A recent introduction to the famous Penn stable is the Penn Slammer 3 fixed spool reel range. A tough, no-nonsense series of reels that have proved a best seller both worldwide, and in the UK. But what makes the Penn Slammer tick and where does it stand amongst the many other fixed spools on the market?
Penn Slammer Build Quality and Features
Let’s start with the build quality. All the Penn Slammer reels feature a solid full metal body, side-plate and rotor. Going full metal virtually eliminates any distortion under very heavy pressure with all the internals kept inline improving reliability and overall smoothness. The spool is also all metal designed to take the inevitable knocks a reel will get in its busy life.
Penn are renowned for reels with tough gears and the Penn Slammer keeps up the family tradition. They are manufactured using CNC technology. Probably best we check out exactly what this means. CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control Machining. It is the automated removal of material from a single block of metal or plastic to form a finished part or component using a controlled computerised programme to cut ultra-fine tolerances using motorised machine tools. Phew! Not only do you get a better finished and manufactured product, but the machining time is faster, too! The Penn Slammer drive, pinion and oscillation gears are cut then to the finest of tolerances making them tougher and smoother during operation. With a gear ratio of 5.6:1, on the featured 5500 reel, you’re pulling back some 99cm (39ins) of line for every turn of the handle.
Incorporated into the build are no less than 8 stainless steel ball-bearings, all strategically placed to spread load when fighting very heavy fish, but also to reduce wear and tear over a long life.
The Penn Slammer is fitted with Penn’s own Dura-Drag system featuring chemically treated HT-100 drag washers. These hidden gems are heat resistant and give the reel the ability to release line on demand with no hesitation, but also give a wide selective pressure choice to cover both lighter and heavier lines when it comes to drag pressure. This is a front drag reel making it easy and quick to adjust during mid-fight. The drag pressure is also impressive producing a whopping 18.1kg or just under 40lbs of direct pressure…incredible!
To further protect the internal working parts this reel range features an IPX6 rated sealed system. This is designed to minimise ingress of water into the gear box and drag system and is designed to maintain full performance and to minimise the chance of corrosion.
Looking at other external features, we’ll start with the spool. As we know, all metal for strength, but it also features a rubber gasket on the middle of the spool designed to give grip when loading with braided lines. This avoids loaded braid from spinning around on the smooth spool arbor when the line and reel are under heavy pressure, which can happen if the spool is just left as smooth metal. The sticky rubber allows the braid to fully grip and stay secure.
Also featured on the spool are line-capacity rings cut into the base of the spool. These are designed, not for how much line is loaded, but refer, at a glance, as to how much line you have left on the reel spool when a big fish takes a lot of line. The inner line denotes 1/3rd capacity, the middle line 2/3rds capacity, and the outer line full capacity. And while we’re thinking of line, the spool capacity is 230yds of 15lb mono, or 380yds of 30lb braid, give or take. More than enough to handle anything this reel is pitched against in UK waters!
And, if you need ultra-accurate casting distances to reach fishy looking snags or want to fish right on the edge of a distant estuary channel, then the spool carries a line clip you can clip the line into once you’ve gauged the distance you need to cast to keep your baits or lures bang on the money.
The bale-arm is a heavy-duty wire type for added strength and durability. On all the Penn Slammers up to and including the 5500 the bale-arm is automatic, with the larger 6500, 7500, 8500, 9500 and 10500 sizes all manual trip.
The reels are supplied with two handles, one metal and one a hard foam type. Some say the metal handle looks over large and makes the reel appear heavy. The fact is, that the metal knob is hollow and actually very light, so adds little to the overall weight of the reel. What it does give is excellent cranking power and ease of operation. Why two types of handle knob material? The metal is preferred when fishing this reel under harsh conditions when really pumping up big fish or working lures fast and hard. The still very hard-wearing hard foam one is warmer to the touch and gives improved grip if you’re fishing in cold wet weather. Credit to Penn, whichever you prefer, you have the option and it’s easy to switch. Oh, and the handle is interchangeable left to right side for individual choice and comfort, plus folds away for ease of transportation, too.
Lastly, there’s no mistaking the Slammer series on the shop shelf as they come in a very smart matt black body and spool with gold trim, and a gold handle colouring. Very nice!
Penn Slammer Fishing and Casting
TSF actually has two sizes of Slammer reel, the 3500 we use for working plugs and lures for shore bass, also mullet fishing, and this featured 5500 model which has proved incredibly versatile being used for shore bass fishing ledgering crab baits in estuaries and in the open surf, but also as an offshore reel used mostly for drift fishing over rough ground when targeting all manner of general species.
We’ve loaded the reel with both 15lb mono, and 30lb braid. In both cases the line-lay has been excellent. We loaded the mono to within 1/8th of an inch of the spool lip, but found the braid is better and reduces any chance of wind knotting if it’s left slightly lower than that below the spool lip. Either way, the reel casts easily to long range appropriate to the weights and lures being used.
The drag is exceptionally efficient, smooth, powerful and instantly gives line with no hesitation.
The reel is smooth in operation, but from new you can feel the gears more than some other reels. That said, it’s a common trait with the more upmarket Penn reels that much like a car, they actually get run-in the more you use them becoming smoother.
We also found that the over-size bale-arm, though automatic, is better closed manually. This is quicker, easier, plus helps avoid the potential of wind knots when using braid line.
We wondered if, at a weight of 22.4oz (633g) the reel would feel heavy? Nope! We actually found that the reel balances really well on our typical 11ft to 11ft 6in bass rods, also on the longer European style soft tipped boat rods around the 10ft to 11ft length we prefer for general boat drift fishing and species hunting.
The reel has resisted the usual bumps, knocks and scratches really well and still looks pretty much like new. Maintenance has been next to nothing, so far, just a quick wash under the tap, dried, then sprayed with WD40 and put in a zip plastic bag until we need it again. The smaller 3500 reel has been dunked by a rolling surf more than a few times while working lures and as yet, performs as it did when it came out of the box.
- Bearings: 8 overall
- Line Capacity: 390yds of 0.28m line
- Gear Ratio: 5.6:1
- Line Recovery: 99cms (39ins)
- Drag: Dura-Drag – Front Drag adjustment
- Max Drag Pressure: 18.1kg (39.8lbs)
- Overall weight unloaded: 22.4ozs – 635g
- Sizes Available: 3500, 4500, 5500, 6500, 7500, 8500, 9500, 10500. There are also fast-retrieve versions in sizes 6500 and 8500 available.
- Price: We checked these out at various online stores for the 5500 size and found them down to £140, though the normal RRP is quoted as £199.99.
In our experience, after quite a bit of fishing time with these reels, we’ve genuinely found it damn nigh impossible to fault them. If we had to pick something, then we’d mention that the bale-arm can be stiff and awkward to close automatically, but then we close bale-arms manually anyway on all sizes of reel, so it made no difference to us.
To some the handle looks a little oversize and we’d probably agree that on the shelf it does, but you can’t fault its fishing performance, nor the overall balance of the reel.
The reel has proved a pleasure to fish with in a variety of situations from shore and from boat. Built for the Bluewater market in the US, these reels are fully on top of their game here in the UK and with normal basic maintenance are likely to last a very long time giving great value for money!