Penn Squall Vs Fathom – Which One Is Better?

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Both the Fathom and Squall are popular models among blue water, nearshore, and land-based anglers. 

These conventional reels are high-quality, with both series containing a variety of model options.

Cast, troll, jig, bounce the bottom, or set live baits. All of these are covered by Squall and Fathom, with certain models better equipped for particular applications (such as casting).

There are significant similarities between the two series. Essentially, anglers will be deciding whether or not they want to pay 25% more (on average) for the full metal body and frame of the Fathom.

Readers should be aware that I don’t want to get bogged down in level wind versus star drag, versus lever drag, versus two speed.

That’s not what this article is about. I’ll explain more about that shortly.

In many respects, this article could be very short. Do you like a metal reel? Or are you happy to fish graphite? Because, by and large, this is the major difference between the two series.

Penn Squall Vs Fathom Reels – What Are The Main Differences

The main difference between the Penn Squall and the Fathom is that the Fathom is entirely constructed with metal, while the Penn Squall is mostly constructed with graphite.

Anglers interested in the full specification details will have just spent the last two hours pouring over each model’s specs. Yes, it’s an extensive list covering many fishing applications.

There are some differences in bearing numbers, ratios, and size options between the series and models. But they are minimal. 

In my opinion, few, if any, will feel the difference one extra bearing makes. Options such as lever or star drag are a personal preference.

Size considerations, and other options such as level wind or 2-speed, are an application consideration and irrelevant to deliberating performance between the two series. 

Even braking systems are, by and large, personal preference.

This brings us back to the core difference – the full metal body versus graphite. In other words, durability, and high strength, versus a lighter reel, and more money left in your pocket.

If your application revolves around casting or jigging, and you’re on a tight fishing budget, the lighter weight, lighter priced Penn Squall may well suit you. Particularly if your chasing moderate sizes game species.

If you’re chasing the ocean’s biggest regularly, don’t mind a few extra ounces, and want to be sure your reel won’t flex, having trolled up 600 pounds of black marlin, then the Penn Fathom is the best choice.

Another Key and Often Unexplored Difference

Granted, the similarities between the two series are striking, body construction notwithstanding. 

However, I encourage every prospective purchaser to ‘feel’ each possible choice.

This is what I alluded to in the introduction. You may likely find it’s not all about selecting metal over graphite. Feel, and ergonomics will and should come into it.

The difference in feel is quite striking between the two series, in my opinion. Feel is personal and a little bit X-factor, but in my opinion, critical. 

While an online purchase may be your first option for acquisition, get to a tackle shop first and feel the difference.

The placement and shape of drag levers and stars, brake tuning knobs, and handles are different on each. For me, an ergonomic fit is far more important than weight or lever over the star. 

Indeed, ‘feel’ can win out over the durability of metal.

For example, The Penn Squall lever XN was definitely not my first choice on paper. When I felt it, however, it quickly jumped onto the shortlist.

Penn Squall II Conventional Reel Review

It’s difficult to be critical of the Squall. While I will always prefer metal over graphite, the Squall is a quality series that delivers access to a vast range of fishing applications for a very affordable price.

It’s a powerful crank with a powerful, smooth, and durable drag system. Those already skilled at casting traditional reels will get plenty of distance and master the braking quickly. 

Noobs will need some practice, but the Squall comes highly recommended for those new to traditional reels.

The Squall covers all but the biggest fish in the ocean. Don’t let that stop you from chasing monsters, however. The 60 packs 900 yards of 80-pound braid. 

There’s no need to wind up the drag until your reel twists under the load. You’ve plenty of capacity to turn the biggest of fish with confidence.

I like the level wind for jigging and bottom bouncing. I like either the star drag of the lever drag for casting from boat or land and trolling. 

For all-round heavy work, the two speed offers great versatility. 

Just keep in mind the top speeds of the 2 speed aren’t particularly fast – it’s good for trolling and live baiting with big baits.

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Four Key Features of the Penn Squall II

Series Versatility:

From moderate fish to monsters. From the land or sea, casting trolling, jigging, or bottom bouncing, there’s a Squall that will cover your needs.

Series Price Point:

Yes. They’re not packed with seals and bearings. But you still get plenty of reel for a very modest outlay. The Squall is capable of wrestling the toughest fish species.

The series delivers quality while driving your fishing budget further.

Narrow and Extra Narrow Options:

I generally don’t complain about a reel’s weight. However, I do get annoyed at times with the bulk of big fish reels.

The narrow and extra narrow options in the lever drag work nicely in concert with the lighter weight graphite to reduce bulk.

Line Counter:

I’m not really a fan. If it were less obtrusive, I’d not worry. I accept Penn has installed it based on easy viewing, and that makes sense.

I know some people find it useful, particularly trollers and jiggers. For me, it’s an unnecessary feature, a little gimmicky, and the money could have been better spent sealing the bearings.

Penn Fathom II Conventional Reel Review

The Penn Fathom II conventional reel is an absolute beast of a workhorse, with a level of refinement you might not expect from a Penn designed for wrangling monsters.

There’s a reason so many charter operators choose the Fathom. They’re affordable, and they can handle the rough treatment from both fish and angler alike.

A busy charter operator will use a reel more in 6 months than you will in a lifetime. The Fathom’s popularity with charter professionals is a strong testament to the reel’s durability.

Moreover, charter anglers paying top dollar for a memorable fishing adventure demand a choice fishing experience. Again, operators choose the Fathom for this very reason.

As a rock angler, I love the versatility of the 30. With a little practice, I could cast large baits and exceptional distance. 

With a little tweaking (and some practice), I could quickly swap over to hefty stick baits and poppers without messing up my casting rhythm.

I felt confident on the rocks knowing the Fathom is hellishly strong. Speeds were great, as was the pick-up. Ergonomically, the reel size and layout suit my large hands.

Cost me a fortune to fill it with my favorite braid, as I didn’t have much backing. But I really like the capacious spool. It’s a nice combo with 30 pounds of drag, ideal for my regular rock targets.

Surf, rock, and boat, the Fathom II deliver strength, endurance, and reliability. 

At this price, I’m nearly convinced to put down my expensive spinning reels and re-embrace conventional tradition.

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Four Key Features of the Penn Fathom II

All metal:

This thing is robust, and you can feel it. To hell with the weight, the tank-like structure suits my rough and ready reel handling.

Series Price Point:

Like its stablemate (the Squall), the Fathom series is brilliantly priced. While a good 25% more than the Squall, I feel the added protection of metal is worth the extra coin.

Spool Capacities:

If you still have line on your spool, you’re still in the fight. Yes, Penn is famous for excessive spool capacities, and the Fathom is no exception.

Great for fishing deep, and great for hooking massive fish that demand plenty of run time.


It’s a great quality reel, with aesthetics that match the dependable performance. While the famous International game series stole my heart when I was but a boy, the styling of the Fathom runs a close second.

I feel good strapped to a big Fathom III. Not a particularly scientific or performance-driven assessment, I know. But feeling great with the kit in your hand enhances the joy of fishing. 

Star Drag Model Features

  • Full metal body and sideplates
  • Fast gear access sideplate
  • Machine-cut marine grade bronze main gear with hardened stainless steel pinion
  • Versa-Drag system with HT-100 washers
  • Live Spindle with free floating spool
  • Line capacity rings 6 shielded stainless steel ball-bearing system Instant anti-reverse bearing
  • Graphite frame and sideplates
  • High-strength marine grade bronze alloy main gear
  • Stainless steel pinion gear
  • Live Spindle with free floating spool
  • Versa-Drag system with HT-100™ washers
  • 6+1 shielded stainless steel ball bearings system
  • Fast Gear Access Side Plate – 15CS features upgraded spool bearings and knob mag dial

 Lever Drag 2 Speed Model Features

  • Full Metal Body and sideplates
  • Stainless steel main and pinion gear
  • Quick-Shift™ 2-speed system
  • Dura-Drag™ washers
  • 5 shielded stainless steel ball bearings
  • Double-dog ratchet anti-reverse
  • Line Capacity Rings
  • Switchblade harness lugs

  • Lightweight graphite frame and sideplates
  • Forged and machined aluminum spool with Line Capacity Rings
  • Quick-Shift 2 speed system
  • Stainless steel main and pinion gears
  • Dura-Drag system
  • 4 stainless steel bearings
  • Double-dog anti-reverse.

Lever Drag Model Features

  • Full Metal Body and sideplates
  • Stainless steel main and pinion gear
  • Dura-Drag washers
  • 5 shielded stainless steel ball bearings
  • Double- dog ratchet anti-reverse
  • Line Capacity Rings
  • Lightweight graphite frame and sideplates
  • Forged and machined aluminum spool with Line Capacity Rings
  • Stainless steel main and pinion gears
  • Dura-Drag system
  • 6 stainless steel bearings
  • Silent double-dog anti-reverse
  • Switchblade lugs on the 50 and 60 size

Level Wind Model Features

  • Full Metal Body and sideplates
  • Stainless steel main and pinion gear
  • Dura-Drag washers
  • 5 shielded stainless steel ball bearings
  • Double- dog ratchet anti-reverse
  • Line Capacity Rings
  • Lightweight graphite frame and sideplates
  • Forged and machined aluminum spool with Line Capacity Rings
  • Stainless steel main and pinion gears
  • Dura-Drag system
  • 6 stainless steel bearings
  • Silent double-dog anti-reverse
  • Switchblade lugs on the 50 and 60 size

Last update on 2021-03-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Frequently Asked Questions

Penn Squall vs Warfare: Which Is Better?

The Warfare offers a star drag, level wind, and lever drag. There’s no 2-speed. 

If you wanted a level wind, I’d prefer the Squall, as the mechanisms are far superior compared to the warfare and worth the extra dollars, in my opinion.

The Warfare is a great-looking reel that will deliver a satisfying level of performance to conventional noobs and budget-driven anglers. 

All of the same applications as the Squall and Fathom are covered, except for targeting larger ocean-dwelling species.

The crank is smooth enough, but you will have to settle for a couple of bearings only. Durability isn’t in the same class as the Squall and the Fathom in particular.

Having said that. The HT100 drag is very powerful and smooth. The spool capacities are enormous.

So while you’re not necessarily taking 1000 pound tiger sharks, you’re giving moderate-size Tuna a run for their money.

Penn Squall vs Shimano TLD: Which is Better?

In short, the Penn Squall offers a lot more than the Shimano TLD. As an angler careful about expenditure and looking for every ounce of versatility and value for money, the Squall is a clear winner.

The TLD is a very popular conventional reel commanding respect from bluewater anglers for years. 

However, the Shimano is resting on the success of the TLD, which has allowed models like the Squall to knock it off its throne.

I have a Shimano TLD; it’s pretty old and looking a little bedraggled. 

I’ve loved it for heavier work with moderate tackle nearshore. With four more bearings and a far superior model range, I’d definitely head for the Squall.

The crank is smoother. The internals are more durable (However, I’ve not tested the Squall over any significant duration), and I expect the Dura-Drag washers to deliver longer spells between washer changes and maintenance.

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