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Levelwind reel blowout...myth or fact?

Old 02-14-2011, 11:02 AM
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Default Levelwind reel blowout...myth or fact?

I have never seen a levelwind mechanism blow out nor experienced one. My specific reels are Penn 320 and 330 GTi's.

Yet it seems without fail that every discussion of levelwind reels includes at least one post admonishing one and all of the inevitable "blowout" of the levelwind mechanism. I can see how an improperly cared for reel, ie., corroded, filthy, and un-lubed, might jam during a high speed run, and cause a break-off. But I'm not talking about that reel, I'm talking about the opposite of that reel, the well cared for, clean and lubed reel.

Anyone have any 'reel life' experiences with levelwind failures?
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Old 02-14-2011, 11:12 AM
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Only when someone puts their hands on the level wind mechanism and jams it to the point the piece that runs back and forth on the worm gear gets damaged and you lose the ability to level wind. Just tell people to keep there hands off the level wind area and the reels will work for many years. Keep a couple rebuild parts just in case.
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Old 02-14-2011, 11:14 AM
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i grew up on the great lakes fishing trout and salmon...have seen a salmon take 300 yards at incredibly high speed from the hit...multiple times on daiwa 47 and 47 line counter reels without failures...i'm sure some of the saltwater guys have seen some real big fish action but i ahve never seen or hear about a levelwind failure in my experience...
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Old 02-14-2011, 11:26 AM
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The truth is they break! I have about twelve 330 GTI's a 45 lb rock fish will break it. or a 45 lb and a 30 lb at the same time. I haven't had it blow out but they stop making the transition across the spool.

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Old 02-14-2011, 11:43 AM
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I have caught wahoo and dolphin on the penn 320LD's without any problems with the level wind. I did have a screw come loose inside on one of the gears for the crank and had to hand pull a 15 pound dolphin in. we had line laying all over the deck of the boat.
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Old 02-14-2011, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by bladenbullet View Post
i grew up on the great lakes fishing trout and salmon...have seen a salmon take 300 yards at incredibly high speed from the hit...multiple times on daiwa 47 and 47 line counter reels without failures...i'm sure some of the saltwater guys have seen some real big fish action but i ahve never seen or hear about a levelwind failure in my experience...
Same here. I've had a large salmon smoke the drag but I've never had the levelwind fail. I've got a 22 rod combination of 320's, 330's, Daiwa 47's, and Shimano Charter Specials. No problems with the levelwinds on any of them.
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Old 02-14-2011, 11:54 AM
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Default I.M.O.- this is a myth

I can't speak about Penn reels, never owned one. I have caught hundreds of kingfish, dolphin, blackfinn tuna, and wahoo on my Shimano calcutta 700's. Lots of them in the 40 -50 LB range. My personal best is a 62 LB bull dolphin. I have never seen a fish that could outrun the levelwind.

Tight Lines,
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Old 02-14-2011, 12:03 PM
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interesting post, my cousin and I were arguing about this just the other day. He asked why ALL reels don't have levelwinds? I told him 2 reasons: line capacity and free spool. He quickly replied that with today's braid technology, line capacity is no longer a problem and that they should be able to make a levelwind mechanism that can handle the rigors of tuna, marlin and the like. I respectfully disagreed saying it was just something else to break with a possible record fish on the line, but I think he made some valid points. So...what say the members of THT? Why CAN'T I have a levelwind on my 50W?
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Old 02-14-2011, 12:28 PM
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have had many 320's, never a problem! perhaps the pawl is worn or the worm is beat up???
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Old 02-14-2011, 12:33 PM
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they usually break when you are fishing very high drag settings du to the side load on the traveler.
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Old 02-14-2011, 01:02 PM
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Default level winds

ALL level winds from ALL brands [if sold in the US] have a PLASTIC drive gear for the mechanism [usually in the left sideplate].
It is an engineered weak point, designed to fail on purpose if you get your finger caught in it.
When fishing for moderate-size fish [such as salmon], or even large fish like sturgeon that are slow, its not a huge issue.
Also, even with mono, but especially with braid, if the line gets "off synch" with the mechanism, and a fish is running under heavy drag with the line reaching all the way across the spool, it can also lead to failure.
That's the reason "True" big-game reels never have a levelwind.
Another disadvantage is when casting either max distances, or with delicate live baits, a levelwind can be a hindrance [a little OT].
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Old 02-14-2011, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by doughnut View Post
they usually break when you are fishing very high drag settings du to the side load on the traveler.
Verrry interesting. As a matter of fact my 320's and 330's are all for trolling where I tend to have a lighter drag setting than the 113's and 114's I use for bottom stuff.

Originally Posted by Tunanorth
ALL level winds from ALL brands [if sold in the US] have a PLASTIC drive gear for the mechanism [usually in the left sideplate].
It is an engineered weak point, designed to fail on purpose if you get your finger caught in it.
When fishing for moderate-size fish [such as salmon], or even large fish like sturgeon that are slow, its not a huge issue.
Also, even with mono, but especially with braid, if the line gets "off synch" with the mechanism, and a fish is running under heavy drag with the line reaching all the way across the spool, it can also lead to failure.
That's the reason "True" big-game reels never have a levelwind.
Another disadvantage is when casting either max distances, or with delicate live baits, a levelwind can be a hindrance [a little OT].
Excellent points to know.
I don't know how these reels get off-synch but I've seen it. My guess is that line is cut at one point and the reel continues for a few rotations moving the guide over. Then when the line is re-rigged it's offset from the guide. Only on used reels I've bought or another angler's reels have I seen it. I make sure my line and guides are aligned when rigging.
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Old 02-14-2011, 01:11 PM
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Haven't broken mine yet, just had a ~8ft shark on this past october and if that reel was going to break then it would have been on that fish. 1+ hour at high drag settings with multiple strong runs, I'm amazed it didn't break actually. That reel has caught more grouper than I can count, going on 7 years old now. Penn 330 gti.
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Old 02-14-2011, 01:46 PM
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Default reels

Originally Posted by fishinmaniac View Post
Haven't broken mine yet, just had a ~8ft shark on this past october and if that reel was going to break then it would have been on that fish. 1+ hour at high drag settings with multiple strong runs, I'm amazed it didn't break actually. That reel has caught more grouper than I can count, going on 7 years old now. Penn 330 gti.


A lot of this is perspective.
The "max" drag that a 330 will put out is only 16 pounds.
The poster who mentioned the usual way that the line gets "off-synch" was exactly correct, and a little extra effort in re-synching it can help a lot.
However, you can really just look at every "True" big-game reel from every manufacturer.
They don't leave off the level-wind mechanism because of price [ha-ha], or weight, and they didn't just forget.
It's a major liability in tough fights with big fish.
Exactly where the fine line between convenience and disadvantage lies is sometimes tricky.
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Old 02-14-2011, 02:19 PM
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Tuna' you make another great point here which speaks to using the right gear for the intended target. I understand the Marathon Humps hold tuna, dolphin, and the occasional marlin. That's a pretty wide range to be prepared for with one reel if you want to enjoy the play of the tuna and still be able to handle the marlin.

That said, while the 345 GTi packs a powerful punch, I can certainly see your point about the reels designed for big game fish. And to your point about casting you made above, man that is so true. I'm not a caster type anyway except with heavier spinning reels, but I've noticed when servicing the levelwinds versus the senators the freespool difference is remarkable.
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Old 02-14-2011, 05:43 PM
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So the reel isn't designed for big game fish such as big tuna or marlin, doesn't mean its going to blow out if you hook one. You probably wont land the fish but...
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Old 02-14-2011, 06:35 PM
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There is nothing wrong with levelwind reel, they are not ticking time bombs that readily explode for the fish that 90% of anglers go after. If you always target bigger game: wahoo, tuna, marlin then you will likely be using high end tackle (as stated earlier most big game reels = no levelwind).

This being said, I have seen my father catch a nice yellowfin on a 330gti and i have count countless king mackeral on a calcutta 400 and 700 with a levelwind.
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Old 02-14-2011, 06:47 PM
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I had a Penn 320 GTI fail . . . first the level wind stopped and 10 seconds later the reel seized . . . fishing for salmon

Never had a problem with the other 320 GTIs I had
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Old 02-14-2011, 06:52 PM
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Hey maybe it's because 16 of my reels are levelwinds that whenever I read someone say they're a ticking time bomb it makes me wonder if they know something I don't...which isn't too difficult. On the other hand 16 of my reels wouldn't be levelwinds if they had blown up on me...although honestly speaking I haven't caught gazillions of fish.

The bottom line so far is you guys have caught a lot of fish with your levelwinds with little if any problems. From what I've read from time to time I really expected there to be a string of posts complaining how the levelwind blowout cost the "fish of a lifetime" to get away.

Personally, I hope I don't catch the fish of a lifetime until I'm almost done fishing. Once you catch the fish of a lifetime, what's next? But I digress....
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Old 02-14-2011, 06:53 PM
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Originally Posted by fishinmaniac View Post
So the reel isn't designed for big game fish such as big tuna or marlin, doesn't mean its going to blow out if you hook one. You probably wont land the fish but...
...but it could be a helluva fight! Awesome thought fishin'.
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