Analysis and Results
There’s no question about Penn’s dominance in the salt, and there’s simply no brand out there with a better reputation, more fans, or more excellent products for inshore and offshore anglers.
How does the Spinfisher VI stack up against these worthy opponents?
Is it really the ultimate all-arounder it claims to be - ready for everything from surfcasting to offshore trolling?
Let’s find out.
If you’re familiar with our reviews, you’ll know right away that the drag system is the first thing we consider when selecting a reel and comparing it against alternatives.
Penn’s Spinfisher VI is designed for big fish and hard fights, and we expect drag on these reels with size-appropriate maximum settings as well as smooth, consistent performance.
That’s exactly what you get from these reels.
Drag maximums are lower than the awesome Slammer III - though that’s to be expected given the price and tech differences separating these reels. That said, you won’t be under gunned in the fight of your life with the Spinfisher VI.
The 3500 provides a sensible maximum of 15 pounds, and for the lines that size reel is rated for - even if you run braid - that’s more than enough. Each increase in reel size from there bears a correspondingly strong drag that’s increased in 5-pound increments. Thus, the 10500 can be set to a maximum of 50 pounds.
That’s plenty of drag in my book.
Penn equips the Spinfisher VI lineup with what it calls an HT-100 drag system.
Let’s demystify what that means.
The HT-100 system is composed of carbon fiber fabric laminated on fiberglass discs. They create plenty of direct pressure on the spool and resist wear far better than felt and oil systems. They also save weight, an important consideration on a big reel.
This drag is sealed against saltwater intrusion to a rating of IPX5, meaning that anything short of going overboard should keep water out.
Experts say that one of the advantages of the HT-100 system is that it reduces friction slightly as it gets hot, meaning that when a big fish makes a run for it, your drag will ease up naturally as the line is taken farther and farther.
Essentially, that allows the drag system to “compensate” for less line remaining on your spool, protecting you from sudden breakage.
Its real-world performance is excellent, and you can expect a smooth, consistent release with no line-threatening starts and stops.
Some anglers choose to grease this drag system; others leave it alone.
Penn knows long, hard-won fights, and they’ve provided gearing to tip the odds in your favor.
On the smaller reels - the 2500, 3500, 4500, and 5500 - Penn has chosen an aluminum main gear and a brass pinion gear. This combination saves weight, resists corrosion, and allows for precision machining of the gear teeth, especially on the pinion gear.
For the 6500, 7500, 9500, and 10500, the main and pinion gears are brass. Easier to machine than aluminum, the teeth on these models are very fine, meshing together with incredible precision. The result is a very smooth, very connected feel that’s sure to impress.
In a fight, both systems are more than a match for the size fish they’re designed for.
As you’d expect, Penn matched the gear ratio the spool size, breaking the lineup into size-appropriate sub-sections.
The smallest two reels run a 6.2:1 ratio, producing retrieval rates of 37 and 40 inches per turn, respectively. Those are identical numbers - and as far as I can tell, identical spools - to the Slammer III.
The next two larger reels run a 5.6:1 ratio. Matched to their larger spools, that’s good for 39 and 42 inches per turn, again matching the Slammer III pace for pace.
The 7500 and 9500 offer a gear ratio of 4.7:1, pulling in 38 and 40 inches of line per turn. There’s no competition for the Slammer III’s 8500HS with its blazing gearing, but again, these reels are producing more than respectable numbers.
And finally, the big 10500 runs a 4.2:1 for 43 inches per turn, duplicating the largest Slammer III inch for inch.
In practice, these reels are plenty fast when a monster turns back toward you and makes a hard run for your boat. In all but the most extreme cases, you’ll be able to keep up - and keep your line tight.
Just as on the Slammer III, you can expect massive spools with plenty of line for any fight.
The 10500 can accommodate 540 yards of 80-pound braid, and I can’t think of a situation where that leaves me worried. The other sizes are equally capacious: the 6500 holds 410 yards of 40-pound braid, for instance.
You can count me as impressed!
Each spool comes marked with capacity lines, a nice touch that keeps you in the know when the pressure’s on.
Casting and Retrieving
Penn bills the Spinfisher VI as an all-around answer to all your saltwater needs.
I don’t think this is marketing hype.
These reels cast well, and the smaller models would be a great choice for surfcasting. The spools are well-designed and well-executed, and the bails are effective and reliable.
Retrieving is buttery smooth, and many converts from the likes of Abu Garcia and Daiwa are surprised by just how good those gears and bearings feel.
As you’d expect, big, strong reels aren’t going to be featherweights.
Penn built each of the reels in Spinfisher VI lineup with weight-saving touches like graphite and machined aluminum rotors - spending on the size - and an all-aluminum body that’s admirably stiff while still not packing on the ounces.
And those touches tell, though the overall numbers are pretty high.
2 ⅓ pounds: that’s the weight of 10500. But then again, I doubt anyone who needs that reel cares about how ounces stack up against performance.
If you need a few ounces less, look to the more expensive Slammer III.
Is the Spinfisher VI the all-arounder it promises to be?
The smaller models cast extremely well while still providing the power, durability, and drag for large species like reds. As a surfcasting reel, it’s hard to imagine getting more bang for your buck.
In deeper water, these reels are just as at home with high maximum drag settings, stiff bodies, and gears that don’t know the word quit.
There are better spinning reels out there - again, the Slammer III - but not at this price point.
The Spinfisher VI is everything Penn promises, and for anglers in the market for a big, powerful spinning reel that won’t break the bank, this is the place to look.