Penn Spinfisher VI Review – a reel that’s proven its salt

I bought the Penn Spinfisher VI spinning reel as a belated Christmas present for myself and I’ve not regretted it. It actually appeared in our top surf reels article as number 3 on the list.

Penn Spinfisher VI

A Penn Spinfisher VI under review_c

Top reel for saltwater

  • Rugged reel with IPX-5 Waterproof sealed body
  • Solid-body and smooth operation
  • Stands the test of time & popular with many saltwater anglers

I’ve taken this reel to the beach, the rocks, and on my kayak since then and given it a good workout in varying conditions in saltwater.

This article is my take on an honest and transparent Penn Spinfisher VI 4500 reel review, where we’ll go through the pros and cons that have surfaced during this intense usage and testing.

Let’s get into it…

Penn Spinfisher VI Rating Score

4.85 stars

  • Performance: 4.8 stars
  • Durability: 4.9 stars
  • Value for Money: 4.85 stars
A Penn Spinfisher VI under review_c

The Penn Spinfisher VI is the latest in a long line of product evolution from the original Spinfisher700 – which was the debut spinning reel for Penn back in 1961.

With each progression to newer models, Penn updates specific features in the Spinfisher reels. In the case of the Spinfisher VI, the waterproof sealing and the CNC machine cut gears, among other things, have been improved for the 6th generation of this reel.

It’s good to see such a long progression with research and development going into one specific reel model.

The fact that the Spinfisher has been around for so long is a testament to how popular this reel is because of its quality and reliability as a go-to saltwater spinning reel.

The first little catch on the Penn Spinfisher VI

Who should invest in the Penn Spinfisher VI? 

As mentioned, over the past few months I’ve been using the Spinfisher VI 4500 across different saltwater applications, from the beach, the rocks, and bashing it around on my kayak.

I think it’s particularly well-suited to kayak anglers because of the waterproof sealing, and the immense HT-100 drag system that can be used to handle larger species. When handling it on the kayak, the big drag adjuster handle makes it so easy to change to drag quickly.

For beach fishing, I think this reel is great for this application too.

I’ve spent a few evenings chucking lures out over the surf and it retrieves pretty quickly once you get up to speed – more than enough for the bluefish we target.

There is a long-cast version and a bail-less version too – for the more hardcore distance surf anglers.

Given beach exposure involves sand and water splashes, the IPX-5 waterproof sealing helps to keep out the nasty stuff that ruins reels on the beach. Always worth giving it a rinse under the tap after use though with the drag tightened up beforehand.

This reel makes such a great surf reel because of the spool capacity, powerful drag system, and the mega-fast retrieval rate that is up there with the Daiwa BG’s retrieval rate.

Check out our article comparing the Daiwa BG against the Spinfisher VI.

Perfect for skimming lures across the surf to get those fast-chasing species going.

Penn Spinfisher VI Specs

  • Best for: Anglers that typically get wet! Fishing in or close to the breaking shore waves. Also a top choice for kayak anglers.
  • Sizes: 2500, 3500, 4500, 5500, 6500, 7500, 8500, 9500, 10500
  • Drag: From 15lbs to 50lbs!
  • Line capacity: A massive 320yds of 20lb braided line capacity on the 4500 size
  • Weight: 12.5oz on the 4500 size
  • Bearings: 6
  • Gear ratio and retrieval: 6.2:1 on the 4500 size, 40in retrieval
  • Handle side: Interchangeable right-left

Penn Spinfisher VI Pros

Improved IPX-5 Water-resitant sealing

This is an upgrade on previous Spinfisher reel models, with the previous model having the label of ‘Water Tight Design’. And as some reputable anglers have pointed out, ‘watertight’ means waterproof. That is, it doesn’t let water in. But there are many examples of water having entered the body of previous reels after exposure – just look at forums online of anglers using the past Spinfisher Vs.

With the Spinfisher VI, Penn has changed the labeling to IPX-5 waterproofing. Perhaps to be a bit more explicit and accurate for anglers looking to buy this reel.

You’ll see some cases of anglers using Spinfishers VIs claiming that they have dunked and cranked the reel underwater. That’s brave in my opinion.

An IPX 5 rating means the reel can withstand a low-pressure water jet from any angle for a few minutes without water entering.

In technical terms, this does not mean it can be dunked and submerged. So I would advise against it.

To do that, you would need a Van Staal (which made its place on our top reels for surf fishing article), or a Tsunami SaltX which are designed specifically to be submerged and face underwater cranking and survive.

This is why we’re recommending this reel for surf and rock angling, kayak fishing, and would also be a good choice for boat fishing too.

If you’re one of those hardcore anglers that dunk themselves as well as the reel while surf fishing, consider one of the options above.

Line capacity

What drew me to this reel, and is a consideration for all my surf and kayak fishing reels, is the line capacity.

On the 4500 size Spinfisher VI, which is the size I bought, you can fit 320yds or 20lb braid on the spool. This is more than enough for either application I use it for.

I like to vary the range of casts when I’m surf fishing and the Spinfisher VI doesn’t hold me back from doing so.

I find the 4500 size is a great mid-way point for surf angling because you have the capacity to cast the distances required, but it’s also not too overbearing for some lighter lure fishing to target bluefish or the like.

The spool on the Spinfisher VI comes with a rubber ‘braid-ready’ backing, so you can technically put the braid straight onto it. But I decided to back it with a little light mono just for extra stability when fighting harder battling species.

As you can see from the photo I took I have spooled it quite full, and I tested casting with different spool fullness and found the sweet spot for me. Making sure you have a full spool will help maximise your casting distance – helpful if you have large, numerous breakers you need to cast over when surf fishing.

The 4500 size means I can use this reel for both surf fishing and kayak fishing.

In the kayak, I typically target fast prey-seeking fish with lures, like bonito or yellowtail amberjack. The spool capacity means I don’t need to worry about being stripped by any of these fish. Especially when combined with Penn’s drag system – more on that soon.

Retrieval rate

I find you can really pick up speed with the Spinfisher VI when retrieving a lure across the water.

If you’re predominantly fishing with lures out in saltwater and need a fast, tough reel then this is a great option.

The retrieval rate is up there with the Daiwa BG, which I think is also fast enough for my needs personally.

There are anglers out there that might want even more speed than this, so they might choose a high-speed option, like the Penn Battle 3 High-Speed.

The handle and reel construction feels good and solid when you’re really cranking too, I have yet to experience much give in the reel which I’m thankful for because I know there can be manufacturing errors that sometimes lead to ‘give’ in what should be quality, solid reels.

The Formidable HT-100 Drag system

When I finally took the step to move into the world of Penn reels, the thing that pleased me the most about the upper-end reels was the HT-100 drag system.

Penn has one of the coolest-sounding drag systems I think.

It’s also pretty sensitive I find. And the handle of the drag adjuster sits up nicely out of the top of the reel, rather than being recessed and difficult to grab. This means when I’m fighting a fish and I realize my drag is way off when I cast out, I can quickly change the drag with small and easy movements.

The drag washers themselves are a tough carbon fiber material, and the drag system as a whole is protected by the sealed spool which will help reduce exposure to water, salt, and sand and improve the longevity and durability of the drag system over time.

This sealing of the spool is a particular benefit for anglers in environments with heavy water exposure that might be splashing the reel at all angles.

The capability of the drag system too is powerful. My Penn Spinfisher VI 4500 max drag is a limit of 20lbs. This is a significant amount of stopping power and matched with a capable rod is plenty of strength and control needed to battle the target species I fish for – either on the kayak or from the beach.

Unyielding CNC machined gears

Powering the Spinfisher VI from within is Penn’s CNC machined gear system. This technology involves computer-led machinery cutting the gears out from solid quality metals, in this case, aluminum and brass.

The cutting is supposedly incredibly precise, meaning that the gears match up perfectly in the teeth and create a very smooth gear train. For the angler, this means a lovely smooth cranking experience, with the gears designed in this way to reduce and remove any give in the gear system.

The fact the gears are cut and not forged reduces weaknesses in the gears themselves, improving durability and longevity overall. So you’re not going to be worried about getting some good, hardworking seasons out of this reel and having failures in the gear system.

There are lessons to be learned though about maintaining the gear system in the Spinfisher VI.

It’s apparently a very easy reel to maintain, and spare gears and parts can be bought online for replacements. However, that said, you want to make sure you are thorough and careful when maintaining the reel.

For example, if you are replacing gears, any error in replacement or screwing the elements and plates back together can lead to gear precision being lost and potential stripping of the gears if you reel under pressure.

So just be careful if you do come to maintain this reel in the future.

Penn Spinfisher VI Cons

Not completely sealed against submerging

As mentioned previously, this reel shouldn’t be submerged. The IPX-5 rating only makes it water resistant to low-pressure water jets from all angles.

That said, there are reports online in major angling forums talking about water intrusion even without dunking.

I wouldn’t buy this reel if you are exposed to the possibility of dunking the reel. For me, kayak fishing is close, but I’m pretty careful to not let it drop in the drink.

I may be being overconfident in my abilities there, and risking my reel but it’s up to you to be comfortable with the risk level you put the reel at, especially when it comes with a $160-280 price tag at the time of writing.

WIth surf fishing, I don’t tend to enter the water much. If I do it’ll be up to my thighs so this reel is fine in those conditions – no risk of submerging, but it definitely receives some splashes and possibly some sand too.

My recomendation again if you need a submersible reel is to look at a Van Staal (which made its place on our top reels for surf fishing article), or a Tsunami SaltX.

Tacky grease initially

When I first used the reel I noticed a slight ‘tackiness’ in the smoothness of the reel when I cranked the handle.

I hopped online and noticed some other Spinfisher VI owners had a similar problem, and that there issue was down to the grease inside.

I opened up my reel and noticed A LOT of grease packed inside the reel. I was quite surprised to see how much was in there. But I left it as it was and put the reel back together again.

After a few sessions of rapidly cranking lures from my kayak and the beach, I noticed the reel had lost the ‘tacky’ feeling and was much smoother – probably 5 or so sessions later I think.

The reel operates very smoothly now, but I was initially worried about it. So you might want to check out your reel if you experience the same thing and give it a few goes before discounting the reel and sending it back.

For some reason it seems Penn really packs its reel with marine grease.

Bail arm not so automatic

The Spinfisher VI comes with different bail arm trip options for different sizes. For the model I got its an automatic bail trip mechanism. So when you start winding after a cast the bail arm flips over automatically… in case that wasn’t obvious!

In fact, the 2500 to the 5500 models all have an auto bail-trip, whereas the larger sizes of 6500 – 10500 have a manual bail trip.

With my Spinfisher VI I noticed the bail arm sometimes isn’t so automatic. I don’t know what is causing it, but every one in a handful of casts the bail arm will get ‘locked’ or ‘blocked’ for a split second and then release into the auto bail trip. And on rare occasions, I need to manually trip it.

This can be frustrating when you’re lure fishing and rapidly trying to fan out an area and cast and retrieve quickly across that area.

Penn Spinfisher VI Performance

For its mid-way price range, the Penn Spinfisher VI is a pretty darn good reel with reliable performance out on the water.

Despite some initial drawbacks, as you can see, these are minor in the grand scheme of a spinning reel’s lifetime, particularly one used so heavily in saltwater.

The upgrade in water resistance is a great thing, and greater transparency about its actual water-resistant limits is only going to help anglers to look after their reel better than before. Hopefully removing myths that it can be fully submerged and cranked under water.

The Spinfisher VI model has lasted six generations so far, so Penn must be doing something right to have a product continue through the ages like that.

Across the key factors; drag power, retrieval speed and smoothness, water resistance, casting, line capacity and distribution, durability, the Spinfisher VI is a very good all-rounder for saltwater.

In fact, you’ll find it on the expert-of-fishing-reels Alan Hawk’s website listed as one of the best general saltwater reels out there for the price.

Penn Spinfisher VI sizes

The great thing about this reel is that the broad range of sizes mean its a reel that’s accessible to all despite the application. The Penn Spinfisher VI sizes start at 2500 and go all the way up to 10500.

There are also options for Live Liner for live bait fishing, bail-less options for hardcore surf anglers, and a Long Cast version too for even greater spool capacity.

SizesBearingsMax dragWeightGear ratioLine RetrieveBraid Cap yds/lbsMono Cap yds/lbs
2500615LB | 6.8KG10.7 OZ6.2:133″ | 84CM240/10 220/15 160/20240/10 220/15 160/20
3500615LB | 6.8KG12.1 OZ6.2:137″ | 94CM310/10 270/15 220/20310/10 270/15 220/20
4500620LB | 9.0KG12.5 OZ6.2:140″ | 102CM390/15 320/20 250/30390/15 320/20 250/30
5500625LB | 11.3KG18.5 OZ5.6:139″ | 99CM500/20 380/30 335/40500/20 380/30 335/40
6500630LB | 13.6KG22.3 OZ5.6:142″ | 107CM485/30 410/40 335/50485/30 410/40 335/50
7500635LB | 15.8KG26.5 OZ4.7:138″ | 97CM530/40 440/50 400/65530/40 440/50 400/65
8500640LB | 18.1KG28.3 OZ4.7:142″ | 107CM730/40 600/50 555/65730/40 600/50 555/65
9500645LB | 20.4KG37.1 OZ4.2:140″ | 102CM730/50 670/65 435/80730/50 670/65 435/80
10500650LB | 22.6KG38.6 OZ4.2:143″ | 109 CM845/50 780/65 540/80845/50 780/65 540/80

Penn Spinfisher VI Construction Specs

Full metal body and spool

The SPinfisher VI spool is an aluminum spool, helping reduce unnecessary weight while retaining strength and solidity. The reel houses stainless steel ball bearings to produce the great smoothness in the reeling motions.

The rotor material changes depending on the model or size you buy. The 2500 to 5500 come with a nylon rotor, which is upgraded in the 6500 to 10500 reel sizes to a aluminum rotor.


Again with the gears there is switching of materisals for the different sizes. Follwoing the pattern abover the smaller sizes (2500-5500) get aluminum gears built into the reels. Brass gears are found in the larger sizes (6500-10500).

Penn Spinfisher VI Summary

I’m pretty happy with my purchase of this reel. I managed to get a really good deal on the reel in a combo deal too. So if you’re lucky you could land yourself with an awesome-performing saltwater-appropriate spinning reel with huge capabilities for a relatively small amount paid up.

The reel performs well across many saltwarer applications (and I’m sure with freshwater too). And it hasn’t had any issues yet after some pretty aggressive kayak fishing with plenty of saltwater exposure.

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