Fitting ABU Smoothie Washers

For the past year or so I've used a pair of ABU 6500 C3 multiplier reels for kayak fishing. They're quite small, though have a good capacity when loaded with 30lb braid over some nylon backing. They've handled fish up to 20lb with ease, all in all a great little reel.

The only thing I could pick fault with was the drag, it's not that it wasn't effective, more the fact it needed tightening down quite hard before the drag pressure noticeably increased. This was a sign that the washers were somewhat worn, not too surprising after all the smoothound action of 2008 !

A popular upgrade is to fit 'smoothie' washers, not something I've done before but accessing the drag washers is a simple enough task. I've broken down the process and documented it below.

ABU 6500 C3

The reel is first split into its three main constituent parts (side plate, cage & spool) by undoing the three knurled screws. The drag is located inside the side plate housing the handle.

Unscrew the plastic cover and remove it from the reel handle. Remove the nut from the side plate followed by the handle, the silver handle tensioner can also be removed. Unwind and remove the star drag adjuster.

Remove the two screws from the side plate, removing the side plate and sitting it to one side.

Remove the flathead screw that secures the drag assembly and remove the drag system in one piece. On some models a circlip may be present in lieu of a screw, though the principle is the same, remove the circlip then the drag assembly.

The photo above shows the bearing removed (though this may remain in the side plate housing which is not a problem) along with two spring washers and a thrust washer. Correct re-assembly will be covered later in this article, though take note of how the parts are assembled and lay them out in a corresponding order.

The drag assembly can be broken down as shown below, the drag disc sitting within the main gear ring will also require removing. All the metal parts shown below need cleaning with either white spirit or petrol in order to remove and oil and grease that may be present.

The 'smoothie' washer kits contains one fibre type disc and three that are paper-like. The fibre type disc is slid onto the main drive shaft as shown.

The main gear ring can then be slid down the drive shaft, followed by a single replacement drag washer, grey side up.

Next comes the metal washer. Make sure all of your metal washers are nice and smooth on both sides. If they feel rough or show signs of wear they are cheap to replace with original ones or smoother aftermarket ones.

Followed by another replacement drag washer, again grey side uppermost.

Next to be fitted is the metal washer with 'lugs' on it. Locate this correctly in the recesses within the main gear wheel as shown below.

Another replacement drag washer, grey side uppermost.

Next comes the top metal washer as shown below.

Next fit the two drag (spring) washers, the first one is placed on 'curved up', with the second one being placed on 'curved down'. If removed originally, the bearing assembly can be re-fitted at this point. It's also worth added some reel grease to the shaft as shown.

The completed drag assembly can be refitted to the side plate and secured with the flat head screw.

Align and sit the side plate on top of the other plate. When lined up it should fit perfect with no pressure needed. Refit the two screws that secure the side plate.
The thrust washer (4th photo, 3rd from the left) is slid onto the handle shaft where it sits against the shaft bearing. The star drag can now be wound back onto the shaft.

The silver handle tensioner slides onto the shaft in the curved up position followed by the handle.

Tighten the brass nut over the top of the handle. Pay attention to the nuts position. Once you have it tightened you want one of the points of the nut aimed at the screw hole for the plastic cover and it will be in the correct position for the plastic cover to fit correctly the first time.

Replace the plastic cover over the handle and tighten the screw down. That's it, job done !.
Re-assemble the three main parts of the reel, making sure your 2 little brake blocks (white in this reel) are slid all the way in as they have a tendency to catch when re-attaching the end plate.

On inspection, the original washers turned out to be badly worn, highly polished instead of having a certain amount of texture to them. The washers are cheap to buy and the job takes an hour at the most. Well worth the effort and the difference is immediately noticeable, a great improvement.
As to how long they will last, only time will tell. They'll certainly be taking some abuse this summer, especially during the smoothound season. Hopefully they'll live up to the hype.
Please feel free to comment.

First Trip Out 2009

The consistently poor weather this month has kept me grounded which is highly frustrating, however a weather window of around 12 hours appeared at short notice. The alarm clock was set with an anticipated wake up at 6am, however, several presses of the 'snooze' button saw me crawl out nearer 7am !

Frost hadn't been forecast though my car was fairly well frosted over, fortunately there was no wind so it didn't feel particularly cold. My gear was rapidly packed, a flask of hot coffee thrown in and I was on my way.

I had no intention of travelling too far so my choices were rather limited. Either paddle out into the Solent to be plagued by small pouting and whiting, or fish the structure around the creek in the hope of a decent bass or two. I chose the latter as I've seen more than enough pout these past few months !

Rigging didn't take long and I was soon ready to launch. I took the opportunity to try and my newly purchased PFD, a Palm Kaikoura, which certainly looks the business - review to follow. I've also recently purchased a handheld VHF in the form of an ICOM M-33. I'm not taking the VHF course until later in March though it'll be coming along from now on for the obvious safety reasons as well as eaves dropping into other boat chatter. Again, I'll review this piece of kit in due course.

The paddle to my chosen mark was a short one, fishing some heavy structure where anchoring is a challenge. I wasn't messing about, half fillets of mackerel were threaded onto 6/0 Kamasan hooks and dropped over the side. This method has served me well last year, though my hopes weren't too high as the fishing around these parts is generally poor until early March and beyond.

Despite being chilly the morning sun was quite warming, however, it was soon was obscured by some light cloud. The fishing was extremely slow, though the migrating geese and regular radio chatter passed the time.

The breeze picked up and with the sun behind the clouds the temperature dropped off. Cooling hands found refuge in the 'hand warmer' pockets of the Palm Kaikoura. I also purchased some waterproof, fleece lined ski gloves which proved to be superb. Not only great for keeping your hands warm, but perfect for paddling as well.
Unfortunately my first trip of the year failed to produce a bite never mind a fish, but at least I was out fishing again. Things can only improve!
Please feel free to comment.

Rigging a Prowler Big Game

I've touched on a few rigging bits here and there throughout my blog, though it's quite scattered so it seems like a good idea to try and tie as much as possible together in the one article.

When the kayak arrived it was quite basic to say the least, the seat needed attaching and that was about it. There was a centre cover between your legs when it the seated position, though it actually offered very little in the way or storage, it was ok for a few smaller items. A point to note is that it's not officially watertight so I'd not recommend putting car keys or mobile phones in there.

The first thing I tackled was the anchor system. A trolley system was to be fitted to the left hand side (purely as I'm left handed) utilising as many of the existing fittings as possible. A lot of surfing on the internet was done picking the brains of other folk. A couple of pulleys and carbine hooks were purchased, along with several metres of black cord and a short length of bungee cord. Time was taken, using masking tape to position the trolley, several options were tried before I finally settled on a design.

The photos below show the general layout, with a loop of bungee cord at either end to help absorb some wave action, making the 'ride' somewhat smoother. Each loop of bungee was attached to a stainless pulley. The pulleys support the actual anchor trolley which is made from strong cord of around 4mm. A carbine was fitted to the trolley to allow my anchor set to clip on and off quickly and easily, and to position the anchor as required, i.e fore or aft.

A zigzag cleat was also fitted to allow the trolley to be locked inposition when anchored, in order to prevent potential slippage of the trolley which could be dangerous. Towards the front of the trolley, though still reachable from a seated position, a standard cleat was fitted to allow recovery of the anchor, a plastic one was originally fitted, though this was later updated to an alloy item.

Anchor Trolley System

The anchor itself is a simple affair, a 1.5kg grapnel anchor with a metre of chain attached to the main line of a 'ratchet type' dive reel with a buoy threaded onto the main line. A short length of rope attaches the reel to the anchor trolley system with the use of another carbine. This is clipped to the carbine that already exists on the anchor trolley. The chain is permanently attached to the bottom of the anchor, whereas a weak link is used at the top. Should the anchor get stuck, a firm pull causes the weak link link to snap and the anchor to be recovered inverted. Sometimes the anchor is so badly fouled you wont get it back despite the use of a weak link!.

Should there be a requirement, the anchor can be un-clipped from the trolley and left in the water, the buoy will always float enabling the dive reel and attached rope to be easily recovered and re-clipped onto the trolley. This is a valuable feature should you wish to pop back to shore for a moment, retrieve something that you've dropped and is floating away, or to assist another kayak fisher for one reason or another.

Anchor Setup

new anchor setup
The second requirement was to fit rod holders. A lot of people seem to fit them up front where two circular mounting areas exist. This appears great, though try reaching them from a seated position!. It really wasn't suitable so an alternative was required. I settled upon using RAM tubes mounted just aft of the seat. With the tubes locked forwards at around a 30 degree angle an 'armchair' fishing position was achieved, perfect. They can also be angled in any position, enabling them to be pointed outwards for maximum rod spread when trolling, or folded back out of the way when paddling.

The RAM tubes were fitted to the sides as shown, though because of the nature of their design all of the weight of the rod is rotating forward (as opposed to supporting the rod in the middle) putting quite some stress onto the base fixing. To make sure this wasn't going to be an issue a strip on nylon cutting board, maybe 8mm in thickness, was cut and placed inside the hull. The fixing bolts passed through this board providing a lot of re-enforcement. The end result was an extremely sturdy fixing.

Rod Holders

17 12
A word of warning with the RAM tubes, glue the rubber end caps on!, otherwise they'll soon be lost. They do require a very good 'nip' when locking them in position, otherwise they have a tendency to droop over time. Otherwise they are a great bit of kit.

There's a separate article on fitting the centre hatch, see the link below. Though do not purchase a 'revised hatch', fit the 'original hatch' as it's a far superior item.

The fitting is very simple, carefully mark and cut out the aperture as per the supplied instructions and bolt in. What you end up with is a big hole enabling acees to the inside of the yak when the cover is removed. This isn't really that useful so it's worth fitting something like a collapsible bait bowl inside the yak to make is more user friendly. I fitted a washing up bowl that can either be fixed or slid out of the way when required.

Centre Hatch Installation

Note that I fitted lanyard to the hatch cover, if you accidentally drop it over the side you'll have to buy a complete new hatch assembly to get a replacement hatch cover.

A fishfinder and separate GPS were fitted to the yak, again there's a separate article reference the fishfinder installation within my blog.

The GPS was very straightforward to fit. A Garmin Marine Mount was utilised along with a Garmin DC power adapter lead. The latter enabled the GPS to be powered directly from the kayaks battery, with the unit reverting to the internal batteries should the yak battery fail.

Fishfinder & GPS Installation

The battery is a 12V 12Ah item, fitted into a watertight box with a marine plug & socket fitting. Originally I had the battery sitting in the battery tray aft of the front hatch, open to the elements, though this quickly lead to corrosion on the battery terminals, hence the unit was fitted into a watertight box. It is still fitted in the battery tray as shown below.

Battery Installation

An anchor light was fitted to the rear of the kayak, a legal requirement for night fishing. As the yak is so small a fixed white light (i.e not flashing and no red/green nav lights) is adequate. A pole light was purchased and fitted as shown below. All the electrically looming on my kayak is fully sealed against the ingress of water.

The lamp, as purchased, tuned out to be rather poor in its design, and saltwater was able to contaminate the electrical connections. I modified the electrical connection introducing another marine plug socket (same as used on the battery) to overcome this problem. A waterproof on/off switch was fitted up front adjacent to the fishfinder.

Anchor Light Installation

Note: The photo above shows the prototype loom prior to the marine plug/socket arrangement being utilised. The power loom is now fitted directly to the socket and not to the base of the lamp as shown above.

One of the last things I did was to fit some storage space in addition the the centre hatch. I've tried a couple of things, though I settled on a Yakmate 3 and a Marine Box, the latter supplied from Solent Plastics. Both are secured using bungee cord and stainless fittings as shown. Removal and fitting takes seconds.

Storage Solutions

The Yakmate 3 is covered in more detail here:

I've since added a rudder which has turned out to be a most worthwhile addition. Look in the 'rigging section' for further details.

Fully Rigged Prowler Big Game

Please feel free to comment.

Review - Olympus 795 SW

For the past year or so I've used a Panasonic TZ1 whilst afloat. It's a cracking camera with Carl Zeiss optics giving a highly impressive 10 times optical zoom. Allied with the ability to take decent video when required it's performed very well for me.

So, why the need for something else?. It's very simple, the TZ1 isn't waterproof, and on a kayak where the surfaces are often wet, even pooled with saltwater in places hence it's far from ideal. I've managed by keeping the camera in an Aquapac at all times, though it's a rather tedious process and it's only a matter of time until it gets a good soaking, something that no doubt prove terminal to the camera.

There's a couple of cameras which appear to be very kayak friendly, Pentax produce the Optio in the 30 and 60 versions and Olympus produce a few cameras in their 'SW' range. SW standing for shock and waterproof.

One thing that was obvious from the start, it didn't matter which one I chose, I was going to loose the long zoom facility that I've enjoyed with the TZ1. Having read many reviews online I'd settled on the Olympus, though which one. Top of the range is the 1030/1050SW, though it was stretching my budget a little more that I'd wanted.

That left the 790/850SW, and I'd pretty much decided on the 850 as being suitable for my needs. However, I bumped into a fellow yak fisherman who was using this very camera, and I was surprised how much superficial damage the plastic outer casing had endured, it was rather disappointing.

From further researching online it appeared that Olympus had softened the brand somewhat with these models, reducing the drop height to which they were deemed unbreakable, as well as the maximum operating depth. The fully metallised case was replace with a partially metallised case sporting plastic covers. Why?, profit making perhaps?

More by luck I stumbled across a review for the 795SW, built around the earlier 'solid' specification with a very respectable 7.1MP resolution. Amazon seemed to offer the best price at around £170, though I managed to snap up a new item on Ebay for £130!, bargain or what.

795 no1
The basic specifications are as follows:
  • Shockproof when dropped from 1.5m
  • Waterproof to 10m
  • Operates at temperatures as low -10°C
  • Crush weight of 100kg
  • 7.1 Mega pixels
  • 3x Optical Zoom
  • 2.5" LCD Screen

It's also nice and compact measuring in at 91.8mm x 59.2mm x 20.6mm.

I opted to fit a 2GB memory card, which with the resolution set to maximum allowed 600 photos to be stored. With the memory card removed and the resolution dropped down slightly you can store around 20 photos. Quite handy should you forget the memory card!.

The power button is on top, operating this cause the lens guard to retract, almost silently and the camera is powered up within a second, it's very fast. The display is large and the resolution quite good, though not as good as the TZ1, however it's only required to frame and view a photo at the end of the day.

795 no2 
795 no3
The shutter release button is alongside the power button, requiring half a press for focus to occur, prior to depressing fully to take a photo. The time taken to store a high resolution photo is a second or two, not too bad at all.

The camera has video/sound recording facility, allowing 30 minutes video with sound to taken. The 30 minutes seems to be a software limit, as it can be re-started for another 30 minutes immediately on completion of the first shoot. The size of the memory card ultimately limits the amount of video that can be stored. It's also possible to add a few seconds of commentary to a still photo.

The battery and memory card are accessed on the lower edge of the camera behind a watertight hinged cover. Maintaining the watertight integrity of the camera requires that this seal is kept scrupulously clean at all times.

795 no5
795 no6 
The same can be said for the computer/USB connection point.

795 no4
There are many preset scene programs, twenty fours in all - Portrait, Landscape, Landscape + Portrait, Night Scene, Night + Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self Portrait, Available Light Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Behind Glass, Documents, Auction, Shoot & Select 1, Shoot & Select 2, Beach & Snow, Underwater Snapshot, Underwater Wide 1, Underwater Wide 2, Underwater Macro, Movie.

There are 3 macro modes allowing focusing as close at 7cm, with many other features including a 12 second self timer, Digital Image Stabiliser and Face Detection. It also sports a bright white LED either to illuminate a subject in poor light, assisting with focusing, or merely to act as a torch - the latter is achieveable as it can be selected whilst the camera is switched off.

The camera obviously comes with a box of bits, these include:
  • Wrist Strap
  • Battery
  • Battery Charger
  • USB Cable
  • AV Cable
  • Manual
  • CDROM - Olympus Master 2 Software

The photos to date have proved to be more than acceptable for my requirements, the same can be said about the video capability. Below are a couple of examples of photos taken by myself using this camera, landscape, portrait, underwater and macro. Obviously the quality of these photos has been dramatically reduced by uploading them here onto Blogger.




So my initial impressions are good, the camera produces acceptable photos and video. It also appears to be very rugged, ideal for the saltwater environment in which it's going to spend most of its time. Obviously it'll require regular care in the form of thorough freshwater washing and drying post each trip, but that goes for anything that come afloat with me.

The last thing I've done is to attach a small float to the camera, allowing it to effectively float and be seen should it be accidentally be dropped overboard.
Please feel free to comment.