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Penn Slammer III Reel Review

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The Penn Slammer III is probably the best spinning reel that money can buy for big saltwater species.

That’s a strong statement, but a careful look at these reels backs it up.

They provide the drag systems that can win a hard fight with a big fish, the capacity to work a monster, and the gearing to pick up line when you can. Every inch you win from a trophy tarpon or marlin is a small victory, and the Slammer III is the ally you’re looking for in these kinds of fights.

For anglers who prefer a spinning reel to the conventional alternative, there’s no finer choice than the Penn Slammer III.

Related: Best Saltwater Fishing Reels

If there’s a name every saltwater angler respects, it’s Penn.

Known for no-nonsense performance and durability, everyone from surfcasters to marlin chasers is aware that Penn sets the performance bar against which everything else is compared.

And in my experience, most contenders fail.

Is the Penn Slammer III really that good?

Let’s find out.

Specifications and Performance

PENN 1403983 Slammer III Spinning

Available at: Amazon  | Bass Pro

Sizes: 3500, 4500, 5500, 6500, 7500, 8500, 10500

Maximum drag: 30 lbs. (3500 and 4500), 40 lbs. (5500 and 6500), 50 lbs. (7500 and 8500), 60 lbs. (10500)

Line capacity: 3500 6/360 (mono)

4500 10/320 (mono)

5500 12/330 (mono)

 6500 15/345 (mono)

 7500 20/330 (mono)

 8500 30/330 (mono)

 10500 40/360 (mono)

Bearings:

Gear ratio: 6.2:1 (3500 and 4500), 5.6:1 (5500 and 6500), 4.7:1 (7500), 5.3:1 (8500), 4.2:1 (10500)

Weight: 13.9oz.(3500), 14.7 oz. (4500), 22.4 oz. (5500), 24.3 oz. (6500), 29.2 oz. (7500), 31.3 oz. (8500), 43.1 oz. (10500)

Drag

Big mean fish necessitate strong, smooth drag.

That’s a simple fact of the salt.

A good drag system helps you tire out powerful fish, making them work to steal line. And no less important, when properly set to 1/3rd the test strength of your line, your drag will cushion your line and knots against sudden shocks, preventing failure.

To my mind, that makes the drag the most important part of my reel, and it’s the first thing I look at.

Penn designed the Slammer III with stomach-bruising, arm-fatiguing fights in mind, and the phenolic-coated carbon-fiber washers that do the heavy lifting in its drag system are all business. Providing plenty of smooth, reliable pressure, they’re both long-lasting and powerful.

They’ll allow your fish to take line at the setting you demand, and they’ll deliver that line without starts and stops. Smooth and reliable: that’s what Penn promises in a tough battle.

You definitely get the performance you’re paying for with the Slammer III, and this is among the very best drag systems on the market - no question.

This drag system is sealed against heavy spray in saltwater, but I wouldn’t recommend using your rod as a paddle!

Gearing

When you’re trying to keep a tight line with a bull red, a sailfish, or a mako that’s making a run straight for your boat, you need all the speed you can get to keep your line tight.

Penn knows that, and they’ve equipped the Slammer III lineup with excellent gear ratios matched to massive spools. Working in tandem, these design features provide outstanding retrieval rates.

The smallest Slammer III picks up 37 inches per turn, and the largest 49.5! In short, whichever size is right for you, you can rest assured that you’ll have the speed you need.

Penn runs solid brass gears in this tough reel, and it’s worth keeping in mind why. Brass isn't as light, or as hard, as aluminum, but over time, it’s more durable. It’s also easier to machine precisely, resulting in smoother gearing for less total cost than alternatives.

Brass allows for very, very finely cut gear teeth as it's soft enough to machine easily, and you really will feel the difference - a “connected” or “grounded” feeling to your line.

But it’s pretty heavy compared to aluminum, and Penn clearly made the choice to run beefy, durable gears and worry about weight savings on the body. 

For my money, that sounds like a reasonable design choice, and you’ll appreciate the feel of these gears, their smoothness, and their strength in a fight.

Spool capacity

Massive.

That’s what I think about the spools on the Slammer III. 

Marked with capacity lines on each side of the spool, the Slammer III series holds more than enough line for anything you hook, especially if you switch out your mono for braid.

Think numbers like 805 yards of 50-pound braid on the 10500, or 440 yards of 50-pound braid on the 7500!

Those are simply staggering amounts of line, and Penn clearly thought through the kinds of fights you’ll encounter when fishing pelagic species.

Casting and retrieving

The large reels aren’t built around casting performance, but they do an excellent job when you need distance.

Chalk that up to ultra-high quality spools and bodies that are placed at just the right distance from the reel to hit the eyes with minimal contact.

As you’d expect from perhaps the finest brass gears on the planet, the Slammer III cranks like a charm, offering ultra-smooth performance and head-turning torque. Of course, your rod is doing most of the heavy work, but you’ll be comforted by the power those gears deliver with each turn of the handle.

Weight

Strength, durability, and power don’t come cheap, and the cost is generally weight.

The Slammer III series offers huge capacity spools, solid brass gearing, and the feel that has made Penn a saltwater legend.

To cut the hefty weights of these reels, Penn equipped them with an all-aluminum body and a machined aluminum handle, cutting weight while providing rigidity for uncompromising hard work. The result isn’t exactly svelte, and the final numbers are as high as you’d expect.

Think close to 2 pounds for the 7500 and 8500, and a staggering 43.1 ounces for the 10500.

I think those are more than acceptable numbers given what these spinning reels are designed for, and if I were chasing fish that are usually caught on conventional reels, I’d accept these weights without hesitation.

Final Verdict

The Penn Slammer III is probably the best spinning reel that money can buy for big saltwater species.

That’s a strong statement, but a careful look at these reels backs it up.

They provide the drag systems that can win a hard fight with a big fish, the capacity to work a monster, and the gearing to pick up line when you can. Every inch you win from a trophy tarpon or marlin is a small victory, and the Slammer III is the ally you’re looking for in these kinds of fights.

For anglers who prefer a spinning reel to the conventional alternative, there’s no finer choice than the Penn Slammer III.

About The Author
Pete D
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.
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