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Penn Mag3 515 and 525

The Penn Mag series multiplier reels have been at the forefront of the UK beach fishing scene for not far short of two decades now. In that time they’ve initially seen two major makeovers from the original 525’s, the latest being the Penn Mag3, which has further evolved offering several key improvements and advantages over its predecessors.

The new Penn Mag3’s have a new livery, now being finished in the traditional black with gold lettering as before, but with a smart looking red spool, red side-plate trim, red star drag wheel, spool tensioning cap, and red line-out alarm button. It has to be said that the reel does look stunning and really stands out both on the tackle shop shelf and when on the rod.

There are two sizes, the smaller 515 and the standard 525. The line capacity on the 515 is around 250yds of 15lb line, with the 525 taking approximately 250yds of 20lb line. Both sizes are popular, the 515 for beach and bass fishing, and the larger 525 for beach fishing and when fishing over mixed rough or average rough ground making it the more common choice.

The reel features a graphite frame for lightness. The design of the frame with its low rear strengthening cross-bar offers the angler easy and direct access for the thumb to fully sit over the loaded reel spool when casting for maximum grip. This is essential when power casting with all casting styles, but especially the more powerful off-the-ground and pendulum techniques.

Penn Mag3

The metal reel seat lugs are riveted to the frame and offer a long term reliable and strong connection that sees the reel sit low profile on the rod, again a factor that helps the angler gain maximum casting grip on the spool, and aids retrieve comfort.

The spool is forged aluminium and sports three line capacity rings. The top ring can be used for filling the reel with line, but these are really intended as a reference point as to how much line you have left on the spool, either after casting, or more importantly, when a big fish runs a lot of line off and you need to know exactly how much line you have left available. The spool also sports an etched central “grip” spot that helps secure the line to the central arbour and avoids any chance of line slippage when capacity is running very low.

The Penn Mag3 spool features a live spindle. This means the spool and spindle rotate independently from the drive train and frame. This dramatically reduces friction when the spool is in free spool increasing casting range, but also eliminating any chance of binding under heavy retrieve.

Penn Mag3

An issue with the Penn Mag2’s was that overzealous lubrication could see oil weep from spindle bearing and pinion gear and reach the gap between the reel frame and the spool edge on the right-hand side, this being thrown out during powerful casts. This would be seen as a milky liquid that could restrict the freedom of the spool to turn freely. Penn have now modified the reel to minimise the chance of this occurring.

As good as the original 525’s were, the Slidey push button engagement of the magnetic brakes saw issues with dirt and sand getting inside the mechanism, and some anglers inadvertently and unknowingly catch the slidey button by mistake, either on the retrieve or during a cast and alter the braking causing issues with future casts. The best thing Penn did was replace this with the ever-reliable and pretty much foolproof indexed magnetic brake system that uses a simple finger-operated turn switch to dial in less or more braking effect on demand. This is impossible to inadvertently adjust. Reels need to sell to the mass market, and this simple but obvious addition suited the majority of anglers who just want maximum performance for minimum effort. The new Mag3’s wisely retain this proven system. It gives a wide range of casting control at the flick of the switch allowing instant and accurate readjustment.

Penn Mag3

Penn Mag3’s are fitted with better quality bearings than previous reels. This is noted especially in how smooth the reel is when casting, and many feel an improvement in overall casting distance achieved, but also when under heavy retrieves, such as when bullying a big fish back over rougher ground. There are six strategically placed bearings, all stainless-steel and shielded to limit the ingress of water or dirt.

The Penn Mag3 reel is fitted with the proven and ever reliable HT-100 drag system. This is ultra smooth, but the HT-100 drag washers can withstand fast running fish like beach tope without issues. The drag is also capable of being finely adjusted to suit varied line breaking strains. The drag can also be really locked down should you ever need to apply maximum pressure to a very big fish.

The biggest change to the format of the reel is in the gearing department. The previous Mag2 reels had a main gear made from marine-grade bronze alloy. These were tough, but the new Mag3’s have gone one better and now feature marine-grade stainless-steel for both the hard working pinion gear, and the main gear. These will be slightly rougher in the feel under retrieve, but this is a tiny price to pay for much tougher gears that will withstand heavy direct winching. A major step forward!

The gear ratio also plays in the Penn Mag3’s favour being a fast 6.1:1, recovering roughly 30ins of line per spool revolution. You can really fly smaller fish in, or retrieve tackle at speed when fishing over snags. An important factor if you’re a match angler that prefers to fish a multiplier reel.

The free spool engagement lever offers a wide top grip, so is easy to use if you’re cold and wet.

Other features include a counter balanced and drilled for lightness reel handle, a slightly oversized reel handle grip with an oil port that offers good grip even in rain and when the hands are cold, plus the reel has a precise anti-reverse ball-bearing system.

Beach fishing reel

A small number of anglers report that line can access the gap between the frame and the spool rim. If this happens, then it will usually be at the end of the cast when loops of line flip up off the spool and is common on many reels from different manufacturers. This is mainly because the caster is a fraction too late applying the thumb to the spool allowing the loops of line to flip up. This typically applies to lines with a diameter of 0.35mm with regards to the Penn Mag3’s. With heavier lines this issue is much less likely.

Fishing and Casting Ability

The 515 Mag3 is best used as described for general beach and bass fishing, purely based on size and line capacity. The 525 naturally, by size alone, offers the most re versatility of use. It is capable of long-range casting from clean beaches, is ideal for rough weather cod fishing in big seas, but is equally at home fishing over mixed and sensibly rough ground. It is used by boat anglers for offshore lure fishing work, plus is the ideal choice for uptide casting from boats when targeting summer smoothounds and winter cod. That stainless-steel gearing and the ease of magnetic brake adjustment are major contributors to the reels versatility.

Vital Statistics

  • Graphite frame and aluminium reinforced graphite side-plates
  • Forged aluminium spool
  • Indexed finger adjustable magnetic braking system
  • 6 stainless-steel shielded ball-bearings
  • HT-100 multiple disc drag system
  • Stainless steel main and pinion gear
  • Gear ratio 6.1:1
  • Counter balanced and drilled for lightness reel handle
  • Approximate line capacity 515 250yds 15lb line, 525 250yds 20lb line

Final Thoughts

The Penn Mag series reels have sold in multiple thousands over the years and currently appear to be the commonest reel on the beach. You can’t argue with that statistic. It proves, that for the majority, they do everything asked of them and more, and for many their overall strength and versatility covers the vast majority of their fishing. They also keep a higher than average secondhand value given they are kept well maintained and not abused.

Both sizes of reel have their place, but the larger 525 does give that bit more versatility to those looking to own just one reel to do the majority of their fishing. When it comes down to pure cost, that is a major consideration for a lot of anglers.