Imagine a fishery where you throw metal lures as far as you can and then send them back to shore as fast as you can. I just described how I and many others fish for false albacore. It is a popular fishery in the North East and one that fascinates me. The high number of throws during a typical albie sSession is interrupted by explosive surface shots and a howling drag that is matched by a few other fisheries. The physical demands of making so many casts require light equipment that is still capable of landing fish that frequently strip over a hundred feet of line on the hook-up. Throw salt water on the fishing gear, and it becomes clear that this fishing is tough even for the best fishing reels. These brutal conditions make it the perfect testing ground. For the past six years, my Penn Clash coils have passed through albie’s gauntlet and remain my top choice.
Penn Clash II 4000 Specifications and Features
- Sizes: 1000-5000
- Gear ratios: 5.2: 1-7.0: 1
- Weight : 7-16 ounces
- Slide material: HT-100
- Maximum drag: 9-20 pounds
- Bearings: 8 + 1
- MSRP: $ 210 to $ 250
- CNC machined gears
- Full metal body and side plate
- Slow oscillation system Levelline
- Hydrophobic Line Roller Bearing
- 1 year warranty
Introducing Penn Clash II
The demands of albie fishing dictate the important characteristics required for saltwater line reels to do the job well. I prefer the size 4000 Clash because it has the power and line ability to handle fish while still being light enough to cast all day. The standard Penn Clash II 4000 weighs just 10.6 ounces. With eight sealed stainless steel bearings and a clutch bearing, the reel is as smooth as any I’ve used.
Pound for pound, I have never caught an inshore game fish that can smoke a drag system like a false albacore. The Penn Clash II HT-100 drag system is more than up to the task in this department. High retrieval speed is a requirement for jumping metal decoys on the water surface. The standard Clash II 4000 has a 6.2: 1 gear ratio and pulls 35 inches of line for each full turn of the reel handle. While this does the job well, I go for the high-speed version of the 4000 which has a 7.0: 1 gear ratio and pulls 44 inches per revolution. It takes the strain off my crank arm, as I don’t need to reel at breakneck speed to keep my lure on the surface.
The combination of an albie’s wild bangs and my favorite low stretch braided line puts a lot of stress on the gear train of a reel. Years of experience have shown that Penn’s CNC machined gears are mostly up to the task (more on this later).
Line management is where the Penn Clash stands out from all the other reels I have used. This is a function of the spool’s hydrophobic roller bearing and its Levelline slow oscillation system.
I admit that until about two years ago I was oblivious to the swinging speed of a spinning reel. Oscillation speed is the speed at which the spool moves up and down as you turn the reel handle. The slower the oscillation, the more the wire winds on the level spool. In other words, the line windings will be more parallel to each other than on a spool with standard oscillation speed. If you compare coils from coils of different oscillation speeds, you will notice that the row stack looks smoother on the reel with the slower oscillation.
This will save you a bit of extra casting distance as the line will come off the spool with less resistance to the cast. But the biggest advantage is a reduction in wind knots. This is huge in albie’s throw, due to the number of throws and the fact that jumping a box on the surface of the water generates inconsistent line tension on the retrieve. Add a land wind – which is often the most productive for this fishing – and you have the perfect recipe for knots of wind that break lures and ruin the expensive braided line. My use of slow oscillation coils, the Penn Conflict II is another, actually solved this problem for me.
When I first realized the impact of swing speed on line handling and casting distance, I asked a Penn staff member why all the reels weren’t swinging. not slowly. He explained that winding the crisscross line of a standard swinging reel allows more pressure to be exerted on the line without risking cutting it in the spool. When the line windings are more parallel, there is a better chance that a very tight drag can bury the line between the windings. But I always wind the line tight on a spool. I also fish a tight drag with a 20 pound braid for albies and never had a problem.
How the Penn Clash II performed after 6 years of heavy use
The only downside I see with the Penn Clash II is that it is not waterproof. I wouldn’t use it in choppy waves where it would go through washouts with sand laden waves. I would also not use this reel in applications where frequent salt water soaks would be likely. Having said that, my best false albacore fishing is with a 20 knot wind in my face as my gear gets splashed every now and then. The Clash handles this very well, and the drag has enough water resistance to keep it performing flawlessly through saltwater or rain hits.
I had a former Penn Clash develop a noisy line roll, but it didn’t impact the function. I also stripped gear from a heavily used old Clash. Don’t judge the reel too harshly on this failure, as I have failed over 500 combined albies in the 2016 and 2017 seasons using the same two Clash reels. This number of albies is quite the same workout for the best saltwater spinning reels.
Penn made a nice improvement over the original Clash when introducing the Clash II: the company upgraded the grip to an EVA power button. Prior to this upgrade, I was replacing the Clash handle assemblies with those from the Penn Slammer reels. It definitely put extra stress on those original Clash gears and may have contributed to the failure of my only gear. The improved knob, softness and lightness combine to make the Clash II an exceptionally comfortable reel.
What this fishing reel does best
These coils are the best I have ever owned in terms of braided line feel, thanks to the slow swing speed. They also have exceptionally smooth trails, and I think the under-spool bearing and hydrophobic line roller bearing contribute to that smoothness. The coils also have a very soft start. The 7.0: 1 gear ratio option makes the Penn Clash II, in my opinion, the best reel for high speed presentations.
The worst things this fishing reel does
This is not a good choice for a reel that will see a lot of salt water from surf waves or frequent splashing on a boat’s gunwales. I would describe the reel as “water resistant” as opposed to “waterproof”. That said, my Penn Clash coils do get periodic splashing on choppy days with no problem.
This review focused on fishing for false albacore, but I also found this Penn reel to be excellent for all light surf fishing and have used it on a number of occasions for striped bass and plaice. summer. If you are plagued with knots of wind when braid fishing I suggest you try the Penn Clash II or other slow swing reel to solve your problem. Overall, I won’t say this is a great reel for the money – it’s a great reel, period. Penn hit a home run with that reel, but they’ll hit a grand slam if they ever release a waterproof version.