How To Use A Shakespeare “Direct Drive” Reel?





That is a very tough question to put the answer into words. Which version of the reel do you have? There is likely a two letter code on the headplate with the word Model in front.

Being an older, what I call direct drive baitcast reel, it takes some practice and knowledge of these reels to be able to use and enjoy them. For them to work best, they need to be taken apart and all of the old dried grease, dirt, sand...needs to be cleaned out of them. Then, relube and assemble.

If you don’t know how to use it, maybe just unscrewing the two bearing caps in the center of each side plate and putting some light oil in the bearing/bushing might get it to function okay. Those center caps control spool tension, which affects casting distance and backlash. Mos,t if not all, the Shakespeare Triumph reels have a separate anti-backlash/casting control knob as well. It might be on the tail plate or head plate dependent on the model version you have. It sets off to the side of the bearing center caps. To start with, I would turn it mostly off (counter clockwise usually). Then, adjust the bearing center caps on each end so that the spool is not tight but can move freely as well. You don’t want a bunch of side to side play of the spool.

I should have mentioned this earlier, making sure all the frame screws are tight/snug is also a good idea. These reels are old and many of them that I have acquired have some loose frame screws. Make sure when you crank the reel forward, the line guide (the loop in front that the line goes through) goes all the way to the right and keep cranking to make it go all the way to the left. Those line guides run on a worm gear under a cover hood. There is a hardened steel pawl mounted on the underside of the line guide that ride in the grooves of the worm gear.

To practice casting one of these reels, mount it on a casting rod and run the line through all the rod eyes. Use a casting weight of your choosing to practice casting and retrieving. The crank arm and handles will turn both forward and backwards because the gears in the reel are always in contact with each other. Therefore, because of that added friction/drag, it takes more weight to cast one of these than a free-spool baitcast reel. Adjusting those two center bearing caps and that anti-backlash control will affect casting distance and backlash.

To keep these reels from backlashing, I recommend you put your thumb on the spool before your casting weight hits the ground. If you don’t, the spool will over spin and create what we call a ‘bird nest’ (tangled fishing line on the spool). If fishing with one, put your thumb on the spool to stop the cast before your bait hits the water.

Lots of verbiage there and I don’t know if it will help. There is a more scientific way to set the casting controls of these type reels, but for a first time user I feel it might be confusing until you get some time in practicing with the reel.

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment.


  • Ron: Great tips Paul. 👍🏻
  • Alpenflage: Thank you Ron. This was just a regular reply to a post by a new person asking how to use a Shakespeare Triumph. Never thought someone would make a blog out of it because it needs a lot of rework and pic tutorials to be any help to those new to older freshwater baitcast reels. The pic above is not even mine. Paul
  • Ron: Your welcome. You can edit this blog and change the pictures. Good information here.
  • timmy: I like these reels 2 Paul, only I’m not very good at casting them. I have become fairly proficient at complete disassembly of casting reels though . at one time they intimidated me. Thanks for the great tutorial... Tim
  • Alpenflage:

    Ron, When I can I will rework this. . . Tim, Some cast better than others. Many of those little Pfluegers cast really well. Such as the Supreme, Summit, Knobby, Akron, Skillcast. That SkillKast has ball bearings in races under that large adjuster on the tail plate. When taking one apart do it in a container. LOL! The higher end Ocean City, Langley, Shakespeare.... reels cast better as well. I have one Ocean City 2000, a couple of Ocean City 1950, two Ocean City 1850 (okay one 1850 is a True Temper but same reel). They all cast really well. Some of the Ocean City <phone> , 1700.... cast well. Paul

  • Ron: Paul, it’s your blog, just hit edit and make your changes.

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