Skip to main content

Fishing Gear Icon: How the Zebco 33 Changed the World

The brainchild of a Texas watchmaker became the first fishing reel of countless anglers.

Fishing Gear Icon: How the Zebco 33 Changed the World

Although the early Model 33 (left) isn't as streamlined as the current version (right), its spincast concept has remained largely unchanged through the years.

The Model 33 wasn't the first fishing reel ever produced and sold by Zebco, but it certainly was—and remains—its most popular.

When it first hit the market in 1954, anglers of all ages were quick to appreciate the reel's rugged dependability and ease of use. That sentiment has since been shared by millions more who first learned to fish on a Model 33.

A watchmaker and inventor from Texas named R.D. Hull designed the Model 33 as well as its three predecessors. The first design was a new type of enclosed fishing reel that, with a push of a button, dispensed line off the end of a spool through a hole in the reel's cover.

The backlash-proof design was unlike anything that had ever been seen at the time and laid the groundwork for what would come to be known as the spincast reel.

In 1947, Hull approached officials of the Zero Hour Bomb Company of Tulsa, Okla., with his idea.

The company (whose name was shortened to Zebco in 1956 after a package sent to President Eisenhower raised security concerns at the White House) originally made products used for oil exploration. Hull came along at the right time, though, as the company was looking for alternative products to market.

The new closed-face reel Hull pitched to them seemed promising and was named the "Standard." A few years later, the Model 33 came along. It sold for $19.50, or the equivalent of about $180 today, and tens of millions have been sold in nearly seven decades since.

Now, the Zebco 33 retails for under $30 and is one of dozens of rods and reels, including spinning reels and even a couple of baitcasters for catfish, made by the company.

At first, the Model 33 was described as a spinning reel in its advertising, on its box and on the reel itself, but within a few years the term "spincast reel" was coined and used to identify it. The rest, as they say, is history.

Zebco 33 Specs/Features

  • Price: $26.99
  • Gear Ratio: 4.1:1
  • Bearings: 1
  • Mono Capacity: 120 yards/10 lbs
  • IPT (in.): 23
  • Built-In Bite Alert
  • MicroFine™ dial-adjustable drag
  • All-metal gears
  • Dual Ceramic Pick-up Pins
  • Stainless steel covers
  • Lightweight graphite frame
  • QuickSet™ Anti-Reverse
  • Changeable right- or left-hand retrieve
  • Ball bearing system
  • Patented no-tangle design

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Game & Fish Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now