Offshore were designed and manufactured by tool-maker Bob Emslie, he was a keen rock fisherman on the NSW coast near Sydney in the 1930’s. His prototype in 1947 had a light weight alloy spool on an over-sized spindle, this provided an in-built anti-backlash action. When he commenced production in 1948, he was making about 200 reels per week which sold for £5 each.
An article by Bruce Hamilton states:
‘Although most of the tackle used by Australian anglers has been imported, there have been occasions when the local product achieved outstanding popularity. This was the case during the introduction of the free spool casting reel to local anglers. The reel helped break resistance to new ideas was not a fancy import- It was a very simple and rather inexpensive locally made reel the “Offshore”.
Free spool casting reels had been around for some years before the Offshore was marketed. American reels, such as Penn’s, Plunger’s and South Bend’s, were in the Sydney stores during the thirties, but these were hard times and very few anglers could afford rod fishing. The few surf anglers who fished with rod and reel used what would now be described as a very basic outfit – a five inch plain centre pin reel spooled with heavy cord or gut line. A low, round the body side-swipe cast sent the sinker and bout out into the breakers.
When the free spool reels were introduced many problems were created as very little was known about suitable casting techniques. At the end of the Second World War, in 1945, there was a revival of interest in surf and rock fishing. A strong demand for tackle was created, but supplies were limited due to six years of war and import restrictions. Australian manufacturers took advantage of this situation and locally made free spool reels were soon on the market.
One of the very first of these reeks in the Sydney shops was the Offshore. This little reel was rather small for surf fishing. The spool took 100 metres of the new nylon coming on the market at this time, plus about 80 metres of cord backing in the 18lb breaking strain size. The spool design was unusual for this period. Instead of a heavy spool on small spindles, the Offshore featured a lightweight alloy spool on the oversize spindles, giving it a natural “anti-backlash” action that soon became very popular with local anglers.
The gearbox was Spartan – a lever separated the main gear from the pinion for casting, and this was the first part of the reel to wear. There was no star drag – the handles spun backwards hitting the angler on the wrist, when a good fish took off!
Although many present-day anglers would find it hard to understand, it was the lack of a star drag that helped sell these reels in the early period of production. Many local anglers did not understand new technology and did not trust the star drag.