Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Pocket Fisherman

The venerable Ronco Pocket Fisherman is a much maligned fishing machine that I intend to defend. When they first came out in the early 70's, I talked my mom into buying me one. I used it a lot and caught quite a few fish on it. Later in life, my lovely wife, Mrs. Fishing Musician, bought me two new ones for a Father's Day many years ago. I've used those and caught many fish on them.

The original Pocket Fishermen encased in a brown casing had small zebco reels in them. After buying that original pocket fisherman, I bought some replacement zebco reels for like $2 each, so I've had spare parts for some years. I keep all my stuff in pretty good shape, and the Pocket Fishermen I have are durable products that have lasted many years.

I've fished one of my more recent black Pocket Fisherman in the surf and piers and bays of three oceans: The Atlantic, The Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico, catching small fish in all three. And I've caught fish in numerous lakes and rivers over the years, once landing a large bass at Lake Palestine in the mid-70's on a yellow Abu spinner.

It's perfect for fishing near shores or docks, where fish often are located. It doesn't cast as far as a full sized rig, but I've got surprising distance when using a heavier lure. It can even cast lightweight rubber lures like the weedless Creme frogs that are so good for freshwater shoreline fishing.

During the days when I did alot of canoeing and kayaking and rafting on the Guadalupe and Medina rivers, it was a constant companion. The Pocket Fisherman and a few lures in a small pocket sized plastic box caught a lot of fish on those trips. I made a shoulder holster affair out of a Home Depot cordless drill holster that clipped onto my life jacket, so it could be quickly engaged in deep river pools between shallow rapids on these rivers.

I now have several nice travel rods for fishing a variety of waters, but the Pocket Fisherman is so small and easy to carry it often goes on a lot of trips where fishing might be a mere possibility. On occasion, I've rented tackle at piers and boats while on trips to Florida and California, but on several occasions took the Pocket Fisherman along in my small backpack as well, surprising those around me when I began fishing with it.

They were generally amused to see someone fishing with a Pocket Fisherman, but often times I caught some sort of fish with it and their bemused attitude changed.

The Pocket Fisherman. It really, really works.


  1. Did you notice any mechanical changes in the new models vs the 'vintage' ones?
    I'm wondering if the newer ones are better or made with cheaper parts than the original brown ones.
    I had a brown one til I was about 20 (about 20 years ago) and caught more fish off that rod than any other simply because it was always around in the car somewhere.
    Thanks for the review.

  2. Thanks for commenting, eb.

    Yes, I own both, and first of all, the plastic that the housing is made from is a different plastic, not suprising since my black ones were made in 1997 or so and the original brown one I got was made in 1972 or 1973. Lots of development in plastics in 20 years, I suppose.

    The zebco 202 reel innards fit into the brown one. When I first got my brown one in the early 1970's, I ordered the replacement reel from Popeil. It was a zebco 202. I have not checked to see if this reel also fits into the brown one.

    I think the brown one fishes better. I think the reel has better performance and action.

    You can find lots of both the brown ones (1st gen) and the black ones (2nd gen) on ebay. Last year, I bought another brown one off ebay in like new condition for like $20.

    So in sum, although I don't think either were made with ultra high quality parts, the brown ones were better made. IMHO.

    The brown ones also smell differently. Must be something in the plastic.