High Speed Salt Water Reel

By: Ed Scharf


This article is a documentary of the first version Mitchell 402 Salt Water spinning reel.  It includes information about the Mitchell 402 and documentation of its history. I would like to thank Dan Hawks, fellow Mitchell reel collector and Mitchell historian, for helping me with the historical information presented here.  

The Mitchell Salt Water Reels

The cover of an early "Salt Water" instruction manual.

Carpano & Pons of Cluses, France began manufacturing the Mitchell “Salt Water” spinning reel about 1951.  It was larger but similar to the popular “Mitchell” (300) spinning reel and designed for ocean surf fishing.  In the early years there was no model number designation, only the inscription “Salt Water”.  In 1956, the salt water reel was designated model number 302.  The 302 was painted black and had a gear ratio of approximately 4 to 1.  The Mitchell 302 was quite popular during that period and was known to be very well made and durable when used in salt water.  It was also used for heavy fresh water fishing.  The model 302 reels that were imported into the United States were designated “Garcia” on the reel as the Garcia Corporation was the sole importer of Mitchell reels to the United States.

1964 Advertisement

In 1964, Garcia began advertising a “high speed” version of the Model 302.  It was called the model 402 Salt Water.  The 402 had a gear ratio of approximately 5 to 1.  Like the 302, it was a large reel, weighing 19-1/2 ounces.  It was painted a dark blue-green color referred to by many collectors as “Midnight Blue”.  The 402 was marketed from 1964 through 1977.  Mitchell referred to the 402 as the “King of Saltwater Reels”.

Marketing advertisements for the 402 first began in 1964.  The ad shown to the left appeared in the 1964 Garcia Fishing Annual Catalog.

Actual production of the 402 started before 1964, possibly as early as 1962.  The Garcia Corporation began importing the 402 into the United States in the second half of 1963.  According to factory records, during the production years from 1963 through 1977, there were approx, 189,313 Mitchell 402 mfg.

Over the course of manufacturing, various improvements / modifications were made to the reel proper. These changes were minor and encompassed the reel body, handle, and materials used in construction.

It is difficult to pin down the dates of manufacture of the “402 Salt Water.” Serial numbers were not conclusive for accurate dating.  It appears that the Model 302 and 402 reels were sequentially numbered as a group. This makes it even more difficult to determine the date of issue.

First Version Mitchell 402

The reel pictured and discussed below is from the collection of Edward Scharf.  This Mitchell 402 reel has serial # 0811249.  It is new and in mint condition.  The reel is in its original box.

Mitchell 402 - Serial No. 0811249

Because of the low serial number and the box design, this reel is an “early” example of a “first version” Mitchell 402.  It was probably manufactured in 1963 and possible as early as 1962. 

US Patent 2,726,052 pertains to the special “Planamatic” gear system inside the reel.  The patent was applied for in January, 1953, and issued on December 6, 1955.  The inventor was Charles Pons and the patent was assigned to Carpano & Pons Co. of Cluses, France.

Mr. Pons designed a special movement of the stationary line drum (spool) that had “numerous partial reciprocations” of the drum as the rotor turned.  This movement was imparted to the drum from the crank handle by means of a special “Hypocycloidal Planetary Gear-train”.  Mr. Pons claimed that this special reciprocating motion of the drum resulted in superior line distribution on it.  The word “Planamatic” came from the planetary gears.  This type gearing was used on some other model Mitchell reels as well.

Underneath the red sticker the word “Garcia” is engraved

Front cover red anti reverse exclusive for 402

The boxes for the early Mitchell Salt Water spinning reels are difficult to find in good condition.  The reels are heavy and, if they have been in the box and moved around over the years, they tend to damage the box.  This box is in excellent condition considering it is 45 years old.

Print text for 402 box

The construction of this box helps determine the date of manufacture of the box and reel.  In this box design the top piece with a 1cm flange is actually slipped down inside the box sides and glued.  This box design was reportedly discontinued sometime in 1963.

Line guide and bail mechanism.

A view of the "Hypocycloidal Planetary Gear-train" is visible through the lube port.

Rotating head, locking nut and main shaft. The red paint seal guarantees that the reel has not been disassembled.

Internal view of the rotor cup showing trip mechanism.

The serial number stamped on the reel foot matches the serial number on the box bottom.  This proves the correct box for the reel and adds considerably to overall value for the collector.

The underside of spool shows schematic of the Teflon drag mechanism and the sticker for the owner to document line size.

Only the first version 402's had holes drilled in the back side of the round handle. The spool is gloss black.

One little accessory that is not seen very often with Mitchell Salt Water reels is the small split head screwdriver that is shown in the upper left picture.

This screwdriver tool was packaged with all new reels but most of them, being so small, were lost by the original owners.

The tool is used to remove the line guide nut that I have pictured in the upper right.

At the bottom picture is an exploded drawing of the 402 reel front section.  The special tool is shown there as part 56.  It is used to remove nut part 16.



 Mitchell 402

Comparison of First Version Handle Design to Later Versions

The parts pictured here are from the following reels

First Version:  S/N 0811249

Later Version:  S/N 1404399 

In the photos above, the First Version handle is to the rear of the later version handle.  There are several differences.

1.  The later version handle has a shroud or dust shield around the mounting screw.

2.  The knurling on the handle nut is much finer on the first version.

3. The backside of the black knob of the first version has blind holes drilled. (Difficult to see in picture).

4.  The screw holding the knob is much larger diameter on the later version.

5.  The later version has a dust cover over the knob screw head.

The handle boss on the reel is also different. The later version reel body (lower) is machined for the dust shield on the handle .


Ed Scharf is a collector of fine vintage fishing reels made by Mitchell, Pflueger, Shakespeare, ABU Sweden and others located  in New Martinsville, West Virginia. This article, “Garcia Mitchell 402” is owned and copyright protected by author, Ed Scharf © 2010.