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Seamartin Australian Vintage Fishing Reel Reference History, and Technical Information guide, reeLpedia ® 22/6/2009.


Antique Vintage Fishing Reels and Angling Memorabilia.

A comprehensive factual information reference guide, unique and indelibly linked to the spirit of passionate collectors.  
ReeLpedia ® presented to you by Bernie Ladd, Melbourne Australia.

This reeLpedia segment on Australian vintage fishing reels describes wooden SEAMARTIN fishing reel models created by inventor Cliff Martin, Lakes Entance Victoria. The reels described are: Seamartin cedar reel model 1, Seamartin cedar model 2, Seamartin model 3, Seamartin model 4 and Seamartin made from Australian Silky oak wood.

The Seamartin fishing reel, is probably the most noteworthy sui generis fishing reel of all existing wooden reels in the world. The reel has captured fascination of many fishermen, who at first were intrigued by Seamartin's peculiar ingenuity of design and function. The home of the Seamartin Surf Reel is of course Lakes Entrance, located along the coast of East Gippsland Victoria Australia. That is where  the reel's  creator, Cliff Martin, lived; and that is also where Bernard Ladd, a passionate collector and historian of Australian vintage fishing items, has frequented for over 30 years. In 1999, Ladd moved to this popular Victorian fishing location, with a view to sharing his favorite pastime with other enthusiastic anglers living in the area. It is here that he met Cliff Martin's nephew and many other Seamartin owners, who knew Cliff Martin personally. Ladd was in a fortunate position to gain an in-depth insight into this natural coastal milieu, where Cliff Martin lived and where his emergent ideas germinated into the creation of his famous Seamartin Fishing Reel. 

Below, Bernie Ladd provides an extensive insight into the history of the Seamartin reel, applying biographic lenses to the reel's skilful contriver, Cliff Martin, as well as offering detailed technical analysis of the reel's engineering design spanning across variety of models as they emerged progressively over time. Joe Pozman, 2018.

1-1- Cliff Martin.jpg

Cliff Martin, fishing in the 1960s at Lakes Entrance using his creation the Seamartin surf casting reel.

1-Seamartin wood vintage reel identification badge

Seamartin identification aluminium plate fitted to all wood models upon patent approval registration. Reels produced prior to patent approval during the 1950s, were kindly entrusted by Cliff Martin to close friends, without an identification patent plate.

1-Seamarin Wood & Brass vintage fishing reel First version

Seamartin first production models were produced with Brass oscillators.

Seamartin History

SEAMARTIN fishing reel was the unique invention of Cliff Martin from Lakes Entrance in Victoria -c.1950s.

The design principle of the remarkable SEAMARTIN is between a side cast and a spinning reel. The spool is fixed forward as with a spinning reel, but the spool revolves to retrieve line like a side cast reel. The unique oscillating action of the line retrieve hook lays the line on the spool in a cross-weave pattern eliminating bite-in and coil throwing. It also allows the spool to be filled to capacity with out line slip off, ensuring trouble free casting. A devoted salt water fisherman and self-taught fitter and turner, Cliff Martin successfully patented his reel in 1960, lodged at the registered address of his Solicitor in Scott Street, Bairnsdale, Victoria. Around 1,000 reels were manufactured over the next 10 years. They were all hand made. The early prototypes  were made from whatever scrap materials Cliff Martin could lay his hands on. The production model of the surf reel has an Australian Cedar body and spool-drum with Brass bevel gears, and Manganese Bronze bearings, that are so massive that Martin offered a lifetime guarantee against malfunction.


By 1970, despite a permanent backlog of three months of orders, and a production rate of of about 3 or 4 reels a week, Martin was barely making wages and agreed to sell the patent rights to Wally Bambit of Oakleigh Agencies in Traralgon. The new owners re-designed the SEAMARTIN, now called the MONARCH, to accommodate the requirements of mass production by producing a die-cast body with a plastic type spool. Subsequent to Wally Bambit's passing, the patent rights were secured by Acmil Mouldings for approximately 12 months, before the patent rights were acquired lastly by Neptune Tackle.  >< )))) * >  B. L, 2004.

5-Seamartin wooden vintage fishing reel model 1

First production: Seamartin  Model 1 - c.1960. "Seamartin Patented- No.242,286" on id plate.
The very first production of SEAMARTIN was based on the Brass Ocsillating Bush design, which uniquely comprised single piece Australian red cedar spool drum, with an optional extra line capacity created by permanently fixed Marine Ply side-plates, which made up the front & back of the drum. The design of the single piece drum, at much later stage, was found to be quite problematic. Most fishing enthusiasts who took good care of their reel did not encounter any splitting of the spool drum sides. However, if the real was left wet with the line tightly spooled around it, expansion of the cedar wood would cause splitting of the drum's side-plates. Cliff Martin offered a life time guarantee on his reels, and he repaired damaged spools by replacing them with  Marine Ply side-plates, often on the rear, and in worst case scenarios, front and back of the drum.
Gears - machine cut, heavy duty, brass bevels of 29 and 15 teeth; Shafts - 5/16'' Stainless Steel;  Bearings Manganese Bronze; 3 Neoprene shaft seals (standard all models); ratio 2:1; Line pick up Stainless Steel; Spool-drum back cover Stainless Steel; T - drag semi-domed nut; Cast brass type, T - saddle [foot]  nickel plated); Crank arm mild steel nickel plated (model's 1&2); later versions 3 & 4 Stainless Steel; Australian cedar housing (body) and spool (Left Hand Wind by Order).

4-Seamartin wooden vintage fishing reel model 1
1-Semartin cedar wood & brass fishing reel version 1
1-Seamartin cedar wood vintage fishing reel first production model, brass oscillator guide
1-Seamartin vintage wooden fishing reel; First production versionBrass oscillators

Above 8 images depicting the Seamartin model 1. 

1-Seamartin Cedar wood fishing reel version 2
2-Seamartin wood fishing reel version 2

Seamartin Model 2 -c. early 1960s. Teflon Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) guide block.
It appears that Cliff Martin was concerned, in the early days of SEAMARTIN's production, that his unique invention was perhaps somewhat too heavy in its overall weight and too vulnerable to oxidation due to exposure to natural elements. It is apparent that Cliff Martin's further model, which is referenced here as "Model 2" shows his determined attempts to address these issues. The Oscillator Guide which was originally Brass, in "Model 2" is made of Teflon. 

Teflon (Polytetraflouroethylene) discovered by DuPont in 1932, became known for its non-friction capabilities, ease of machining; lighter weight; cheaper material cost, and superior corrosion resistance. Cliff Martin's choice of this particular material in the creation of the bottom oscillating guide of cylindrical design and the top section of a block configuration has proven to be a major step towards reducing the material costs and costs associated with the machining down-time, in addition to the teflon's light weight, durability, non-corrosive, and low friction properties.
The Line Retrieve Oscillating Hook remains the same, made of Stainless Steel; crank arm remains nickel plated mild steel; T - drag semi-domed nut; T - saddle (foot) is cast brass type nickel plated as the first production model.

4-Seamartin wood fishing reel version 2
3-Seamartin wood fishing reel version 2
5-Seamartin wood fishing reel version 2

Above 5 images depicting the Seamartin model 2. 

1- Seamartin cedar wood vintage fishing reel version 3
3- Seamartin cedar wood vintage fishing reel version 3

Seamartin Model 3 - c. early 1960s

Features cylindrical Teflon oscillating guides that became standard on all Cliff Martin SEAMARTIN reels. This Model 3 pictured here has the non-brass screw oiling option.


One piece Australain Red Cedar spool drum; Cast brass type T-foot (saddle) are nickel plated. Due to the cost of nickel plating mild-steel crank arms, and the extra labour involved, Cliff Martin made the decision to produce a crank arm in stronger, corrosion resistant 316 grade Stainless Steel.  All other components remain typical of previous models.


There is evidence that the SEAMARTIN Model 3 was available for purchase as early as 1962. For example, one of those lucky buyers, in 1962,  was Harry Hauser of Bairnsdale, Victoria. Eventually Harry's precious possession of SEAMARTIN Model 3 became his gift to a friend John Summervillie in late 1960s.

2- Seamartin cedar wood vintage fishing reel version 3
4- Seamartin cedar wood vintage fishing reel version 3
5- Seamartin cedar wood vintage fishing reel version 3
6- Seamartin cedar wood vintage fishing reel version 3

Above 6 images depicting the Seamartin model 3. 

1-Seamartin cedar wood vintage fishing reel model 4
2-Seamartin cedar wood vintage fishing reel model 4

Seamartin Model 4 Last version made -c. late 1960s to 1971.

Cliff Martin performed a complete model revamp on his last version, to further reduce the overall weight of his iconic reel. The modifications included reducing the original Stainless Steel back plate diameter from 4 & 11/16 inches to the new  diameter of 4 & 5/8 inches. The reel's reliability was also improved with the edition of a Marine Ply spool-drum back. The earlier models' cast Bronze-type Nickel-plated foot was re-designed, using weight saving cast Aluminium Bronze;  after casting the T - foot (saddle) surface was polished (buffed). A new lighter and more ergonomic style plastic handle knob was also incorporated. The original first production, Model 1, weighed  872 grams. The new Model 4's  weight was 826 grams. These  modifications resulted in an overall weight reduction of 46 grams.

SEAMARTIN Model 4 is the last version Cliff Martin had manufactured. Sometime during 1971, Cliff Martin sold his patent rights to Wally Bambit, a local businessman from Traralgan, Victoria, Australia.

4-Seamartin cedar wood vintage fishing reel model 4
3-Seamartin cedar wood vintage fishing reel model 4
5-Seamartin cedar wood vintage fishing reel model 4

Above 5 images depicting the Seamartin model 4. 

2-Seamartin Silky oak wood vintage fishing reel
3-Seamartin Silky oak wood vintage fishing reel

Seamartin  manufactured from Australian Silky Oak Grevillea robusta -c. 1960s.

Cliff Martin sometime in early 1960s produced his SEAMARTIN from Australian Silky Oak wood. It is unclear why Cliff decided to produce a very limited number made from Silky Oak, which did add extra weight to his iconic design. The Silky Oak version is weighing 904 grams whereas the Cedar versions weigh an average 804 grams. To date I have sighted only three Silky Oak Seamartin reels, thus I believe this is an extremely rare specimen.  
Australian Silky Oak spool drum & housing; Nickel plated cast brass T - saddle (foot); Mild steel T - drag  full acorn nut, S/S grip bar; crank arm 316 grade Stainless Steel.  All other components remain typical of other models.

4-Seamartin Silky oak wood vintage fishing reel
1-Seamartin Silky oak wood vintage fishing reel
5-Seamartin Silky oak wood vintage fishing reel

Above 5 images depicting the extremely rare Silky Oak Heavy Duty Seamartin model.

More Seamartin model information:

1-SEAMARTIN Left hand wind vintage wooden fishing reel

Left hand wind SEAMARTIN.

Made by order. Mechanical specifications similar to other wood Seamartin models.

1-Seamartin wooden vintage fishing reel; roller line guide version

Seamartin model 4 , fitted with Roller Line Guide Hook. Possibly made by order or experimental.

3-Seamartin vintage wood fishing reel models 3 & 4

 Seamartin models 3 and 4,  presented in mint condition

1- Seamartin wood fishing reel sold for record price $3,650.oo.

Factual statistic:This mint never fished Cedar Seamartin fishing reel sold for a record price of $3,650.00 on January 4, 2010.The eBay seller id : reelman* A record auction price that still stands today.

Seamartin wood spool-drum types.

1-Seamartin vintage wood fishing reel Drum, Spool types

Early models: Seamartin solid one piece Australian Red Cedar spool-drum.The early solid wood Cedar spool-drum is prone to side face splitting if not properly cared for.

1-Seamartin vintage fishing reel Silky oak wood Drum, Spool.

Silky oak marine ply backed spool-drum that was used for the Silky Oak housing (body) Seamartin.

2-Seamartin vintage wood fishing reel Drum, Spool types

Marine ply front and back faces; Australian Red Cedar drum centre, to facilitate the fitting of extra line capacity. An option for all wood Seamartins produced.

4-Seamartin vintage wood fishing reel Drum, Spool types

Model 4 Seamartin marine ply backed Australian Red Cedar spool-drum that became standard on the later models that improved the spool-drums reliability.

3-Seamartin vintage wood fishing reel Drum, Spool types

Early Seamartin Red cedar drum with aluminium bracing on the front drum (spool) face.

1-Seamarin vintage wooden fishing reel crank hadle types

Above four different crank-arm handle knobs produced by Cliff Martin for his wooden Seamartin reels.

1-Semartin wooden fishing reel Drag nut types

Clutch drag nut types used for the wood Seamartin models.

Seamartin exposed gear housing invented by Cliff Martin.

Exposed  Seamartin wooden housing. courtesy Bob Dunn, AFR book.

1-Seamartin vintage fishing reel Wood housing

Initial Seamartin gear housing manufacturing stage.

Seamartin experimental, proto types and first production version.

Seamartin proto-type made by Cliff Martin, Lakes Entance, Victoria, Australia.
1-Seamartin vintage proto type
2-Seamartin wooden fishing reel  Proto-type
2-Seamartin cedar wood vintage fishing reel first production model, brass oscillator guide

Representation of several prototype reels by Cliff Martin. The five images starting from the left, highlight Cliff Martin's passion for experimentation with the ergonomic design of his classic quintessential reel invention.  The third image from the left, shows the Seamartin with the line retrieval hook  positioned on the same side of the crank handle. This particular reel is unique in its experimental phase as there is no evidence that the ID badge was ever fitted, as can be seen in the two close up images on the right. Clearly, Martin decided that this experimental configuration was not as useful in terms of manual line handling, which ultimately led to the development of his final line guide patented design mechanism, which has the line retrieval hook positioned on the opposite side of the crank handle, as depicted in the last image on the far right hand side. >< )))) * > B. L., 2017.

Cliff Martin photographs and news paper clippings.

2-Seamartin vintage fishing reel maker Cliff Martin picture Cliff pictures

Left: The modified  Harley-VW motorised Seamartin Tricycle Beach Buggy; Cliff Martin and his son-in-law Charles, at the 90 Mile Surf Beach, Lakes Entrance. Victoria. Early 1970s

1-Cliff Martin picture, Maker of Seamartin Wooden fishing reel

SEAMARTIN's review 1974, announcing in  a local news paper 'Traralgan News' the new Monarch Seamartin retail availability.

1- Seamartin vintage fishing reel inventor Cliff Martin, News paper  notice
1-Seamartin wooden fishing reel inventor Cliff Martin, news paper notice

Cliff Martin death tribute 1908 - 1983.

Cliff Martin Fishing with his unique Seamartin that was patented in 1959.

Cliff Martin fishing his famous wood Seamartin..

1-Seamartin wooden surf fishing reel early advertising brochure
2-Seamartin wood fishing reel hand written notes by Cliff Martin

Early Seamartin brochure with hand written instructions by Cliff Martain, on back page.

1-Original website
Rare Seamartin fishing reel proto-type.
SEAMARTIN Fishing Reel, First modle made by Cliff Martin.e

Original Seamartin Adobe flash format Website, before transformation to HTML 5 format.

1-Seamartin wood fishing reel, 1970 brochure.

1970 Seamartin brochure naming anglers: "Ron Somerville, Australian beach champion, also Australian distance casting  champion, 4 oz. level line, 504 ft. 5 in;. 1969 Convention Australian and Victorian record, 1970; Ladies unrestricted light  line distance, Mrs. Aileen Williams, 406 ft. 6in." who used Cliff Martin made wooden Seamartin's, when successful winning various casting competitions in Australia.

1-Seamartin wood fishing reel patent approval date.
2-Seamartin wood fishing reel patent.

Seamartin patent application 1959.

1-Seamartin vintage wooden fishing ree advertisement

Seamartin review.

Seamartin Value, Factual Statistic: A mint never fished Seamartin wooden reel, realised at auction held on the 4th of January 2010, $3,650.00. It was the highest price ever paid for this unique reel invented and made by Cliff Martin, of Lakes Entrance Victoria. The Seamartin wooden reel is the most sought after reel by Australian collectors, and without doubt the most collectable of all wooden reels ever produced in Australia. Seamartin wooden reel features in the top 10 of the most collectable wooden surf fishing  reels produced worldwide!   Reelpedia ® , 2010.

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