Pros: Smooth operation, parts can be found anywhere, very durable
Cons: None, really
The Penn Spinfisher 5500SS is a sweet little reel that is light weight, but tough. The 5500SS Spinfisher is the biggest of the Spinfisher SS series graphite body reels. It is our favorite of these reels. It carries 275 yards of 12 # test (we usually use 17# on them), which we find is perfect for most of our outings.
Between us, my wife and I have 5 of the Penn Spinfisher SS reels: 2 @ 5500s, 2 @ 7500s, and an 8500. We have been surf fishing for about 4 years now, so we are not in the pantheon of great surfisherpeople. We do, however, chat with other folks, and have a couple experts we talk to regularly, so we do have a good idea of what works and what doesnt. We find that the Penn Reel website (www.pennreels.com) is less than very helpful, so we thought this review might be of use if youre trying to get an idea of what you really need to get out there.
We got these durable reels at the advice of our local fish and tackle store, and the advice we got is pretty much on the money. These are durable reels, well made and priced competitively. What you get is a good piece of equipment at a reasonable price. You can find better equipment out there, some higher priced, but if you want a sure bet, the SS series is for you. Keep in mind that surf fishing is pretty tough on equipment: the salt water is corrosive, and sand has an uncanny ability to get into everything, and jamming up the works. On top of this, our quarry (usually bluefish and striped bass, with occasional fluke and weakfish thrown in) can put a strain on anyones gear.
You can read my reviews of our other Penn SS reels, and see most of the comments apply to the other reels. I use the 5500SS mostly for throwing lures; my wife uses the lighter weight combination for throwing bait. The reel has a 4.6:1 gear ratio, which is just fine for throwing plugs and lures. We have these attached to 8 Medium Action Shakespeare Ugly Sticks, so they provide a light weight rig, which means that you can cast to your hearts content without getting fatigued by it.
The graphite body is lightweight, and wont corrode. This is important in salt water usage.
Penn features skirted spools which are supposed to keep out water and dirt from the main components. Our experience is that this is true. We do notice that there is some condensation behind the spool after use, so it is important to remove the spool and dry things off.
The 5500SS has a selectable anti-reverse. Our experience is that when you begin to reel in the anti-reverse kicks right in, and so you are set to go. You can select anti-reverse off by a small switch on the bottom of the reel if you need to backwind and let a little tension out. The position of the switch is easy to reach when the action gets started.
On all of the Spinfisher SS series the bail can be tripped either automatically, by turning the handle, or by manually tripping the bail. This is the biggest difference that we notice between the 5500SS and the 7500SS/8500SS. On the 5500, the automatic function works great: whereas on the bigger reels you are certainly better to manually trip the bail. In all cases the bails, rollers, and springs are corrosion resistant stainless steel.
Speaking of stainless steel, the main rotor is stainless steel, giving it strength and durability. The rotor action is very smooth. You can see that I have written a couple of other reviews of a 7500SS and 8500SS, and the 5500SS is the only rotor action that I can say is smooth, and, for that matter, very smooth.
As with the rest of the Spinfisher SS series, the handles can be reversed, for either right or left handed use. I particularly like the material the knob is made from: it is a soft rubber-like material that is easily gripped when wet.
The Spinfisher SS reels require very little maintenance, basically just washing them thoroughly with fresh water after every trip, and a drop of oil in critical places. Penn suggests that you use a gentle stream of water, and that power washing the reel will just force the salt into the reel. Penns suggestion is that you dont over-lubricate the reels. Usually twice a year I grease the main rotor a bit. I thought after a couple seasons we should have our reels thoroughly cleaned, and so I sent them back to Penn. We have sent the reels back to Penn service after two years, and they sent them back in beautiful shape. It seemed to us that the reels were better than the day we got them. Penn charged us $25.00 per reel, which we thought was reasonable. A note here: weve been told that there are changes in Penns management, and that the fee for overhauling the reels is going up. Also, Ive found that getting the exploded diagrams are not always on Penns web site, so plan accordingly. I hear Penn is upgrading their Web site, so stay tuned on this one.
Almost every fishing store around has Penn parts. This is important. We have seen other reels that are less expensive and that compare favorably to the Penns. We have found, however, that they dont always have stock of parts the competing brands. We were very happy when we were able to replace a drag know that fell off in the surf, and we were miles from home.
Altogether the Penn 5500SS SpinFisher is a nice, balanced reel at a great price, made for durability and years of hard use.