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May 2002

Recently I was given the chance to go the Zebco/Quantum Headquarters in Tulsa Oklahoma. Chris Littau, a close friend of mine took the time to give me a tour through the entire Research and Development Department (R&D). I donít know exactly what I was expecting, but I was amazed at the amount of man hours that go into the development of a new reel. The tour answered so many questions I have had in the past about the pricing of reels as well as internal components. There are so few companies that have an actual R&D Department because so many companies are buying existing technologies and just putting their name on it. That just isnít true with Zebco/Quantum.

As you may know, Zebco/Quantum has a huge line of reels. They make reels to fit into anyoneís price range and fishing style. While visiting with other engineers about the projects they are working on, each one has designed aspects for the reels that make them better. Each of them works countless hours trying to make their reels superior to the last. With the introduction of a new line release mechanism on their lower end reels that will virtually never wear out to the use of ceramic drag mechanisms that create the smoothest drag ever.

The new line of Performance Tuned (PT) reels captured my attention right away. While talking about all the new products and what sets them apart from the rest, the PTís stood out. Quantum is using technology they developed to make this line of reels superior to any reels on the market. The use of ceramics for the line paw and drag mechanisms is just one step in building a product that is not only smooth but more durable as well. They chose to make the bail wire out of titanium instead of the traditional material. They also used a magnetic spring to close the bail to insure longer life. The gears in entire PT line are made of a brass-bronze alloy material that is much harder than traditional gears. This is another way they can ensure longer life of the reels. One of the new technologies that Zebco/Quantum developed is the grease and oil. The new Hot Sauce oil was developed by Quantum and it gives their reels superior performance over any other lubrication. The bearings have new tighter tolerances and combined with special grease it makes the reel much quieter, smoother and more durable.

The concept for a new reel begins with the engineers, the Industrial Design Department and the management getting together and discussing an area of the market that they feel they need to concentrate on. The Industrial Design Department goes to work and literally draws the product they believe will fill the need. While touring the facilities, I was amazed at the countless drawings of reels. Just like the automotive industry, there are drawings of futuristic reels but most importantly the reels that are now in the works. The guys in the art department are extremely talented, you would think that a computer generated the sketches. Since I have no talent when it comes to drawing, I was simply amazed at their work.

The work group gets together and approves the drawings they like best and then they build a 3-D model of the reel. These models look like working reels, however they have no internal parts in them. The engineers get started designing parts for the reel at this point. With the help of a state of the art computer program, they build virtual models of the new reel. Sometimes the original model of the reel is right on but often they have to revise the shape and size of it to accommodate the working parts. One thing that amazed me was that all the parts are not made in the same plant. They decide the material they want the part to be made of and then they choose who is to make it. They have an in-house machine shop that builds the first few working models to be tested. The staff tests the new product to see if the reel meets their specifications and to know which parts need to be modified to meet their standards. The engineers design the new parts and the machine shop builds them to the new specifications. The reels are again tested to insure that the new designs are correct. This is a slow and tedious process.

After the reels meet the engineers standards, they are then put to the test in their test lab. In this lab there is a machine to test every aspect of a reels working features. A machine depresses the line release mechanism and then pulls some line out then reels it back again. This is done 24 hours a day until they discover if it fits into their specs. Another machine does nothing but reel line with weight on it non-stop for weeks. They stick the reels in salt water prior to some of the tests. Another thing they do to insure the highest quality and durability of a reel is to place it into an oven and/or a freezer prior to testing. The robotics in this lab are amazing. They test their reels against the other manufacturers to insure consumer satisfaction.

Zebco/Quantum then makes several pilot runs of the new product from the plant that has been chosen to manufacture the reel. Then they begin the laboratory testing all over again. This is to guarantee the plant is capable of building the product up the their high standards. The reels are then field tested by pro fishermen and guides. Let me tell you, these guys really put them to the test. They have field testers all over the globe that will fish them in every imaginable condition. Any reel that stands up to salt water and catching big reds will stand up to all our bass fishing needs.

During all this testing the reels aesthetics of the reels are being finalized. From finish to trim the reels have to meet the consumers idea of what it should look like if they are going to spend their hard-earned money into it. Even the box has to be designed to accommodate the reel and to be pleasing to the eye.

There is no way I can do the tour I took justice. There is so much going on in that building, I would have to write a book to include it all. I will say this, I will never complain about the price of a reel again. So much work goes into the design and testing of new products.

If you havenít tried a Zebco/Quantum product lately, you need to. You can rest assured that their products have been thoroughly tested. They also have a reel that is perfect for your needs.

Leave a few for seed,
Chris Roberts