Jon's Jottings: The Mitchell 300, it was the best of breedI was sad to get the belated news of the death of the Mitchell 300. It came by way of the first chapter in Hudson author Mike Yurk’s latest book, “A View from the Lake,” where he announced a farewell to the Mitchell 300 spinning reel.
By: Jon Echternacht, Hudson Star-Observer
I was sad to get the belated news of the death of the Mitchell 300.
It came by way of the first chapter in Hudson author Mike Yurk’s latest book, “A View from the Lake,” where he announced a farewell to the Mitchell 300 spinning reel.
Yurk writes the Mitchell 300 was first made in France in 1940s, has been discontinued. There are no more to be manufactured. It was an open-faced spinning reel and a whole new concept in fishing equipment.
It became widely popular among anglers, and with the number of fishing enthusiasts in Minnesota and Wisconsin that’s a substantial number. One website reference on the Mitchell 300 claimed 25 million were sold.
I first laid eyes on the reel in my senior year in college, the spring of 1968. A former roommate, who had gotten married, and I took a break from the campus to cast a line on a small lake in a northern Twin Cities’ suburb where his grandfather had a place.
I got my first look at the Mitchell 300, we called it the Garcia Mitchell then, when he pulled the fishing gear out of the trunk of his 1966 Mustang and started to piece the rod and reel together. There it was. The first open faced reel I ever saw.
I became fascinated with the new technology and studied it closely at his side as we cast into the lake. We didn’t catch anything, but the break from campus and finals and the introduction to the Mitchell 300 made the day worthwhile.
I committed the details of that new reel to memory and eventually bought one a couple months later with money I earned at a meat packing plant that summer. I still have it.
Like Yurk explains, the reel came with two spools, mine had a plastic box to store the second reel. I still have the extra spool and box, although there is a chip on the lid.
When I introduced my father to the Mitchell 300, he fell in love with it and a legacy was born. Pretty soon I had to have a backup reel and so did he. In the late 1970s and early 1980s when I lived in Green Bay we went on a fishing trips into Canada every June and our Mitchell 300s were always with us.
We caught good-sized northern in the Northwest Territories and grayling for entertainment in the evening on the MacKenzie River with those reels. We caught walleyes with dare devils below a falls in Reindeer Lake, Saskatchewan, walleyes with minnows in Red Lake, Ontario, northern pike on Johnson Silver Minnows in Lake Mastassini, Quebec, Dolly Varden trout on Krocodile spoons on the receding tide and a 20-pound king salmon on the rising tide in China Poot Bay, Alaska.
Later on, when I move back into the Brainerd, Minn., Lakes area of my youth and lived on a pristine little 1,300-acre lake, those Mitchell 300s continued to get a workout.
Lucky for my dad and me, a guy who recently retired from the local paper mill, opened up a reel repair shop in town. It was a godsend. We had all our Mitchell 300s overhauled and set out to buy more used ones at flea markets and garage sales.
The reel repair man had a steady business from us…enough so that we became known as the foremost Mitchell 300 owners among his clientele.
We were like that.
When Winchester announced they were discontinuing making the Model 12 pump shotgun in 1964, we set out to buy a few backups for the two we had. As I remember it, my dad said the Model 1200, which would replace the Model 12, was nowhere near as good a firearm.
However, when we were collecting Mitchell 300s, there was no fear of the model being discontinued at the time. We just wanted an ample supply for any occasion. Reading Yurk’s book was the first I heard about the end of the production of the reel.
I am glad we made the effort to amass a collection of Mitchell 300s a decade and one half ago, or so. They were reliable, metal cased reels. The repair man said they could be shimmed almost on into infinitum and keep operating. Maybe that’s what finally killed production. They were just made to last too long.
I have broken a number of fishing rods in a number of different ways from closing the trunk lid on one to, and this is not a fish tale, having one snapped off when a big fish hit.
I have a couple of the plastic open face model reels of a more modern vintage. I must admit they work all right but I really bought them on sale to try out and if they worked I would use them until they broke in that way saving extra wear and tear on my Mitchell 300s.
My dad died a few years ago and somewhere, somehow his fishing gear disappeared along with those Mitchell 300s. But I still have mine and the memories of fishing with him and hunting for extra 300s in various nooks and crannies in and around the Brainerd Lakes area.
I can remember a phone call one hot, summer, perfect, lake day, Saturday afternoon when I was working and he was semi-retired. “Jon, I found another Mitchell 300 at the flea market,” he said with the sound in his voice of a man who discovered buried treasure.