Reviewing the Powerful Penn International Conventional Reel

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Written By Russ Egan

Russ is a professional fisherman with over 20 years of experience. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ comprehensively tests and reviews all his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. There is nothing he prefers than heading down to his local tackle store, buying the latest fishing reel, and taking it to the water to test.


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Penn reels are manufactured by Penn International, which is based in the U.S. Although they come at a high price tag, these reels offer massive benefits for fishing in the deep seas and oceans.

The first production of the reels began in 1966 and now they have four models or product categories, namely the Penn VI, VISW, VIS, and VISX each of a different size but the same features. The International has been described as one of the best trolling reels ever made, and it has decades of battle-tested stories to back it up, but it isn’t a slam dunk.

There are a lot of great conventional reels on the market at the moment, so it can be difficult in seeing through the marketing hype and finding an option that suits your own personal needs.

I have completed this review based on my own offshore fishing experiences and insight.

Penn International Conventional Reel
  • Premier Big Game Trolling Reel
  • Over 3000 Yards of 130 Pound Braid Capacity
  • High 65 Pound Max Drag
  • High Power and Highly Durable

Click here to learn more about how we score.


The Penn International is a high-quality conventional reel suited for big gamefish. This is a heavy hitter, built to battle even the largest Marlin or Sailfish. If you are looking for a serious fight then you want to reel with this kind of power.

The letter S on the name of the models alternates at the end. An S appearing on the name shows a silver anodized reel. These models all feature aluminum frames with a gold or silver anodized finish.  

While some manufacturers change features within same-line reels, for Penn, reels in the same line retain the same features, making it easier for customers to identify the reels.

Penn International Conventional Reel Review

Key Features

The Penn side plates and frames are made of machined and anodized aircraft-grade aluminum, which helps cut down some weight on the reels. They are silver or gold in color in addition to the anodized finish protection.

The large main and pinion gears are made of stainless steel, which adds a little more weight to the gear train, but makes it much more corrosion resistant and durable over the long term.

The fishing reels feature an instant start Dura drag system, which provides a hesitation-less startup such that the drag will release easily when enough force has built on the drag system. However, if you were fighting powerful sea species, you see that it can stick when they are starting up.

The Versa-Strike system offers an adjustable level drag on its settings.

The fishing reels use a system called double-dog ratcheting. This system plays the role of holding the spool in place and will also play the role of supporting the drag system, such that they prevent the spool from spinning backward. This system is different from the anti-reverse bearing in some other reels.

The reels’ inner walls are fitted with feature line capacity rings which tell you how much of the yards of line is remaining when sailfish and tuna start peeling off the line. The rings also notify you when it is time to re-spool if the line you stand on drops below the upper ring.  

There is an optional 2-speed or 5-speed system. You get some advantage given the options, when fighting large fish, because you can retrieve the line quickly in high gear and drop to a low gear by pressing a button located on the handle.

Penn International Conventional Reel with Box
Penn International Conventional Reel with Box


There are actually quite a few different models within this range, so I will go into each specifically so that you can pick the option that best suits your needs.

The Penn VI has three models each with a single-speed system. The fastest gear model of 6.75:1 is on the smallest model. It offers 31 ounces of weight, which provides just a sufficient amount of drag to hold that line.

Among the three Penn VI models, the smallest reel in size has 1510 yards line weighing 10 pounds. It can also hold a braided line which goes up to 985 yards in length and 40 pounds in weight.

The largest of the three Penn VI model reels weighs 6 ounces. It can carry a line of 1110 yards that weighs 200 pounds. This is more than a perfect pull for offshore trolling.

All the three models of VI use a 5 bearing system. Among the three, the largest is of 3.5:1 gear ratio and the mid-size 30 model has 4.1:1.

The largest size 50 provides a drag resistance of a massive 45 pounds in the deep sea ocean and sea, while the mid-size 30 provides 30 pounds line, and size 12 smallest 15 pounds.

The Penn VIS is the most expensive category of the fishing reels and reels in this category carry a 5 bearing system. It also incorporates a very important system known as the double dog ratchet anti-reverse. They carry a 2-speed gear train. The smallest can carry a 1035 yards mono line which weighs 16 pounds – it can carry a maximum of 770 yards of monofilament weighing 20 pounds. These monofilament lines have a weight of between 32 and 63 ounces. The smallest model delivers 40 pounds of drag while the largest delivers 60 pounds. The gear ratios of the reels start from 5.1:1/1.8:1 for the smallest model while the largest offers a ratio of 3.5:1/1.3:1.

The midsize reel of the Penn VIS category carries a monofilament line of weight 50 pounds, which is lightest. This model can carry 1085 yards of 50 monofilament line – and the maximum of 685 yards of 80-pounds mono. The largest of the category carries 1330 yards on the lower side, which is 100 pounds mono, — and a maximum size of 870 yards weighing 150 pounds monofilament line.

The smallest size 16 of VIS weighs 36 ounces, mid-size 74, and largest size 169 ounces. These can deliver drag capacities of 20, 55, and 100 pounds.

The gear ratio of the smallest reel of the VIS is 5.2:1 fastest, down to 1.6:1. The other size is size 70, which has a gear speed of 3.1:1 dropping to 1.5:1. The largest of the sizes is size 130 and this one has a gear ratio of 2.3:1with the low gear dropping down to 1.1:1.

The VISX ranges from size 12 to 50 and can be used for both troll and free rod fishing. They are less expensive than VIS models. The mid sizes 16, 20, and 30 dominate the category.

The VISX model’s smallest reel carries 1510 yards and the reel weighs 10 pounds and is a monoline and a max of 880 yards of 15-pounds mono line. The mid-size carries 745 yards mono line weighs 20 pounds or 280 yards of 60 pounds.

Size 20 can carry 490 yards to 325 yards of monofilament line weighing 40 and 60 pounds respectively. Size 30 will spool 590 yards and a maximum monofilament of 390 yards weighing 40 pounds and 60 pounds respectively. Size 50 is the largest of the VISX and will hold a monofilament line of 870 to 570 yards of 40 to 60 pounds respectively.

The VISW category has three models, delivering between 90 ounces and 113 ounces in weight between the smallest and the heaviest fishing reel.

The three fishing reels can carry between 1385 yards of 20 pounds for the lightest end to 1565 yards of a 60-pounds monofilament line on the heaviest side. The smallest size has a maximum drag of 30 pounds with a ratio of 4.1:1 to 1.4:1 on its gears, while the mid-size has a maximum of 45 pounds and gear ratios of 3.5:1 to 1.3:1; and the largest size provides 65 pounds and this one will manage a ratio of 3.1:1 and 1.5:1 on the gears.

Penn International Conventional Reel


  • This is a premium offshore trolling reel – it is simply one of the best that you can find. This reel won’t give up when you hook a giant. If you are looking for a top-quality reel full of features, then the Penn International should be on your list.
  • Extremely durable construction that can handle big game fishing for many years to come. As soon as you pick up this reel you will feel its quality construction.
  • Huge line capacity – the largest reel can hold 1810 yards of 100 lb braid.


  • This is not an affordable reel – it is costly to cover high-performance features.
  • There is no anti-reverse bearing. While the dual dog system to prevent reel reversing is better than the single dog version, it doesn’t have the bearing to prevent reversing. For some anglers, both ratchet-based system for preventing reversing and the anti-reverse bearing are preferable.
  • This is a heavy reel of 66 ounces for the largest model – you will need to have solid rod holders and a fighting belt to help hold the weight.

Penn International Video Review

Penn have put together this video of the International VI to showcase the benefits and features that you might find interesting:


BRAID CAPACITY YD/LB985/40 840/50 700/65985/40 840/50 700/651220/100 1015/130 750/2001220/100 1015/130 750/2001810/100 1505/130 1110/2001810/100 1505/130 1110/200
MAX DRAG LB15lb15lb30lb30lb45lb45lb
MONO CAPACITY YD/LB1510/10 1030/12 880/151510/10 1030/12 880/151385/20 1030/30 800/401385/20 1030/30 800/401185/40 880/50
RECOVERY RATE53″53″41″41″40″40″
REEL SIZE121230305050
WEIGHT31 oz31 oz55 oz55 oz66 oz66 oz


The best application of a Penn International is when fighting big fish in the open seas and oceans. The reels are perfect for trolling as well as deep-dropping baits to big reel fish. This is a premium, high-end offshore reel full of power and torque that will be able to handle anything in the ocean. This is not an affordable reel, and I can’t even say that it is good value for money, but it certainly has great performance and its construction quality is top class.

The Penn International is certainly a worthwhile conventional reel worth investigating further to see if it suits your own personal requirements.

If you want to see more options for conventional reels then please have a look at our article.

Happy fishing!

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