For as long a s I can remember, Penn fishing reels have been a member of our family. However, a venture into the jungles of Costa Rica opened my eyes to a revolution in saltwater fishing equipment. There I learned you can throw out all the old notions about performance and durability and throw faster and farther.
It started when I received the email from Hunter Cole, Penn's marketing manager, inviting me to Costa Rica in late June to field test the new Fifth Generation spinning reels. It was a welcome surprise and I was eager to see how they would perform. Penn had scheduled the media summit at Crocodile Bay Resort & Marina, Costa Rica to field test the newest products that would be debuted at ICAST 2012 in July; and since it was a destination I had never visited, I immediately confirmed my attendance.
We would be staying at the world-famous Crocodile Bay Resort constructed on Costa Rica's South Pacific Coast (the Osa Peninsula), at Puerto Jimenez. The resorts 44 air-conditioned rooms are surrounded by nearly 50 acres of lush tropical landscaping, close to Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica's largest coastal rainforest that meets the Pacific.
After hooking up with the remainder of the group in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, we passed the 40-pound weight test and boarded nature air for the final flight to Crocodile Bay Resort in Puerto Jimenez. As we descended, the lush green tropical tropical foliage was dazzling. The 900-foot pier and private fishing fleet of of well equipped Boston Whalers and 33' and 35' Strike Yachts flashed underneath us as we made our final approach. On the ground resort General Manager Beau Williams awaited our arrival, and along with our luggage we were loaded into a converted stake-bed truck for the several block ride to our destination.
After welcoming us Hunter Cole, Pure Fishing's senior marketing manager, public relations, and media, introduced Mike Rice, the Penn senior product manager, who briefly reviewed the Fifth Generation Spinfisher V's features we would be field testing for the next few days, promising a more in-depth review later that evening after we were off the water.
Next, Todd Staley, Crocodile Bay Resort's sport fishing director, briefed the group on the boats, crews, what was biting and what was not. We were told that offshore tuna up to 70 pounds were traveling with spinner porpoise, and inshore the roosterfish action had been consistent along the foliage-lined coast. There had been a few sailfish and striped marlin spotted and caught recently as well as cubera snapper and grouper.
Out on the long pier jutting out into the Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf), Todd introduced us to our respective captains as we boarded our boats. Each boat had been loaded with Penn spin tackle of various sizes equipped with Penn Spinfisher V reels in every size from 3500 to 10500; some were loaded with monofilament and others with Berkley superline. In addition, there were several tackle boxes crammed full of Sebile lures of every description and application from surface to deep in the water column-poppers, magic swimmers, fast and the new Vibrato in a variety of sizes which would be introduced at ICAST later in July.
By mid morning our Crocodile Bay Boats were pulling away from the dock. Ample fresh live bait was found within a couple of hundred yards of the pier. It only took a few drops with bare gold multi-hook rigs to fool the sardines and filling the tanks with "liveys" was a snap. It was time to experience costa rica fishing at its best!
Everyone relied on their respective captains local knowledge. They were encouraged with their first days catches that varied from sailfish and tuna offshore to roosterfish and snapper inshore. All had the opportunity to become acquainted with the new reels' innovations as well as the features that were included in the new designs.
Upon returning to the resort, many took advantage of the sparkling pool with it's swim-up bar, while others wearily climbed the stone steps to the unique bubbling Jacuzzi perched above the swimming pool, seeking relief for their aching backs and sore muscles after pulling on stuborn yellowfin tuna. Others found their way to the 5,000-square foot, full service spa for a quick massage.
As promised Mike Rich provided an audio and video presentation detailing the Penn Spinfisher V line and its 50-year heritage. The new models included plenty of new features
A water-tight design with six water-tight seals(nine on the live-liner models) to prevent damage to the internal parts.
The sealed hammer drag system with a total of three HT-100 drag washers(one on top of the spool, two underneath the spool).
All HT-100 washers are greased for smoothness and longevity, plus extreme range, endless adjustment; a large diameter drag knob allows for easy adjustment.
It's all wrapped in a full metal body and sideplate guaranteeing precise gear alignment under heavy loads.
A rubber gasket on the spool to prevent super line from slipping, along with line capacity rings to indicate how much line is left on the reel while fighting a fish or act as a convenient guide when refilling reels.
Also on hand after dinner, Patrick Sebile, namesake of and global director for Sebile Innovative Fishing (and in the opinion of many, one of the most innovative lure designers in the world, with many awards and accolades to prove that distinction).
He eagerly demonstrated rigging techniques for his lures and explained the necessity of matching hook size with targeted fish. Since meeting Patrick several years ago, I have had the opportunity to use some of his surface lures and the amazing Magic Swimmer in Baja with excellent results. Each of the boats had been equipped with several tackle boxes loaded with old Sebile favorites along with some of his latest creations that would be debuted at ICAST. All of us were eager to give them a try during the fishing trip.
The Crocodile Bay Resort dinner buffet each evening presented a remarkable spread of fresh salads, fruit, meat, and chicken entrees, fresh yellowfin tuna sashimi, or seared to order, plus dorado(mahi-mahi) as well as side dishes and deserts, right down to ice cream with multiple toppings.
The fleets's success with "running and gunning" for yellowfin tuna traveling with porpoise the first day set the stage for some of the most exhilarating action.
Some boats raced to the offshore grounds the second day and began searching for the tell-tale bird schools flying above the frolicking porpoise and feeding tuna. Once spotted, the race was on! Full throttle petal to the metal, call it what you will. It makes for exciting fishing. With the boat speeding for the spot, several casters would position themselves near the bow, ready to fling their Sebile lures as far as possible. While in the stern, others stood at the ready, rod in one hand while the other hand clutched live bait leader with a live sardine swimming in the bait tank.
When approaching the school, it was pandemonium as the boats slowed with anglers on the bow casting as far as possible. Then, depending on the lure of choice, they begin popping and jigging or reeling at warp speed. Meanwhile, the anglers in the stern dropped live bait back as the boat slowed. More often than not, the results were multiple hookups which allowed for more serious tackle testing...battling the most tenacious fish in the ocean.
Inshore, the boats fishing for roosterfish slow-trolled live bait, searching for the tell-tale comb-like dorsal of feeding roosterfish on lighter spinning gear, ideally just behind the swells the inexorably rolled toward the sandy beaches framed by tropical greenery and soon turned into a wave that thunderously crashed harmlessly against the shore. Anglers on the boat cast surface poppers as close to shore as possible and reeled with long sweeps of the rods which often resulted in vicious strikes from small to medium sized roosters..not the grandes we had hoped for.
When the chatter on the VHF radio confirmed the spinner porpoise had been found and the tuna were biting, inshore boats quickly became offshore boats and raced toward the day's hotspot with anglers keen to hook into tuna.
It was not unusual for those boats to run across sailfish or striped marlin casually swimming and sunning itself on the surface or perhaps leaping about which provided yet another irresistible fishing opportunity and another species against which to pit the new spinning reels.
Throughout the three days, every one accepted the challenge to use and abuse the reels. I watched one angler crank the drag down so tight on a larger reel on a mismatched rod that the rod failed, breaking at the top of the but, and the drag held! On one tuna that I hooked on a spinning reel matched to the correct rod, I applied maximum drag; after the initial run the tuna was completely overwhelmed by the Penn system!
Gary Caputi, Striper Online, put it as well as anyone "The new Spinfisher V line of reels from Penn is a major breakthrough in quality and price point. It offers features that are only found on reels costing for or five times as much, like a sealed drag and gear case. The drag system is as good as it gets, actually a direct copy of the system on their $900 Torque spinning reels. It's built tough and the price point for each size in the series is going to make it a hard act to follow for the competition.
This newly designed and reconfigured Fifth Generation Penn's Spinfisher V lived up to the claim that it was the "toughest spinning reel Penn ever made" . It's a spinning reel that would be welcomed in any angler's arsenal regardless of the size fish that was targeted-a far cry from the original model-which should quickly gain favor and acceptance like its ancestor, the 1963 greenie.
Aptly named, Penns Fifth Generation Spinfisher V is better than many other reels costing five times as much, or to be concise, the V is simply five times better.