Penn Slammer III Spinning Reel Review

In this review, I will take a look at the newest of the Penn Slammer saltwater spinning series of reels. The Penn Slammer III was released in 2016 and was a winner for the best new product at iCast 2016 in the category of “Best Saltwater Reel”.

So what is it that has made the Penn Slammer such a great reel for all these years and why would you want to add one of these to your arsenal of fishing equipment? Well, the simple answer is DURABILITY.

This reel is designed to take the punishment that saltwater fishing, particularly surf casting imposes on a reel such as getting constant saltwater spray, getting dunked occasionally when wading, getting dropped in the sand and the repetitive casting of heavy lures and cut baits.

Typically a reel in this mid-price range ($190-$399 as of this writing) would not be a sealed reel.  In the case of the Penn Slammer III, both the body and the spool are sealed with an IPX6 rating.

The Bottom Line

  • Best mid-priced (under $400) heavy duty spinning reel for your larger species.
  • As close to waterproof as they come with a water resistant IPX6 rating.
  • Solid metal frame, sideplate and rotor for strength and durability.
  • Heavy drag up to 60 lbs. on the 9500 and 10500 models.

The Penn Slammer III won Best Saltwater Reel at ICAST in 2016 for a reason now available HERE.

The drag system is also sealed with what Penn refers to as the Sealed Slammer. This means that if you are to dunk the reel or drop it in the sand that all you have to do is rinse it with fresh water when you get back from your trip, you do not need to disassemble the reel.

The Penn Slammer III comes in 8 models that range from a 3500 with 10 lbs of drag and a retrieve rate of 37″ up to the monster 10500 model that has 60 lbs of drag with a 43″ retrieve rate so you are sure to find a model to fit your targeted species.


Full Metal Body, sideplate, and rotor – The Penn Slammer III has an all-metal body, sideplate, and a rotor which is especially important on the larger models as it will keep the pinion and gears lined up properly which means you get a smoother retrieve and the reel will last longer.

CNC Gear™ technology – The Slammer III uses a full brass gearing system that is cut using a CNC machine for precision and strength. This gear technology includes the entire gearbox system composed of the drive, pinion and isolation gears and means that you have cranking power that will last over time.

Unlike other gears that are often made of aluminum or another composite material, brass is going to stand the test of time. Another benefit of brass gearing is that it produces a smoothness that you just don’t get with other materials.

IPX6 Sealed body and spool design – With an IPX6 seal rating the Penn Spinfisher III is designed to be able to take spray from all angles all day long and you do not have to worry about getting water into the reels gearbox.  

There are a number of seals which are located around the shaft, main pinion and drag system to keep saltwater out.

This is particularly important if you have your reels in the rod holders while you are underway and they are getting constantly sprayed, and when you are wade fishing deep in the surf.

Sealed Slammer® drag system with Dura-Drag™. The Penn Slammer III is the first spinning reel to offer the Dura-Drag material. Dura-Drag is a proprietary material that is even stronger than the HT-100 keyed carbon washers that you find in the Slammer Drag on the Penn Spinfisher V reels.

The washers are coated with a special material called Phenolic that adds durability and makes the drag super smooth. This allows Penn to reach a max drag of 60 lbs on the model 10500 Slammer III vs 40 lbs on the Spinfisher V.  

Until now the only reels that have used the Dura-Drag material have been Penn’s high-end International series of reels.

6+1 stainless steel ball bearings – Penn Slammer III comes with 6 stainless steel ball bearings that are protected by the Slammers IPX6 seals.  There is also the use of one anti-reverse roller bearing.

Line capacity rings – The spools on the Slammer III come braid ready and have line capacity rings on both the top and the bottom of the spool so you can see just how much line you currently have left on the spool.

2 handle knobs – All of the Slammer III reels come with both a machined aluminum knob designed for cranking in those big fish as well as an EVA knob for anglers that prefer the softer feel of EVA.   Personally, I do most of my fishing in Florida so I like the aluminum knob but for those of you who fish in cooler or cold climates the EVA knob does not get as cold.

Bail trips – The Sizes 3500-5500 have automatic bail trips and the larger models 6500-10500 have manual bail trip.  As always, I still recommend manually tripping the bail as it will lead to a longer lifespan of the bail system.

 Features at a Glance

  • Full Metal Body, sideplate, and rotor
  • CNC Gear technology
  • IPX6 Sealed body and spool design
  • Sealed Slammer® drag system with Dura-Drag™
  • 6+1 stainless steel bearings plus 1 anti-reverse
  • Sizes 3500-5500 have automatic bail trip
  • Sizes 6500-10500 have manual bail trip 

The Penn Slammer III can be used for everything from inshore fishing with the smaller 3500 model up to your large Pelagics with the bigger models.  Personally, I think that for an inshore reel I would go with something that might be a bit on the lighter weight side like a Shimano Stradic CI4+ or a Daiwa BG SW unless I was specifically targeting bull reds or larger snook.

For surfcasting and offshore fishing, the Slammer III’s full metal body design will provide you with the rigidity you need under heavy loads along with the stellar drag of 40lbs on the 5500 and 6500 models, 50 lbs on the 7500 and 8500 models and a whopping 60 lbs on the 9500 and 10500 models.

The Penn Slammer III comes in 4 gear ratios.  The SLAIII3500 and SLAIII4500 have a 6.2:1 gear ratio.  The SLAIII5500 and SLAIII6500 have a 5.6:1 gear ratio.  The SLAIII7500 and SLAIII8500 have a 4.7:1 gear ratio and for your larger species the SLAIII9500 and SLAIII10500 have a 4.2:1 gear ratio for ultimate cranking power.

The drag power comes from Penn’s proprietary Dura-Drag material that has been in use on their high-end International series of reels for over 10 years and now is available for the first time on a spinning reel.

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

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

For our field test, we took a model 3500 out for some snook fishing outside of Cape Coral, FL paired up with a 7′ Ugly Stik GX2.  The combination of the Slammer III and the Ugly Stik was heavier than I normally fish but it was well balanced.  

When I hooked the first snook, the line peeled off smoothly with the Dura-Drag system and was more than enough cranking power to bring in the 8 lb snookie.

A few more hours of fishing and we hooked 2 more medium sized snook and again the reel performed flawlessly.  Overall I was very impressed with how smooth the reel was but it is a bit heavy for my preference.

The second field test was a model 6500 out in the gulf for some grouper fishing.  Again the reel performed very well, was smooth under heavier loads and I had no complaints.

Fishing was a bit slow so we did not have a chance to put the reel to a full test, I am looking forward to another trip and getting some heavier loads on this to truly test the drag capacity, but that is what I always like to do :-).


  • Heavy duty design
  • Hardcore drag, up to 60 lbs.
  • Water resistant IPX6


  • Weight, but this is a heavy duty reel.

Penn Slammer III Alternatives

If you wanted to stay with the Penn brand then I would have you take a look at the Penn Spinfisher V which is going to save you a few dollars and is still going to give you a broad range of sizes to choose from (3500 – 10500).  

The main differences are that the Penn Spinfisher V is not going to give you the massive drag of the Slammer III and you are not going to get the brass gearing.  Read the full Penn Spinfisher V review HERE.

For those Shimano fans out there I would have you take a look at the Shimano Saragosa SW which is a similarly priced fishing reel.  The big differences are going to be that the Shimano Saragosa SW has less drag and is not fully waterproof.  Read the full Shimano Saragosa SW Spinning Reel Review HERE.

Switching brands up a bit I would say to take a look at the Daiwa Saltist which comes in 2500 – 8000 models and is a great saltwater reel. Similar to the Spinfisher V you are not going to get the same drag as you will with the Slammer III and no brass gears.  

The Daiwa Saltist is a great reel and is going to run you about the same as the Penn Slammer III.  Read the full Daiwa Saltist Spinning Reel review HERE.

In Conclusion

For inshore fishing, I have other reels that I like better as they are lighter weight but that is not really where the Slammer III shines.  For your larger pelagics and surf casting, I think that the Penn Slammer III is a great reel that is designed for durability and should last for many years.

If you find that you are constantly getting spray on your reel or even getting the reel dunked occasionally from wading while surf casting, then making the additional investment to get the near waterproof design coupled with great heavy drag capacity and precision brass gearing is going to make sense for many of you.

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Penn Slammer III Spinning Reel
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