The deckhand scrambled to get all the lines onboard. Our boat was rapidly approaching a giant pod of spinner dolphins on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The captains at the Crocodile Bay resort regularly put their guests on yellowfin tuna that feed on the same baitfish as the dolphins. We had started off the day trolling for billfish when we spotted the dolphins and realized a change of tactics was in order. Michelle Gandola of Gunpowder PR and I got baits in the water as quickly as possible using Penn's new Authority reels and Carnage III rods. Michelle hooked a fish first, and a couple minutes later I also had one on the line. Unfortunately, mine threw the hook less than two minutes into the fight. Michelle passed me her rod while commenting, "This one still has plenty of fight left."
That ended up being the understatement of the day. Over then next 45 minutes everyone on the boat took a turn battling this giant tuna, which just would not quit. Every time we thought it was finally tiring out, the fish found a second wind and peeled more line off the reel. We quickly realized this fish was much larger than we first thought. Finally, after an excruciatingly long battle, the captain and deckhand were able to get a gaff in the side of the 60-inch, 91-pound yellowfin and haul it over the gunnel.
That certainly wasn't the only fish we'd catch that day, and Penn's new offerings had performed beautifully.
Penn Authority Reel and Carnage III Rod
Upon arrival at the resort in Costa Rica we headed out for an afternoon for inshore fishing for roosterfish. Things we quite slow on the boat I was on, and it wasn't until late that a big Jack Crevalle finally struck one of our lures. This was my first chance to fight a fish on the new Carnage III rod using Penn's new Authority spinning reels. For this fight I decided not to utilize a rod belt. This Jack was quite feisty, but the Carnage III was quite up to the task. The inshore models feature an SLC2 construction and Fuji K-guides and a machined aluminum reel seat. The handles are a nice slip-resistant durable Hypalon. Penn is doing a full lineup of the Carnage for everything from heavy inshore to heavy offshore. The offshore jigging models feature an SLS3 construction with Fuji K-guides and aluminum HBS reel seats. The jigging models have a full rubberized shrink tube for the handles and aluminum gimbals. There's also a west coast model.
The reel on the rod I was using during our inshore expedition is Penn's new Authority. It's a new addition to their lineup of reels and Penn's Ben Joyce told us it doesn't replace any existing lines. It's simply meant as another premium reel option above their popular Slammer line. The Authority has the Slammer's drag system with Dura Drag. Penn also migrated the Clash reel's Levelline slow oscillation system over to the Authority for better line lay and casting capabilities.
"I like to say this is basically a Slammer on steroids," Joyce said. "We pulled all the best features where we could and then took a step up where wanted to and needed to."
One of the big features they are pushing is the IPX8 waterproof rating. According to Penn, that means the reel can be submerged up to a meter deep for up to 30 minutes without water getting into the body. While of course no one wants to or should be submerging a reel that long on purpose, Joyce said it adds to the durability of the reel from the elements. Because your equipment is going to get wet, even if it is never dropped in the water.
"We've been constantly pushing to make the reels feel extremely free while you're fishing them, but also to keep them sealed," Joyce added.
Penn gave the Authority CNC gear technology including a stainless steel main and pinion gear. The reel also has a 12+1 stainless steel bearing system. It's an incredibly smooth system, a true pleasure to reel. And even though the Jack was putting up a real fight, I had the 20-pound fish in the boat for photos in short order.
It was also the Authority that we used the next day to battle that 91-pound tuna. I suspect the fish likely was over 100 pounds originally, but it likely lost some weight since it spent about four hours in the cooler before we hit the docks. A true testament to the kind of fish that can be caught in the warm waters off Costa Rica. Looking back over dinner that evening, we concluded that particular fish may have been a little large for the size of the Authority/Carnage setup we were using at that moment. We were expecting 40 to 50 pounders when we threw the lines in the water. It may not seem like it, but it's a whole world of difference between a 100 and a 50-pound tuna. For most of the fight, all we could do was hang on as the fish just kept running and peeling line. Still, the rod and reel did handle it, even if it took a little longer to land the fish. Afterwards Michelle even commented to me how this was the hardest fighting tuna she'd ever encountered. When the fish did finally start to wear out, the Authority made short work of getting back the lost line and bringing that fish in the boat. And not a moment too soon either. My back was near the point of giving out after nearly 35-40 combined minutes of fighting.
So, the Authority can certainly handle some much larger fish. Although I should note that I also caught a few smaller tunas on the Authority/Carnage combo the following day. These fish were in the 30 to 50-pound range and the fight was a bit easier with more appropriately sized fish for the tackle. The Authority reel and Carnage rod made for a dynamite combo on the first three or four fish we landed. Joyce was on the boat with me on the third morning and he landed a 70-pounder without wearing a fight belt after a roughly 15-minute fight. It's little wonder Penn is entering the Authority in the new product showcase at ICAST.
Fathom II Reel and Ally
After catching that tuna, Michelle and I decided to move inshore for another crack at the roosterfish. We didn't have to wait long, as one struck only moments after getting our bait in the water. It ended up being one of the smallest roosterfish one could possibly catch, only about four or five pounds if I'm being generous. But I was simply glad to check a new, coveted species off my bucket list. The rooster was also my first chance to test out the new Ally II rod prototype and Penn's new Fathom II reel. The small rooster didn't put up much of a fight against the heavier gear, but it still made for a fun catch. Penn is making a full lineup of the Ally II to tackle anything from inshore to heavy offshore. It uses an SLCII construction too. Penn's Dave Brinkerhoff told me these rods will be in the ICAST new product showcase.
"Ally is really the rod we are designing and pushing for all applications and uses," he said.
These rods will start at $100 to $125 for the inshore versions and up to $350 for the offshore versions, making them rather affordable.
"The big difference is the construction type," Brinkerhoff said. "All of these are tubular construction with a solid glass tip, so super, super durable. We are able to achieve really dynamic actions by doing that style of construction.
"The other unique thing you'll see here across the line is our components," he added. "We're making sure that we're mating the components whether that be turbo guides, K-frame guides, aluminum reel seats, graphite reel seats. Across the board you're not going to see one style of reel, you're not going to see one style of guide. It's going to be for whatever that application is really designed for."
Attached to the Ally was the new Fathom II conventional reels. Penn didn't try to reinvent the wheel with these new reels, just improve upon what they already had on the market.
"The current Fathoms on the market are great reels, everyone loves them, and we didn't want to mess that up, so we just did some refining on them," Joyce said.
Those refinements included updating the frame and the Quick Shift two-speed system so it functions more like the popular Penn International reels. They also built carbon composite cams into the drag levers to make them stronger and more comfortable to use. The single speed and high speeds now have a ball knob handle. Penn also changed the cosmetics of the reel to better match whatever type of rod you decide to pair it with.
Unfortunately, I didn't get as much time with the Fathom II and Ally as I would have liked. We spent hours trolling on day three with them for mahi-mahi and billfish to no avail. Not a single bite, but that's fishing sometimes. Still, even with the limited time I had, I could tell the quality and construction are there. It's a very smooth operating reel and Ally II has plenty of backbone behind it for larger inshore fish, as several of the other anglers on the trip found out. Right after I caught that roosterfish, Michelle landed a nice Jack after a short battle. Sadly, that was the last fish of the day that we landed. I had a bite from a big snapper roughly an hour later that promptly bit through the leader after only a few seconds on the line. Still, I saw enough to know this rod and reel are serious, quality gear for serious saltwater anglers.
The Penn Authority will be available in sizes 2500 to 10500 including four high speed models in 2500, 4500, 65000, and 8500. The MSRP on these reels is between $499 and $599. Penn says they will be available in the fall. The Carnage III rods will range between $200 and $250 depending on the model. These are available right now. The Ally II will go from $100 to $125 for inshore versions and offshore models will go for up to $350. The Fathom II will be available in sizes from 10XN to a new size 80. There are two high speed models for billfish in 40 narrow and 60 narrow. The price for the Fathom will start at around $225 and go up to $300 depending on the model. See the Penn fishing website for more information on these and the rest of Penn's new offerings for 2022.
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