I have always had an affinity for Mitchell reels. It goes back to when I was a youngster just learning how to fish. My grandmother used to let me use an old, red fiberglass fishing pole with an original 1950s-era Mitchell 300 spinning reel. I have lots of good memories associated with that reel and fishing with my grandparents.
I bought my first Mitchell reels when I went to Alaska shortly after graduating from high school. My uncle has a house on the Kenai River with a great spot for sockeye salmon right out front. When I asked him what I’d need to bring, he said that he had enough rods for me to use, but I needed my own reels. He said to go buy Mitchells because that is what everyone up there was using. I spent a few summers up there, catching fish after fish. The reels never once failed me. I still have them.
When I went looking for a new mid-sized spinning reel for this season, the search was pretty short. I selected the new Mitchell 308, somewhat out of nostalgia but mostly because it’s a really smooth reel. For the types of fishing I am doing this summer, it is just about perfect.
Have you ever told yourself, “I’m going to do more of ____ this year”? Yeah, me too. Just about every year. Well this summer, I’ve vowed to do more fishing for crappie, trout, and other fish that require a touch more finesse. Fulfilling that promise is off to a great start, too, if you’re measuring by fishing and not catching. With increased days spent fishing, the features of the Mitchell 308 start to shine.
The first thing you’ll notice is the buttery-smooth action from eight ball bearings. Spend enough time with a reel in your hands and you’ll soon see one of the differences more bearings makes. Additional bearings not only make the reel action smoother, but also they distribute the load more efficiently. It has instant anti-reverse, meaning the handle stops and doesn’t go in reverse when you stop turning it. The 5.1:1 gear ratio is perfect for the types of fishing I’m doing.
There are a couple of things I hate about some spinning reels, and one of the reasons I like Mitchell reels is that these issues are solved by the design. Have you ever had line get under the spool? Not only does it make a mess and put undue stress on the reel, the grease inside the reel then gets on the line. Mitchell’s Bail Halo design prevents the line from getting under the spool. The design also makes the rotor much stronger.
The drag system is also very reliable. Quite often, when you have a reel wear out, it is the drag system that goes out first. Mitchell uses a series of oil felt and steel drag washers for a consistent feel. My experience with Mitchell reels over the years has lead me to the conclusion that their drags just don’t seem to give out. Tail hook a 10-pound sockeye and reel it in a few times and see if your drag holds up. Mine did, time and time again.
When I decided to buy a new reel, I thought I’d consider buying a new rod, too. A combo made sense, too. After all, you get a rod that is matched to the reel for a few bucks more than buying the reel alone. And, let’s be honest, it’s much easier to sneak it past the wife. She gets suspicious of packaging in the trash, but with a combo, all you need to do is remove a hang tag and blend it in with your other gear. Not that I’ve ever done that. Wink, wink.
I picked up a 6’6” medium-action combo. I loaded the reel with 10-pound Stren braided line. The rod had a well-balanced handle with a cork grip. The blank is built from Mitchell’s 24 Ton graphite. It has stainless steel guides for the line and is a really responsive rod for the money. Did I mention it only adds $20 MSRP to the $49.99 reel? It’s a lot of rod for the money.
Oddly enough, the first fish I caught on the combo was not what I was targeting. A 32-inch northern pike took my small spinnerbait that was intended for pre-spawn crappie. I am confident that this combo could handle just about every fish I would likely tangle with around my Northern Michigan home.
Mitchell invented the modern spinning reel back in the early 1930s. They continue to innovate today and I highly recommend them for anglers looking for a durable, smooth reel and rod combo. Start building your own memories with one of the oldest names in fishing.
- Mono line capacity: 185/6 130/8 110/10 (Yards/Pounds)
- Braided line capacity: 275/6 190/8 160/10 (yards/Pounds)
- Gear ratio: 5.1:1
- Retrieve rate: 27
- Weight: 9 ounces
- Bearing count: 8
- Max drag: 14 pounds
- Handle position: Right/left
Images by Derrek Sigler