You grab a line, and I’ll grab a pole. But before leaving the dock, you need to make sure your fishing reel is in proper working order. That is when we call Capt. Dave.
David Smith, as he is formally known, has turned his love of fishing and working with mechanical devices into a unique sideline. He tears down and rebuilds very expensive high-performance reels for both professional and amateur anglers; sometimes producing a finished product superior to the original.
“My dad taught me how to build things,” said Smith, who studied chemical engineering at the University of South Alabama and Mississippi State University. He and his wife, Vickie, now divide their time between their business in Pascagoula and their condo in Orange Beach.
It was in Baldwin County where his new business venture was born. A former high school classmate and fishing buddy, Jon Jacobs, had mailed off a reel for repairs. It took six months for it to be returned.
“I thought that was too long,” Smith said, “and I really didn’t think they did that good of a job.”
Smith soon saw the potential for his skills.
“There were all these boats and zillions of reels,” he said. “There was no one in Orange Beach doing work on them.”
He started offering his services to local bait-and-tackle stores along the Alabama Coast.
“After having worked on my own reels, I started working on them for other people,” he said. “They kept calling for me, because I was doing things that the factory should have done.
“I will get these reels as close to perfection as I can. Most have 300 parts, and I want to fix things before they break.”
He takes every screw out, cleans the pieces and makes sure the bearings are all greased. He applies a fine coat of waterproof grease even to the non-exposed parts, because he said water is eventually going to get inside every reel.
Smith said the reels he works on are not the $15 models available at Walmart. Many of the devices delivered to him start at $500 and quickly go to $1,000 or beyond. He has worked on reels — brands such as Shimano, Penn, Avet, Okuma and Atlas — that were used in the Caribbean, Bahamas and Mexico.
“This is high-end fishing gear, and you can’t afford equipment failure” Smith said. “Some of the fishing boats are a million dollars each, and they could spend $30,000 in fuel and $20,000 in tournament fees. You don’t want to take a chance on a reel failing, and losing a $250,000 grand prize fish.”
Smith said working on a reel after a tournament is similar to engines being rebuilt following a car race. He said a popular sport fish like wahoo can hit the hook at 50 mph, which puts a tremendous amount of stress on a line.
“The reel starts screaming like a Harley,” Smith said. “Any problem with drag, the reel locks up and the line breaks.”
Smith only works by word-of-mouth. He never knows who his next customer will be, such as the angler who brought him two Penn International reels after a referral. Now one of Smith’s fishing partners, the man ended up being the designer of the prosthetic tail whose story was told in the movie “Dolphin Tale.”
Depending on the type of reel and its condition, Smith’s fees start at $15 and go up. Seriously corroded reels cost more, as do any special parts that are needed. He also offers a line of custom-made handles.
The work has expanded to the point where most of the reels are now kept at his shop in Pascagoula. Smith said he can only work on them for so many hours a day, because of the precise detail required.
“I take pride in it,” said Smith, who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. “I put into it what needs to be done.”
Last chance for blue marlin event
There is a good chance that some of the reels Smith has laid his hands on will be used during the 2014 Blue Marlin Grand Championship, which runs July 8-13 out of The Wharf in Orange Beach.
Although the event has sold out its 55 berths, an alternate list is being formed on a first-come, first-served basis. Tournament coordinator Scott Burt said a refundable $500 deposit is required.
An extra 56th spot will also be auctioned off. The proceeds will benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The minimum opening bid is $10,000, and winners will be notified by telephone June 13.
For information, call 850-233-1633 or send an email to email@example.com.
Fishing for a cause
Local anglers are getting set for the Kyser Miree Memorial Fishing Tournament. It will take place June 14 at the Dauphin Island Marina.
The weigh-in will be that Saturday at 5 p.m. Tickets are $30, or $50 if one is also fishing the Mystic Stripers Rodeo. Sponsorships run from $250 to $5,000.
The event, presented by the Rotaract Club of the Mobile Bay Area, will have categories for inshore, offshore and kayak. Proceeds will benefit the Kyser Miree Scholarship Fund, as well as organizations such as Wilmer Hall Children’s Home, St. Mary’s Home, Collins-Rhodes Elementary School and Prichard Preparatory School.
For information, call 251-753-0911 or 251-656-3243, or visit rotaractmobile.org.