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PENN Pursuit 3 & 4 Spinning Reel Review

Penn reels are known among anglers as some of the best reels available. Penn consistently produces high quality reels that deliver excellent performance. With the Pursuit series, Penn has managed to continue to deliver on what they’re known for, but at a fraction of their normal price. While not perfect, the Pursuit spinning reel is a budget reel worth checking out. Read our review for the full scoop.

Penn Pursuit Overview

Product shot of the Penn Pursuit 4 spinning reel

The Penn Pursuit is a great no-frills spinning reel meant for entry-level anglers who are looking for a strong and dependable reel at an inexpensive price.

The Pursuit features a corrosion-resistant graphite body, powerful HT-100 drag system, and the main features you’d want out of a spinning reel plus a few. For anglers on a budget or just starting out, the Penn Pursuit III or IV are great value for the money.

Every few years, Penn releases an upgraded version of the Pursuit series. Over the last few iterations, each new version has added some small, but good upgrades to the reel. Here are the latest models:

  • 2013: Penn Pursuit II
  • 2018: Penn Pursuit III
  • 2021: Penn Pursuit IV

Due to the recent release of the Pursuit IV, you can still get a hold of the Pursuit III, but undoubtedly inventory will begin to shift toward the newer model.

We go more in depth on the main improvements of the Pursuit IV model in comparison to the Pursuit III below.

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Pursuit Specs

  • Reel Sizes: 2500, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000, and 8000.
  • Ball Bearings: 5 (4 bearings + 1 anti-reverse bearing)
  • Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
  • Anti-Reverse: Yes
  • Weight: Starting at 9.8 ounces
  • Max Drag: 10 lb up to 25 lb
  • Braking System: None
  • Drag Type: HT-100
  • Mono Capacity for the 2500 (lb/yd): 6/255, 8/175, 10/140
  • Braid Capacity for the 2500 (lb/yd): 10/240, 15/220, 20/160
  • Handle: Right or left hand retrieve

Patrick's Penn Pursuit 3 Review:

If you are looking for an inexpensive fishing reel then this is a reel you will want to take a closer look at. Penn has been a leader in the fishing industry for years and has proven over and over again how well they can make fishing reels. With the Pursuit, they prove they can also make great budget friendly reels. I have had the chance to use the Penn Pursuit 3 and I want to share my thoughts with you.

Looking back on the Penn Pursuit 3, I have to say the reel has done extremely well. One of the biggest things I like about this reel is the drag system. The drag system on the Penn Pursuit utilizes the same HT-100 drag system that Penn uses on their higher priced models. HT-100 is a powerful drag system that provides a smooth and very predictable experience that is a huge benefit when reeling in a large fish.

I also like how strong and solid the reel feels. The graphite body is corrosion resistant and rated for saltwater use. The spool is anodized aluminum and the reel features a full metal side plate. The result is a reel that is durable and has held up well during my use of it.

The reel isn't perfect by any means, but the minor issues it does have are outweighed by everything it has going for it. If you're wanting a reel with premium features, you should pass on the Penn Pursuit, but if you're looking for an inexpensive reel that will get the job done, you should probably check this reel out.

Holding up a largemouth bass caught with the Penn Pursuit reel


With impressive upgrades and flexible usage, the Pursuit packs in multiple features at a price point that’ll make you look twice.

HT-100 Drag Technology

The reel industry is awash with reels, but the HT-100 Drag technology makes the Pursuit stand out from the rest. HT-100 drag system offers smooth operation, and better performance than standard drag systems. The HT-100 drag technology provides a robust smooth drag that performance consistently well even when under load and pulling in a big fish.

Instant Anti-Reverse

Often overlooked or overlooked in favor of other features, the anti-reverse feature is important. Instant anti-reverse prevents back reeling and keeps you from accidentally letting out line. With the anti reverse bearing engaged, your handle will only spin in one direction, which will allow you to retrieve your line in, but not out.

This allows your drag system to handle letting out line as needed versus you doing it yourself manually. It’s a very useful feature in helping with instant hook ups, correctly setting your hook and maintaining constant pressure.

Additionally, it helps prevent small amounts of backlash which can cause your line to get tangled on your spool.

Stainless Steel Bearing System

What comes to mind when you hear the word saltwater? That is right, rust. The bearing system utilizes stainless steel bearings which are corrosion resistant and will prevent rusting. This gives you longer lasting performance and reliability.

Aesthetics of the Reel

The Pursuit has a black and multi-tone color scheme which while doesn’t look fancy by any means, does have a nice appearance. The porting, oversized bail wire, and line capacity rings all match the reel’s look.

Graphite Body

This Penn spinning reel is equipped with a full graphite metal body. Even if you are not a fan of graphite, it does have a lot of benefits, including reduced weight, great corrosion resistance, and durability.

The impressive feature about graphite is that it looks better alongside aluminum and the metal plate that helps the gears absorb any shocks. Overall, this provides a nice look while providing good durability and performance.

The Reel Size

Due to customer demand, with the update from the Pursuit II to the Pursuit III, Penn introduced the 2500 size, which was a much needed size for freshwater fishing.

Most of the Pursuit sizes are geared toward inshore fishing, saltwater fishing, and surf fishing, but with the introduction of the 2500 they provided a size that was much better suited for freshwater bass fishing.

Superline Spool Gasket

The super line gasket removes the need to have a mono backing or some kind of electrical tape when using braided fishing line.

Without some kind of rubber backing braided line will tend to slip off of the spool, which can cause major issues if you end up with too much line out in the water.

With the the super line gasket, braid fishing line is able to hold fast to your spool, which is a great feature to have included.

Spring lake fishing with the Penn Pursuit

Difference Between the Penn Pursuit III and Pursuit IV

In 2021 Penn released an upgraded version of the Pursuit series. Upgrading the Pursuit from version 3 to version 4.

Overall, very little has changed between these two versions. Spec’wise, you really wouldn’t notice a difference.

One of the biggest differences is Penn upgraded the ball bearing system on the Pursuit IV and made it a sealed system. This is a great improvement, especially for the longevity of the Pursuit IV.

The other change was in the handle. Making the handle out of stainless steel and changing out the flat knob with a round black knob.

These are welcomed improvements and thankfully didn’t increase the price much between the two models.

Mike's Thoughts On The Upgraded Pursuit 4

The Penn Pursuit is an extremely affordable spinning reel. I was able to pick up the new Pursuit 4, 2500 size, for just under $50. I've only been using it now for a couple of months, but can say that I'm impressed.

It is not the smoothest reel that I've used, likely due to the low bearing count, but the overall performance of the Pursuit 4 is on par if not better than some of the reels I've paid twice as much for.

The HT-100 drag system worked flawlessly for me and allowed me to bring in some large bass without any issues.

The reel is not the lightest that I've used. It's a good 1 to 2 ounces heavier than comparably sized competitor's models, but even at 9.8 oz it wasn't too heavy and had a nice solid feel to it. So I did notice the weight difference, but not so much where it became uncomfortable.

The anti-reverse seems to work well, with near instant engagement and a very smooth, if slightly loud, operation.

I noticed that the reel does suffer a bit more from line tangle than the more expensive reels I typically use. Not sure if this is due to the reel not having the best line lay on the retrieve or what, but it really wasn't too big of a deal. More of a minor inconvenience.

Overall, I'm very satisfied with the Penn Pursuit 4 2500. It's inexpensive, but performs very well. I haven't had enough time with the reel to really speak to durability, but as of now I think it's a great budget friendly spinning reel.

Pros and Cons:


  • Incredibly affordable price
  • Pursuit is quite durable
  • Rated for saltwater use
  • It is perfect for the entry level fishing
  • Equipped with the HT-100 drag system


  • Though impressive, it is still limited to entry-level fishing
  • Limited flexibility in some fishing situations

Darren's Impression:

There's not too much to say about the Penn Pursuit. It's a solid offering at a very reasonable price. It's well built and should withstand a good amount of abuse.

If you're going to be using it around saltwater I'd recommend going with the newer Pursuit 4 as it has a sealed ball bearing system, which should help prolong life.

Otherwise, if you're just looking for a decent spinning reel, but don't want to spend any extra money, just get the older Pursuit 3 and save yourself ten bucks.

With the Pursuit series, Penn has made a good spinning reel where money shouldn't be a factor whatsoever.

Holding up a largemouth bass


The Penn Pursuit is available in 2500, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000, and 8000.

The smaller sizes are more suited for smaller fish species while the larger sizes are designed for large saltwater species.

I’d say the best size would be the 2500. The 2500 is a 6.2:1 gear ratio and is rated with a max drag of 10 pounds.

Since the Pursuit is already a bit heavier than other spinning reels with similar specs, we wouldn’t recommend going to one of the larger models for normal freshwater bass fishing.

For the most part the Pursuit is pretty silent and doesn’t have any kind of clicking when retrieving a cast. You might notice some audible drag when the drag system is engaged and is releasing line out.

Yes, the reel can handle most water conditions. You should wash your reel every time you use it in saltwater to help it last longer.

If you’re going to be using the Pursuit primarily in saltwater, we’d definitely recommend getting the newer Pursuit IV instead of the Pursuit III. The closed bearing system will keep saltwater out and help preserve the quality of your ball bearings.

We have put together a list of the best spinning rods available on the market that you can read here. If you’re looking to match the budget focus of the Pursuit reel, you may want to opt for the Cadence Essence graphite composite rod. It is available in multiple different lengths and power ratings to match the fishing style you’d like to use. It’s also available at a price under $50 which would get you a good rod and reel at under $100 which is a pretty good price if you ask me.

Reel Score:

We’ve given the Penn Pursuit spinning reel ratings in four categories. They are as follows:

  • Price: A+
  • Build: A-
  • Feature Set: B
  • Design: B+

The Penn Pursuit earns an overall score of: B+

Winter fishing with the Penn Pursuit 3 on a local pond


The Penn Pursuit combines a durable construction and the powerful HT-100 drag system that anglers expect from Penn. From our own tests and anglers that we’ve spoken with, the Pursuit is a durable reel and should last a long time as long as it’s taken care of well.

If money is a factor, and you really need to get a reel at a cheap price, we’d highly suggest checking out the Penn Pursuit. With the standard set of features that the Pursuit brings to the table, the biggest selling factor of this reel is the price.

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