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Carl Newell Passed Away
CharkBait Staff
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We received word last week that Carl passed away. Carl was the nicest human being in the world of sportfishing I've had the pleasure to have spent time with. He was 86 years of age, would have made it 87 if he'd hung around until January 17th. Those of us who had the opportunity to have met Carl or fish with him, would no doubt agree that he was a unique, gifted, and wonderful man. He was humble, innovative, intelligent, and loved to talk fishing...and loved to fish, too! Here are some words from another who knew Carl far better than I:

"He Changed The Way We Fish: Carl Newell

News came from factory rep Richard Hightower on Monday, December 29: Carl W. Newell has died of pneumonia in a convalescent hospital. Newell was one of the most important figures in southern California offshore and long range fishing. He was 86, and would have been 87 on January 17. His funeral was held today, December 30, at 12:30 pm.

A great innovator, he never finished high school, but Carl learned to build production items to a one-thousandth of an inch of accuracy. He made reels, parts for reels and many other products, including doggie doors and the inner workings of heart machines. He was a great fisherman of unorthodox methods.

“He loved good food and wine,” remembered Hightower, who was Newell’s right hand from 1983 on. “And he was a prankster and a kidder.”

I asked Richard about the early days.

“He started manufacturing in 1952,” said Hightower. “By 1968 he was making plastic pouches for trout and steelhead leaders, called Tangle-Frees. He used to fish in northern California a lot with his wife Sylvia. She caught more fish than he did, and he said it was because of the scent, or the lack of it, on her hands. He had a passion for steelhead.”

Carl became famous for making parts for reels made by other manufacturers. He made them stronger, lighter and with closer tolerances. His reel spools made getting line past the edge of the spool and into the works a thing of the past. There was a period when virtually all the better saltwater fishermen used his “Newelled-out” reels.

He built reels first from black plastic (called “Blackies”) in 1979, and then went to the P Series with aluminum parts in 1981. In 1984 he introduced the Graphite Series, which are still being made today.

“He was the first to make drastic changes in reel manufacturing,” noted Hightower. “He believed in simplicity.”

He also believed in short rods. Newell was convinced a 42-inch rod that had an elliptical bend into the handle was just about prefect for handling big tuna.

Newell asked Hightower once, “Richard, aren’t you going to fish with my short rods?”

So Hightower took one, made a cast, got a fish. “Then I went back to my long rod,” he said.

I fished with Carl Newell on several long range trips, to Guadalupe Island, The Ridge and the Revillagigedos Islands. I tried those short rods and found I could bring tuna to the boat in about half the time I needed with a longer lever.

When I’d get up to fish in the morning before dawn, Carl was already in the galley of the Excel, eating cereal or something healthy.

“Good morning, Carl,” I’d say.

“Any morning I get up is a good morning,” he’d reply, and we’d both chuckle.

In the evening, we often sat up in the galley talking, as he explained his theories to me. Afterward, Carl would say, “Well, I’ve got to go wash my toothie,” and head below. The expression was one he’d learned as a little boy being admonished to brush his teeth.

Two other Newell innovations were the Newell Caster and Carl’s “fighting belt.”

The belt was a piece of conveyor belt material, just a rectangle cut from belting and suspended by straps like an apron. Carl said that was all he needed to control a 200-pound tuna, and I saw him catch many large yellowfin using it with very little apparent strain. I never saw anyone else use one.

The Newell Caster was another matter. It was an early form of wahoo bomb, with a plastic trolling head and a long skirt of heavy, rubbery plastic. He didn’t put a spinner blade on it, and that made it much easier to reel at high speed. It was longer, bigger and lighter than other wahoo bombs, and to this day Richard Hightower still catches lots of wahoo with Newell Casters.

While fishing with Carl, I heard many stories about his youth. The first time he went salt water fishing he rode the streetcar from his home in Glendale one night to the docks in LA and went out for a day trip. He was so young and small he made the ride stretched out asleep in the luggage rack overhead.

“I had so much fun on that trip,” remembered Carl, “ that I went up and asked the captain how much a boat like this one cost. Then I started plotting how I could get $25,000 and get my own boat.”

At one time I had every reel made by Newell. I felt that the ability to cast for distance and to apply power to the handle while grinding on a Newell reel were superior to anything else available. I suspect those reels are a great legacy. They may be around as long as single-speed reels are sold.

In his own way, Carl Newell was a giant among us. But he was also a simple, friendly and caring fisherman. There will not be another like him."
Out of respect to family, I did not make a post last week. Carl passed Christmas eve, I believe. Carl will be fondly remembered by all of us in the sportfishing community, and by all those who fish the salty-stuff. When I fish my Newell reels, I'll be thinking of Carl, and smiling a bit. While he may be in another place, a part of him will still be fishing for many, many years to come.

Great Stuff!
Posts: 1578 | Registered: 18 September 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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May we all be as fortunate to have our friends think so highly of our lives.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: SDTuna09,

Posts: 248 | Registered: 05 January 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I just read your post on Carl Newell. Never had the pleasure of meeting him - just fished his reels religiously. Hearing of his passing takes a little out of me though. Being a consumate jig thrower for years, there is no finer reel for me. His reels have brought me more pleasure in geeting out and away from it all. Put a 332 in my grip with a 10 ft jigstick on the front end of a 3/4 day boat and I'm content as could be! Thanks Carl.
Posts: 153 | Registered: 24 September 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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