Zebco 33 is the hook holder at the base between the reel foot and body.

Still for the angler not wanting to deal with learning how to manage a baitcasting reel but wanting something a little more manageable than a spinning reel, spincast is a very viable option. Aside from typical bait fishing applications, this reel is perfectly capable of supporting shallow an mid-depth moving baits such as small cranks, spinnerbaits and the like. Split shot, Texas, and other soft plastic rigs are very doable as well. As long as you are aware of some of the reel's limitations in terms of line capacity, drag, and ergonomics, it's a very serviceable tool for a variety of applications.



Zebco 33 Spincast Reel Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Surprising for a $25 reel 8.0
Performance Fished within its limitations, very good 6.5
Price Hard to beat! 9.0
Features Bite Alert, bearing supported line management system, and stainless steel front and backplates make for a good list of features 7.0
Design (Ergonomics) The reel's only downfall is inherent with its design 4.8
Application Quite versatile 7.0

Total Score

Ratings Key: 1 = terrible : 2 = poor : 3 = lacking : 4 = sub par : 5 = mediocre : 6 = fair : 7 = good : 8 = great : 9 = excellent : 10 = unbelievable!
For More Details of the updated rating system visit our explanation here


Pluses and Minuses:


+ Unbeatable price given the reel's construction - Ergonomics
+ Stainless steel front and back plates  
+ 84mm handle  
+ Interchangeable handle for left or right hand retrieve  


Conclusion: It's not difficult to see why this reel is so popular and has been a hallmark of Zebco for over 60 years. This current iteration with its stainless steel front and backplates and metal handle gives you the impression of a much more expensive piece of equipment than its mere $25 price tag! Put aside the fact we're talking about a spincast reel, the Zebco 33 has a very refined feel to it out of the box.


Having some fun with the Platinum.


For those seeking even more refinement in their spincast arsenal, there's the Zebco 33 Platinum. This reel features all metal construction and a higher 4.4:1 retrieve ratio. However, it does not have the Bite Alert system and weighs even more at 9.7 ounces.


I can appreciate the allure of the Zebco 33.


I was delighted to find the Zebco 33 is more than just a toy. Despite my initial, user error difficulties with the mechanics of casting, I can appreciate the attraction of this reel. In a nutshell, it gets the job done without being as difficult to use as a baitcasting reel, offers better line management than a spinning reel, feels like it's built like a tank, and is only $25! I'd fully expect a $25 reel to be all plastic, but the Zebco 33 has a really nice, attractive blend of steel and some type of composite material (most likely plastic) giving you the impression this is a reel valued much higher than its actual price point.


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