Monday, 21 August 2017 06:00

Penn Slammer III 3500 Spinning Reel

Steve Neely takes Penn’s revamped classic for a spin.

The Penn Slammer has been around for quite some time, and for rugged reliability, there has been little to rival this true American workhorse. Granted, Penn reels have never been renowned for finesse, but when it comes to a solid drag and reliability, they have been at the front end of the American tackle scene for decades.

However, most of their reels haven’t travelled well to Europe, mainly because they are heavy and in the looks department they didn’t quite tick the sleek style that most anglers here tend to go for. The release of the Penn Clash was perhaps the turning point, when they clearly put a little more thought into a reel that was lighter and prettier. The Clash series received mixed reviews; some loved it and others had issues, so I was a little hesitant, yet curious, to see what the new Slammer III would offer.

On paper it was looking like a serious bit of kit, but would it prove too heavy and cumbersome for our lure work? First, though, let’s get some of the technical jargon out of the way and take a look at the features and technology included in Penn’s new offering.


Suitable For The Salt?

Penn has heavily emphasised the ‘IPX6’ rated sealing system as the main appeal to saltwater anglers, especially surfcasters or inshore boat anglers. This rating is an industry standard seal of approval by a third-party provider and it basically means a high-power jet of water has been blasted at the reel from three metres away, for three minutes around 360 degrees and the seals have withstood and repelled the water.

Penn does not advise the reel to be wound while fully submersed, but says it is completely at home in the surf or in the gunnels, getting splash and spray. Therefore it isn’t in the same league as, say, a Van Staal or a Zeebass, but saying that it is a fraction of the price.

From the exploded diagram, you can see the various seal locations (shown in red) throughout the reel, including the usual areas, such as main body, drag, handle etc. Given the amount of seals, the reel is remarkably smooth… granted, it isn’t as free as a Daiwa Certate but it has a feel when you turn the handle like wading through double cream. However, knowing that a reel has been designed specifically to keep saltwater out and to ensure, when it is rinsed, that salt doesn’t get washed into it, is quite reassuring.


Built For Battle

From the spec sheet you will notice this reel has been built to handle much larger fish than we would expect in the UK and Ireland. The Dura Drag system is a technology that has been used in the Penn International models and the Slammer III is the first spinning model to have this included. Having 30lb of drag will be excessive, but it is nice to know it’s there if you ever decided to go abroad to spice things up.

The full metal rotor is of course much more rugged and solid than say the graphite alternatives that Penn previously put in its smaller models. Hats off to them for making a smaller reel built along the core principles of their higher end gear.

To add extra strength and durability, Penn has CNC milled the main and pinion gears from brass in order for them to stand up to strain and stress, without the risk of deforming or bending when under immense pressures.

You can feel that this is built to last from the moment you pick it up; something that some reels lack these days. Don’t get me wrong, I love my high-end Japanese reels, which are light and slick, but occasionally you do lift some that feel plasticky or simply brittle.



Quite often, this is the part that divides the crowd. However, in this case, it ticks the boxes for me. Penn has, in the past, looked a bit cheap in my opinion and while the reels were clearly built for function and not looks, it always made me hold back. That probably makes me sound a little shallow but I like my gear to look good as well as function – for me it is all part of the enjoyment.

I like the sleek look of this reel, especially the gold etchings in the spool that sometimes can be a little over the top, but they have been subtle with this one. Penn has also toned down its signature shade of gold to something a bit more classy looking.

The Slammer III comes with an option of either an aluminium knob or a standard EVA style. This is to allow anglers in the States to change the handle in relation to the weather for comfort. I think it is a nice little touch to be given the option, and also bespoke aluminium knobs for Daiwa or Shimano reels cost a small fortune, some in excess of £100, so getting one included is a bonus in my eyes.


Practical Use For UK And Irish Waters?

Let’s not beat around the bush, at 393g, or 13.9oz in old money, it is heavy – there is no getting away from that! But this is a big reel, a true 3500 size, and personally I do think Penn has missed a trick by not producing a 2500 size in this reel.

However, back to the weight issue, and it immediately started to ring alarm bells in my head as I didn’t fancy lugging about a heavy reel on any of my shorter rods for plugging and soft lures – it simply makes things a bit of a chore.

I sat in a bit of a dilemma because I loved the features and the styling but felt it was just not meant to be used on our shores. However, I took a step back and decided to gear up and put the Slammer into some scenarios that it was designed for.

So I grabbed my Illex S 270 MH (Estuary II) 10-50g rod, loaded the Slammer III with 25lb 8-strand braid, grabbed a few bucktail jigs, needle fish and a handful of surf-style plugs and headed for an Atlantic storm beach. I have to say, I felt like I was in an east coast striped bass video as I made my way down to the surf, but this is what the reel was designed to do, so what better style of fishing to test it out on?

It still felt a little heavy but started to even out a bit with the 9ft Illex, and also with the rod tip elevated and the butt more between my legs, in the classic striped bass retrieve position, it began to make sense! The reel was a machine in the surf line – I was taking the odd rogue wave and plenty of splashes and it simply didn’t bat an eyelid. All you have to do is go on to YouTube and look at the Surfcaster Journal review of this reel and you will see them dunk testing it and also burying it in the sand, rinsing it off and fishing it with no hassle. Very impressive!

For the fishing conditions it was designed for – big surf on storm beaches – it is ideal. It’s a reel for dirty conditions where long casting and reliability are key. Importantly, it balances the type of rod that you use for that sort of work very nicely.

As for inshore fishing from the boat, well you are more often than not jigging/sink and draw, which isn’t as tiresome as constantly casting, and the reel will also do a very nice job with light drifting techniques for brill, turbot and plaice, or bait fishing for smoothhounds.

bucktail 1


When spooling up, I had a bit of an issue with the spool loading bottom heavy, but this is easily remedied by tweaking with the washers that are supplied.

I have had similar issues with top-end Daiwas and Shimanos in the past so it’s not that big a deal, just an oversight in the factory but it can happen with any brand.

Would I like it to be lighter? Yes, of course, but then again I wouldn’t want to compromise the robust build quality. I really think Penn has got the balance right here on this one and focused on building a reel that is really designed to stick all the abuse that an angler could possibly give it.

If you are looking a reel to match up with your super-light 7ft soft-plastic rod then this won’t be the one for you. It probably won’t even match up on your 8ft rod either. However, if you are wanting a reel to take out and get in among the surf and really thump out some lures on a 9ft-plus rod in search of cruising silver, then I would seriously recommend you take a look at the new Slammer III this coming season.


  • Size: 3500
  • Ratio: 6.2:1
  • Weight: 393g
  • Max drag (3500): 30lb
  • Capacity – braid: 20lb/220 yards
  • Full metal body, side plate and rotor
  • IPX6 sealed body and spool design
  • Dura drag
  • 6+1 stainless steel bearing system
  • Handle choice.


SSP: From £159.99 for 3500 size, depends on model

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