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Thursday - May 12, 2011 - Live Weather Conditions from the Amelia Island Online Weather Station

My Introduction To Penn Reels

I've been fishing for about fifty years now, and I've always been a spinning reel kinda guy. Over the years I've had a few conventional, or bait casting, or (for you guys on the other side of my favorite fishing hole) multiplier reels, but I never really got interested in using anything but spinners. I tried one of those magnetic magic casting reels back in the 80's but the seagulls would laugh at the birds nests I could make with that thing, so the fascination was short lived.

Then I met a guy who likes to fish more than I do (didn't think that would ever happen) and he was using mostly conventional stuff - Abu's and a few other brands. I casted a couple of his rods and I thought wow, these new ones sure work about 900% better than the ones 20 years ago did.

Anyway, one thing led to another and I wound up buying an Abu Garcia 6600C5 Mag-X - nice little conventional reel with adjustable magnets in it which is a dream to cast and which has the modern technology required to keep me from blowing up the reel every time I cast it.

So off to Google I went, in search of the secrets I needed to toss my sinker farther than anybody else on the beach does. Magnets. I wanted to learn everything I could about all these new magged reels and how they worked. But I didn't start finding information about only new reels, or only reels that came from the factory with magnets inside. I started finding information about how to add magnets to existing (and sometime pretty old) reels to make them less prone to blowups. Two of the most commonly discussed reels were made by Penn - the "Squidder" and the "Jigmaster". I'd never seen either one of those two reels in person, but the info peaked my curiosity.

For some odd reason, I suddenly developed this strange compassion to have an old Penn reel in my hand. I really needed to have one, why I don't know. Where do you get old Penn reels, I asked myself. Let's see. Yard sales? I'm not a yard sale person. I usually go to bed about the time most yard sales start on Saturday morning, so that was out. Ebay? I didn't have an Ebay account, and I swore I'd never get one. Pawn shops? I never needed the services of a pawn shop, but I remember seeing one around here, someplace, and then one morning when I took the dog to vet I looked across the street and there it was. The Local Pawn Shop. In I went.

I asked the guy behind the counter where the fishing tackle department was and he pointed to a shelf in the back of the store where low and behold he had - Penn Reels! But I was confused. All the Penn reels I had seen on the internet were red. All three of the ones he had were green. Salt water corrosion green. Really nasty green. I picked one up and tried to turn the handle (which was really hard to do) and then I noticed what it said on the side of the reel - Jigmaster! I'd found one!

So I carried it up to the counter and asked him if he had any OTHER Penn reels, like this one, maybe behind the counter or in the safe and he told me "Sorry, Captain, that's it." The price tag on the green Jigmaster said 20 bucks, so I figured never mind, I'd have to find one someplace else and started to take it back to it's home on the shelf in the back of the store when the store owner said "Wait a minute, Captain, how much you give me for it?". In a moment of weakness I asked him "How about 10 bucks?". He said OK and I had scored my first Penn reel - a nasty green Jigmaster!

That guy I told you about that likes fishing more than I do, the one who's responsible for this I Gotta Have A Magged Out Conventional disease that I've developed also had told me that conventionals were much easier to take apart and maintain than spinners were. I've always maintained my own reels. You'll never know how much fun it is to strip down, clean, put a set of new bait runner drag washers in a Shimano Baitrunner and then put it all back together again until you've done one. Or six or seven... So how much harder could this old Penn be?

As soon as I got home from the pawn shop, I got a screw driver and found out. Took me about three minutes to have the old green Jigmaster scattered all over the desk in pieces. With the exception of A) remembering how to put it back together and B) not losing the TEENY TINY little spring that makes the anti reverse work, it was a piece of cake. What was left of the chrome went to the garage sink and got scrubbed down real well with hot water and some scouring powder, the guts of the reel got dowsed in lighter fluid and got a good scrubbing with an old tooth brush.

It took a bit longer than three minutes to put it all back together, but I could do sixteen Jigmasters in the time it takes me to do one Shimano bait runner. I greased the guts, wiped off the drag washers, added a few drops of oil here and there, and back together she went. When I got the reel, I could barely crank the handle. When I first looked inside, I was amazed that the green syndrome seemed to be only an outside disease; the grease and oil inside was pretty nasty looking but there was no evidence of and saltwater having been inside the reel. The guts looked fine once I cleaned them up.

When I got it all back together, I was amazed again. It cranked as smooth as the new Abu I'd bought a couple of weeks ago. Like a completely different reel for the price of some grease and a few drops of oil! With the exception of a very bad case of the brass is showing thru the chrome Freckles, it looked a whole lot better too.

So I guess the next step in the natural progression of getting hold of your first old Penn reel would be to put some line on it and see how it casts, right? I thought so, I didn't have any magnets laying around or the parts necessary for the magic magnet conversion, but I decided that now that this thing spins so nicely I need to put some line on it and give it a heave. Not a hundred yard heave, just one of those out in the street in front of the house whimpy kind of heaves to see how it behaves with new grease and oil. So...

I stuck a hundred yards of old line I had taken off another reel onto the Old Freckled Jigmaster, got a three ounce sinker from out in the garage, stuck the reel on to an eight foot spinning rod, and out into the street in front of the house I went. There's usually a few cars parked on the street in front of my house, but like I said I wasn't gonna lay into it and send the old three ounce pyramid sinker a couple hundred yards up the road, so I wasn't too worried, at this point, about windshields. So...

I grabbed the spool with my thumb, flipped the lever to put Old Freckles in free spool mode, rared back, and gave it a toss. Now you have to understand that the sequence of events which I am about to describe occurred in a matter of seconds, but what happened in the next few seconds will remained burned into my memory forever. That three ounce pyramid sinker took off like the proverbial Bat Out Of Hell. I thought to myself "Damn, this thing really WILL cast!". The next thing I remember thinking to myself was "Oh chit. I don't wanna buy a windshield or a hood for any of the three cars which seem to parked in the immediate vicinity of where I am guessing that this three ounce pyramid sinker is going to land". So...

I decided it was necessary to put on the brakes. Immediatly, if not sooner. So I did. Put on the brakes. I don't regret the decision to put on the brakes. It was something I had to do to maintain peace and harmony with the neighbors. Have you ever stuck your thumb in a George Foreman Grill and slammed the lid? If not, and you want to find out how it feels to put the brakes on when you just sent three ounces of lead sailing up the street attached to a Jigmaster, give it a try. The next thing I remember thinking didn't last for a second, it lasted for about thirty minutes; "OUCH! THAT HURTS!!"

If you took a lump of modeling clay and laid it on the spool of a conventional reel and made an imprint of the line, you'd see exactly what my thumb looked like that sunny afternoon after I'd tested Old Freckles for the first time. As I walked back up the driveway to the garage, carrying the rod in my left hand and licking my right thumb in the hopes that it would stop smoking soon, I remember thinking "Damn. I like these old Penn reels. I wonder where I can get one that still has some chrome left on it...."


A bad day of fishing is much better than a good day of cutting the grass.
Thursday - May 12, 2011 - Live Weather Conditions from the Amelia Island Online Weather Station
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