This low profile beauty should definitely be a hit with all tackle tarts
Penn Fathom 400 LP
I’d never considered using a baitcasting reel for sea fishing, that was until a friend of mine loaned me one for a boat trip targeting black bream in East Devon. I spent the day lowering flapping rigs off the side of the boat, it was easy fishing and I didn’t exactly put the reel through its paces.
This was a smaller low-profile baitcasting reel, it was really nice to fish with and handled everything that particular day threw at me. Upon returning the reel to my friend, he asked me what I thought and we went on to discuss the full potential of low-profile reels, with regards to sea fishing. The general points of discussion their actual strength, their ease of use and the fact they are really fun to use.
While baitcasting reels are popular in certain freshwater disciplines, it would seem they are not widely used by sea anglers around the United Kingdom. Low-profile baitcasting reels do, however, get used by lots of saltwater anglers from around the world, and they have been used successfully in countries like Norway, where they catch some really big, hard-fighting fish.
Fast forward to and the release of the Penn Fathom Low Profile baitcasting reels, and I jumped at the chance to get my hands on one. This reel is a thing of beauty and should definitely be a hit with all the tackle tarts among us.
When I first took it out of the box, you could say I struggled to put it down. While being extremely lightweight and easy to hold, the Fathom Low Profile has a full metal body and crank sideplate which looks great. It also has a neat gold finish around the base of the handle and the larger models have a tin-coated level-wind system.
Inside the reel it is full of power, with no less than seven stainless steel ball-bearings, machined brass gearing and a bearing supported pinion, which together offer some amazing strength. All of this is powered by dual handles with a solid lightweight grip. Incidentally, this reel comes in both left and right hand models with a standard gear ratio.
The Fathom has Penn’s HT-100 drag system and when that kicks into play you will have up to 11.3kg of drag with the larger models. It also has a synchronised drag and level-wind system that offers even more smoothness and control when playing a fighting fish. This reel is reasonably fail-safe and easy to cast. A quick release on the sideplate reveals why, as you will see both magnetic and a centrifugal braking system. This braking system is very easy to adjust as well. When winding the reel you get a 6.2:1 retrieve and that equates to 86cm of line back on the reel with every turn of the handle. I think the Fathom Low Profile is a beautiful looking beast of a reel.
Fathom LP reels come in three different sizes: 200, 300 and a 400. I went for the larger 400 size, mainly because I do most of my boat fishing in the Bristol Channel. While I could see myself using a smaller 200 or 300 size for lighter fishing on the South Coast, the 400 gives me a greater line capacity for using heavier monofilaments when uptiding in the Channel.
With regards to line capacity, you can get 230 metres of 0.35mm (15-18lb) diameter mainline on their 400 size. I like 0.40mm (20lb) when uptiding in the Bristol Channel and I’m pretty sure I got a good 180 yards on the spool.
Like with most of Penn’s reels these days, there are line capacity indicators on the spool. These are particularly handy when backing is required before loading the reel with lighter braids or monofilaments. Once loaded with mono or braid, some of you, like me, may want to add a rubbing leader for a number of different reasons. Whether you are using a rubbing leader to protect your mainline from a snaggy seabed or even to add a weaker point when fishing with braid, you need to consider that knot going through the level-wind system on any low-profile reel. I would recommend shortening your rubbing leader, making sure the knot stays clear and does not go through the level-wind.
The arrival of my Fathom coincided nicely with a trip on a charter boat from Portishead. When arriving at our first mark, I did wonder if this was actually a good idea to use the reel for uptiding. The anchor was set and we began to fish in 80 feet of water, along with three to four knots of tide run. Added to that, we were fishing over some particularly rough ground made up of rock and sand coral.
It was a baptism of fire and, to be perfectly honest, the conditions were unpleasant. Having said that, the reel remained in one piece and fishing like this wouldn’t be my idea of fun with any reel. We did catch some fish and I christened my Fathom with a 5lb codling.
The main problem when fishing in these particular conditions is getting your line and lead weight off the seabed and moving. I must say the 6.2:1 retrieve on the Fathom did help and the reel did not lock up under load.
Fishing on the second mark of the day, however, was an absolute joy. We were now anchored over a flat bottom of sand and clay, in around 30-40 feet of water and this was more my idea of fun. The whole experience with the low-profile reel was great. Casting was easy and I enjoyed firing my baits a good way uptide. Winding in fish over the cleaner ground was good fun and, once I was able to slow everything down, the power of the reel became far more evident.
I played around with the braking system and got the reel running pretty fast, all a bit unnecessary really but it was nice to have a play. I also messed around with the drag system when playing a fair-sized thornback ray, and that all went okay as I let the fish reach the back of the boat and the net. Everything worked out well in the end, the reel was easy to use and fit for purpose, more so on the second mark of the day.
Some anglers will look at low-profile reels and think they are just not for sea fishing. Yes they look different, but the Fathom LP is more than up for the task of sea fishing here in the UK. Having gone for the larger 400 size, I’ve got versatility and can see myself using this reel for a whole host of different styles of boat fishing. The Fathom LP will cover lots of bases in fishing terms, both on the drift and from anchor.
I’m also confident it will cope with most fish you are likely to hook. These reels are not cheap; the 400 size will set you back around £270. Good quality fishing gear comes at a price, but you are getting value for money here with this baitcasting reel. You may well find some cheaper alternatives, but I doubt they will look as good or have the same amount of build quality.
Model: Penn Fathom 400 LP
Bearings: 6+1 stainless steel
Casting: Dual action brake
Gear ratio: 6.2:1
For more information or to locate your nearest stockist, visit: www.penn-fishing.co.uk