Zebco Fishing Shop
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Zebco Micro. Little Reel. Little money. Big fun! A great price on some nice features: Smooth ball-be ...
The History of Zebco (from the book "Zebco, The Family Reel" by Karl T. White)
R.D. Hull was, by trade, a watchmaker in Roten, Texas. He was also an inventor. One invention of his was a device for drying garments called "The Tydee", which was not successful.
In his quest to find a backlash-free reel, he took a model 1000 South Bend casting reel, altered it with two spools and supposedly made a backlash-free casting reel. He made a reel called "The Texas", of which only 5 models were made. He aquired 7 investors to put in $7,500 each, manufactured it and called it a "Lashmaster". This company was not successful and the investors lost their money. The "Texan" was the predecessor to the "Lashmaster".
This did not deter R.D. While at the supermarket, when viewing a string which was peeling off a spool without tangling, he had an idea. He asked the investors if they would be interested again. He showed them a prototype that he had made from a Folger's Coffee can. They refused. This was in 1947. R.D. Hull was searching for an investor when he came across a company in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The Zero Hour Bomb Co. was incorporated in 1932 and manufactured electric time bombs for fracturing oil wells to produce more oil. In 1948 ZHB was faced with expiration of its bomb patent and management was concerned about the future of its business. The fate of a one-product company hung by a thread. Need for a new product was obvious. This was a match made in heaven.
In 1948, on the advice of Charlie Noble (an employee and fisherman), ZHB's General Manager, Harold Binford and vice-President, Marion Parry accepted the challenge of manufacturing and marketing R.D.'s brain child.
By May of 1949, the maiden "Standard" was in production, and means of distribution was sought. ZHB turned to George Goetz, knowledgeable tackle representative from Tulsa, to sell the merchandise.
Goetz answered with a trick-casting exhibition never before seen in the industry, accomplishing pin-point accuracy, while among other things, wearing boxing gloves.
Zero Hour Bomb Company was in the tackle business, as Goetz took the line throughout neighboring territories. It should be noted, however, that ZHB still maintained its production of time bombs and Umbrella Bridges.
The fisherman's prayers had been answered. Hull's "beer can with a hole in both ends" as it was described in early days, made headlines wherever it went.
ZHB stock exchanged hands in September, 1952, as George Sumers and James Donoghue bought out W.J. Cheley. A year later, Mr. Binford retired, and Mr. Parry became General Manager.
November, 1953, the Model 22 was on the line to sell at $17.50. Price of the Standard was reduced to $12.50. As sales began to increase, so did the number of products.
In 1954, the Standard was replaced by the Model 11, an improved reel that contained many of the desirable features of the 22.
At a corresponding date, teh Model 33 came into being, and ZHB began to concentrate its efforts along the line of spinning tackle as opposed to casting.
For the layman, spin fishing refers to the use of lighter, more delicate tackle, using an average 3-to-4 pound test line as opposed to a 12-pound average for casting.
The 33, bread and butter of the ZEBCO family of reels today, was America's first closed-face spinning reel, popularizing the sport of landing the larger fish with light tackle.
There were further developments along the executive level at ZHB. Ralph F. Lafferty, who had developed the Zero Hour Bomb Company's export office in New York, came to Tulsa in May, 1959. Mr Parry continued as Vice-President-General Counsel.
In January, 1956, the ZEBCO name was adopted, and Zero Hour Bomb Co., still active in the oil field accessory industry, became a division of the tackle firm.
It was the summer of 1956 and the "new" ZEBCO was quick to come on the market with the Model 44 and 55.
The 55 was designed for heavy-duty fresh water fishing, surf casting and spinning. The 44 was made to accomodate improved American-type straight handle rods, which previously could be fitted only with foreign-made spinning reels.
By this date, the 33 had set new records in each year of its existence. Sales rose 280% over a three year period. While the market increased, so did the plant facilities and the sales organization.
From the original shop area in the center of ZEBCO's present plant, the walls were shoved out to include 35,000 sq. ft. Sales distribution grew from the near area surrounding Tulsa to all parts of the United States and 27 foreign countries. Forty-three representatives and associates, the largest sales organization in the industry, now sell the ZEBCO line.
Number of employees at the plant soared from 30 to 200 through 1956, and by 1963 the total was 365.
The poplular budget priced Scottee 66 was introduced in 1957; a less expensive reel with the same performance features as the Model 33.
ZEBCO scored a major breakthrough in economy fishing for the youngsters in 1958 with its Model 77. A unitized Reel-N-Rod, the reel built into the handle of the rod, it was the first tackle engineered spicifically for the young outdoorsman.
As the entire industry looked to ZEBCO for new ideas, the aggressive Tulsa firm did not disappoint, rocking the market in 1959 with a combination tackle in the Models 88, 99 and 101 Reel-N-Rods.
In the Model 101, ZEBCO provided ultra-light tackle for the angler who delights in the sheer enjoyment of casting the lightest of lures and playing fish with virtually hand-to-mouth attention. Overall weight of the 101 is only 7-1/2 ounces.
Came 1960, and ZEBCO was prepared to answer the challenges hurled b its imitating competitors. Sensing the need for a quality product at an economic price, the Model 202 ZeeBee was introduced to sell at $5.95. It was foolproof equipment, manufactured at ZEBCO's exceptionally high standards.
Japanese imports had flooded the market, beguiling a cost concious public into believing it could by quality with economy. The ZeeBee withstood all oppositions with a quality that surpassed many of the higher priced reels, of other manufactures.
In 1961, ZEBCO expanded its line with the Model 89, a heavy-duty, non-corrosive reel that is ideal for use in either fresh or saltwater. It fits all straight handle and most offset handle rods.
More notably, 1961 will be remembered as the year of ZEBCO's merger with Brunswick Corporation.
Acknowledged leader in the closed-face segment of the market, which according to Sports Fishing Institute represents 37% of all reels sold, ZEBCO made a move in July 1962 to sell its products "across the board."
Through the acquisition of the fishing tackle interests of Langley Corporation, San Diego, California, and established name in the industry, ZEBCO expanded its line to include the open-faced spinning and level-wind bait casting reels.
S.F.I. figures revealed that open-faced reels constitute 30% of the sales and level-wind the next at 28%. With the Langley purchase, ZEBCO had stretched its manufacturing muscles to take in 95% of the market.
Langley's traditional green was gone, replaced by the popular ZEBCO black in the spinning reel, 707 Spinner, 777 Spinner, 822 Spin Flo, 830 Spin Deluxe, 860 Surflite and 870 Spinator and two casting reels, 310 Streamlite, 330 Lure Cast.
In 1962-1963, orders were counted in feet, as the demand for ZEBCO's new series of tackle was beyond expectations and there was even greater interest in closed-face models. An additional 50,000 sq. ft. of floor space was leased, principally used for warehousing, shipping operations, customer service and special packaging.
ZEBCO brought out the Model 404 BIG Bee at the 1963 AFTMA, a closed-face series reel complete with 100 yards of 15 lb. test line, to retail at $7.95. There were further cuts in the line as ZEBCO weeded out slow selling items to make room for increasing production of the more popular reels.
Proud of its complete line – from the Model 22 at $5.95 to the Model 870 and 8700 rod surf combinationsa t $59.90, ZEBCO has achieved successive sales increases throughout the years by offering its products at a price within the budget of every fisherman.
When there are changes to be made in the tackle industry, ZEBCO wil make them. ZEBCO gives the best reel for the best value and always has.
R.D. Hull passed away in December of 1977, but his legacy lives on in the quality and performance of every Zebco rod and reel.
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