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OK all you Penn fans

15604 Views 49 Replies 23 Participants Last post by  Khh27
Most of my baitcasting experience has been with Ambassadeur reels - 5500s, 6000s and 7000s. And, while I have no complaints about them, I'm wondering what all of the fuss is with regards to Penn reels.

What I'm really looking for is something comparable to the Ambassadeur 7000 with regards to size, weight and line capacity. Something that has the guts to pull a big flathead out of cover and still be able to cast a heavy mono a reasonable distance.

Seems that the Penn 209 fits the bill, but what others? What about the difference between a levelwind and a converntional with regards to casting distance and ease of use?

Any recommendations or tips would be appreciated.


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You will most definately get more casting distance with a non level wind. How ever ya better have a talented thumb. LOL! The 310 and the 320 (wich I own 2 of) are excellant reels. I also have an Ammbassadeur 7000 and the penn 310 is pretty darn close in comparison. The only beef I have with the Penns is that they don't have the auto engage that the Ammbassadeurs have. This is a feature I truely like cause I fish with circle hooks. That auto engage eliminates a step when settin the hook and that is good for my fadeing memory. Have ya ever went to set the hook and forgotten to take the reel off of free spool by flippin the leaver? What a mess! LOL! I'm sticken with the Ammbassadeurs for that one reason. Matter of fact I picked myself up my two 7000's not that long ago.
Penn reels are awesome. 209, 309, the GTI or GT2 series, all are great. Just depends on how much money you want to spend. You can get a 209 in "reel" nice shape on ebay for $30 (including shipping) or there abouts. You can get a variety of Penn reels without the level wind even cheaper than that.

I love them and see no reason to try anything else. Although if I could get a 7000 for $30, I might be tempted to try it. Good luck with that though!
george. i thought i was the only one who had birdnested his penn trying to catch not cast, lmao.

ive used a few penn reels. a 309, 210, and a peerless#9. all levelwinders. they are great reels. they hold lots of line. the 309 is huge. the penn 209 210's would be my choice for a comparable reel to a 7000.

never used a non level wind. i know gator can give ya some info there as well. he has lots of penn reels.

i like the abus a little better but not from fair comparison. the penns i have although clean and great reels are a little older. i got 4 new abus on clearence that are up to date reels with instant anti reverse and no lever to flip. it is a little more of a hastle when casting and re baiting alot. it kind of is second nature when ya use them alot just one more extra step.

ill continue to use both but preffer my new abus.
I like both, the Penns and Ambassadeurs. I have to say my Ambassadeurs in comparable size cast better than the Penns. I dislike the auto engage of the Ambassadeur spools for two reasons, 1. When I am fishing from a dock it is easy for someone to bump your reel or a barge come by and shake the dock and engage the spool and a fish will drag it in. 2. Sometimes on a hard cast the Ambassadeur spool will engage on its own and the bait sets new records with your line and hook 20 foot in front of you. :)
I like the extra step of engaging the spool with the Penns to lock the spool. With all that being said I use circle hooks in heavy duty rod holders with the spool locked and drag tigtened just enough for the fish to hook themselves. I usually end up with my smooth casting 6000 or 7000 series Ambassadeurs in the rod holders. I learned to cast with a Penn 209 and couldn't believe how easy the Penn GTi series were to cast, they are not far behind the Ambassadeurs and they are definitely reels built to last. If you want a Penn that will cast I would suggest a Penn 310GTi. If you want a non levelwind that casts further try out a Penn Jigmaster.You won't go wrong with either brand. I have replaced a few Ambassadeur parts, just stripped out the plastic gears that turn the levelwind and had to replace them on a 6500c3. I admit it was my fault from jerking on a snag but never had that problem with any of my Penns. Anyone know where I can get a set of tough gears for the Ambassadeur 6000 and 7000 series levelwinds instead of the plastic junk they put in all of them? Abu
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Ok if it was me and a level wind was a must then the 310 or the 320. If the non-level wind reels is in the running then the squider 140 or the best in that size bar none the Penn Jigmaster 500. Now I did tear up a 7000 my last trip out it got striped and not just the line. Got a call today from the repair shop and was told that it would be cheaper to buy a new reel. It was a 100+ pound Tarpoon that did the 7000 in. I have landed 2 that size on my 500. Kepp in mind that the 7000 was not built for that kind of fishing. Just my 2 bits worth.
ABU made a good point on the size between the two. penns are much bulkier in size to the abus. but penns were most commonly made for saltwater fishing. ive talked to a fella whom used 309's for big stripers. that reel i sold cause it was just to much reel for me in central ill. the 210 is what i have for bluegill fishing for flatheads and 2 abu 6500's. those 309's will hold 4-500 yards of 30# test line. there hugh. the tidewater 30l is comoarable in size to the 309's.
My Opinion;

I am an ole dyed in the wool Penn fan. I have 7 of them and I have used Penn reels for over 45 years. I have 2- 500 Jigmasters, 1- 3/0 Senator, 2- 155s, 1- 200, & 1-250. I am lookin to buy a Squidder 140. They are all non level winds and they will generally outcast any Abu casting the same weight of Line. I love them for a couple of reasons, They are basically bullet proof as far as wearing out parts, and they have the best drag system. You never have to worry about a fish ripping the gears out of them and no matter how big that fish gets, you are gonna bring him in. What more could you want.

Then again, thats my opinion:

The "fuss" around Penn reels has as much to do with practicality as it does nostalgia. Penn's been around for a long time (so has ABU), and has a well established market. Penn also makes some serious no-nonsense reels that are work-horses... they aren't the prettiest reels, but they get the job done day in and day out.
Pretty much the same thing can be said for Abu....they are like Ford Vs. Chevy..:rolleyes:

I dislike the incredible slow gearing (2.8-1) of the 209, but for offshore cranking it's great. I also don’t care for the lever engagement combined with a star drag. As turtle1173 said the GTi series are great and I would think a 310GTi would be an excellent reel for big cats with plenty of guts and line capacity, and reasonable for casting. If I had to get a penn today for cats, it would be a GTi.

I'd encourage you to look into reels with a lever drag and here's why;
The lever drag system gives you various degrees of drag on demand:cool:
You position your drag lever in the freespool setting and cast your bait out there.
Then you push the lever forward to the "bait" setting (or similar, ever reel is a little bit different) This applies just a small amount of drag on the spool, on my cat reel its set so that the spool will rotate easily but not pick up any inertia and spin freely. Now, when that BIG ole cat comes along and grabs at your bait and heads for the hills he won’t take your ROD with him, or break it trying. Also it will prevent a hard hitting fish from causing a backlash while you’re waiting in freespool. The fish isn’t the only one likely to cause a backlash, if the kids or dog runs under the line or trip over the you wont get a birds nest in your reel. And as already mentioned, if you get a little excited when the fish hits you don’t have to worry about accidentally forgetting to engage the spool. Essentially this is what the spinning reels call a "bait runner" same thing, just on a castig reel

Now if you have a average fish on, you just bump the lever drag up enough to tire him out or all the way up to reel in quick and get your bait back out there for the big one waiting.. your choice...

Same goes when the cat of a lifetime comes along, you can keep increasing the drag as needed or backing off the drag as needed if you happen to have too much fish on and it looks like he might break off. None of this adjusting is done behind the crank arm! So its easier to get to and more precise.

And the good news, all this is pre-set, so once you land your fish, you just bait back up, kick the lever all the way back to freespool and start all over... I will probably never use a star drag reel again for bait fishing, because the lever drags are just so convenient.

If your heart is set on a Penn or Abu, then bless you, they are wonder reels and a staple to fishing from coast to coast. If you would maybe like to venture out of the norm a little and get an incredible reel for about $50 more than the Garcia 7000’s take a look at the thread asking of anyone else uses Avet reels. (I guess no one does since no one has replied hahaha) but the little SX is about the size of the Abu 5500 series with the guts, strength and drag of a big salt water reel, it can be a demon to cast however so if your use to conventional’s you’ll warm up quick.. if not, then your going to have to learn to cast to keep up with this reel because they are F A S T !
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I have had my eye on the Penn 320 Gt2 lever drag for a long, long time. I love the idea of a lever drag, and the 320 is a great reel as it is. I checked one out at cabelas the other day, and that is one of the most wonderful things that I have ever seen. I think that the idea that it is used for saltwater fishing really gets to me, since cats can bigger than some salt water fish. I would probably go with the 320 gt2 or 320 LD.
I will say one thing, living here on the coast of NC. Out of all the reels I have ever seen on charter boats, and commercial boats I would have to say at least 90% of all reels are Penn. I myself own about 12 Penn reels and have never had one problem with any one of them. All of mine though are for big game fish such as tuna and big drum and stuff. For cats I use the Shimano 6500 baitrunners, they are very well made. The 6500 can hold well over 200yds of 30# line.
Hey barbel,
Live the screen name, not to many people in the US know about barbels ... fun fishing!!

Just like you say how the levers being used for salt "gets to ya", I think that also turns others off or scares them away ... but your absolutly right, cats get bloody large! And they feel 2-3 times as when your pulling them against their will :p

It's just another approach to a much needed tool for fishing, there are times when the star is plenty, and you dont have to worrie about a 50lb largemouth or crappie... with cats you just never know, they are spunky, you might get one on the hook thats no bigger than the bait your using... and then again you might get one in the 50+ range.. so having the flexability and easy access of the drag is just too nice to pass up.. in my humble opinion...
What is the difference between a Penn and a Penn Peer?
A Penn peer is a reel that Penn build just for peer fishing. It is a smaller reel with a great drag but was built to use in tight conductions found on peers.
Thanks for the info Jim! I will be the proud owner of another 309 in the near future. It's amazing how I've changed my favor from Abus to Penns. The two Penns I have are workhorses! They hold much more line than the Ambassadeurs and they seem to be as durable if not more so. They probably don't cast as well but I never try for distance anyway. I can't wait to take the new reel fishin!
Joe. Gator is evil! LOL! He is a Penn-fanatic! Fight his influence on you! LOL! Naa,ya can't go wrong with a Penn. I only stick primarily with Ammbassadeur cause I'm one of those freak left hand retrieve guys. LOL!
Not to worry Big George, I still think that Ambassadeur reels are better for frequent-cast or lighter duty applications. I'm fishing the Mississippi River with 5-16 ounce weights in currents that may be as high as 6-8 knots. The Penn reels I have now (a 209 and a 309) seem to handle the strain much better than my Ambassadeurs and they have much greater line capacities.

There's a 100 pound cat out there with my name on it. I'll feel better with a Penn 309 with a couple of hundred yards of about 80 pound test than an Abu with less when that cat decides to take my offering.

I will keep a couple of Ambassadeurs for bass fishing and lake fishing for cats but the heavy duty fishing will be done with the Penns. I've been converted... :0a33:

Oh.....'they' say that left-handed people are in the right frame of mind... :rolleyes: :confused:
Joe, don't try to kid yourself about that 100 lb Cat :D Don't you know the 100 lbers only hit Zebco's, LOL.
Right Mind. Now that is debateable. LOL! The funny thing is I'm not left handed. I retrieve with my reel left handed and I fire a rifle and shotgun left handed. Figure that out.LOL! Must have been dropped too much as a baby. LOL! If ya think about it I'd bet you retrieve a spinnin reel left handed. I just can't pick up a conventional reel that is right hand retrieve and use it. Its a terrible site. LOL!
If you are looking for a reel about the same in size to a 7000, look at the 310gti. I have one and it will hold about the same amount of line, and cast just as good if not a little better than a 7000.
Hey Big George I'm just the opposite, I'm left handed but fish, shoot, and throw right handed
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