Penn Senator Reel Review – Smooth Reeling Since 1936

Penn Senator Reel Review – Smooth Reeling Since 1936

The Penn Senator conventional fishing reel is an American standard. They adorn the walls of countless anglers as they sit attached to rods displayed on rod racks. Many offshore fishing operations choose the Senator to fill their rental rods, and private boaters cherish them as well. Simple in mechanics yet more than capable, Senator reels offer an affordable option to offshore anglers.

Penn Senator Conventional Reels

Penn Senator Reel
The Penn Senator Conventional Reel

Product: Penn Senator Saltwater Conventional Reels.

Overall Ranking: 85 out of 100.

Price: Lower Mid Range.

Company/Owner: Pure Fishing, Inc.


Intro To Penn Senator Reels

Senator LogoThough Penn now offers the higher-tech US Senator reels and the Special Senator series, this is the original design from back in 1936. Penn Senator reels aren’t exactly the same as those old models. They keep up with the advancements in technology and material. It’s the original idea of a rugged reel with a low gear ratio that doesn’t change. Anglers can rest assured that some good things remain the same.

View Senator Reels On Amazon

Penn Senator Models, Specs, & Features

Senator Reel Models

• 113L2     • 114L2     • 115L2

• 116L     • 117L

Penn Senator Specifications

Senator reels are available to anglers in 5 different models, each a size larger than the next. The one spec that is consistent across the series is a 2 ball bearing system. Other than that, every other specification increases along with the reel size.


Penn Senator 113L2
Penn Senator 113L2

Beginning with the lightest Senator 113L2, you find a reel that weighs 27-ounces. It has a max drag of 19-pounds, and a 2.0:1 gear ratio which retrieves line at 16″ per crank. The 113L2 will wrap 650-370 yards of 20-40 pound mono or 760-560 yards of 65-100 pound braid.


Penn Senator 114L2
Penn Senator 114L2

Second in the Senator series is the 114L2 which gains a bit of weight at 44-ounces. There’s also an increase in max drag up to 21-pounds. Bringing in line at 21″ per crank with a ratio of 2.1:1, the 114L2 also offers a larger spool. Anglers can wrap on monofilament line between 30-60 pounds with a range of 725-390 yards. Recommendations are 80-130 pound test for braid which spools out between 1075-750 yards.


Penn Senator 115L2
Penn Senator 115L2

Right in the middle of the Senator series is the 115L2 which weighs in at 57-ounces. Again, the reel increases in size as well as other specifications. Maximum drag jumps to 24-pounds and a 2.5:1 gear ratio retrieves 28″ of line per crank. A larger spool holds 1150-625 yards of 30-60 pound mono line. Braid goes on longer too with a range of 1700-1200 yards using 80 to 130 lb test.


Penn Senator 116L
Penn Senator 116L

Just down from the largest model is the 89-ounce 116L. Putting on the brakes with a max drag of 30-pounds, it retrieves line at 29″ per crank. That’s not much more than the 115L2, but it offers a better winch with a 2.0:1 gear ratio. It’ll go to use, accepting mono now of 60-100 pound test at a range of 1500-875 yards. Braided line will spool out at 4100-2900 yards with a test rating between 80-130 pounds.


Penn Senator 117L
Penn Senator 117L

At the largest end of the Senator series sits the 117L with a weight of 136-ounces. It has a max drag for braking on the troll at 35-pounds and can grind up heavy from the deep. Using a low 1.6:1  gear ratio, the 117L retrieves 29″ of line per crank. Spin a whopping 1600-1025 yards of 80-130 pound mono on this reel or put on 7000-4000 yards of 80-130 pound braid.

Features Of Penn Senator Reels

Bakelite Frame & Side Plates

A combination of materials bolts together to make the Senator frame. Penn uses bakelite for the lower spool guard and for each side plate. Supporting the bakelite side plates are stainless steel reinforcement rings. Stainless steel crossbars tie the rings together, one up top and one in the front of the reel. Both crossbars feature harness lugs giving anglers 4 contacts to clip onto.

Machined & Anodized Aluminum Spool

Penn TechnologyPenn goes to high-grade aluminum for their choice of spool material on Senator reels. After crafting through a CNC machining process, Penn finishes the spool with an anodized coating. Suitable for either monofilament or braided line, Senator spools stand up well against corrosive ocean conditions.

Marine Bronze & Stainless Steel Gears

Driving the Penn Senator reel with a powerful crank, anglers will find a marine-grade bronze main gear. Working in conjunction, a stainless steel pinion gear turns its teeth providing that low ratio grind. They don’t retrieve line at the fastest pace, but they are uphill monsters.

2 Shielded Stainless Steel Bearings

A 2 bearing system is a simple design on an offshore reel, but it leaves less to bind up and less to replace if it does. Fighting against the need for replacement is the use of stainless steel as well as shields that guard the bearing compartment.

Multi HT-100 Disc Star Drag System

Adjustable Star Drag
Adjustable Star Drag

Penn Senator reels have a star drag braking system that puts to use their HT-100 washers. Penn dubs them HT-100 due to testing over 100 miles without any noticeable wear. With a star adjustment knob on the outside and multi-discs inside, Penn Senator reels deliver an esteemable 19-35 pounds of maximum drag.

Adjustable Handle w/ T-Bar Grip

A reel with a low gear ratio needs a grip that an angler can bear down on, and so Penn adds the T-Bar style. At the base of the aluminum handle is a bolt that unscrews so anglers can change the position, making it longer for better leverage.

Additional Features

Penn Senator reels come with a loud clicker on the side plate opposite the star drag knob. On the bottom is a sturdy metal rod clamp. The two sets of harness lugs are removable, leaving anglers with the choice of using all, some, or none at all.

View Senator Models On Amazon

Pros & Cons Of Penn Senator Reels


Penn Senator reels are a bottom fishing specialty. With the power of a winch, they’ll grind the heaviest of lunkers up from the bottom. This also works for species like tuna that put their head down and refuse to turn towards the surface. Beyond that, it’s the low cost, easy maintenance, and decades of dependability that give the Senator value in the hands of a fisherman.


Though the low gear ratio is a blessing in some situations, in others it’s more of a curse. The Penn Senator is not a good choice for chasing species like yellowtail when they aren’t taking the live bait. Other similar species that often prefer a fast action jig will be tough to hook with the Senator reel. They just don’t retrieve line fast enough to entice these fish, no matter how fast you can crank the handle. The US Senator offers a moderate retrieve or you might view the Penn Torque if you want to fly fast jigs.

Fishing Styles & Best Use Cases

Penn LogoPenn Senator reels perform best when heavy loads require slow steady power. The larger models are excellent for uses from trolling to big shark fishing. They’ll pull up giants from the deep with the right rod and the star drag battened down. Lighter Penn Senator models work wonders for deep rock piles where lingcod and big sheepshead dwell.

Penn Customer/Reel Support

Penn reels come with a standard 1-year warranty, a guarantee against the small chance of a manufacturer’s defect. With several service centers around the USA and in prime locations around the world, Penn gets anglers back to fishing as fast as possible. Read up on the frequently asked questions customers have of Penn, and find links to other valuable info. Penn has a parts department available onsite as well, making it very easy for anglers to do their own reel service.

Verdict On The Penn Senator Reel

85 out of 100 offshore anglers approve of Penn Senator Reels

The low gear ratio and slow retrieval of Penn Senator reels restrict their range of use. Using them for their intended purpose of grinding up big gamefish, they prove a strong workhorse. Extremely dependable and easy to maintain, the Senator reel series continues to provide excellence in fishing after decades of use. Good money says they’ll be around for many years to come.



    1. Hello Nazrul. CNC stands for Computer Numeric Control. It is a precision cutting system that is included on most heavy machinery these days, such as the lathes and mills used to make the metal parts. Geoff.

    1. Hi Tony. The only difference from one Penn Senator to another is the size. I don’t have an opinion about size because it depends on where you fish and what you fish for. It’s different for every situation. Thanks for the suggestion. Geoff.

    1. With the ability to hold 560 yards of 100 lb braid and 19 lbs max drag, the Senator 113L2 can handle alot of fish. That doesn’t, however, mean it’s good for Pike fishing.

      I honestly have never fished for Pike so my main concern would be the speed of the reel. It is extremely slow at a 2.0:1 ratio. That may work well if you were trolling, but anglers typically want stronger line to handle the extra force from the watercraft.

      Hope this helps with your search. Geoff.

    1. I think the reel you’re talking about is a Penn Special Senator. It’s a bit different in make from the Penn Senator if that’s the case.

      A note here though: The reels I cover are only the reels available from the manufacturer at the time of writing the review. I’ll update as new reels become available if and when I get the time.

      That leaves out a lot of reels, especially considering Penn over all the years they’ve been in the business. I do suggest joining the group Vintage Penn Reels on Facebook. You can find answers to almost any Penn make within that group of people.

      Hope this helps. Geoff.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *