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Penn Spinfisher VII review - still the best all-round saltwater fishing reel?

Updated: Feb 14

The legendary Penn Spinfisher range of saltwater reels - reviewed here in its seventh (VII) generation - started its lineage in 1962 with the company's first spinning reel, the 700. Since those early days, every new Spinfisher model has seen an incremental improvement in the technology deployed, and the 2024 version continues that theme.

Penn Spinfisher VII
Penn Spinfisher VII

In this review, we'll look at a few pros and cons, along with some real-world uses and performance assessments of the brand-new Penn Spinfisher VII 5500 (SSVII5500) that I've been using recently. Let's start with some specs.

 

Penn Spinfisher VII Saltwater Spinning Reel review

 

Penn Spinfisher VII Specs


The theme with the VII is very much evolution rather the revolution, with the same fully sealed HT-100 carbon fiber drag system used that's been a feature of Penn reels at this price point for many years now.


In practical use and up against some pretty big fish well intro triple-figures, this drag system has been consistent and faultless. I'm a fan. It's required zero maintenance to keep it running smoothly on all the models I've used and abused, and I expect this one to be no different.


Now for the tangible improvements over the Spinfisher VI. For 2024, this mainly involves upgraded CNC gear technology featuring all brass gearing added to the existing 5+1 sealed stainless steel ball bearing setup for a bulletproof internal mechanism (already a strength) and more corrosion resistance.


Visually, the spool also has a new design with black v shaped motiffs worked into the gold spool and matte black body with gold accents. Overall, it looks extremely modern aesthetically, and the handle on the 5500 size I'm using sports an oversize oval knob that's perfect for cranking larger baits through the surf or topwater, or retrieving big sinkers from range.


Penn Spinfisher VII review
Penn Spinfisher VII side view

The Spinfisher VII also features an IPX5-rated sealing system that protects it from exposure to splash and spray - perfect for surf fishing to keep water out of the main case, gears and drag system.


Over several years of use in previous models (V and VI), the Spinfisher has proven to be a well sealed reel for light line surf fishing with feet in the water, and bait-and-wait soaks with the rod in the spike.


Both situations expose the reel to a decent level of saltwater spray and sand, but we've not had the need any impromptu rebuilds or issues with incursion. For the money, it's a great all-round performer.


One noticeable difference between previous models is that the VII feels a lot smoother and buttery when turning the handle out of the box. Sealing tech usually seems to compromise the smoothness or feel of the operation of the reel at mid to lower price points, but the VII feels significantly silkier than previous generations.


Price-wise, the Spinfisher VII starts at $179.95 for the standard 6.2:1 ratio 2500-size, up to $289.95 for the 10500-size behemoth packing 50 pounds of drag and a low-speed 4.2:1 retrieve ratio.


Click and expand the chart below for more specs, line capacities and max drag pressures for the Spinfisher VII range. The 5500 model I'm using has 25lbs of drag pressure available, 250-yard capacity for 30lb braid, and a 5.6:1 retrieve ratio for $219.95.

Penn Spinfisher VI Reel Specs

As with previous generations, there are three additional versions on top of the standard model I'm reviewing here; Line Liner with a lever-operated freespool feature for livebait bait fishing; Long Cast with an elongated spool design for distance casting; and Bailess for the more experienced surf caster who doesn't want a spinning reel with a bail arm.

 

Penn Spinfisher VII - Pros and Cons

With such a well-developed product as the VII, there's not a lot left wrong with it. They've ironed out some of the "quirks" of earlier models (tight drags, lack of sealing) to end up with a very good saltwater spinning reel. It looks great, too, with the new design on the spool and familiar gold and black color scheme.


Penn Spinfisher VII 7
The Spinfisher VII looks great with a nice design on the spool added to the familiar gold and black theme

Perhaps the only downside to the new model is that it's listed as being 0.5oz heavier at 19oz - maybe due to the enhanced internals... that's a deal we'll take - but that's not really an issue and you'll be hard-pressed to feel the extra weight over the previous model.


But, overall, it's probably the most versatile sealed saltwater reel on the market for the money, plus our experience with Penn products suggests several seasons of trouble-free service.

 

Penn Spinfisher VII - Best Real-World Uses & Size Guide


The Spinfisher VII lends itself well to all sorts of saltwater spinning tactics in the Light, Medium and Heavy range of tackle, such is the depth of the range.


The 2500, 3500 and 4500 sizes offer reliable performance and useful sealing tech for a great price for surf perch, halibut, light line surf fishing, bonefish, redfish, trout, light lure and inshore work where line capacity isn't a big deal with 6-20lb line.


The 4500, 5500 and 6500 sizes around that mid range are perfect for heavier lure setups for species like striped bass, tarpon, dorado, snapper, rockfish, or anything where you'll need a decent amount of 20-50lb main line. Bait-and-wait fishing for critters like catfish, bass, drum, croaker and that grade of fish, too. The Long Cast versions around this size bracket are a great option for beach casters looking for maximum distance, by the way.


Looking at the larger sizes from 7500 to 10500 - these offer some huge line capacities for heavy braid in the 50-100lb class and up to 50lb max drag on the largest model, making these the amongst best reels to look at for surf shark fishing, land-based shark fishing, marlin, popper, tuna, GT, yellowtail, kingfish, big game and drone fishing from the beach or pier.


Penn Spinfisher VII review
The 5500-size Spinfisher VII spooled with 30lb braid for surf fishing on a Medium-weight combo
 

Penn Spinfisher VII Verdict


After enjoying the previous few generations of Spinfishers, the VII feels like a worthy update that keeps the model as one of the most useable and reliable sealed spinning reels in the mid-price market available to buy today.


It'll do everything you want it to with a 9/10 rating and it'll likely never let you down by turning into a coffee grinder half-way through the day, or something going pop and breaking. It's probably America's favorite saltwater spinning reel and long may it stay at the top of its game.

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