Keith Lusher 09.14.23
As an avid catfisherman, I’m always on the lookout for tools to help me catch not only more fish, but bigger ones. I had the opportunity to try out a reel that was recommended by a friend who targets larger catfish on the river. He said this reel covers all the bases when it comes to catfish reels and would replace my favorite catfish reel (Abu Garcia Catfish Special). For starters, the reel reminded me a lot of the PENN Squall ll Levelwind however this reel has two added features that the Levelwind does not have.
One of those features is the Versa Handle system which allows you to choose the handle length to match the size of the catfish you are going after. In my case, I was targeting big cats in the main river in 40 feet of water so I chose to use the elongated handle option. The feature was user-friendly and allowed for handle configurations to be changed quickly without the need for any special tools.
While on the water I was able to set the hook on a 21-pound blue cat which I caught using a piece of chicken gizzard. As I fought the fish another bonus feature came into play and that was the Lever Drag system which is basically a lever that you can push forward and backward to tighten the drag or lose it. The lever was easily accessible on the side of the reel. I was able to adjust it using one finger. A simple adjustment forward tightens the drag and when the lever is pulled backward it loses the drag. I found the lever very easy to control and I used it to my benefit when the fish made hard runs. The lever is flush with the reel so there’s no worrying about the line getting snagged on the lever.
The reel has a maximum drag of 33 pounds so there was plenty of drag strength to handle big catfish.
This reel is actually made for offshore saltwater fishing so it’s completely sealed so that there is no potential for corrosion. Its main gear is made of marine-grade bronze and its pinion gears are made of stainless steel. This is a great option for me since I do venture into the Gulf of Mexico every once in a while.
There was one disappointing thing about this reel and that is that it doesn’t have a bait-runner feature which isn’t a deal break for me but it may be for you. If you’re looking for a quality catfish reel with that feature check out the Abu Garcia C3 Catfish Reel which has a great bait-runner system.
At the end of the day, I was thoroughly pleased with the performance of the PENN Squall Lever Drag reel and will definitely be incorporating it into my catfishing trips and offshore trips. While the reel is a bit expensive it’s worth the price and looks to be a reel that I will be able to use for decades to come.
Keith Lusher is an award winning outdoor journalist that resides in Covington, Louisiana. He owns and operates NorthshoreFishingReport.com and writes a weekly outdoor column for the Slidell Independent Newspaper. He also writes for the St.Tammany Parish Tourism Commission’s LouisianaNorthshore.com and Louisiana Northshore Explore Magazine. He is the former host of The Northshore Fishing Report Radio Show and is on the board of the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association. Keith contributes to numerous publications both online and in print and prides himself on promoting South Louisiana’s unique fishery.