Penn Warfare Reels – 2017 Series Review

Penn Warfare Reels – 2017 Series Review

Just because a fishing reel isn’t beef, bones, and full of features, doesn’t mean it can’t hold value. Back up reels become a necessity for frequent anglers and sportfishing operations that rent rods. Neither must a budget priced backup reel exclude the power, strength, and features to land stronger pelagic models. Penn’s creation of Warfare conventional fishing reels fits this description precisely. Penn Warfare reels hit you soft in the wallet while knocking the fight out of bulky fish.

Penn Warfare Reels

Penn Warfare Review

Product: Penn Warfare Series Reel Including Star Drag & Level Wind Models.

Overall Ranking: 81 out of 100.

Price: Low Range.

Owner: Pure Fishing, Inc.


Comparable Reels: Daiwa Seagate Conventional Reel.

Introduction To Penn Warfare Reels

Penn Warfare Reels
Penn Warfare Star Drag Reel.

High tech aircraft grade aluminum is the top choice material for conventional fishing reels. To state that more accurately, it’s the top choice for long term durability and frame rigidity. You may notice while inspecting these anodized aluminum reels that they cost much more.

Penn Warfare Star Drag & Level Wind Reels bring cost down by using a graphite frame. The immediate concern is frame twist on more powerful fish. Like Daiwa Seagate model reels, Penn reinforces each side of the Warfare frame with rigid aluminum rings.

Aluminum holds up better to the test of time than graphite, but graphite will last a good many years. It’s also lighter than aluminum and rusting is never a concern. Perhaps the most advantageous aspect of graphite is the cost. Manufacturer’s cut cost by using graphite material and they pass the savings over to you. That’s the main feature of Penn Warfare Reels.

Penn Warfare Models, Specs, & Features

Warfare Star Drag Models

Penn makes their Warfare Star Drag reels in two different size models.

• WAR20N     • WAR30

Warfare Level Wind Models

Penn manufactures 12 different Warfare Level Wind Reels.

The level wind reel gets much more attention from Penn in the Warfare series.

To understand the model numbers, here’s a quick guide:

They all start with WAR to signify the Warfare series reel.

The number, 15, 20, 30, etc., stands for the reel’s size.

Next you’ll see LW which designates the reel as a level wind model.

The last few letters in the model number might be LH for left hand or LC which includes a line counter.







 Check Penn Warfare Price On Amazon

Specifications Of Penn Warfare Reels

Star Drag Models

Penn Warfare ReelsBeing that Penn only offers 2 star drag Warfare models, there’s not nearly as much to discuss. You have the choice between two sizes, the 20 or the 30. Note that the 20 is a narrow spool reel shown with an N at the end of the model number. Penn Warfare star drag models use 3 bearings for rotation and have a 5.1:1 gear ratio.

The smaller 20 model has mono line ratings that range from 15 to 25 pounds. It holds 280 yards of 20 pound monofilament. Warfare reels do rate for braided line. The size 20 reel holds braid between 20-50 pounds and 570 yards with 30 pound braid. Jump up to the size 30 model to increase your line capacity. It moves up to a range of 25-40 for mono and 30-65 in braid.

The smaller star drag reel weighs 18.3 ounces and the larger 19.6. They share the same maximum drag resistance with a decent 15 pounds. Unfortunately, Penn doesn’t have a left hand option in the Warfare Star Drag models like they do with their level wind reels.

Level Wind Models

Penn Warfare ReelsIn case you aren’t familiar with the level wind feature, it guides the line back and forth as you bring it back in. This prevents the line from building up in one spot of the spool, laying it out evenly instead. The level wind feature along with left hand models and the addition of a line counter spell the difference between star drag reels.

As far as specifications go, there isn’t much difference between Warfare level wind and star drag reels. The level wind series does offer a smaller 15 size model which holds 12-20 pound mono or 20-50 pound braid. The weight of level wind reels does increase a bit and then a little more if you add the line counter. Warfare level wind models share the same 15 pound max drag, 3 bearing system, and 5.1:1 gear ratio as the star drag series.

Penn Warfare Reel Features

Level Wind

Back and forth the line goes, as long as you remember to spool it through the level wind feature. Warfare reels use a simple yet effective system. It uses two short parallel bars that guide the line. These bars sit on a mechanism that engages with the worm gear, responsible for driving the guide back and forth. Opposite the worm gear is a second metal bar that the guide slides on. It provides stability to the level wind system.

Line Counter

Penn Warfare ReelsWarfare level wind reels come with the option of adding a line counter. These are especially helpful when trolling, or any other time you want to know how much line you have out. On Warfare models, the line counter sits atop the frame above the reel handle. This is the gear side of the reel. The line counter works together with the spool and counts your line in yards as it flies out. These line counters work real easy with nothing more than a red clear button to bring the count back to zero.

Graphite Frame & Side Plate

The graphite frame discussion continues. They don’t last the number of years that aluminum does, but they won’t rust and are durable in the short term. Graphite frames allow companies like Penn to bring the reel cost down which is perhaps the best part. In addition, Penn reinforces Warfare graphite frames with tough aluminum rings. These prevent the twist that can bind gears under heavy stress.

Forged Aluminum Spool

Penn Warfare Reels
Line Capacity Rings On A Forged Aluminum Spool.

Aluminum forged spools provide the right material to stand up to line abuse that happens repeatedly over time.

The size 20 star drag Warfare model offers a narrow spool while the others medium width. Warfare spool aren’t shallow either.

Double check those line ratings and you’ll see they carry plenty of line.

Brass Pinion & Main Gear

Brass mesh is the usual material for gears in a saltwater reel though most have main gears of stainless steel. Stainless steel is stronger and holds up well against rust. Brass keeps the cost down while still providing protection against those rugged marine elements.

HT-100 Drag Washers

These are the high grade Penn drag washers. High grade carbon fiber discs make up the washers but the highlight is in the HT-100. This short term reflects the fact that the washers are tested over 100 miles without showing any signs of wear. They provide consistent drag resistance and an incredibly smooth release.

Anti Reverse Bearing

Penn puts an anti reverse bearing in Warfare reels that stop any spool back play. The result is an instant hook set and drag engagement. The drawback is the lack of a backup dog gear with strong holding teeth. If the one way bearing goes out, the Warfare is down for repair.

Line Capacity Rings

On the inside of the spool wall you can see these rings. A full spool of line will cover them until a fish starts running. That’s when they come in handy, notifying the angler of how much line remains. They also work well to help back the spool with braid. Check the line capacity rings to use as a measurement for how much backing you want to put on.

 Check Warfare Prices On Amazon
Pros & Cons Of Penn Warfare Reels


Penn Warfare ReelsThe value you get from a simple reel like the Penn Warfare is well worth the low price. Bonus elements are the aluminum rings that reinforce the graphite frame. It’s a great reel for those who prefer level wind systems and having the left hand option will certainly be of value to lefties. If it’s important to fish at a particular depth or distance behind the trolling vessel, choose a line counter model. Line counters are also available in left hand reels.


Overall durability is a definite concern with a graphite frame. The aluminum rings keep the frame from twisting from the pressure of a strong fish, but the graphite itself won’t last as long as anodized aluminum. The drag isn’t terrible at 15 pounds max, though 18 should be the least amount you really want to have. Finally, the reels are able to cast but don’t offer a live spindle or super free spool type of feature. With a 5.1:1 gear ratio, they retrieve line at a decent speed though perhaps not fast enough for some species.

Which Anglers Get The Best Use From Penn Warfare Reels?

This reel makes the perfect gift for any beginning saltwater fisherman. The Penn Warfare might combine well with an extra rod or two that you pick up at a garage sale and want to have for a backup. If you’re an outfitter that needs to supply rent rods, save a bundle on the overall cost by going with an effective yet extremely affordable reel. Left handed trolling fishermen also love the flip handle models and ability to measure their outgoing line.

Penn Reel Support

Penn Warfare ReelsCustomer care over at Penn is more than friendly and their website has all the info you’ll need. Register your reel for warranty, check the FAQ section, or find your closest authorized Penn dealer all onsite. They have an email contact form or a customer service phone number that works during regular business hours. All Penn reels come with a one year manufacturer’s warranty.

Wrapping Up The Penn Warfare Reel Review

Overall Ranking – 81 Out Of 100 Anglers Approve Of Penn Warfare Reels

Penn Warfare ReelsPenn Warfare reels fill in a empty space by serving as a cheap option backup, completing a rent rod combo, or a beginner’s first trolling reel. It’s always a pleasure to see companies cater to left hand anglers, who don’t have nearly as many choices in offshore reels. Line counters also come in handy for finding certain depths or getting a crank bait in the right place behind a motoring vessel. Penn Warfare reels may not make the strongest showing in durability or special features. On the other hand, they land fish effectively and assist with the fishing budget.

What are your thoughts on Penn Warfare reels? Leave a comment with a personal experience or fire those questions away.



    1. Thanks for the feedback Ryan and to answer your question, it depends. The level wind directs the line upon retrieve so that it lays evenly back onto the spool. It’s a great feature for those who have yet to master open face conventional reels. Open face reels require the angler to use his thumb or finger (or both) to guide the line onto the spool. It becomes thoughtless with enough practice. The issue with the level wind feature can appear if it interferes with casting. Line can also rub against the level wind feature when strong fish go on fast runs. That’s not good by any means. Hope that helps. Geoff.

    1. Hey Michael thanks for the feedback. You might tell us which supplier you went through or if you went straight through Penn. I wonder if that has something to do with it? If so, I’m sure Penn would want to know about it. Geoff.

  1. Brent Lafont

    This is the first reel I get without a lever wind, didn’t think much of it, but after reading this, it sounds as if my line will be piling all in one place, and wearing out sooner. Will it help me to run lighter line in graphic like 20 to 30lb. or rund mono in that weight. hate to bring back without trying it. any advice will help me thanks I got it for large bull reds. never used something this heavy most the time we use ulgy sticks with ambasaator 6000. with out trouble some time we get pulled under platforms and was hoping this would help that.

    1. Hello sir. You have your right hand on the handle and your left above the reel on the top grip of your rod.

      Use the thumb on your left hand to guide line evenly as you retrieve. It takes a little practice, but becomes quite natural and unthinking after a bit.

      You can put on whatever line you want and use that same technique. Tight lines. Geoff.

  2. Norman

    I love fishing, in fact this is one of my favorite sports. I was fishing from a child and now that I have my own family whenever we have a chance we fish also. But I love this piece of equipment that you are sharing here because at times you can have a real fight on your hand depending the size fish you are catching. Because who would want to loose a battle with a monster fish that can be dinner.

    1. Geoff

      Hello Norman. Yea who would want to lose a huge fish, even if it wasn’t a dinner plan? The feeling of losing a fish that you know is a big one….well let’s just say it doesn’t feel good. Geoff. 

    1. admin

      Hello David. That’s awesome to hear that your son is into fishing. As far as the clicker is concerned, that often does happen, but not usually until after much use. It sounds like a defect, which isn’t surprising considering Penn builds this reel so cheap. If it was not staying in the clicker position, I might not worry about it. But not staying in the silent position? That’s not good. I would send it back. Maybe begin by contacting Penn Customer Care, and ask if there is an easy fix. Hope this helps. Geoff.

  3. Joel Rogers

    Have a Warfare 30 spooled with 50lb braid I use for jigging up Cod & Pollack on Georges bank & Cashes Ledge, casts an 8oz jig further than my old Saltist, so far it’s handled Pollacks in the mid to upper 30’s and Cod in the upper 20’s with no ill effects.

    Best 50 bucks I’ve ever spent

    1. Yea Joel! I can’t tell you how much I dig hearing stories of people hauling them in using basic gear. Did you check it for lube before you used it the first time? Do you have do extra maintenance?

      Thanks for adding your report Joel, a valuable contribution to the conversation.

  4. Dheepak Kalua

    Hi Geof
    I not one to do much reading but your review is truly informing. Thank you for taking the time to do this. I really was disheartened when 10k worth of my fishing gear was stolen, I aint a beginner fisherman but had to build up again because of how much I love fishing. I purchased a Penn Warfare from a pawn shop which seemed to bw in good condition. I uses it a few times and yes it dis the job. Its just that ever since I purchased the reel, I felt I bought a terrible reel but after reading this review I am so pleased that I do not own a bad reel.

    1. Hey Dheepak. Sorry to hear about the loss of so much of your fishing gear. Nothing worse than thieves. Thanks for stopping by, nonetheless, with the report on the Penn Warfare. Sure, the reel will require maintenance and replacement eventually. But you can’t beat what it can do for the money. There have been a few selling of late too.


  5. Brad B.

    Just an FYI, the warfare has double anti reverse dogs in addition to the anti reverse bearing. If the bearing fails the dogs will catch it. The anti reverse capability of this reel should be very good.

    1. Hey Brad. I did a double check of the Warfare reel schematics and you’re absolutely right. All models do have a double dog anti-reverse in addition to the anti-reverse bearing. Good catch and thanks for speaking up. Geoff.

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