The Freewheel Roller, a stern roller for gillnetters, “was brought back by popular demand,” says Ed Luttrell, owner of Kinematics Marine Equipment in Marysville, Wash.

The story behind the Freewheel Roller is a bit different from equipment generally found on a fishing boat, or anywhere else for that matter. Most equipment comes with built-in obsolescence, so that at some point the advantages it brought to the market don’t match up to new technology.

Occasionally a product manages to hold its own against the new competition. Those are the noteworthy products. And that brings us back to the Freewheel Roller.

Kinematics started producing the Freewheel Roller 35 years ago. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that demand slacked off.

“We might go a year or two without building one, maybe three years,” says Luttrell. But lately that’s spun completely around. “Now everyone wants it again and production has increased.”

Three things account for the Freewheel Roller’s resurgence: durability, safety and less maintenance. A good example of the Freewheel Roller’s durability is the five Freewheel Rollers that came in for repairs a little over a year ago. They were at least 25 years old, but it was the first time they had been in for servicing. “No one had touched them in 25 years other than to fish them,” Luttrell notes.

Part of that durability as well as the safety angle is the gillnet roller’s rugged construction. The marine-grade aluminum castings are “stronger than everybody else’s,” Luttrell claims. In fact, there’s “15 more pounds of casting material in our units than our competitors’.” That leads to a casting 2 inches thick at the roller’s after end and 1.5 inches at the center strengthening rib. The amount of aluminum plus the strengthening ribs makes the Freewheel Roller not only stronger but safer to use.

Reduced maintenance is another reason for the Freewheel Roller’s comeback. “It’s become popular again because it requires less maintenance than 4x4 hub systems,” he says.

The Freewheel Roller’s hydraulic motor and ball valve are on the port side. The fisherman can decide exactly where he wants the ball valve located for the best control layout. The ball valve has large 3/4-inch full-flow ports, making it easier for oil to circulate, thus facilitating better freewheeling of the roller.

Kinematics’ Freewheel Roller comes standard in drum lengths of 30, 36, 42, and 48 inches, but the company also offers custom sizes.

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Michael Crowley is the former Boats & Gear editor for National Fisherman.

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