Penn Slammer Live Liner 460
by Andy Boyne
by Andy Boyne
If you are looking for a bomb proof fixed spool with a super smooth front drag, a 'baitrunner' system and enough cranking power to 'pull the plug out' that doesn't cost 3 figures plus - look no further!
The vast majority of my barbel fishing over the last ten years has been on the Trent and Ribble, where during flood conditions any weakness in the chosen tackle will be exposed. Reels are an emotive issue for some, but for me - all I want is a good quality fixed spool reel with a smooth drag and enough grunt to handle a 5oz lead cast 30yds into the autumn leaves ( every 5 minutes! ). Over the last few years I've met a few dedicated barbel anglers on the banks of those rivers and one reel reigns supreme - Shimano's original 3500B. Having been allowed to play with a few I can see why. The front drag is silky smooth, and they have immense cranking power to handle the big leads and feeders often used. The downside is they are no longer in production. As the reputation spreads through the barbel community the 2nd hand price of the 3500B is only going to go one way - up!
I've been dying to get hold of a pair but after several failed attempts decided to search for an alternative. Back in my student days when cost was almost everything a pair of Okuma Interceptors did me proud for several years. I then moved on to rear drag Shimano Baitrunners - the GTE-B 5000, followed by the GTE-C 5000. Having paid considerably more than the Okumas for the GTE's I expected better performance but found the clutch a bit sticky on odd occasions, one such cost me a good fish while using the GTE-C's. Not impressed! The difference being that the Shimano GTE's have a dual rear drag, whereas the Okuma's main drag is at the front. I think most anglers would agree that front drag reels are far smoother. I was looking then, for a front drag fixed spool much like the Shimano 3500B and the new D's but without the hefty price tags. By chance I stumbled upon a Pure Fishing catalogue, and while bored read the blurb on the Penn Slammer :
"With more and more anglers switching to braided main lines, Penn realised that most fixed spool reels simply cannot cope with the immense pressures exerted on the shaft and drag systems. So, they decided that the support shaft for the spool should be dramatically increased and a triple supported system was used so that spool alignment and balance would not be compromised under extreme loads. A single, large HT100â„¢ drag washer has also been located under the spool to provide the ultimate in fixed spool stopping power. The end result from all this forward thinking and quality engineering is the Penn SlammerÂ® - a truly magnificent reel that can cope with anything from school bass to blue sharks or tropical pelagic species, with no fear of reel failure.
SlammerÂ® Live Liner
A simple turn of the handle disengages the freespool feature and instantly engages the main fighting drag, so you can set the hook and play the fish. This concept is perfect for anyone that fishes for bass from the shore or boat, and because the Live Liner has the same awesome power as the SlammerÂ® , you can now target tope and sharks with a fixed spool reel - now that's real heart-stopping sport! Penn Front Power Drag.
A single, large HT100â„¢ drag washer, located under the spool, protects the drag from the elements, providing the utmost in smooth stopping power for the Slammer's drag system. The proven HT100â„¢ drag material is long lasting, but when it finally does wear, the reversible drag washer can be flipped over, for double the life."
The blurb sounded good - worth a punt! I ordered 2 one for me, and one for a good friend, for an honest 2nd opinion. Verdict? Fantastic!I quickly ordered a 2nd and they have been the only reels I have used since last October. They performed perfectly through the winter chubing, taking several good fish over 5lb, giving line smoothly when required despite the lower breaking strains used compared to the barbel gear. The clutch is silky smooth.
The first proper test came in January when the Ribble was inches from bursting it's banks, in the company of the River Record holder I managed a couple of modest barbel while lobbing 150grm feeders into the torrent. Despite all the debris the reel coped superbly, gaining admiring opinions from my fishing partner on the day. Winding in a 'washing line' of leaves and other debris was effortless - an area where most reels in this price range fail. The power this reel generates is quite amazing for its size and is one of its most admirable attributes along with that dreamy smooth clutch.Conditions couldn't have been better for the rest of last season and for the last few weeks I plundered the barbel, enjoying my most succesfull 'back end' in terms of barbel captures I've managed so far. The reels performed faultlessly throughout and will be a permanent fixture in my armoury for the forthcoming season. I know I've got a pair of reels that will handle anything I throw at them and will not let me down during the battle with that fish of a lifetime.
Pictured below: My new Slammer alongside the reel it replaced. Size wise there isn't much in it but the spool of the Slammer has a larger diameter than the Shimano 5000 making casting any distance much easier. Not always a consideration for many barbel anglers but those who target big rivers will appreciate that fact.
There are a few things about the reel I would like to point out. Firstly, if you are the type of angler who likes to play fish by backwinding - look elsewhere, you can't! Being the type who enjoys the sound of the clutch screaming I actually like the fact it has no backwind facility, some find it a bit odd, but to be honest I don't really notice it, or lack of it! Secondly, the reel has a solid metal body - something you don't really notice until the temperatures drop close to freezing in winter. If like me you enjoy touch ledgering for chub and barbel in the winter then I would advise wearing gloves, or at least a glove on the hand you hold the rod with because the stem of the reel feels like ice! Having only used graphite bodied reels in the past, and not normally being a glove wearer I suffered a few times last winter before investing in a pair of neoprene gloves! Lastly, you only get one spool which may be an issue for some. I tend to stick with 10lb Big Game for all my fishing on the Ribble so have no need for a spare anyway.
The reigning champion of barbel reels finally meets a serious contender
Price wise you should be able to pick one up for around Â£70 from the shops which is nearly half the price of the comparable Shimanos! Build quality is excellent so you can be safe in the knowledge that they will last a very long time. I love the retro looks and Wolves fans will appreciate the colour scheme! So there you have it. If you are looking for a new barbel reel for the season ahead with a silky smooth clutch and incredible cranking power that doesn't cost the earth or fall to bits on its second outing - get yourself a Penn Slammer Live Liner 460!