In the big wide world of fishing gear, nothing comes to mind faster than Penn reels. Penn has made its mark as an American household name and is feared by fish worldwide. The following Penn fathom review will include the star drag, lever drag, and two-speed models. Penn Fathom reels are affordable, effective, and durable, making them one of the best value purchases on the market.
Penn Fathom Reels
Product: Penn Fathom Star Drag, Single-Speed Lever Drag, & Two-Speed Lever Drag Reels.
Overall Ranking: 93 out of 100.
Price: Middle to a lower-middle range.
Company/Owner: The Jarden Corporation.
Intro To Penn Fathom Reels
My first experience with Penn Reels was roughly 10 years back after I purchased the Penn International 955. This proved to be an effective, sturdy reel for the lagoon style fishing I was using it for. To this day, it’s a superb reel against California Halibut and Spotted Bay Bass. Years later, its durability helped sell me on the Penn Fathom.
The Penn Fathom has proven its reliability and power time and again. Penn offers several models of the Fathom of which I use the star drag 40 wide-spool. I would recommend every single model depending on your needs.
Penn Fathom Models, Specs, & Features
Penn Fathom Star Drag Models
• FTH12 • FTH15 • FTH25N
• FTH30 • FTH40
Penn Fathom Single Speed Lever Drag
All models start with the FTH Fathom designation.
• 15LD • 25NLD • 25NLDLH • 30LD
• 30LDLH • 40NLD • 40NLDHS • 60LDHS
Note: LD stands for Lever Drag. LH stands for Left Hand. N stands for Narrow and HS for High-Speed.
Two Speed Lever Drag
• 15LD2 • 25NLD2 • 25NLD2LH • 30LD2
• 30LD2LH • 40NLD2 • 60LD2
Specifications Of Penn Fathom Reels
Star Drag Specs
Within the Penn Fathom family of reels, the Star Drag offers the smallest model. Starting with the size 12, you’ll spool 360-yards of 12 LB mono or up to 230-yards of 15 LB mono. Each reel size increases the strength of the test you can use. Looking at the largest star drag 40, you can put 350-yards of 30 LB mono and up to 220-yards of 50 LB mono.
Fathom Star Drags are all 6-bearing reels and they all have a max drag of 25-pounds. The gear ratio stands at 6.0:1, also the same for all size models. Retrieve rates go from 25″ on the smaller models, and up to 40″ on the larger ones. Weights of the reels start light at 15.5 ounces on the size 12 and get up to 18.7 ounces on the size 40 model. Note that the size 25 model is a narrow spool reel.
Single-Speed Lever Drag Specs
Penn Fathom lever drag reels offer the same sizes as the star drag models. They do add the larger size 60 model. which isn’t available in the star drag series. You can still find the narrow spool in the size 25, but now also in the size 40. Penn manufactures the lever drag reels for left-handers but only in sizes 25 and 30. Finally, the Penn Fathom single-speed lever drag series offers two high-speed models in sizes 40 and 60.
The lightest of the lever drag series (size 15) holds 355 yards of 12-pound mono and up to 200 yards of 20 LB test. Moving up to the largest size 60 model shows the range of line tests in the series. It holds 480 yards of 40-pound mono and up to 315 yards of 60 LB test. Fathom single speed lever drag reels have a weight range of 15.1 ounces in the lightest size 15 models and get as heavy as 27.3 ounces in the size 60.
Ratings for maximum drag range from 20-pounds to 40-pounds, depending on the model size. Gear ratios start at 5.3:1 but drop at the size 40 to 4.8:1. With the two high-speed models, you’ll find gear ratios of 7.1:1. Fathom lever drags retrieve line beginning at 27″ (in the size 15) and go up to 60″ in the size 60 model. All Fathom single-speed lever drag reels operate on a 5-bearing system.
Two-Speed Lever Drag Specifications
Penn Fathom two-speed lever drag reels have almost exactly the same line ratings as the single-speed series. There’s a 5-yard difference in the size 25 and 30 models. Two-speed models also offer left-hand versions, but don’t have the capacity for a high-speed model. Like the single-speed series, all Fathom 2-speed reels use a 5-bearing system and have the same maximum drag ratings.
Because of the extra gear, Penn Fathom 2-speed reels weigh a bit heavier in the hand. The lightest size 15 model weighs 15.6 ounces and the size 60 goes up to 27.3 ounces. Last but not least are the retrieve rates and the gear ratios, which you can view in the list below:
- 15LD2: Gear ratio of 6.1:1 or 2.8:1 – Retrieve rate of 31″ or 14″ respectively
- 25NLD2: Gear ratio of 5.5:1 or 2.7:1 – Retrieve rate of 38″ or 19″ respectively
- 25NLD2: Same as the right-hand model above
- 30LD2: Gear ratio of 5.5:1 or 2.7:1 – Retrieve rate of 38″ or 19″ respectively
- 30LD2LH: Same as the right-hand model above
- 40NLD2: Gear ratio of 5.0:1 or 2.5:1 – Retrieve rate of 42″ or 21″ respectively
- 60LD2: Same as the size 40 above
Penn Fathom Reel Features
Tough Metal Body & Side Plate
No matter which Penn Fathom model you prefer, they all feature a strong full metal body and side plate. Every reel has a protective layer of paint to prevent rusting. You can see the dents in my reel that expose the metal. Even in prolonged saltwater conditions, the reel still shows no sign of oxidation.
Stainless Steel Gears (Marine Bronze In The Star Drag)
Both the single-speed and two-speed lever drag models feature the strong, rust-resistant properties of stainless steel in the main and pinion gears. The Penn Fathom star drag series uses marine grade bronze for the main gear. You won’t have to worry about stress fractures or gears snapping with stainless steel, even when cranking on a heavy load.
Live Spindle (Star Drag)
For you, the jig rod iron throwing enthusiasts, the action on the Penn Fathom star drag is out of this world. Before buying mine, I watched the spool free spin for minutes before attempting to balance and stop. Use the outside tension knob to fine tune the spool to the weight of your jig and let it fly. The live spindle free spool gives you that casting distance to reach outside boils!
Shielded Stainless Steel Bearings
All Penn Fathom reels use high-quality stainless steel ball bearings. On front and back, the bearings have a shield that guards the balls in their runway. They prevent those gritty particles that saltwater is known for from entering the inside chamber. Shielded bearings are a must use component on saltwater reels, or they won’t last long.
HT-100 Drag System (Star Drag)
Penn Fathom reels incorporate an HT-100 drag system. What exactly does this mean? Penn HT-100 drag washers get their name due to the results of wear testing. HT stands for high tech and the value of 100 for miles. Penn HT-100 drag washers show no sign of wear after 100 of friction. For a complete explanation of HT-100 drag washers, visit AlanTani.com.
Dura-Drag System (Lever Drag Models)
You’ll find a change in the drag systems of the Penn Fathom lever drag reels from the HT-100 washers in the star drag. The advanced technology in the Dura-Drag washers is well-suited to the mechanics of the lever drag design. Much thanks to Steve Carson for his input. Be sure to read his comment about the Dura-Drag system at the end of the article.
Instant A-RB (Star Drag Models)
Penn Fathom star drag reels engage the drag by means of an anti-reverse bearing. The benefits of an A-RB system are a silent retrieve and an instant hook set. They don’t hold up under duress as well as ratcheting gear style systems, like the ones in the Fathom lever drag reels.
Double Dog Anti Reverse (Lever Drag Models)
Unlike the anti-reverse bearing, ratching dog style systems tend to click on the retrieve. Penn Fathom lever drag reels use two dog anti-reverse gears, each on separate sides of the spool. This evens out the braking system and provides the ultimate support to the HT-100 drag system.
Line Capacity Rings
On the inside of Penn Fathom spools, are layers of rings which indicate the level of your line. These work well to indicate how much line is left when fish take long runs. The top line ring can also be a good alarm bell to refill your line.
Quick Shift Trademarked 2-Speed System
Penn uses a proprietary 2-speed gear shift system which appears on the outside of the reel. You can see the knob that protrudes from the base of the crank-shaft. Switching gears requires nothing more than a quick press of the button. Drop into low gear or back to high with the Penn Quick Shift system.
Pros & Cons
Pros of the Penn Fathom Reel
Penn Fathom drags are smooth, feature a fine tune knob, and 25 lbs of maximum resistance beats many reels in the same class.
Penn parts are easily replaceable and they upgraded their bearing system when they built these reels. I stood in the store and watched it spin freely for several minutes before it slowed, rolled back and forth, and finally found its center. Amazing!
Cons of the Penn Fathom Reel
The full metal of the frame and side plate isn’t as durable as aircraft grade aluminum, though this is reflected in a lower price. Metal is also a heavy material, which can make a big difference in larger 2-speed models. If this is a big concern, I suggest taking a look at Accurate Fury or Siegler SG reels.
Penn Reel & Customer Support
All Penn Fathom reels include a limited manufacturer’s warranty for a one year period. Penn goes to great lengths to ensure customer satisfaction. Parts for Penn products are much easier to find than many other brands and maintenance is a cinch. Visit the Penn website for information on Frequently Asked Questions, Warranty, and to contact a representative.
Review wrap up
92 out of 100 anglers approve of Penn Fathom reels
The Penn Fathom star drag has been a treasured addition to my fishing arsenal. I highly recommend this reel and haven’t heard any negative feedback about it from anglers, on or off the water. The effectiveness of the Fathom matched with its price make it a top value product in the fishing industry.
I welcome and encourage all questions, comments, and feedback. Don’t hesitate to speak up about your own experience or lack thereof. Until next time, tight lines and boiling seas. FishtFight.com.