The Penn 525Mag series reels have been around for over a decade and sold in scores of thousands. There have been several upgrades and model options throughout the years, but the latest, the 525Mag4, has pooled all that experience to produce a reel that is not just tough and strong in the retrieve but versatile and with extreme long-range casting ability perfectly suited to virtually all UK shore fishing situations bar extreme rough ground and 30lb lines.
Live spindle system
Casting ability will be the most important factor for many, so we’ll begin there regarding built-in features. The Mag5254 spool utilises what is called a live spindle. It’s a system that when the free spool lever is activated, the spool is then totally free to revolve without any friction from any other parts. There is no drag mechanically from contact with the drivetrain. This encourages the maximum casting distance for each cast. It also reduces the chance of binding when retrieving under heavy pressure.
The spool spindle also runs on two premium quality stainless steel ball-bearings. Again, this allows the spool to revolve freely and ensure long, smooth casts and a smooth retrieve.
Adjustable magnetic brake system
A new addition to the 525Mag4 is the redesigned external extended brake adjustment knob. The previous Mag3 series had a simple slide back and forth adjustment, and though this worked very well, some anglers found it fiddly. The slide slot could see dirt and sand accumulate, and during the cast, a small minority seemed to catch the slide button on their sleeve, causing a change of brake effect in mid cast resulting in backlash.
The new extended knob eliminates these issues but also offers a significant advantage. If you set the reel to the brake effect you want on the day to balance with current conditions, in mid cast when the initial power of the cast is expended, and the lead is in clean flight, you can reduce the magnetic braking effect by turning the adjusting knob anti-clockwise a couple of turns to give the reel even more freedom. This reduction in braking in mid cast can add many yards to the distance you achieve on the day as the spool freedom is increased. To be fair, tournament casters have used a similar system on highly modified reels for years. Still, that modification was expensive and privately engineered, but the introduction of the 525Mag4 has brought this option to everyone and straight off the shelf at an affordable price.
The brake system inside the 525Mag4 is a series of small round magnets housed on a plate inside the left side-plate that moves forwards and backwards as you turn the adjustment knob. By turning the adjustment knob clockwise, the magnets move nearer the spool, increasing the braking effect. Turn the adjustment knob anti-clockwise, and the magnet plate retreats away from the spool reducing the braking effect. This is done incrementally, so the adjustments can be minimal to fine-tune the braking to precisely what you need.
Having fished extensively with the 525Mag4, here’s how we set and use the brake adjustment knob.
- Firstly, using the right-hand side spool adjustment knob, tighten or untighten this until you can just feel the reel spool rock very slightly side to side under your thumb.
- Start with the reel on full braking and make a few casts readjusting the brake adjustment knob until you feel the reel is casting well but not likely to backlash on you.
- Count the number of clicks anti-clockwise to know precisely where the braking should be that suits you best from the default full brake position.
- On the next cast, once the lead weight is airborne and the initial power surge is passed, turn the knob anti-clockwise in mid-flight one or two clicks. You’ll feel the reel free up, and the lead and bait will travel further.
- When the cast is complete, you turn the adjustment knob back clockwise the one or two turns to return you to the general setting position. Good casters may be able to reduce the brake effect in mid-flight by more than a couple of clicks but experiment to get it right for you.
The free spool is engaged by pulling the free spool lever housed on the right-hand side-plate back towards you. This is a simple and effective no-nonsense system. But sometimes, the gears may not fully re-engage until you turn the reel handle. This makes no difference when fishing and is a natural feature of the reel, not a mechanical fault.
We’ve also noticed that those clever engineers at Penn have made an unseen and, as far as we know, an unpublicised adjustment to the free spool lever. On the previous series 3’s, the top of the free spool lever at both extremes of movement would touch the metal surround, running around the rim of the side-plate marking the metal and eventually taking the chrome off. On the new 525Mag4’s, there is an increased gap between the lowest point of the free spool toggle and the chrome rim. No more marking! Well done, Penn!
Finally, the free spool lever toggle has a touch grip etched finish for better grip.
The 525Mag4 spool is forged and machined aluminium, so it’s ultra-light offering several advantages. Being light, it takes less inertia and power from the lead in flight, so the lead flies further, and the reel casts further. Also, on initial release and in free flight, the spool is more controllable by the braking effect and suffers less from overrunning due to the revolving weight in the spool being less. These spools are also tough and are highly unlikely to suffer from line crushing pressure when big fish are fought and retrieved on very tight lines from a long distance out.
The spool’s line capacity equates to around 250-metres (about 275yds) of 18lb line, which is enough to target anything that swims. We load with 22lb mono for shore tope fishing, and even with a long cast, there is ample line on the spool to fight even the biggest tope.
The previous Mag3 series and this new model 525Mag4 series have incorporated stainless steel main gear and pinion gears. This is a logical and smart move by Penn, with the stainless gearing dramatically improving the winching power and strength of these reels. Stainless gears will feel slightly harsher in a heavy retrieve than a bronze gear would, but the benefit in strength is massive and this is a real selling point for the 525Mag4 series.
We use this reel for heavy-duty fishing and have caught conger over 30lbs from the shore in heavy rough and had to put full pressure on the fish to keep them from snags. Only stainless gearing gives you the complete confidence to do this.
The gear ratio is a fast 6.1:1 returning 73cm (29ins) of line for each reel handle turn. Long casts don’t take long to retrieve!
Including the two ball-bearings the spool spindle runs on, there are no less than seven shielded stainless-steel ball bearings incorporated into this reel. These are specifically placed in the key pressure and load areas to ensure the reel, under heavy retrieve pressure, stays super smooth and free running.
Star Drag System
The 525Mag4 series are fitted with the excellent and well-proven HT-100 drag washers. This material resists heat build-up when a big fish runs fast and far but is also super smooth as line is given and without hesitation. Other inferior drags are not smooth and will give line in jerks which can cause snapped lines and broken hook lengths. What’s more, we’ve found the 525Mag’s HT-100 washers maintain their performance for years and years.
This drag system can apply a whopping 20lbs of direct drag pressure too, and will pretty much wear down any big fish you’re likely to hook off the shore.
This is also what is called a Versa Drag system. This means you can alter the drag washers to give varied settings to cover a wider range of fishing conditions and pressure settings. However, we’ve found the standard drag perfect for all the fishing we do, which is very varied, covering clean sand to rough ground and for every species from whiting to shore tope, also uptiding for cod, rays, and tope on the boats. We’re happy with it the way it is!
The star drag wheel is easy to adjust just with the thumb, and we found the drag is capable of relatively fine settings which accommodate both lighter lines down to 15lbs up to heavier lines of 25lbs.
Reel frame, side-plates, and handle
The reel frame is made from lightweight graphite but is very strong and shows no distortion under heavy load. Being graphite, the inevitable small scratches will appear and turn a lighter grey than the main frame, but metal side-plates would scratch just as easily, so this takes nothing away from the reel.
The side-plates are also graphite for lightness. The right-side side-plate is also designed to allow fast and easy access to the gearing for far easier maintenance.
The handle is a good solid and strong alloy type, counter-balanced and drilled to reduce overall weight. We also like the large flat-sided handle grip that we find gives a good grip even when the hands are cold, wet, and covered in bait juices from baiting up. There is also an external oil port in the middle of the handle grip for instant maintenance to keep the grip revolving freely.
Fishing and casting ability
As already indicated, our reels have been fished hard over varied terrain. In the surf, long, smooth casts are easy, controlled, and reliable whatever the weather conditions. The brake adjustment is precise and instant and remains easy even when the hands are cold and wet.
The retrieve is fast and direct, and the reel retains a real smoothness under the heaviest of retrieve pressure.
The drag system is ultra-smooth when line needs to be given and without pause, while pressure builds up to move the spool.
We also use our 525’s for uptide fishing off the boats, finding it perfect for rays, tope and cod. We load with 20lbs line, plus a shock leader and find the reel will cast to a sensible range with the minimum of effort and the tough nature of the reel and the direct fast retrieve make the reel ideal for any uptide scenario.
Like all reels, the Mag4’s benefit from a light wash in warm freshwater to remove any salt deposits after each trip and then a gentle drying somewhere warm like an airing cupboard. This one simple chore will keep your reels in much better condition and helps maintain their excellent reliability. Once dry, wipe them over with a cloth wetted with WD40 and put them back in a clean, dry reel bag for safe storage.
- Lightweight graphite frame and side-plates
- Fast main gear access side-plate
- Forged and machined aluminium spool
- Live spindle with a free-floating spool
- 6 + 1 Stainless steel ball-bearings
- Stainless steel main and pinion gear
- Gear ratio 6.1:1
- Adjustable magnetic brake system with an extended adjustment knob
- Versa drag system with HT-100 drag washers
- 20lbs drag pressure
- Weight unloaded 439g
- Line capacity 255m (280yd) 0.38mm 18lb line
- Supplied with a separate reel clamp, spanner and parts schematics sheet
Scores and final thoughts
The beauty of keeping an initially well-designed reel in a product range over time and improving it with each new series has proved of major benefit to Penn regards overall sales and a built-up strong reputation that guarantees sales. Buyers of this reel also benefit from the continually improving features and performance. You’re getting proven quality with a higher and higher degree of performance each time a new series is introduced. You can see why this reel has sold so well, and proved so popular with the everyday angler, as well as the more specialised anglers and experienced casters.
Here at TSF, we maintain our own reels too, and we find the Mag4 series very easy to fully take apart and rebuild, making upkeep easy and quick.
As for the livery, we like the blue chrome livery against the near-black graphite with the silver graphics and feel the reels look very smart on the rods if you’re a tackle fashionista, as many are.
Things to watch out for
A tip we would pass on is when replacing the side-plate screws, add some of grease or light oil, and this will maintain the screw threads and stop any chance of the screws corroding in their brass inserts through electrolysis.
On our previous 525’s from all series, which have worked extremely hard, we’ve found the rivets holding the reel seat lugs in place can show some slight corrosion if not washed over time. A simple, quick squirt of WD40 on the rivets now and then keeps them in tip-top shape.
515 Mag4 Reel
The Mag4 series also includes the smaller 515Mag4 reel. This has a line capacity of around 250yds of 15lb 0.35mm line and is ideal for general surf fishing and close to medium range rough ground bass fishing. It has the same features as it’s bigger brother, the 525Mag4 above.