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Postby EC NEWELLMAN » Wed Apr 26, 2017 6:24 pm

Here was a Newell Reel project that only came about after Captain Tom Mikoleski of GRAND SLAM CHARTERS - Montauk, NY gave me two Newell 400 series reels that were in need of some serious reel repair work. The one seen in this project was a second generation engraved plate 'Newell 440-5' that had:

- 5-1 gears
- Retaining frame rods for both the bars and base
- Graphite head jack and clicker set

The reel with the 5-1 gears were extremely rough due to fishing done off Montauk for stripers, along with the drag system that was locked down (latter found to be metal washers glued to the original smooth Newell drag washers) and barely spun as the bearings were "caked up" with sea-gunk to put it nicely. I immediately knew this would require a few dollars invested at the start of any project to make this Newell Reel serviceable for at least me to use...especially since it was given to me.

Newell Reel 'TLC' don this reel did take a while to get the reel functioning the way I prefer, and after stripping the reel down, banging out the severely rusted frame rods, installing high quality Chinese made ABEC 7 ceramic bearings, along with cleaning the reel up, I then went about installing a standard 500 series engraved plate kit:

- 533 heavy duty spool, bars and base kit
- Byron Young - Newell Reel Series ULTIMATE DRAG 5-stack kit

This 440 - Newell Reel was now ready to use, but for me I have never been a fan of any 400 series Newell Reel. Many will wonder why I would make such a statement, but it came down to the 400 Newell Reel series (400/447/454) being essentially an extended 3/0 gear train reel with the only benefit of having extra line capacity. I would always point out that this was just a larger and bulkier reel when compared to the more comfortable to hold - 338 Newell Reel. With braided line now available, I see little use of the 400 series with braid especially when you can still easily pick up any of the wider 300 series reels either in the 338 or 344 size if you need mono line capacity.

In giving a brief Newell Reel history background, the Newell 400 reel series went into production with the introduction of the 'P' series reels. There was never a 400 series 'BLACKIE' made, along with the 400 series being the largest Newell Reel made as far as line capacity and the 3/0 gear train for years even when Carl Newell transitioned to the original 'G' (ie; stainless clicker and jack) and then second generation 'G' series.

The first generation 500 series was where the 400 series was beefed up with a 4/0 gear train (similar to a Penn Senator), but the 400 series still remained in production for a number of years thereafter. Strangely, the 400 and 500 series of Newell Reels share exactly similar parts other than the 4/0 gear train, heavy duty spool and later double dog system added onto the bridge assembly (note some later engraved plate 454 - Newell Reels did come with a double dog bridge assembly...most seen in those manufactured when Valley Mfg bought the company).

This particular project would of came to an end with just the Newell bars, base, gear set and drag upgrade, but by lucky circumstance I saw a sale of Newell Reel gear posted by Randy and Karen Pauly of Offshore Vintage Tackle that caught my eye with two brand new N533NK-Black & Silver -Frame/Spool Kits for the right price, and that was where the next modification of this 440-5 was made.


A little background on the Tiburon Engineering 533NK kits.....

Originally Newell Reels narrowest reel was the 533, which was the upgraded 440 reel with a 4/0 gear train. The 533 was extremely popular with west coast fishermen, especially those who tossed "wahoo bombs" and other lures/iron to these speedsters (yes it was also popular for California Yellowtail), but there were fishermen who felt that their was not a need for such a wide reel for this niche fishery, that being jigging for wahoo. Other reel manufacturers ranging from Shimano, Daiwa and Avet were starting to capitalize on narrow CNC cut frame - high speed reels for not only this fishery, but many others especially since braided line had become so popular.

One of the finest Newell Reel guru's around, Jerry 'Reel Man' along with the help of an old time machinist, started to tinker around in shortening the width of 533 reel down to first a narrower 'YTS' size (width of a 332 reel) then to the narrowest of all in the 'JR' by using either aluminum and graphite Newell Reel parts (spool, bars, base) to make these new sizes which I believe were then given (I believe) the 'V' designation of 521 (2" wide between the inside stainless frame or cage rings) and slightly wider 522.


Later Jerry teamed up with Tiburon Engineering which designed the topless 533NK kit (frame and spool) which is shown here. If you are somewhat wondering why this was labeled a 533 kit when in fact it narrows either a 440/533 to the width of 220/322, it seems this may be for marketing purposes. Who would know of either a 521 or 522 designation for a Newell Reel?

(Seen in image is the old Pro Gear 3500 (Narrow YTS), a blue Newell 220 reel and the Newell 400 with the 533NK - this should give you an idea on how wide this reel becomes with this kit)

Before I go on to the actually build, I should make mention and as you can see that this size Newell Reel would be close to the textbook definition of a 'Yo-Yo' sized reel. I do understand that there are those on the west coast who would consider YTS reels as 'Yo-Yo' size reels, along with the Penn 349 and the added conversion with a Newell 'Wahoo Special' kit the first to be a 'Yo-Yo' width reel due to its narrow spool and frame. The west coast term 'Yo-Yo' was normally associated with a reel that has a very narrow spool for it's plate height diameter, with high speed gears (4.6 or 5.5 in the case with Newell) and a longer than normal handle. This build comes as close to this 'Yo-Yo' designation except for the high speed gears which those on the east coast like myself prefer.

In talking about the gears or gear set, in using the Pro Challenger heat treated 3.6 main and pinion, I am so impressed by how smooth these gears are when under tension. At first in looking at them when I first received a number of these gears, I wondered if I had made a mistake. What I came to find out was just the opposite! I wish that back in the day, Carl would have paid greater attention in cutting gears that were as smooth as these gears from Alan Chui at Pro Challenger.

Lets move along and discuss the 533NK kit itself.

First the anodized spool is as high quality as you would expect from a specialty spool manufacturer with the fit inside the inner frame, and right through the spool spindel sliding effortlessly into the bearings. The CNC frame screw holes along with the phillips head screws, are very high quality. DO NOT USE THE ORIGINAL NEWELL SCREWS....I emphasize this point, even with this build now requiring both a slotted and phillips head screw driver which normally is not required when working on a Newell Reel. The phillips head screws are precision cut and go into the frame like a knife through butter. Also remember....you need both the INNER and OUTER stainless frame rings for the build, Do not (yes I have seen people do this and wonder why their reels do not work!) leave off the inner frame rings.

Next lay out the 533NK kit.

I will add that I have done dozens upon dozens of kit builds through the years and even with that I still take the time to lay out all the parts and tools required. This makes the project move along that much quicker...and without the aggravation of looking for a part, figuring out which screws go where or needing some other tool to put the reel together.


Anytime you work with aluminum frames, apply a light film of your favorite grease/lubricant on the surface and screw holes of the frame. I have pointed out a number of aluminum frame disasters over the years, and have had a number of aluminum frames on reels that came in for reel repair that led me to using language most commonly heard by high school students on a MTA subway train when attempting to pull them apart.

Lubricate...Lubricate...Lubricate....especially when you have to use stainless screws.


Lets back up for a moment and notice I keep laying the frame on a flat surface.

Also notice the inner frame - slotted screws which were in the original reel (once I removed the rods that went through the bars and base) now can be put on the side. They are now not needed to hold the inner ring to the frame. You only have to use the 5 phillips frame screws that come with this kit on the reel. That is it, and I just wanted to make sure that those who do attempt the build only use the 5 outer CNC frame holes in this manner.

A big hint here.... back off the left side plate bearing adjuster (seen on either engraved plate, 'C' and 'S' reels) or bearing cup depending on which version comes with the reel your working upon before you place the spool inside the frame. Once the build is done, then you can go about readjusting the adjuster or cup to apply the proper spacing/tension on the spool


We finally come to the point where WE USE THE TIBURON STAINLESS STEEL LUGS with this build.

I know from past experience that you can use the Newell lugs or press in the graphite insert which doesn't go in as smoothly as it should. Hint....use what came with the kit. As you can see, even though they take a little pressure to push into the plate holding points at the top of each plate, they sit perfectly flush within the plate.


Now comes the point where you secure the right side plate to the CNC cut frame.


From start to finish it should take less than a half an hour in installing new gears, drag set, fiddling with the drag tension and installing your favorite handle. Clean up all the grease that is on the plates and along various reel parts.


Now lets try to sum up why we did this build.

1- First is due to the fact I had the original Newell 440 reel and the main reason for buying the narrow kit.

2- The second issue is cost. Gear sets will range from 50 to 75 dollars which have to be figured into the build if you are looking for a high or low speed reel performance. Add in another 30 dollars for Bryan's - ULTIMATE DRAG (a must) for star drag reel performance. For those who are looking to add a favorite handle, the cost ranges from 25 - 50 dollars (yes the Ulua Junkies top gun handle - no longer available I see).

3- Even though this reel has a stainless bearing adjuster and a plastic graphite cap for the right side plate, I have come to see that you will have less headaches in the long run when it comes to bearing replacement. I cannot tell you how many rusted and too heavily pressed in bearings I end up popping out of stainless bearing cups (requires the Reel Speed South - Reel bearing pulling kit). I have an original kit which I bought from Mikey Bluefish, but I see they at Reel Speed have a new kit (and I am told it costs a few dollars more).

4- The performance of this build. Flawless.....I cannot say enough on how smooth the spool spins along with the tight tolerances with no spool binding (this was seen with the Reel Man kits where a little inner frame work would at times be required).

5- The weight of the reel..... now I know there are fishermen who love using the lightest tackle, but in this case the added weight of the aluminum frame and spool is negligible at most. It is in fact, surprising, and that is due to the excellent craftsmanship of the Tiburon Engineering kit. In this case I preferred the longer 500 series graphite handle which is slightly longer but lighter in weight than a aluminum handle.

Final cost if you had to put a kit like this?

If you break it down by cost for the project:

- 200 - 250 dollars for a 400 series reel. Add another 50 - 100 more dollars for a 500 series reel.

- Gear sets, as mentioned @ 50 - 75 dollars

- Ultimate drag kit, as mentioned @ 30 dollars

- Handle, as mentioned @ 25 - 50 dollars

- Upgraded stainless or ceramic ABEC bearings @ 10 - 30 dollars (depending on seller)

- Stainless jack and in this case Cortez Conversion stainless Newell clicker kit ~ 40 dollars

- 533NK kit, roughly 125 -150 dollars

Just adding up the extra's, and I did not install a stainless bridge sleeve (which I have) or fancy anodized aluminum drag star, this build can easily go into the 400 - 500 dollar range. Some would question the spending of a few Benjamin's in this manner for a 20 year old plus star drag reel but it came down to this:

- If you already have any 400 series you wish to a more comfortable to hold narrow 'Yo-Yo' size reel

- You do not mind spending 150 dollars on a 533NK kit


This is something you have to consider which make this worth the money, in that for another hundred dollars from the original reel and frame cost that you will have a beefed up 3/0 gear train inside a reel that will pull fish as well as any reel if you install the 3.6 main and pinion when you use the ULTIMATE DRAG kit. I am not going to say how much drag pressure I measured on this reel, but needless to say, it is the equal of the top dollar star drag reels (400 dollar class) made by the big reel manufacturers. More so, I know that I can tune or repair anything in this reel within 10 minutes time by removing the 5 frame and 4 bridge screws without sweating bullets in being unable to put the reel back together.


For those looking for more information on these Newell Reel builds, Alan Tani has an outstanding site which has become the spawning bed for many of the new parts additions to Newell Reels along with Super Tune Reels which has become one of the online sources for various online kit builds and reel projects that are again becoming popular these days.

In wrapping this project up, if anyone attempts this build and runs into issues, send me a email and I will help you along. Pay attention to the little details....do not rush if this is your first time or still new to doing an involved build. A number of times with Newell Reels and especially with latter models, gear set and drag washer changes will raise ones blood pressure once the right side plate is attached to the reel frame. Take it one step at a time before you move onto the next.

Finally the next stop for this reel will be on the Nantucket fishing grounds....I will report back on how well this reel worked on the hard-knocks bottom fishing proving grounds.

Added 4.27


I should have made mention of the aluminum clamp that comes with the 533NK kit. On appearance it does look bulky, but as with most Tiburon Engineering aluminum gear it was thoughtfully designed, light in weight and doesn't interfere when holding your rod with one hand. It also has an extra extended drilled hole which is used for those attaching it to a fixed structure when the reel is set in a holder (such as and predominately for those in Hawaii who surf cast).

The aluminum clamp can be attached to one's comfort and here I found it comfortable in setting the clamp up in this fashion to the reel frame. You also have to remember that this is a screw on - screw off clamp which does have a positive when fishing on vessels with other people onboard and the reel "not walking away on it's own" to put it nicely. This is not a speed clamp (as seen with Newell reel bases), so you do have to bring along a slotted head screw driver if you attach/detach the reel from the rod during the trip. You can fish the reel without the clamp as most fishermen do which you do see with the smaller frames, but I found the clamp not to be a hindrance as far as one's comfort with this particular narrow size 533NK kit.

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Postby bluefish69 » Thu Apr 27, 2017 12:31 pm

This is a nice write up. You did a lot of work on that reel. The only part that I would have added after spending that much money was a Titanium Handle & Knob. These can't be bent to make an off set, I know I asked a while ago. You can check with Adam at Motive Fabrication -- Three Se7ens on Alantani's site. I do have a few sets of Newell 3.6 in stock.

Show me a man with both feet on the floor and I'll show you a man who can't get his pants on.
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Postby EC NEWELLMAN » Thu Apr 27, 2017 1:16 pm

Thank you Mikey Bluefish...

I have thought about aluminum handles and the inherent issues with them in the saltwater environment. The Newell graphite extended handles from the 400 - 600 series do have an issue with the aluminum post which the handle knob rotates on, but for corrosion resistance of the handle itself and lighter weight you cannot beat them.

Penn Reels does off a number of options for those looking for various offset, tapered and conventional bend of the handle itself. More so with Penn handles is that you have different types of knobs to choose from between standard bullet, barrel, paddle, football and stick variation. This is where someone can choose to spend the extra coin in picking one of the Penn Reel - handles.

The point I should make is that I focused on using what could be done on a 400 series reel at the most reasonable cost. The issues we are seeing with tweaked Penn and Newell Reels is that you start with a reel that costs between 100 - 200 dollars and end up spending double that point to get a higher performing reel. Some would ask if that is worth the cost when you can walk into or order online the latest cutting edge reels coming out from the big tackle manufacturers.

I felt that for the 400 Newell Reel series that this would be the most responsible use of dollars to put into this type of reel, and you can see the add-on's cost start to rise to the 400 dollar plus mark. Again in asking with the number of fishermen who would go this process of tweaking these conventional star drag reels? Wouldn't the money be better spent on maybe (and making an example) a double dog Newell bridge assembly?

Personally for those who fish regularly like a mate or someone who has their own private vessel or even crews/dead head upon one, this would be worth the money then. The only caveat is that you MUST keep WD-40 or some other lubricant available along with washing any full frame reel down with fresh water after a fishing trip. As we both know in seeing some horror stories of reels with a frame that look "beat" after just one season on a party boat.

This is something one has to consider when using an aluminum frame on a Penn or Newell Reel....the upkeep along the way. We can really jump the price of a Newell Reel frame conversion up and over the 500 dollar market by buying a full aftermarket parts tweaks-package that we now see available from various online sources, a number of the more prominent and reputable ones which I listed here.
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