September 15, 2021
By Colin Moore
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shortened to Zebco in 1956 after a package sent to President Eisenhower raised security concerns at the White House) originally made products used for oil exploration.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