Penn Slammer III Spinning Reel Review 2021

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In my opinion, the Penn Slammer 3 spinning reel epitomizes everything Penn stands for and projects. 

It’s the company philosophy, customer focus, and capability, crafted and captured into the one iconic product. 

Clearly, I’m a fan.

Now I have that off my chest, let’s talk about the upgrades, the good stuff, and why you should consider adding a Slammer III or more to your spinning arsenal.

In my opinion, regardless of how and where you fish, the Slammer III is for all spinning reel fans, with the exception of those focused on the lightest of finesse work.

Penn Slammer 3 Spinning Reel Review – 2021

Firstly, the Penn slammer series is for me. And this is how I fish.

I sold my boat closer to 10 years ago now, and I more or less specialize in ocean rock and surf fishing. 

I chase all classes of fish from panfish through to monsters. I have a terrible to non-existent spinning reel maintenance routine, and rarely even wash my reels.

I treat reels poorly, and I am well known for this amongst my fishing buddies. My spinning reels are often submerged, covered in salt and sand, and frequently suffer impacts. 

I carry a bag full of fishing reels and I just throw them all in unprotected. My wife tells me I’m undeserving of nice things.

I fish mono frequently, and I prefer live baits. My favorite lures are large stickbaits, poppers, and metal slugs. My idea of fishing heaven (and hell) is a solo battle with a 30 plus pound GT from the ocean rocks at dusk.

If any of this sounds like you, even remotely, the Slammer III will serve you very well. 

Incidentally, the Slammer is the first choice of countless charter operators, which is a testament to their robust, handle everything, construction.

Yes, charter operators generally have a maintenance routine, but there are plenty who don’t, and plenty that have routines which are minimal at best. 

They love their Slammers, and, importantly, they rely on them for delivering a seamless customer experience.

The Slammer starts at size 3500 and goes up to the huge 10500. The 6500 and the 8500 are available with high-speed options. 

There are also the Live Liner models to consider, but we won’t be addressing them in this penn slammer 3 review.

In other words, the Slammer 3 covers just about every inshore and nearshore species and technique, as well as the bulk of blue water fish and tactics.

It’s a comprehensive range, which is one of the big strengths of the Slammer III series. The only thing missing is the finesse sizes underneath the 3500.

While beginners might balk at the price tag, the Penn Slammer III offers an outstanding fishing experience for the fishing noob, to the seasoned pro.

New Inclusions

The new Slammer III inclusions are the IPX6 sealed body and spool, a couple of extra stainless bearings bringing the total to 7 (+1), and the hard-wearing Dura-Drag enhancement to the HT-100 drag system.

Top Features and Specs of the Penn Slammer 3 

The Penn Slammer III is jam-packed with cool inclusions, but I have my favorite features that compel me to go the Slammer III over its competitors.

Huge Drag Power

The 3500 has an insane 35 pounds of max drag. I would argue that the bulk of weekend recreational anglers will never require a larger spinning reel than this.

35 pounds of drag, regardless of spool capacity delivers phenomenal fighting power for your average angler.

Further to this, many anglers will rarely test the drag to its capacity. This ensures the drag washers will last for countless years. 

Add to this the Dura-Drag system, and you have a go-to spinning reel that will last indefinitely. My personal favorite is the 8500HS (High Speed). 

It packs a whopping 50 pounds of max drag and is ideal for casting poppers at my preferred mega-GT from the rocks.

Many will appreciate the hard-wearing durability of the dura-drag system. For me, durability is critical, but it is also incredibly smooth while under ridiculous loads. 

The balance of durability, capacity, and smoothness is an outstanding feature of the Slammer.

Best of all, however, due to the drag capacities and spool capacities, I can effectively fish two reels smaller for many applications.

Having said all of that, if you want to take the biggest fish, from rocks, surf, and blue water, the 10500 with its 60 pounds of drag and spool capacity of 540 yards of 80-pound braid, is the reel of choice.

Full Alloy Body Sideplate and Spool

Body rigidity serves two key purposes. A rigid body mitigates twist, flex, and movement under load. This ensures gears and other internals remain in position and perfect mesh.

Firstly, the gears that retain their mesh integrity last significantly longer. Secondly, an absence of twist and flex ensures all the reels power is directed to the business end of the fight.

Using alloy means that the Slammer has all of the benefits of the metal body without the weight of steel. Fatigue is alleviated, without compromising strength.

For people like me, there’s also the added peace of mind that there is a high level of impact protection.


IPX6 shouldn’t be confused with sealing technology. It’s an independent, international water ingress testing standard. 

There are few true standards in fishing, so I guess this should be welcomed. The IPX6 suggests the Slammer will handle some pretty serious splashing at pretty high pressure. 

A great example would be splashing that comes from wake as you’re motoring at speed to your next target zone.

The Slammer is not designed to be submerged. However, this is often inevitable, particularly for kayak anglers and surf anglers. 

Penn 1403982 Slammer III Spinning Black Gold, 3500
  • Full Metal Body, side plate, and rotor
  • CNC Gear technology
  • IP6 Sealed body and spool design
  • Sealed Slammer drag system with Dura-Drag

Last update on 2021-02-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

In my opinion, it handles the occasional dunking without a problem. Don’t make a habit of it though, it’s not completely sealed like a Van Staal, for example.

In a personal unwitting test, I had left a 4500 set in the sand only for a rogue shore break to consume the rod, rod holder, my kit, and my can of bourbon. 

The can was lost, and the backpack full of tackle was headed determinedly for the ocean. Pack retrieved, I unburied my rod and reel that had just been ram fed a sandy slurry replete with salt. 

With no fresh water to spare, I dunked the unfortunate 4500 into the surf for a quick clean. It fished fine for the next two hours.

Contrary to tradition, I got it home inspected and cleaned it. No damage was done. I strongly advise against allowing this sort of misadventure to occur.

The Slammer, while robust, is not really built to deal with this. The positive is that I can now confirm that the Slammer will withstand the occasional mishap such as this. 

However, I would strongly advise that you do not make a habit of it.

More than anything, the sealing encourages you (me) to give your reel a hose down after every session.

A light spray with the hose will remove the salt from all folds and crevices without the concern that you are jetting water into the internals.

Look and Feel

I really like the look and feel of the Slammer III. In traditional black and gold, the styling is classic. 

There’s an interesting contrast of cosmetic features with the spool porting being very understated and the handle, with its big alloy knob, yelling look at me.

For those who select the high-speed models, the color scheme is a slick and stealthy black with red highlights. 

Both color schemes look really cool. But it’s the black and gold that screams Penn.

In my opinion, manufacturers took the spool porting thing way too far. Yes, it reduces weight. Maybe it allows for better heat dissipation…

But the cynical me tends to think the porting thing became more about fashion than performance.

Penn has reined it in on the slammer for a classy outcome. One thing is for sure, surf anglers won’t have to constantly remove the spool to clean out the crawl space between the spool and the rotor. 

Something that’s commonplace with big, multiple port spools.

The bail arm looks substantial and is indeed strong. A weak point on any reel, the Slammer’s fat bail arm enhances its workhorse/durability credentials.

The big handle and golden alloy knob aren’t all about aesthetics. Griping it and cranking hard is inspirational. It genuinely inspires confidence in a fight. 

Penn provides an EVA knob option which is great. Cold conditions may just invite a knob change. Thanks for the option, Penn.

CMC brass gears coupled with 7 stainless steel ball bearings deliver a crank as smooth as any of its competitors in this price range. It’s a joy to crank.

In many respects, the Slammer III, muscle-bound and robust as it is, loses a lot of its rough and ready beast of burden persona. 

The solid, super smooth crank and smooth drag system delivers a refined feel, more in keeping with Japanese top-shelf brands. 

It achieves this without losing any of its go-to, Abrams Tank DNA.

Penn 1403982 Slammer III Spinning Black Gold, 3500
  • Full Metal Body, side plate, and rotor
  • CNC Gear technology
  • IP6 Sealed body and spool design
  • Sealed Slammer drag system with Dura-Drag

Last update on 2021-02-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Jig it, troll it, cast it. Bounce the bottom. Kayaks and boats of all kinds. Land-based, rocks, surf, piers, jetties. Lakes rivers and streams. 

Saltwater master, great in the fresh. Huge size range in the series. It is one of the top Saltwater Spinning Reels out there.

You can use it every day against the toughest of pelagic species. You can also keep it in storage as the perfect choice for your twice-yearly fishing trip.

The Slammer III covers a massive range of fishing applications, and it does it with style and performance.

Spool Capacities

For somebody like me that often uses a mono for rock and surf fishing, capacious spools are a real plus.

The 6500HS is ideal for general rock work, and I’d spool it with 255 yards of 20-pound mono to cope with average fish while targeting a mixed bag with flesh baits.

I like the abrasion resistance of a heavier mono, and it works well if I’m fishing a pretty gnarly rock shelf.

I’d use the 5500 for the surf. Particularly if conditions are up a little. Spooled with 330 yards of 12 pound, I’m confident I have the fighting power to best a larger class of fish.

Given conducive conditions, I’d use the 3500 from the surf. Brilliant sport, a complete absence of fatigue, and as much fun as you can have standing. 

And don’t be fooled. 35 pounds of drag will stop sizable fish in time.

If I’m targeting big fish from the surf. I like the 8500HS. Packed with 25-pound mono, I’ve got just under 500 yards to turn a shark to the sure break.

For casting at massive GT’s, record tarpon, etc from the rocks, I Like the 8500HS spool with braid. 

The 50 pounds of drag deals out boatloads of confidence, and it’s well supported by 805 yards of 50 pound. Awesome combination to stop freight train fish.

Penn Slammer Pros and Problems

Does this review mean that there’s nothing to criticize and no problems with the penn slammer III reel?

Well no, that would not be accurate. People point out the line roller bearing upgrade as Penn’s admission that the initial bush style was substandard.

Variations in componentry mid-series do present questions. It also can disappoint the punters who bought the early version, missing out on the upgrade.

However, mid-series upgrades, and componentry changes are not uncommon across manufacturers. In Penn’s case, they’re often so subtle as to go unnoticed.

The line roller bearing upgrade on the Slammer III did not go unnoticed, however. And one could argue successfully that a bush to bearing (line roller) upgrade is pretty significant.

There were quite a few who purchased the bush model, requesting free upgrades to the line roller bearing. The requests were denied, much to the consternation of a few loyalists.

The explanation from Penn was sound. It was discovered in the rarest, most extreme cases, with exceptionally heavy fish under heavy drag, the bush was not performing as they had liked. 

So they changed to a roller bearing.

But the Slammer III delivers on the promise, and for many Slammer owners, the III surpasses expectations. Essentially, that is all anybody can want or expect from a product.

It’s difficult to find any hairs to split with the latest Slammer version, let alone criticize in earnest. 


  • Durability and the potential for a long working life under tough conditions
  • Powerful and smooth drag system
  • Excellent spool capacities
  • Smooth, solid crank
  • Corrosion protection and sealing system
  • Versatility across the range


  • Those who bought the early version missed out on the line roller bearing. But this is hardly an issue. Some might be disappointed, but it can be retrofitted for a reasonable price
  • The Slammer is pretty pricey. This isn’t really a criticism because I believe the Slammer delivers on its price tag. It seems, relative to its competitors, to be fairly priced. The disappointing aspect is that there is plenty of anglers for whom the Slammer is out of reach.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Key Penn Slammer III Features

  • Full Metal Body, sideplate, and rotor
  • CNC Gear™ technology
  • IPX6 Sealed body and spool design
  • Sealed Slammer® drag system with Dura-Drag™
  • 7+1 stainless steel bearing system
  • Sizes 3500-5500 have automatic bail trip
  • Sizes 6500-10500 have manual bail trip
  • 10 reels in the range including 2 high-speed models

Check here for individual reel specs

Some Final Notes about the Penn Slammer III

In anybody’s language, the Penn Slammer III series of reels is a fine reel worthy of its price tag. 

Its potential for lasting indefinitely with minimal care and maintenance makes the Slammer quite an investment.

Countless happy charter operators looking to balance running cost with the ultimate customer experience is a testament to the durability and fine fishing qualities of the Slammer III.

The Slammer III sits up there at an aspirational price point. It’s disappointing that it will exceed the budgets of many recreational anglers. Having said that, quality costs. 

So, the price point is not a criticism of the Slammer 

The Slammer 3 is feature-packed, with great tech in a body with classic styling. In that regard, feel, looks, performance, and durability are supplied in equal helpings.

The Slammer has always been popular, but it’s not until the third incarnation that it seems to have nailed the formula. I get the feeling that old Slammer fans are going to be blown away by the Slammer III.

I also think that Penn will be rightly pleased with this offering. Interestingly, it’s been on the market since 2017, with only the line roller tweak altering the original release.

Having got the Slammer III so right this time, where to next presents a very interesting conundrum for future Penn reels.

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