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Penn Squall Star Drag Review

Penn Squall Star Drag Review

The Penn Squall Star Drag reel is the smallest in the Squall series of reels and is geared towards the angler that wants a conventional open round reel design without a level wind system.

If you are looking for a reel that combines the ability to cast your baits and lures long distances on lighter weight lines and then work them effortlessly, then the Squall Star Drag might be just the reel for you.

The Squall Star Drag comes in 5 different models from size 12 up to the size 40 with a 15 lbs of drag on the 12 and 15 models and 20 lbs drag on the 25, 30 and 40 models provided by the well known Versa-Drag with HT-100 washers.

The Bottom Line

  • My favorite lightweight saltwater conventional reel under $150 for offshore fishing
  • Very smooth reel with a solid drag system
  • High level of manufacturing quality, parts are easy to find and reel is easy to maintain
  • Durable graphite frame and sideplates with marine grade gears

The Penn Squall Star Drag is a favorite of ours and is available HERE.

The Squall Star Drag comes in 5 different models from size 12 up to the size 40 and is what is referred to as a compact open frame casting reel.  It is an open frame as there is no level wind used to lay the line back onto the reel.  The frame is graphite just like that of its bigger brothers the Squall Lever Drag and Squall Lever Drag 2 Speed.

This reel features a machined and anodized aluminum spool with what is called a Live Spindle or Free Floating design.  The live spindle allows you to cast greater distances as the spool spins independently of the spindle and pinion gear thus reducing the friction.

If you are looking for a lighter weight open reel that is designed to withstand the harsher saltwater conditions then the Penn Squall Star Drag is one to seriously consider.  With a street price of just $149 at the time of this writing, it will also not break the bank.  To learn more about which Squall reel is a better choice for your fishing check out the Squall Star Drag vs. the Squall Lever Drag review HERE.


Live Spindle/free-floating spool design – The live spindle or as some call it the free-floating spool design is what makes the Squall Star Drag one the best casting open reels on the marketplace.

This design allows for the spool to float and therefore spin independently of the pinion gear and spindle which means that there is less friction when you cast so you can achieve longer distances with less effort.

Six shielded stainless steel ball bearings plus instant anti-reverse – The Squall Star Drag uses a total of 6 shielded stainless steel ball bearings which are shielded from saltwater intrusion and designed to withstand saltwater corrosion if they do get wet.

A single anti-reverse bearing is used to prevent the spool from reversing under pressure and is backed up with a silent ratchet system that uses a traditional dog.

Externally adjustable magnetic brake(select models only) –  The magnetic braking system on the Squall Star Drag is adjustable with a dial which is preferable over a slider as it minimizes the chances of saltwater intrusion.  This comes on the models 12 and 15 only.

Counterbalance or power handles – With the Squall Star Drag reels, you have a choice of getting either the counterbalanced handle with paddle handles or the single power handle design.

Graphite frame & sideplate – The graphite frame of the Squall Star Drag provide a sturdy frame that in this size reel will not torque under pressure of a heavy load.  A few advantages of the graphite frame, in my opinion, are that they are lighter weight and have the ability to stand up to consistent saltwater exposure.

One of the unique features that you will see on the underside of the frame is the addition of two braces that all but eliminate flex in the reel.

Machined- and anodized-aluminum spool – The spool is machined from high-quality anodized aluminum to precision specifications. This precision in manufacturing is one of the things that makes the reel seem so smooth and have the ability to cast so far.

Marine-grade gears – The main gears are made of a marine grade bronze alloy that produces a very smooth sensation when retrieving. Marine grade bronze is also thought to withstand the test of time better than stainless steel.  The pinion is still made of stainless steel which is a more rigid material and the gears are supported by both the frame and the sideplate.

Versa-Drag™ with HT-100™ washers – Penn’s Versa-Drag system is a very durable carbon fiber material that produces a very smooth drag and offers between 15 and 20 lbs of drag from the HT-100 drag washers on these reels.  HT-100 drag washers have been tested to withstand 100 miles of line being pulled from the reel, that is a lot of line.

Features at a Glance

  • Compact, open-frame casting reel
  • Live Spindle/free-floating spool design
  • Six shielded stainless steel ball bearings plus instant anti-reverse
  • Externally adjustable magnetic brake(models 12 & 15 only)
  • Counter balance or power handles
  • Graphite frame
  • Machined- and anodized-aluminum spool
  • Marine-grade gears
  • Versa-Drag™ with HT-100™ washers

The Penn Squall was introduced in the fall of 2013 and replaces the Penn GT2, it is also a step down from the still very popular Penn Fathom which is almost the same reel wth the exception that the Fathom has a full metal body whereas the Penn Squall has a graphite body.

The Penn Squall Star Drag is an excellent reel that is primarily designed for live bait fishing and trolling for species such as kings, blues, tuna, barracuda or dolphin.  This is also a good reel choice for bottom fishing when going after the smaller shark, juvenile tarpon and grouper.  Don’t let the smaller frame size fool you this reel can stand up to larger fish with a 20 lb Versa-Drag system featuring HT-100 drag washers.

If you are going after larger species particularly those that like to head away from the boat after being hooked up then you might want to take a look at the Squall Star Drags larger brothers the Squall Lever Drags.

For those of you who want all the details I have provided the chart below.

ModelGear RatioBearingsMono Capacity (yd./lb.)Braid Capacity (yd./lb.)Max Drag (lb.)Line Retrieve (in.)Weight (oz.)


  • Affordability
  • Corrosion resistant
  • Smooth and strong drag
  • Castability


  • Not fully sealed


For this sized reel, I would take a look at Daiwa’s offering the Daiwa Saltist Black and Gold or BG as it is known.  The price point is going to be almost identical to the Squall Star Drag but you are going to get a full metal body.  I will be doing a review shortly on the  Daiwa Saltist Black and Gold.

If you are going to be targeting larger species then you should take a look at the larger Squall reels the Squall Lever Drag and Lever Drag 2-Speed HERE is the full review.

In Conclusion

A great reel for the money from one of the best manufacturers on the market Penn.

Typically, I would favor a full metal body but Penn has done such a good job with the Squall series and their reinforced graphite bodies that I am not sure it is a deal breaker.

You are basically getting very similar guts to the Penn International series of reels at a fraction of the cost.

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