Penn Battle III : The Review
Guten tag, das fishos
What did you just say? My German needs work? YOUR German needs work, the German of the WHOLE of Germany needs work!! Bug off!
Today's review is truly cursed. Should've been finished more than 2 years ago, but the pandemic threw a wrench into my life slowing all my activities to a crawl. Then in 2022 with masks finally coming off, this and other delayed work should've come out, yet my time and energy were consumed by my attempts to hedge the insatiable inflation. Instead of sipping coffee and writing between fishing trips I found myself knee deep in navigating limits to stacking I-Bonds, rushing to unload treasuries that were losing value due to the Fed's frenzied rate hikes, needing to redirect that money to long term CDs following days of studying the fine print and buried callability clauses, as well as doing a snap sale of land I owned to take advantage of a price bubble that wasn't going to last, only to be slowed down by the incompetence of bureaucrats who can't seem to do the only job they have. Here is a pro tip; if a county employee tells you that you don't need to record a power of attorney used to sign a deed, tell them to shut up and record it because a future buyer will not be giving you his life's savings without his title insurer going over the chain of title with a fine comb first. ARGH!
Having taken care of all the financial nonsense by Fall I began easing back into my normal routine, yet I was constantly distracted by reminders of our impending civilisational collapse which were of such severe magnitude I sometimes wondered whether they were real or just figments of my twisted imagination. I mean did I really see the Michelin Man playing a historical flute naked to the applause of the world? Did I actually witness a little ginger fella smile at the mockery of his dead granny by what appears to be a $10 meth hooker? Did I genuinely watch scores of parents proudly cheer on adults dangling their bits in their children's faces? Kept trying to convince myself that I was probably hallucinating due to lack of sleep and that there is no way the world had turned into a big open-air madhouse all the sudden, but then I'd stumble across more lunacy such as this....
In what sort of morally degenerate world is it acceptable to perpetuate this kind of exclusionary tribalistic realignment that divides based on colour, instead of focusing on shared and unifying qualities? Of course I'm talking about the blue and gold Seaguar fluorocarbon leaders in the middle box. Do they really have to divide lines by colour in this alienating manner?
Facetiousness aside, attempting to act as if there is nothing wrong while the world briskly careens into the abyss is a tough thing to pull off, so either you people try being less insane so I could carry on without continually being spooked, or I'll be redirecting my free time to something else entirely, like collecting the small receipts people leave hanging from ATMs, and you can just use that "AI" thingy to write yourself a bloody review.
Penn, as a part of the "Pure Fishing" collection of brands, changed owners twice in the past 8 years. Having been owned by Jarden Corporation since 2007, it moved into the hands of Newell Rubbermaid in 2015 upon that group's acquisition of Jarden Corporation. Then in 2018 Newell Rubbermaid, who had changed its name to Newell Brands, sold Pure Fishing to the private equity firm Sycamore Partners, who restructured its brands and went on an expansion spree that saw the acquisition of such popular brands as Fin-Nor and Van Staal, and more recently DAM (Deutsche Angelgeräte Manufaktur), who once made the iconic "Quick" reels.
It's been a while since I published a full review of a Penn reel, not due to any shortage of new models being released, but rather because the brand went through what I perceived to be an extended period of creative stagnation where nothing that's genuinely interesting or that possesses any special qualities came out. I do publish reviews of good reels and terrible ones all the time, but they have to be interesting enough to justify the time and effort that go into each of these articles. I believe that the Battle 3 is among a number of recent Penn reels that meet this criterion, and you're about to see why.
Usually when the reel being discussed has predecessors, I begin by giving a quick overview of those previous iterations. This won't happen today though, because the Battle 3 shares pretty much nothing with the Battle 2 and the first Battle. Those previous Battles were generic low-cost spinners built to minimal standards, and they were often sold in rod/reel combos aimed at beginners and occasional users instead of any type of serious fishermen. The only reason one would pick the previous Battles over a store-branded reel was Penn's aftersales service which, judging by your feedback in my inbox, is one of the better among mainstream brands.
Anyway, now that we've established that Battle 3 is a completely different reel and that the review you're about to read shouldn't at all reflect on previous Battles, let's dive in and meet the "Mammoth" sized 10000 Battle 3, which I chose to feature in this article for reasons that I'll explain later on....
A huge box for a huge reel, sealed with a round sticker so you'd know if your reel had been opened before and ask why. The box says "spinning reel" both in English and French, which has always been a mystery to me. Having bought this reel in the US one would be inclined to think that French is for the neighbouring Canadian market, but I've seen the same thing on reels sold in Europe and Asia, therefore the French connection remains an enigma.
Comes with a general spinning reels' manual, parts diagram, and a plastic bag containing spool shims and a small card explaining the proper use of these shims to tune the line lay on the spool.
A glamour photoshoot....
Size 10000 has an elongated frame, which isn't the case with all other sizes.
For a few years now Penn has been building a distinct visual character for their spinners that makes them immediately recognisable even from a distance. There used to be some oddballs, such as the Torque II or the 704Z/706Z, but with these models now discontinued all existing Penn spinning reels fit into that visual character to one degree or another; a triangular cut where the stem meets the gearbox, a compact body that has a largely angular outline, and excess material taken out in a manner that produces decorative craters of straight, triangular, or semi-rectangular shapes with very little roundness to be found.
The Battle 3 fits right into this optical personality, with a meaty frame that's reinforced where it matters, yet the aforementioned outline and indentations give it a chiseled look that imparts an illusion of slimness on it despite not necessarily being slim in the classical sense of the word. The rotor on the other hand looks unremarkable, shaped in a traditional fashion that steers clear of any additional support limbs of the type we've been seeing frequently in contemporary designs. The cuts in the spool's skirt are heavily influenced by current and previous flagship Shimanos, beautifully aggressive but their unoriginality takes away from their appeal. The black/gold scheme is always alluring, particularly so on a Penn considering the brand's historical use of that colour combination. Some reels feel like imposters in this scheme, but here this black and gold blend feels right at home. Overall a lovely looking reel, it does it without trying too hard, and its appearance additionally evokes a sense of familiarity, or call it nostalgia if you want. Finally and before we move on from aesthetics, it's worthy of note that the Battle 3 gets its own chassis, even though they could have very easily adapted the chassis of the Spinfisher 6 to it. Only adds individuality and character to a reel that already has a good amount of that.
Made in..... huh? Where is the country of origin?
Aha! Here it is. While all reputable mainstream brands permanently print, cast, etch, or stamp the country of manufacture in large letters in the foot, Penn still puts "Made in China" on a tiny sticker then places it where it can't be seen unless the spool is removed.
Actually saying "seen" is pretty generous, because even after locating the sticker, reading what's on it is extremely challenging considering the almost microscopic size of the text. Here it is next to a tenner for perspective. This is trashy behaviour, and in the past I explained how this practice opens the door for abuse by dishonest importers and dealers who remove the sticker then claim that the reels are US made. I still get messages from fishermen around the world, particularly from developing countries where language skills and access to information are limited, who bought Penn reels falsely advertised as US made only to later discover my previous warnings about this nasty matter....
These warnings, which I'm borrowing from a 7 years old review of another Penn reel instead of making a new compilation, just to show how long I've been critical of this act for. In this screenshot I was contrasting Penn's tiny sticker with the way other brands display the country of manufacture in a manner that respects and informs their customers. But hey, maybe I'm just imagining problems that don't exist and making things up to back up my fantasies. Maybe I never actually hear from fishermen who were duped or anything, and even if I publish dozens of these messages how would anyone know that they are real and not messages that I mailed to myself from random addresses to make a point? I mean come on, of course no one would ever believe or be led to believe that these reels are US made, right?
Well, let me present to you a few current exhibits that are publicly available and independently verifiable as evidence that this sticker thing causes real life harm;
A current ebay listing in the United States, from a volume shop and not just a regular seller, stating clearly and repeatedly that a Penn reel is Made in the USA when in reality it is made in China. A preserved version, captured directly by the archival service, showing the full URL and the date it was saved live from ebay can be seen and verified HERE.
Let's leave the US and see how the rest of the world is affected. Heading East....
A popular fishing channel in East Asia tries to dispel the false notion that another Penn reel is made in the USA, and explains to the public that in reality it's made in China. Very respectable effort that I applaud. A fact remains that there wouldn't have been a need for a video correcting such a misconception to begin with had the reels displayed the country of origin permanently and visibly like all other brands do. A preserved version, captured directly by the archival service, showing the full URL and the date it was saved live from Youtube can be seen and verified HERE.
Let's head South....
An Amazon division in North Africa lists another Penn with repeated assurances that it's made in the USA, when of course its actual place of manufacture is China. A preserved version, captured directly by the archival service, showing the full URL and the date it was saved live from Amazon can be seen and verified HERE.
A promotional video from Asia, with tens of thousands of views, deceiving potential buyers into believing that those 5 Chinese Penn reels are made in the USA. A preserved version, captured directly by the archival service, showing the full URL and the date it was saved live from Youtube can be seen and verified HERE.
I originally included several additional public exhibits, but in the final draft I reduced the number to just these examples from the world's biggest platforms, ebay, Youtube, and Amazon, not to let this issue consume a quarter of this review. As you can see, this is an ongoing issue with current sales listings and misinformation that's live and online now. I'm not picking some rare historical apparitions of no consequence today. Someone might push back by saying things such as "the information is available online" or "the country of origin is printed on the bottom of the box", etc., but no matter how much gaslighting is deployed the end result in real life remains that people are being deceived as we speak, shown and proven with irrefutable evidence. We live in weird times when half the population would believe the most absurd lies that go against basic logic and even simple biological facts, so I won't be surprised if I still get dismissive responses. I am talking though to the other half who can still tell facts from fiction and no amount of smoke blown up their butts can change their perception of reality. This is wrong, it needs to stop.
Motives? As cynical as I usually am, I have to say that I do not believe that Penn intends for anyone to be deceived. In this trade everyone knows who's who, and as far as I can tell the people managing these decisions at the company are top notch blokes whose integrity is unquestionable. I believe, instead, that it's being done for sentimental reasons. The "China" stamp still carries some negative connections in the public's conscience, despite the fact that nowadays quality stuff can be produced in that country with proper supervision and oversight, and Penn people are probably just too proud of the company's name to have "China" prominently featured on products bearing it. They mean no harm by this, but sadly it inadvertently opens the door for mistakes or malice by others down the sales chain, and it's fishermen who end up paying the price for what in my opinion is an utterly ridiculous decision.
Speaking of utterly ridiculous stuff, although on a much lighter note this time, here is a true gem....
The Battle 3 is advertised using the ICAST best reel "win". I covered that show in the past HERE and HERE, and explained how the voting process is in my opinion an absolute joke where people walk into a room full of new products, might at best handle them for a few seconds, and all the sudden they know which is the "best" and are ready to cast a vote. Apparently no real life usage, no testing of the product, no specific skills or experience required in order to vote, and hardly anyone gets to claim having previous familiarity with the items since the contestants are NEW products most of which haven't even made it to shops yet. In my view these awards were a complete clown show in normal years, but I don't even possess the words to describe just how outrageously idiotic they were in 2020 in particular, when the Battle 3 "Won"....
.... because it was the year of the virus, the show got cancelled, and the already laughable voting process became an online poll where the voters didn't even get to do the already pointless 10 seconds of handling!! I'm not making an argument for the cancellation of these "awards". They are as permanent a part of the industry as are the sponsored and paid "reviews" or the solicited and incentivised user ratings on sites such as Amazon and Trustpilot, and they are certainly not going anywhere. I'm only making sure that you know what these awards are really worth so you'd make your decisions armed with full knowledge. Back to my terrible non-award winning review....
The Battle 3 is a series of saltwater-oriented budget reels that come in a most extensive range of sizes, from the "tiny" class 1000 all the way to the "Mammoth" class 10000. Between these two extremes there is the "small" class consisting of the 2000/2500/3000/4000 reels, the "medium" class comprising the 5000/6000 models, and the "full size" class solely represented by the 8000. The retail price at the time of writing begins at 120 USD for the smallest and ends at 170 USD for the biggest. I'll be using $145 as the median price for the series.
As usual, the series contains reels with both standard gear ratios and high gear ratios (HS). What's unusual though is this....
They changed the colour scheme on the high speed reels, opting for a dark shade of red as the secondary colour. Usually spinning reels don't differ externally based on gear ratio, and in the rare cases they do it's almost always subtle differences such as a different hue of finish on the handle stem or additional spread of the existing secondary colour, etc. The Battle 3 though did a dramatic full colour replacement, swapping the golden accents on the body and spool for dark red ones, as well as anodising the handle stem in that same colour. My personal evaluation of the red reels aesthetically will be mostly inline with what I said about the golden ones, except that the dark red certainly sets a layer of "dimness" on them. Don't mean dim in the sense of silly or stupid, rather mean it in the literal sense of the reel looking dull and lacking illumination. Remember that instant recognisability I spoke about earlier? The red reels don't have that. They aren't bad looking, just not nearly as charismatic as the golden ones.
The Battle 3 is constructed with a metal frame and side cover, anodised for a finish that's tougher and more resistant to scratching than painting, mated with a plastic rotor mainly to keep cost down but it also reduces weight as a secondary effect. The listed weights of the Battle 3 are generally accurate, and for full disclosure my assessment of weight accuracy is partially based on pre-production reels, which should be fine since I have no reason to think that weights changed in actual production. I just needed to let you know.
My production 10000 had to be weighed in two sections because its full weight exceeds my scale's maximum. At a total of 1107 grams (~39 oz) the 10000 is a genuine "Mammoth" class reel, which is exactly the reason I picked it to be featured in this review instead of the "medium" 5000 that I used for about 70% of the testing. Over the years I featured numerous "medium" class reels in these reviews, so this time I really wanted to do something different hence my choice of the "Mammoth" 10000 to star in this one. It also happens to be one of the more affordable and accessible "Mammoth" reels on the market, since this size tends to come in models that cost considerably more. My 10000 was fished only about 30% of the total testing time, but since that 30% translates to roughly 60 working hours, I'm fully satisfied that it was properly put through its paces. I made my first cast with the Battle 3 back in 2020, therefore despite the intermittent nature of the testing I did manage to put a lot of mileage on these reels.
While the listed weight of my reel is accurate, the drag output printed on its spool is certainly not. Drag figures are quite often exaggerated by all brands, but I tend to let it go when it's not by an outrageous margin since it's very hard to pin anyone down on specific drag figures due to some ludicrous trickery employed by the industry. For example, they would measure the supposed drag output on an almost empty spool to get an inflated number that's totally useless to fishermen, or they would over-tighten the drag knob to a dangerous degree to squeeze as much resistance as possible. In reality, the 10000 Battle 3 produces about 11.4 kg (~25.1 lbs) of drag, the 8000 deviates a lot less from the advertised number and does 12.2 kg (~26.9 lbs), and the 5000 generates 9.7 kg (~21.4 lbs) of maximum drag. These numbers are obtained with full or almost full spools, with the drag knobs tightened to what I personally consider a reasonable stop using an amount of force that in my judgement an average male could produce. I did not measure the drag force of smaller class Battle 3 reels but I estimate that they would do very close to advertised numbers.
The fact that the 10000 has a maximum drag pressure that's considerably lower than what's claimed might sound as if it has negative connotations, but realistically speaking it's not an issue at all. It's a "Mammoth" reel in the sense that it holds a lot of line, which is handy if you want to do extremely deep fishing, let your bait drift hundreds of metres out into the ocean, or need to adopt a particular fighting style that allows your catch to pull a lot of line instead of pressuring its fragile mouth, etc. But ultimately the 10000 remains a part of an entry level series of reels that isn't designed to tackle large fish at extreme drag settings. Forget the exaggerated figures, the actual drag it does produce is sufficient enough for any job that falls within the scope of the reel's suitable use.
The drag knob's bar is a bit too shallow for a secure grip, but its "wavy" shape kinda makes tightening alright since one would be working concave surfaces which reduces the chance of fingers slipping. It has the opposite effect when loosening though, since one would be trying to hold onto convex surfaces, particularly challenging when fingers are covered in the slippery slime of a fish or bait. That's why it's better to keep these bars straight and tell the "artistic" fellas who want to draw cool shapes to take it elsewhere. Just give them the box and tell them to go crazy with all the visionary stuff.
A rubber seal (red arrow) is mounted on the knob's plastic thrust tube (blue arrow), effectively keeping water out of the drag stack. It's not a comprehensive setup that protects the knob's own mechanism, but let's not demand too much from a budget reel. The drag unit is protected and that's good enough.
That mechanism of the knob is easily accessible for maintenance, and is made up of sturdy components. The knob has its own internal clicker for improved feedback when adjusting, in which a plunger (red arrow) engages little indentations (yellow arrow) at the back of the thrust tube, under constant pressure from a coil spring (blue arrow). Pretty neat.
The drag stack is even neater; three metal washers (red arrows) that are keyed to the main shaft, sandwiching three carbon fibre brake washers (blue arrows) each of which is keyed to the spool via 6 ears that fit into 6 corresponding channels machined into the spool (yellow arrows).
An illustrative photo showing the keying of the metal washers to the shaft so that they can't turn.
And a close up of a brake washer for a better view of the small ears that key each of them to the spool. This way when the spool spins, these carbon fibre brake washers spin with it. Affixing the metal washers to the shaft and affixing the carbon fibre ones to the spool increases the available braking surface by utilising both sides of two of the three brake washers to generate friction. Not the simplest concept to understand, so let me give you an analogy that would help;
Hold a sheet of paper between your open palms, then turn your hands in opposite directions. During that movement the paper will naturally stick to one of your palms and slide across the other palm. This sliding is the braking friction, and it took place across one side of the paper only. Now do it again, but first use your mouth to bite on the sheet of paper to stop it from turning with either hand. This time both palms will slide on the paper's surfaces, creating double the friction of the first attempt. This is exactly what happens to two of the three brake washers in the Battle 3 due to being affixed to the spool, therefore we end up with five braking surfaces out of only three brake washers. Getting as much work from the fewest number of parts keeps cost down, which is an ideal situation for a budget reel.
Now allow me to take a slight detour to clarify that keying a fibre break washer to a spool is not a risk-free proposition. Check this out as an example of what could go wrong....
I do receive failure reports from fishermen around the globe, and this reported incident demonstrates the risk involved in this design. In this 6000 sized 2019 Stella SW (SW-C) the carbon fibre brake washer was originally keyed to a spool disc via 8 small ears that fit into the 8 channels marked by the red arrows, but all the sudden the ears of that washer were nowhere to be found....
Here they are. Under the pressure of a fight the ears of the brake washer failed and turned into this sticky powder, leaving the brake washer free to spin with one of the two surrounding metal washers thus losing 50% of its braking force. This rendered the reel as a whole only capable of producing a small portion of its original drag power. The risks associated with this design is what makes the designers of certain heavy duty high-end reels steer clear of it despite its advantages, opting instead for free-floating brake washers with single operational side for maximum reliability under enormous pressures. Back to the Battle 3, and considering its classification as a medium duty reel at most, it takes full advantage of the keyed washers design without exposure to any of its risks. Will tell you how all of this fared against actual fish later on.
The spool has what Penn calls "capacity rings" both on its flange and bottom (red arrows), and I'm still trying to find a single fisherman who needs to look at markers on the spool to figure out how much line is out or in. I guess when it's time for the "Battle 4" they'll attach a small abacus to the frame with shiny coloured balls so we could count the number of cute little fishies we caught that day! Less infantilising though is a rubber band in the centre (blue arrow), allowing a straight braid filling without mono backing. As suspicious as I was of this thing when I first saw it many years ago, I have to admit that it's proven to work well as long as braid is tied correctly. Maybe it's time for me to let go of the mono backing habit. Good stuff here, and more actual features for our money.
Before we say goodbye to the spool, the clicker certainly deserves a nod. Strong click plate, long unstressed coil spring with a brass pin for security, and they even covered it in thick protective grease from the factory that's still there after many months of use and repeated rinsing. Sometimes simplicity is the key. No need to try to reinvent the wheel.
The spool clicker does its job in conjunction with a stainless steel gear (yellow arrow) that's shaped as an inverted cup to amplify the sound. The amplification is slight and nothing to get too excited about, yet it remains a positive. The blue arrow points an empty recess, which houses a seal when this same shaft goes into the more expensive Spinfisher 6 model. That Spinfisher shares many other parts with the Battle 3 in addition to this shaft. Still in the above photo, the red arrow points the very convenient spool shimming design, allowing easy addition and removal of shims to tune the line lay on the spool.
No tuning was required in my reel....
That's how it spooled braid without me ever touching the shims. Pretty even, with a decent criss-cross pattern that reduces the chance of line digging when fighting a fish. I apologise for the fogginess of the photo. Taken seaside where my primitive camera had apparently been building moisture inside all day, and by the time I pulled the photo to my computer and discovered the fogginess the reel had already been unspooled and stored so I couldn't replace this photo with a better one. I hold myself to better standards when creating these reviews, but unfortunately mistakes do happen.
Nowadays, almost every spinning reel has a security lock of some sort on the rotor nut, so no surprises here. The lock in the Battle 3 though is one of the nicer types that fully stops the nut, much preferred to the type where a solo screw is inserted adjacent to the nut to block it but only after allowing it some limited movement first.
Yet more perks....
The rotor nut (red arrow) is closed-face to protect the pinion's threads from water splashes and solid contaminants, and a synthetic bushing is inserted into the pinion (blue arrow) to reduce friction between the pinion and the main shaft, for wear reduction as well as increased smoothness under load. This bushing is present in all sizes except the "tiny" 1000.
The rotor, being made of plastic, is expectedly chunky to reduce flex and give it relative rigidity. Not very pretty but does the job nevertheless.
Beneath that rotor things get very busy....
Battle 3 reels size 5000 and up have a backup mechanical anti-reverse system, which activates if the main one-way clutch slips due to wear or freezing weather. If this happens and the pinion started turning in the wrong direction, the plastic lever mounted on it (red arrow) pulls the plastic pawl (blue arrow) in the direction of the green arrows, where it engages the teeth moulded into the back of the rotor (yellow arrow) bringing it to a stop. This allows the reel to continue fishing with what amounts to an older style "ratchet" anti-reverse, until the main one-way clutch is repaired or the temperature rises to the clutch's normal operating range. This backup stop is a weak design that I've often dismissed in reels intended for heavier work, but in this series of lighter duty reels I have no gripes with it. Still in the above photo, when the bail is opened for a cast a lever (white arrow) slides down, then when the handle is turned that lever hits a plastic ramp (purple arrow) kicking the bail closed. All sizes of Battle 3 have this auto bail closure, and it can be easily disabled by removing this ramp which is held down by a single screw.
The side cover of the Battle 3 can be taken off without removing the rotor first, allowing easy access to the gearbox for regular cleaning and lubrication. But an extra step is required before this could be done....
This plastic body bumper needs to be removed first, and once it's gone accessing the gearing becomes only a matter of unscrewing the 4 side cover screws.
Like so. The 4 screws have blue thread-locker on them for a secure hold, something that's always pleasant to see. Once the gearbox of my 10000 was cracked open, I was immediately greeted with the yellow sheen of the brass drive gear. The sight of yellow metal driving a spinning reel used to be very common back in the good ol' days when even the most basic and affordable reels were built to last. Unfortunately, this sight has become a rarity in affordable reels in the past 35 years or so, with the onset of planned obsolescence as a principle business model for virtually all major brands.
This is a significant moment that deserves a pause to take it all in. Seeing this drive gear brings me delight on two levels. First one is purely practical, where a budget reel built to higher standards is certainly a good value for money. The second level is less practical, and more about the nostalgic feelings aroused by seeing this inside a standard Penn reel in particular. This build used to be a mainstay of spinners built by the original family-owned Penn company, but in the final years of that entity a switch to cheaper cast gears took place and continued to be the norm after the company was sold and production of spinners moved to Asia.
A full view
The large gear plate is pressed onto a stainless-steel shaft, which comes complete with the small gear that operates the oscillation mechanism.
All looks good so far, but regular readers would know that I don't automatically give a thumbs up based on specifications or the use of a certain metal. Actually one of the few catastrophic failures I've had while testing a reel was of a pinion that's made of brass. Every aspect of a reel needs to prove its worth in real life use first, and only after extended testing and pushing that I can tell whether it's a pass or a fail.
The Battle 3 is certainly a pass in my book. After roughly 60 hours of active fishing the machined drive gear remains in a good condition with a wear rate that's inline with my expectations from a well built brass gear.
A closeup. The wear is not evenly spread across the entire surface of the teeth and with its pattern showing more concentration near the inner end of each tooth, and the wear is also not uniform from one tooth to another, yet it remains a small amount of wear indicitivale of excellent longevity to come. I wouldn't demand the surgical precision of a thousand dollars Daiwa in a Penn that costs a hundred and change, and so far I definitely see much more quality in the Battle 3 than those hundred and change usually buy. The drive gear in this Penn is formed by machining, which is the most common method of fabricating brass/bronze parts in fishing reels, although over the years I've come across other methods of working these alloys, such as sintering for example.
The pinion is also a machined piece of brass, and it displays a similarly encouraging rate of wear. This all-brass gearing comes in sizes 6000 to 10000, while sizes 1000 to 5000 have a machined brass pinion but it's mated with a machined aluminium alloy drive gear instead. That aluminium gear has a corrosion-resistant coating across its entire surface except for the teeth themselves, the teeth being continually protected by grease during operation. Naturally, that aluminium drive gear would not have equal endurance to the brass one of the bigger reels, still it remains thoroughly superior to the cast zinc type commonly found in reels of this price. Interestingly, I found the aluminium/brass combination in the smaller Battle 3 to feel smooth out of the box and continue as such, while the brass/brass one in bigger reels initially felt noisier and only became quieter and smoother after a "break-in" period of about 10 to 15 working hours.
To maximise stability and extend the service life of the drivetrain, the pinion ideally rides on two ball bearings (red arrows), with the one way anti-reverse clutch (blue arrow) seated between them protected from undue internal friction when the reel comes under pressure.
Typical of entry level reels, the clutch is of a basic build, with plastic V springs integral to its cage pushing the brake cylinders into place. Works properly, no complaints, and while not the longest lasting part it should be easy and cheap to replace when the time comes.
The drive gear rides two ball bearings as well, and they fit quite accurately in their recesses providing a steady mounting for the gear. Tight manufacturing tolerances kept jumping at me as I went though the Battle 3 part by part, something that speaks more of our times than of this reel in particular; today, automation and computerised manufacturing have advanced and trickled down far enough for even the cheapest spinners to enjoy high degrees of accuracy, so much so that now a $145 reel has better fitting bearings than a $1200 reel had a decade ago.
The bearings in the Battle 3 are not the common shielded type....
They are instead sealed bearings, all of them. Sealed bearings are a blessing for multiple reasons....
One of those reasons is, unlike metal-shielded bearings, sealed bearings can be easily opened for cleaning and lubing. The tip of a hook is a quick and efficient tool to pop the seal out, provided here by a jig head that was ravaged by a rude and ill-mannered snook, who instead of coming home to my eagerly awaiting baking pan opted for a microaggression against my poor jig head before swimming away in silence, which as we all know is the ultimate form of violence. If I remember correctly, that particular fish escaping also rendered my permit useless for the season since it was the last day. I don't keep a written count, but I'm willing to bet that snook handedly represents my worst landing percentage of any species. But I digress....
A closer look at the seal of these bearings. The blue arrow points the base metal washer, while the red arrows point the edges of the rubber moulded on top of that metal washer. Sealing ball bearings with rubber does create some resistance in the running of the bearing, and accordingly reduces the free-spinning of the reel as a whole a slight bit, but for such a budget reel the protective qualities of sealed bearings outweigh this small disadvantage in my assessment. I didn't need to clean or relube any of the bearings in the Battle 3, since the balls and cage inside them remained clean with the factory grease still intact despite the tens of hours of exhaustive work. That's how reliable sealed bearings are.
The main shaft of the Battle 3 10000 is longer than usual....
That's because in this "Mammoth" size the end of the shaft is anchored to a brass bushing that's located near the end of the gearbox, hence the elongated frame of the 10000 highlighted at the beginning of this review. This anchored shaft is yet another nod to the reel's ancestry, specifically the 750SS of 1977 and subsequent SS models of that time, whose main shafts were captured inside an extension protruding from the back of their frames (inset). Smaller Battles don't have this anchor because they don't need it, and to be frank even the 10000 doesn't really benefit from it considering the modest drag output and overall classification of the reel. Even at its highest drag setting, the spool should let line out long before load mounts enough to cause the shaft to move this far inside.
The oscillation block is fastened to the shaft via two screws for added security in sizes 5000 and up, while smaller reels have a single screw. There is clearly a pattern where the bigger Battle 3 reels have extra reinforcements and fallback systems, considering they'll be tackling tougher jobs than their smaller siblings. Once more I don't find it particularly necessary in this series, but once more it's nothing that I could or should complain about. None of these measures adds significantly to complexity or increases weight meaningfully, therefore I'm fine with it.
The upper end of the oscillation block is captured beneath a stainless steel plate, which both reduces noise and allows the block to slide smoothly against it when being twisted by the shaft during a fight.
The back of the oscillation block has what's colloquially known as an "S channel", a popular design that allows fuller control over the oscillation stroke's speed and lift for a finely tuned line lay without hills or valleys on the spool.
The remainder of the oscillation system is almost flawless; the locomotive gear (red arrow) spins around a bronze bushing (yellow arrow) for wear reduction, and the whole thing sits on top of a synthetic washer (green arrow) for added stability and friction mitigation.
I said "almost" flawless because of this....
This post is an integral part of the zinc alloy locomotive gear, and it engages the oscillation block directly without even a sleeve to reduce friction. This coupling doesn't produce the smoothest action, and despite the generous amounts of Penn's green grease the surface of the post has begun forming a "polished" look, indicative of friction wear setting in. Of course it's all calculated; the oscillation does one full cycle per 2.5 handle turns or about, therefore this connection works considerably less than other mechanical links in the reel, meaning it won't be wearing out well ahead of other parts or anything. Still, it would've been really tidy had something been done to create a more durable and fluid connection here. I mean look at this....
That's a screenshot from my review of the much cheaper Quantum Reliance, where I point out that a stainless steel post was embedded into the locomotive gear for outstanding durability and smoother action. Funny enough, in the top half of that screenshot I praise the oscillation post, yet in the bottom half of it I whine that the locomotive gear itself rides directly on the frame's alloy, something the Battle 3 avoids. The industry seems to be playing cruel games with us, doesn't it? This is akin to having a choice between two women, one is a hottie but a complete slut, while the other is loyal but is so ugly your friends thought you got a new dog when they first saw her. Why can't we have it all? Don't we deserve a woman who's both ugly and an utter slut? Errr... or something, I don't know anymore. But I digress, yet again....
The handle is as typical a design as it gets, and it feels slightly overbuilt as a guarantee of strength without the involvement of high-performance alloys or complex processing.
That's a secure joint. Tried and proven construction, and every section is big and strong.
The grip is permanently bolted in place, a common practice in budget reels. The cover bearing Penn's name fits tight and protects the innards of the grip, evident in this photo by the salt crystals accumulating on the edge of the cover's recess while further inside the grip remains spotlessly clean.
And the two sets of fastening threads continue the handle's general theme of toughness via bulkiness. Overall, not the sleekest looking handle around, but one of the strongest available in this price slice.
The bail mechanism is yet another setup that's both typical of this class of reels and in the meantime well tested and proven. Sticking to basic arrangements that have shown to work time and time again is a sure way to avoid issues, and this bail mechanism embodies that strategy.
Due to the width of the spool of the Mammoth 10000 Battle, there isn't much clearance between the bail wire and the spool's flange when the bail is opened. That's not an issue when fishing braid, but mono might make contact with the bail wire as it flies off, particularly if that mono is thick in diameter or still new and "springy". I did not strictly cast this humongous reel, but I could certainly hear my 30# mono topshot slapping against the open bail wire when side swinging a chunk of bait to get it past the rocks or to deliver it close to a bridge pylon where big ones like to lurk. Not a huge interference, but an interference nevertheless and it needed to be mentioned, as conditional and occasional as it is. Other Battle 3 sizes don't have that issue, only the largest one.
Surprisingly, the bail arm is metal. They went for maximum rigidity here even though they could've gotten away with a plastic one. Plastics have been getting increasingly better, even the most elementary types, and many reels that cost much more than the Battle 3 come with plastic bail arms. Shimano's Saragosa SW-A is one such example. Need to state that the brown stuff you see in the screw's slot is not any sort of rust. Likely fish or bait blood that transferred from my hand during use. I have a habit of putting my thumb on the joint as I open the bail so I could feel if the screw ever becomes loose and make a big fuss about it. One of many ticks that one develops when most of his fishing consists of testing new reels.
The line roller is wide enough to accommodate all sorts of fat leaders and big friction knots. A sign of the times, and something we've come to expect.
I wasn't expecting this though....
The line roller of the Battle 3 runs on a ball bearing! Penn, having in the past mounted the line rollers of higher priced models on bushings only to later regret it, seem to have recoiled to the extreme opposite end and decided on a foolproof bearing setup instead of attempting something that might or might not work. This is unusual in entry level reels, and a different approach to that of many comparably priced reels by other brands. This ball bearing is the same sealed type used throughout the Battle 3, and thanks to the aforementioned tight tolerances it fits nicely with the surrounding parts and the line roller self-centres once assembled, shutting out problems that even past flagship Penn reels once suffered. This roller assembly is built in such a straightforward no-nonsense style it came as no surprise that it worked flawlessly. A very positive note to wrap up this mechanical analysis on.
This analysis though is not what informs me about the reel's actual performance, rather it just explains it. What truly informed me was the estimated 200 hours of active fishing I put on the Battle 3 over more than two years, divided between a 5000 and the 10000 featured in the article. The bulk of the action took place during the toughest periods of Covid chaos when I was grounded and unable to fish as usual, and while that completely halted the testing of some other reels and pushed them into a growing backlog, the nature of the Battle 3 as a primarily shore reel with some inshore allowances meant that I could still fish it while shorebound, which is exactly what I did.
The 10000 landed decent jack crevalles, cobias, red drums, and while my insistent attempts to hook challenging groupers only partially paid off they still yielded a handful over the 5 kg (~11 lb) mark giving the reel a very illuminating workout. The 5000 scored whiting, Spanish mackerel, a few stingrays, and it fought what I believe to be several good sized snooks but none were landed due toterminal tackle failure. Ultimately though it ended up being a catfish queen, more by circumstance than by design....
It would be getting dark, I'm becoming exhausted, yet more willing to stay since people are leaving and I hate people. At that point though I'm pretty much only left with dead fish that used to be live bait a few hours earlier, and maybe some mauled bits of bait that I earlier pulled from the mouths of caught fish and tossed aside. What can I catch with what is basically a heap of rubbish? Of course, the scavengers of the bottom who'd gulp anything they can fit into their big mouths....
In total I estimate that I caught over a hundred catfish, ranging from palm size to elbow length. It's been a couple of years and I forgot what species these catfish were, but if I have to guess I'd say they were "disgusting catfish", "booger-covered catfish", "stupid-noises catfish", and some "mucousy yucky catfish". As you can see there is no love lost between me and those rats of the ocean, but they do a good job making a reel scream which is why I held my nose and kept pulling them in. My animosity doesn't just stem from their hideousness or the trauma of finding a dead pigeon inside a catfish that I caught when I was 11, it's constantly renewed and ignited by things like this....
A stab from a nasty stinger on one of them in the darkness left me seriously considering an ER visit due to the unbelievable pain I was in. The puncture itself did not reach the bone and the bleeding wasn't excessive, but the venom it injected into my bloodstream gave me what I believe is the second worst pain I felt in my life, next only to a kidney stone I once had. I loathe those devilish creatures, I wouldn't be friends with anyone who likes them, and I wouldn't even knowingly kiss a woman who'd ever eaten catfish. Well, except for Naomi Watts of course, whom I'd kiss even if she'd just eaten an actual screaming cat alive, not just a catfish. Naomi is God though, therefore she's the one and only exception, otherwise ewww! Anyway, this gives a whole new sense of realism to me saying that I gave sweat and blood in testing the Battle 3, doesn't it?
Like all reels, this Penn has its strengths and flaws, but on balance it left me with a degree of satisfaction that's seldom induced by a budget spinner. It felt exceptionally rigid compared to reels of its class, most notable in the of lesser flex of its exterior as well as reassuringly firmer anti-reverse stop. The line lay is adequate enough to minimise loose coils and wind knots, an essential trait for a series that will predominantly be fished from shore, and other than the limited bail wire clearance in the 10000 the Battle 3 does cast beautifully, aided in this by its relatively wider spools. I didn't feel that the drivetrain produced the elevated pulling power of some of the competition, yet the pronounced robustness of the Battle's gearing allowed me to compensate with more forceful cranking when needed without worrying that something will break or warp. The drag though is the real highlight of this reel; if one doesn't obsess about some advertised numbers that are neither real nor needed, the Battle 3 produces enough drag to stop any fish that's appropriate to the reel's size and grade. It's not an elite level drag, and the plastic rotor does reduce its responsiveness by fractions of a second, more so at higher settings, but it goes off with only the faintest hint of starting inertia and keeps going smoothly with limited and entirely predictable fluctuation as it warms up and cools down.
The reliability of the Battle 3 is no less impressive than its performance. One is certain that no screws are going to back themselves out, the chunky handle is not going to crack easily from an accidental drop or a smack on a rail, the line roller is not likely to seize if one procrastinates a little bit on care and rinsing, and despite not being a sealed reel, boat-ride sprays and crashing waves shoreside are not going to penetrate past the strategically located sealed bearings. In this life, when we go for the cheaper option we fully understand that we'll need to settle for certain shortages and make some compromises, but fortunately when it comes to spinning reels the window and scope of these compromises is becoming ever smaller, thanks to no one other than Daiwa....
That wasn't a typo. I'm actually praising that Japanese behemoth in a review of a Penn, because we wouldn't be here if the 2016 BG hadn't fundamentally upended the accepted norms and set a much higher ceiling for what we should expect from a "hundred and change" reel, forcing the rest of the industry to follow its lead in order to remain relevant in this very lucrative market segment. I've repeatedly referenced the BG's influence on budget reels that I reviewed in the 7 years since its release, but with the Battle 3 we're talking about more than mere influence in my opinion; a general description of the 2016 Daiwa BG would be something along the lines of "a budget spinner made with a cast metal body and side cover, anodised finish, with a plastic rotor, all-carbon drag, and emphasis on next level gearing durability as the central selling point". Guess what else can be described using these exact words? Yep, the Battle 3, a reel that I'm stopping short of calling a clone of the BG only because Penn diligently tweaked and reinterpreted certain aspects of it in accordance with original Penn's playbook, particularly their approach to gear longevity harkening back to the company's history of machining tough metals as opposed to Daiwa's novel premise.
Now that I've dragged the 2016 Daiwa BG into this, you're likely waiting for and demanding a verdict on which one comes out on top in this clash of the -budget- titans, and I'm about to give you that verdict....
Actually I'm not, because no verdict can be reached here. This is not a case where one model is universally better than the other, instead it's a scenario where an existing series of brilliant reels has been joined by an equally brilliant newcomer, each having their unique set of strengths and aspects that they excel at, and as such provide us with an even wider choice and a chance to find a reel that better meets our specifics needs. Which of these two serieses has a reel with your exact combination of weight, capacity, and gear ratio? Would you rather have the stronger backup anti-reverse of the medium and large Daiwas, or is Penn's easily accessible gearbox more essential to you? Is Battle's superior rigidity of paramount importance to you, or you don't mind a bit more flexing for the sake of the BG's higher winding power? Are you such a fereoutious caster that you must have a rotor brake that only the BG offers in sizes 4500 and up, or is that not as important as having the slightly smoother and more consistent drag of the Battle? Would your choice be the Battle's line roller that requires little maintenance but would need a replacement bearing every few years, or would you rather have the BG's higher-maintenance but longer lasting bushing mounted roller system? Is your fishing environment wet enough to require the Battle's better water-resistance, or will you be standing on a dry bank where the BG's freer spinning provides you the exact lure feedback you seek? And so on. Neither reel comes out on top of the other, yet I wouldn't say that there are no winners here, because it is us, fishermen, who won and will continue to win from this sort of healthy rivalry, and considering the quality the Battle 3 has brought to the table I can hardly wait to see what will be coming in future rounds.
Over the past 12 years or so some of my most critical reviews were of Penn reels, but things seem to be changing lately. Last year the Spinfisher 6 made my Top Picks the same day I finished fishing it, months earlier the Slammer 4 got a thumbs up from me seeing how it ironed out the bugs of the Slammer 3 and even became better put together, and so far my early impressions of the Fierce 4 Live-Liner are encouraging with more testing still to come. The Battle 3 only confirms that these successes were not just "one offs" but instead a new phase in which the brand seems to be heading into the right direction, leaving behind a tumultuous decade that I'd rather forget. If this apparent resurrection continues and solidifies, it can only make me happy for reasons that have more to do with the heart than the brain. As much as I remain filled with awe of the class-dominance of a Thunnus CI4, the brutal strength of a Makaira, or the sheer perfection of a Saltiga, I still sense a special tingle of joy in my chest whenever my money goes to support an American firm. It just feels different, good kind of different.
The review is over, here is what I plan next; firstly, an important article will be coming within two months, no delays or excuses this time. Then I'll be going on a tuna trip that I rescheduled from May to July, in preparation for what I'm hoping will be a major review sometime early next year. Once I'm back I'll be adding a good number of my reels to the sales page, including the one from this review, but only for a short period before I put it all on hold and take off again, this time to tend to personal matters but will still try to squeeze some fishing in whenever possible.
Keep your eyes on the News page for any updates or change of plans, meanwhile I'll head down to the chippy to celebrate finishing this review with a crunchy cod and an exotic brew. Be safe until we speak again.
To support this site and my work, please click here
May, 22nd, 2023
REVIEWS BLOG TOP REELS CONTACT HOME