Penn Jigmaster Review: A Quick Spool Changeout

Penn Jigmaster Review: A Quick Spool Changeout

A Jack hunter’s favorite for decades, the interchangeability of the Jigmaster 500 remains relevant to this day. Anglers must adapt when lines go untouched near paddies with scattering fish. When fish are boat and line shy, it’s time to downsize. The Penn Jigmaster gives you the ability to do just that. Its lightweight aluminum spool has the capacity to hold as light as a 20 lb monofilament or as heavy as 40. That means you can keep 4 spools of different size mono (or braid) and quickly change them out as needed.

The Penn Jigmaster

Penn Jigmaster
The Penn Jigmaster 500 Star Drag Conventional Reel

Product: Penn Jigmaster 500 Star Drag Conventional Reel.

Overall Ranking: 81 out of 100.

Price: Lower range.

Owner/Company: Pure Fishing, Inc.


Intro To The Penn Jigmaster

With only 1 size 500 model to choose from, the allure of the Penn Jigmaster comes from its versatility. Affordability and proven effectiveness on the water boost the value of the reel. With 2 or 3 backup spools in your tackle bag, it only takes a minute to switch line. The Jigmaster 500 offers anglers the ability to change the test rating of their line in a range from 20 to 40 pounds (Monofilament).  It offers a braid capacity/differential of 30 to 65 pounds as well.

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Penn Jigmaster Models, Specs, & Features

Jigmaster Models

• 500L

Specs Of The Jigmaster 500

Penn Jigmaster 500
Penn Jigmaster 500L

With only one size model to consider, the specifications of the Jigmnaster are straightforward enough. A lightweight machined aluminum anodized spool holds mono between 20 – 40 lb test.  Braid wraps on with a suggested strength range between 30 to 65 lbs. Specifically, the two bearing reel holds 450-yards of 20 lb mono, 300 yards of 30 lb, and 250 yards of 20 lb monofilament line. Braid capacity begins with 900 yards of 30 lb test, 625 yards of 50 lb, and 525 yards of 65 lb test.

Line retrieval is neither speedy nor slow on the Penn Jigmaster with a rate of 25 inches per crank. The handle turns the spool at a 4.0:1 ratio. Fifteen pounds of maximum drag offers decent resistance and is adjustable with a star system. Spinning on a two bearing build, the Jigmaster weighs in at 22-ounces. Double dog gears work in tandem as the reel’s mechanical anti-reverse braking system.

Key Features Of The Penn Jigmaster

Open Top Frame With Chrome Rings & Crossbars

Using an open-top frame means you’ll have to use your thumb or finger to guide the line evenly back onto the spool. It is, however, the preferred design for the offshore jig casting angler. Metal rings with shiny chrome finish support the side plates on either side. Two chrome crossbars, plus the reel seat underneath, connect the support rings to secure the reel frame.

Bakelite Sideplates

Penn employs Bakelite Sideplates on either side of the Jigmaster frame. Bakelite is one of the very first thermal plastics and it is still a useful material today. Lightweight yet durable, the plastic material helps keep the cost down. Together with the support of the metal rings and crossbars, the Bakelite Sideplates provide enough strength to wrangle tough pulling pelagic species.

Anodized Aluminum Spool

Look for two or three backup spools as you’ll want them filled with line and ready for change out. Penn machines the aircraft-grade aluminum spool to perfection then touches it up with a black anodized finish. A ridged center section helps hold the initial wraps of your line in place while filling the spool.

Penn Jigmaster Aluminum Spool
Black Anodized Aluminum Penn Jigmaster Spool

Machined Brass Main & Stainless Steel Pinion Gear

Brass marries stainless steel in a mesh of powerful gears to make up the inner workings of the Penn Jigmaster. Both materials withstand the harsh treatment of saltwater conditions while bringing a grinding strength. The teeth on the gears are large enough to put 15 pounds of drag at a 4.0:1 ratio to hard work.

HT-100 Drag Washers

Penn designs the drag of the Jigmaster using their proprietary HT-100 drag washers. These superior washers stand up to harsh factory testing standards. They can undergo 100 miles of sustained friction without showing signs of wear. Though a max drag of 15 pounds isn’t enough to handle heavier saltwater fish, the HT-100 washers provide a smooth run of the drag.

Counterbalanced Handle With Large Paddle Knob

Jigmaster Reel Handle And Knob
Handle With Counterweight And Large Paddle Knob

Penn puts an oversized paddle-style knob on one end of the chrome handle.

On the end of the handle opposite the knob sits a small counterweight.

The small size of the counterweight keeps the handle clear from catching on any wrists or sleeves while reeling.

Non-slip rubber covers the knob and helps keep your grip through sweaty palms.

Quick Sideplate Release For Spool Access & Removal

The video below shows the complete servicing of an older Penn Jigmaster. Notice within the first minute and thirty seconds the ease in which the angler removes the spool. It’s the handle and gear sideplate that comes off with the turn of one finger tight bolt. The only part the video doesn’t show is the angler slapping in a fresh new spool, then quickly reattaching the sideplate.

Additional Features

On top of the above-mentioned features, the Penn Jigmaster comes with a few other staples worth pointing out. The bail release lever sits just above the handle and the quick spool release bolt lies just underneath that. A chrome metal rod seat sits in the middle of the bottom crossbar with bolt holes on either side for the clamp. On the sideplate opposite the handle, you’ll find the clicker knob. This is also the side where the spool tension knob is located. To add reel oil, simply remove the spool tension knob.

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Pros & Cons

Advantages Of The Penn Jigmaster

Having the ability to switch spools in between stops is a nice advantage. Cost is another positive to consider. It’s soft enough on the bank account that anglers can afford to pick up those spare spools. You also have the option to switch the frame out to a stronger Tiburon or Accurate substitute. Note that the Tiburon frame is only compatible with American made Jigmasters. Penn parts, should you ever need replacement, are usually very easy to find.


While it adds versatility to be able to switch spools, it’s not the same as having multiple setups ready to go. It does take at least a couple minutes to switch out your spool and tie back up. In offshore fishing, those may be the only couple minutes of opportunity you have. It all depends on the kind of trip you take.

While the Penn Jigmnaster is a fun reel for medium grade sportfish, anglers must be careful to not be outclassed. Tuna in and over the 60-pound grade can push the Penn Jigmaster past its limit. For the battle against larger size pelagics, consider stepping up to reels such as the Penn Torque or Penn Fathom. Built with superior modern technology, both series offer 2-speed versions capable of wrenching in the heavier butterballs.

Best Fishing Application/Use

The Penn Jigmaster is not only versatile for its ability to swap spools. Anglers also use it for several different methods of fishing. Whether it’s fly lining live bait, dropping down to meter marks on rockpiles, or casting to boils on following birds, the Jigmaster will perform. On the downside, anglers should consider whether a reel ratio of 4.0:1 is fast enough for their needs. You may want something faster if you need speed on the surface or yo-yo jig.

Reel Support Through Penn

Penn Whitewater Logo

Penn takes great pride in providing high-quality customer care. Spare parts are easy to come by as authorized reel technicians.

If you have any questions or concerns about the Penn Jigmaster or Penn products in general, be sure to give them a holler via their website’s Customer Care page.

You’ll find answers to frequently asked questions, contact info, shipping info, and more. All Jigmasters come with Penn’s 1-year manufacturing warranty.

Final Wrap Up

81 out of 100 anglers approve of the Penn Jigmaster 500

Most of the reason for the low eighties score is the simple build of the Jigmaster frame. Bakelite Sideplates will last a while with proper care and maintenance, however, they won’t last forever. Switching out the frame to a sturdier substitute definitely raises the value of the reel. For decades, the Penn Jigmaster has had the pleasure of helping anglers catch fish as it still does to this very day. Please don’t hesitate to start the discussion or ask a question by leaving a comment below. Thanks for tuning in.



  1. Steve Carson

    Hi Geoff,
    You correctly note that for larger grade tuna above 60 pounds, you might be going beyond this reels’ design parameters.
    However, when recommending an “upgrade” for pursuit of those specimens, why not stay with the “PENN” theme of the review? Mentioning the very popular Fathom 2-speeds, or top of the line Torque 2-speeds as “step ups” would mesh seamlessly with the rest of the review.

    1. Hey Steve. I had this strange feeling it was you when I saw the pending comment in my email box. Lol. I still have to switch the Jarden to Pure Fishing as well. Ah jeesh. I’ll move it up my priority list.

      You do, of course, bring up a good point about upgrading to another fine Penn product. I was just reading a post on Facebook by Alan Tani about an ungreased Valiant so I guess it was on my mind. I’ll get in there and edit and add those suggestions.

      Thanks for your input as always….


  2. Rick Rogers

    I wondered what the Jigmaster could do until I hooked and pulled to the boat a giant black sea bass that was conservatively estimated at 130 lbs. It took about 45 minutes on a 10-25 pound rod and the fish made several runs. It was a draining fight. But the reel, upgraded with Carbontex drag washers, performed flawlessly — though it did get a tad warm. I think the Jigmaster 500 could easily subdue tuna to 45 lbs. or so; though on a cattle boat, I don’t know if you’d want to catch anything bigger due to the tangles that a longer fight might produce. FYI: My Penn Jigmaster 500 is US made and dates to the late 1990s.

    1. Hey Rick. Great observation and thanks for sharing the story. You’re correct about the possible hangups on a cattle boat. The other cattle boat issues are not being able to back down if you get into something that really runs for it or holding up the boat for one guy on a fish. Tight lines. Geoff.

    1. Personally, I love the idea of going old school with the Jigmaster. Then again, I’m very partial and tend to favor Penn reels.

      I bet it would be a blast to hook into something nice size with the Jigmaster on kayak. You don’t need the same amount of drag cause the fish will pull you around. Nice casting capabilities and spool change out? Let me know if you go for it. Geoff.

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