One of the latest and first narrow-reel kit builds was the APRIL 26, 2017 - NEWELL 533NK REEL: 400 SERIES 'YO-YO' REEL BUILD. I have used this reel already and it has become a favorite, and may be what more anglers are looking for in a lightweight but powerful topwater and bottom fishing 40-50 lb test Yo-Yo style reel.
Recently though, I was fortunate to complete the next reel tweaking/performance project that came along when I was able to purchase:
- TIBURON 349H Narrow Kit (spool and topless frame)
- 349H Reel (2x)
This project is similar to the 533NK Yo-Yo project to mount the kit and make this particular reel and was done in order to have a reel that can comfortably fish 60-80 lb test line:
Needless to say before I go further, their is a difference in these two Yo-Yo reel builds which I will point out at the end of this article, but in making a quick mention here.... it is the choice of the angler in what they are comfortable in holding and fishing with.
From what little is available on the history of this particular Penn Reel, the 349 line of reels (4 separate models - (2) slower speed models: 349, 349C and (2) high speed models: 349H and 349HC, were introduced into the saltwater reel market in the latter years of the 1950's. Just to point out and lessen the confusion, the 'C' designation on the sideplate noted that the reel allowed the angler to disconnecting the anti-reverse dog, similar to what is on a Penn Squidder which made it the proverbial 'knuckle buster.' This was a valuable feature for adjusting the depth of the lure/bait when trolling since it gave an idea on how many feet was layout when counting the revolutions of the handle rotating the opposite direction. From what is known, few of the slow-speed 349C reels were made or for that matter purchased, and that particular model was the first to be removed from the Master Mariner series of reels.
The 349 Master Mariner was essentially designed to be used a heavy duty trolling reel, thus had limited 'at best' popularity in the Penn line of conventional reels during the 1960's through the mid 1970's. Though anglers along east coast used the 349 line of reels for what it was designed for, trolling, along the west coast the 349/349H was used at first as a bottom fishing reel before it became a favorite on southern California party boats for tossing lures to tuna and more so, wahoo.
In looking back during this time period, the 349H limited popularity most likely was due to the introduction by Penn Reels of the high speed - red plate Senator series in the 1960's. This can be seen when looking at old Penn Reels literature/marketing on their preeminent Senator line of reels. Tackle sales clearly showed that anglers overwhelmingly preferred to purchase, and as much use the easier to hold and lighter in weight 113H - 4/0 size reel over the 349H reel.
In further speculating here during the changing reel market and demand for specific reels during the 1970's, Penn Reels started a process of discontinuing a number of semi-popular reels such as the 259 Long Beach (one of the first to be discontinued), then 110 (Black 1/0), 111 (Black 2/0) Senator Reels, the largest Surfmaster that being the 250, and then the take apart 99 Silver Beach and 145 or mid-size Squidder. One could say that this may have been due to the sales of the most popular reel of this time period, the JIgmaster 500 series. The last remaining Master Mariner the 349H, met a similar fate during the early to mid 1980's, which clearly was due to the popularity of the high speed Senator series being used as the de-facto trolling reel amongst fishermen.
This was from Penn Reel catalog 89B as the 349H now shares the page with similar and also cheaper in price 'trolling' reels. This page was also placed after the Penn Senator page(s) in the catalog, unlike in earlier catalogs where the 349 Master Mariner series information was placed at the start of the older Penn Reel catalog.
Upon first glance of the 349H reel, immediately one can see it was particular tall in height when resting on its reel seat. In comparison to the red 6/0 Senator, only slightly smaller, but in contrast extremely narrow in width. In fact the 349 Master Mariner is approximately as wide as Jigmaster Jr. 501, making it what some anglers described as 'tippy' to hold and part of the reason it was limited in use as a reel to fish with all day. At best, the 349H was typically stored on the side or placed in a rod holder if trolling, and if used for short periods of time as a reel for squidding various west coast gamefish.
As a specialty reel the 349H was noted for having a very unique part, in fact two not shared with any other Penn Reel, this being an oversized high-speed pinion and a stainless steel main gear. It was due to this gear set that during the latter 1970's, Carl Newell started introducing a line of conversion kits and parts which added to the performance of reels such as the 349H. In particular and due to the high rate of retrieve, a lighter in weight aluminum kit aptly named the 'WAHOO SPECIAL' was produced. The WAHOO SPECIAL kit would now make the 349H reel noticeably more comfortable to hold due to the removing of the extremely heavy in weight - reinforced chrome Penn Spool. This allowed anglers to have a reel that could easily cast a jig or wahoo bomb, and then with the high speed gears, quickly retrieve and when hooked up, help in bringing in a large fish to the angler.
The (H) gear set had a gear ratio of 3.25 to 1, this combined with a spool that was as tall as any conventional reel spool made by Penn Reels at the time, allowed the uptake of a substantial amount of line, approximately 30 inches for each turn of the handle. The main gear itself was comparable in size to what is found within a 9/0 Senator, but the difference was with the 349H main gear having the same inner bridge sleeve diameter of a 113H.
This imagine should give one an idea on the size of the 349H main gear, in contrast to the 113H main gear. As you can see, there is a big difference in the size of these two main gears which use a similar size bridge sleeve (the bridge sleeves are interchangeable for reel repairs).
In the image below, one can now see the oversized dog in the 349H, and unlike the 113H which uses a coil-style dog spring (see schematic below). Also there is a substantial amount of drag stopping surface for the 6 drag washers (3 thick fiber and 3 metal washers) again due to 349H main gear being similar in size to a 9/0 main gear. (Note: My use of the word 'similar' means comparable in size as far as the drag washer diameter across).
So fishermen may be confused in that this is another 'Wahoo Special' kit for the 349H, but I remind everyone that this is a Tiburon Engineering 'Yo-Yo' or narrow kit unlike the full size original Wahoo Special conversion kit which greatly increased the line capacity:
One also does have an option of using if one has, the original 349H Newell aluminum conversion spool in making their own Yo-Yo kit (just add 3 Newell bars and leave the original base on the reel):
I would clearly defer to the CNC cut spool that comes with this kit, even though there are those fishermen who still prefer to use the standard size aluminum Newell 349H spool:
So let us break down the 349H Master Mariner and separating out the parts not needed which are:
- Penn chrome spool
- Penn chrome base
- Penn lugs
- Penn chrome post bars
One thing I like to emphasize about the 349H Master Mariner is that it may be one of the easiest reels to disassemble and then reassemble. All the parts are oversized along with no coil-style springs used and notorious for suddenly launching out of the reel when pulling out the bridge screws:
I would highly recommend to now clean up the 349H parts that you will be using in the build, and a good lubricant which I use and commonly found in stores such as WD-40 works.
The previous owner lubricated the internal rightside parts with the excellent blue grease...though I normally clean up any excess since I prefer just placing a film of grease over the metal parts....
Carefully take out the kit, that being the frame and spool, then make sure you lubricate the screw holes with grease:
As I stated earlier, this is a very straight forward build since you are using the original Penn 349H screws and do not have to place lugs into the one piece topless frame. Now lay the frame on a flat surface and start securing the screws to the kit frame:
Since this is aluminum fishing reel parts, place a film of grease upon the surfaces and then go about cleaning off any excess.
Again clean up any excess grease that comes out of the holes in the frame where the screws are placed. Finally with the frame laid flat on the other side, place the new spool and secure the right side plate. In just a few minutes you have converted a standard 349H into one with a lightweight aluminum frame and spool.
Have you noticed that you do not use the original chrome inner frame rings? This is in contrast to the 533NK build where you do use the Newell stainless inner rings:
The 533NK build was done using a 400 series Newell Reel and came out better than I previously imagined. In fact I found the 533NK kit to be appropriate for using 50lb braid for deepwater (40 fathom) black sea bass fishing along with Nantucket cod and pollock fishing, and it turns a 400 series Newell Reel (3/0 gear train) into one of my favorites for this type of fishing. I should add that on the 533NK build, I did use the PRO CHALLENGER cut 3.6-1 gear set and the Byron Young - 'Ultimate Drag Kit' to provide me with more cranking and drag stopping power. This makes a very noticeable difference when compared to the original Newell gears and drag washers!
Also I can imagine some would ask, "what would be the difference between the Penn 349H, 113H and Newell 440/533 reels in the 50-60 lb line class?"
Needless to say, and on first appearance it is pretty evident in the overall size of these reels, but more so and especially by the weight differences when holding each reel. This will discourage many to purchase a 349H to make either a Yo-Yo or Wahoo Special reel.
Here is where the fishermen has a choice on what they prefer to use, and in comparing reels that are now used for similar fishing applications, the 113H is the cheapest (an excellent/mint condition reel runs between 45 - 90 dollars) to not only purchase but find being sold. The 4/0H Senator platform has had a vast number of aftermarket enhancement parts made over the years to beef-up the out of the box reel. You can easily spend another 250 dollars (if not more and without purchasing aluminum plates) in purchasing a CNC frame, spool, handles, stainless double dog bridge assemblies, hi-speed gears and drag kit.
I do understand when reading this last paragraph that it is much easier to just purchase a new Baja Special 113HN which is ready to fish straight out of the box. All I am saying here is that if you have a 113H, there are options to improve this particular reel performance to come close to that of a 349H.
The 533/440 Yo-Yo kit is the next level up in so far as the expense in purchasing a 400 series or the even more expense 500 series Newell Reel. Purchasing these Newell Reels along with a frame and spool kit and Ultimate Drag Upgrade (sans buying a new Tiburon or other aftermarket handle even handle) could put you near or into the 400 dollar range if not more. I understand there can be a debate here, but the 113H and 400/533 are pretty similar in what they can do, even when pressed into commercial handgear fishing applications.
Now to the difference in using a 349H Master Mariner, it is noticeable as far as the gear train which allows one to not only comfortably fish heavier pound line test, but one can target larger fish. I was fortunate in finding at the time a very reasonably priced 349H reel(s) being sold, and also due to Randy & Karen Pauly @ 'Offshore Vintage Tackle'. In both cases I was able to get a hold of the 533NK kits, but also with TIBURON ENGINEERING producing a very limited run of these kits. I cannot imagine what the cost would now be to find a new 349H Tiburon Yo-Yo kit at this point.
I did recently see upon socialized media that a run of one piece frames* - CORTEZ CONVERSIONS is now available, and the * is that you still have to use either the original Penn chrome posts or a single Newell solid or Penn Bar which can be purchased here @ PRO CHALLENGER, along with either the standard 349 chrome spool or Newell standard 349H aluminum spool.
I also saw a 349/349H kit in final development with the last issue with the anodizing of the aluminum plates and frame, also by CORTEZ CONVERSIONS. Some fishermen may choose to go in that direction, especially if they prefer using the 349 Master Mariner for trolling.
I should add that an important reel enhancement performance accessory can be found with SMOOTH DRAG: Penn 349H KIT, 5 drag stack, 5 metal, 6 Carbontex. The cost at 38 dollars may sound high, but I can assure you that if you fish this reel for hard pulling fish, the Smooth Drag 349H kit is well worth it especially if you are trying to fish this reel in place of a narrow 6/0H Senator.
In conclusion, I do understand that 349 Master Mariner with the difference in the low and high speed models and the high speed HC (two levers on the rightside plate, are specialty reels at best. But if you are looking for possibly one of the strongest fish pulling reels around, the 349H may be at the very top of all the choices on the reel market. The Yo-Yo model as seen here, allows one to fish with heavy braid, or a reasonable amount of nonalignment line. Those who know about and have fished the 349H will still continue to use them as I will next year when fishing for groundfish off Nantucket.