Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

I really want to do more surf based lure fishing, but these lovely smooth Japanese spinning reels don’t like being dunked at all - so I’ve got a Penn Slammer III 3500 reel here to try

I like an uber smooth Japanese spinning reel as much as the next lure junkie, indeed I sometimes find myself kinda grinning with satisfaction when I’ve made a good cast and everything feels like it’s working together on the retrieve - but now take that light as a feather spinning reel out in the surf and put it through saltwater immersion as per the photo below and I bet you any money that the same reel a couple of days later feels like a bag of nails.


They just don’t like being dunked or repeatedly washed over with saltwater, and yes, I am taking into account the various sealing or prevention claims that different manufacturers make. I have no preference for Daiwa or Shimano, but the one surf based lure session above when I lent a reel to a client over in Ireland killed this Mag Sealed reel here, and as much as I am head over in heels in love with my sublime Shimano Twin Power XD C3000HG spinning reel (review here), I don’t have the guts to give it underwater time and see if Shimano’s so called “X Protect” does actually prevent saltwater getting in and killing it.



Perhaps we are sometimes overly concerned with how ridiculously light our spinning reels need to be, but then a lot of the lure rods we use these days are as light as a feather - and I would argue that sometimes a reel can be that bit too light for a particular rod, but that’s another subject. I don’t know how many of you do fish heavier surf conditions for bass when you might need to wade out and punch various lures often a decent distance (and yes, I am obsessing over all kinds of metals at the moment, all hail cabin fever!), but the bit I have done myself and also helped with putting our clients over in Ireland onto this fishing, well I reckon it’s about as much fun as bass fishing gets. Sure, it’s not a finesse style of lure fishing, but hitting bass at range on a lonely surf beach is some buzz………..


It begs the question as to why we need a seriously light weight and smooth as butter Japanese spinning reel when you’re most likely going to be rigging up a powerful 9’6’’+ lure rod and potentially belting say 30g+ lures out as far as you can. I don’t want to be fishing with a setup that weighs a whole load more than I am used to, but at the same time I don’t want the odd surf session to end up in having to send my (often not bloody cheap) spinning reel off for a service because saltwater has got properly inside and started the killing process.

And yes, before you say Van Staal, I get why a bunch of the US striped bass anglers who fish heavy surf conditions use the sealed/waterproof Van Staal reels - but I just don’t like them, or at least I didn’t like the two I used to own (VSB 150 and 100), and of course I am looking forward to seeing their new and smaller and lighter VR50 which I believe is waterproof and actually has a line lay which is based in this century. Could be very interesting indeed.


So it’s thanks to a kind soul I know that I have a Penn Slammer III 3500 spinning reel here to try, and if there is one thing that strikes me straight away it’s how solid this thing feels. This is lifted from the Penn website: “The PENN Slammer III is back by popular demand. Built for heavy-duty fishing from either boat or shore, and trusted by charter captains all over the world. The Slammer III reels feature our new IPX6 Sealed System which keeps water out of the gear box and drag system (I like the sound of this if it’s true). We're also using our updated Slammer Drag System which now utilzes (good spell-checking Penn!) our proprietary Dura- Drag material.”


It’s got more drag than I would ever need on our side of the pond, out of the box it is nice and smooth, I love that handle (which is actually light as a feather, plus there is the Clash style handle in the box which you can change over to if you want), I can load it up fuller than I could with the Penn Clash (lovely reel, but you need to be very careful with not overfilling it), I have heard a lot of good things about this Penn Slammer III (or it 3?), and at 403g loaded with line it’s only 140g heavier than the now discontinued in the UK Shimano Exsence C14+ 4000XGS (used in the size comparison photo above) - and as lovely and light as this 4000 size Shimano reel is to fish with, it’s gone a bit grindy after not nearly enough use.

I took the dog for a walk that revolved around belting out some 40g GT Ice Cream lures into our local estuary with this Penn Slammer III 3500 - I put the reel on the awesome APIA Foojin’R Grand Swell 96MH 9’6’’ 7-42g (review here) and to be honest it feels like one hell of a setup. When you are casting and retrieving this Slammer feels great, and on a lure rod like that it doesn’t feel any heavier or off balance than any other reel I might have strapped to it in the past. Obviously I can’t give you any indication yet how this Penn Slammer III 3500 might workout longer term, but it’s here for me to use and abuse it, and yes, I will be deliberately doing what the Surfcasters’ Journal lads have done in the videos at the bottom of this post (but have I got the guts to bury it in the sand as well?). I love their style of reel testing and I like how these Slammer reels are meant to keep water out.

And because I have been sent this reel to try, I will admit to simply assuming that it surely had to cost well north of £200 because of what you’re meant to be getting, but I have had a quick look around and I can find this 3500 size I have here for around the £150 mark here in the UK. I had a few kayak guys on my FB page saying that they are loving their Slammer III reels, and I reckon this one I have here will also make a fantastic heavier shore pollack reel for those times when you need to belt the bigger stuff out into really deep water. Some lads I know have used them hard over in Norway for some shore based lure fishing for coalfish especially, and they are loving them. I see no reason why I could not do a lot of boat based lure fishing with it if needs be, and as and when I head back to the US to go and chase some striped bass, this Penn Slammer III is coming with me for sure. Time will tell and of course I will report back, but my initial impressions of this thing are really good.

Now as much as I love Ireland, I am sorry to say that I am wishing them all kinds of ills this weekend in the Six Nations. Don’t spew into your cereal bowl, but here’s to hoping that Scotland turn them over, then we thrash France, and then it would come down to a proper Six Nations showdown at Twickenham next weekend, the day before I head up to the BASS AGM to give a talk on shore fishing safety and what I have been learning about it. Come on England, come on Scotland! Apologies.

This guy catches a few fish!

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