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Reel Review


Trouble Free Lightweight Fighter...Penn 320 GTi
 

Date: 1/20/02
Tackle type: Reel
Manufacturer: Penn
Reviewer: Zander






Total Score: 8.16

Introduction:  Built by Penn, so anglers can think about where the fish are instead of maintaining their tackle, the 320GTi is a powerful trolling, casting, and bottom fishing reel.
 

Penn 320GTi Specifications

Line Capacity 20/320
Gear Ratio 4.3-1
Weight 19.5 (oz)
Bearings 2BB
Additional Features Graphite Frame, Stainless Steel line guides. Stainless Steel Rod Stand, loud durable clicker
MSRP $79.99


Impressions:
I bass fish 80% of the time, but for the opportunity to test the Penn 320GTi I was excited to get on the open water of the Pacific Ocean to see how well this reel would tackle rockfish 2 to 3 hundred feet down!

When I first received this reel I first noticed how smooth it was. I was very surprised that this reel only houses 2BB, and yet seems very fluid even when cranking at very high speed. The
320GTi makes a very nice clicking sound when in use, and when tackling big game anglers can engage the clicker.

 

To really test this reel it made sense to charter a boat to do some deep sea rock fishing. So I grabbed MP and we headed out for a day of testing on the Sea Stag III, run by the famous Stagnaros family of Santa Cruz.  

Real World Test: Paired up with a Shakespeare Ugly Stick I spooled the
320GTi with 20lb braided Fireline. I often saltwater fish with heavy mono or fluorocarbon but for rockfish my preference by far is to use braided line. The super sensitivity of the braided line enables me to detect the slightest bites at 200ft+ depths! In addition because I tie mono line at the end if I ever get snagged I can pull right out.

Everyone knows that Saltwater gear takes a real beating from the elements. On this trip the weather was good, but the reel still was soaked with Saltwater. To maximize protection against corrosion Penn designed the 320GTi with metal components supporting a one piece graphite frame. One good example of this is the extremely thick stainless steel level wind, which didn't flex at all, even under high pressure.

 

The 320 uses stainless steel on all its critical parts, including the high strength line guides


Penn's "positive level wind" system is perfect for anglers who are new to deep sea fishing because all you need to do is crank the reel since you don't need to feather the line on retrieve. The level wind did an excellent job of even line spooling making backlashes due to line overlap nonexistent.

Within the first hour both MP and I had already landed 6 good sized rock cod. I felt that the 320GTi was a powerhouse reel, and coupled with the Ugly Stick could handle multiple fish on the Jorgenson Shrimp flies I was using. MP on the other hand was conducting his own tests on a GLoomis/Calcutta combo which was much more suited for finessing diamond jigs on the ocean's floor. The 320GTi is a lightweight fighter that is a bit bulky for finesse lure fishing but perfectly suited for muscling big fish off the ocean floor.
 

Controlling the speed of the free spool and preventing backlashes is done with just a bit of thumb applied pressure

The 320GTi gets all its muscle from precision machined stainless steel pinion gears and bronze alloy main gears. This combination of gears is engaged to produce a powerful gear ratio of 4.3-1.

During the tests the reel performed average in terms of casting, but excellent in terms of high speed dropping to the ocean floor. Engaging the free spool is as easy as clicking a small lever on the right side of the reel. Retrieves were made much easier with a nicely designed barrel grip handle paired to a thick start drag wheel.

There were 3 occasions during this trip that I hooked multiple rock cod on the shrimp flies. In these instances I had to tighten the drag to maximum to prevent the spool from slipping while pulling on so much weight from so far down. Luckily at the tightest drag setting there was absolutely no give at all.

Large Vermillion, Copper, and Chilipepper rockfish were no match for the 320's balance of speed and power

The only strange thing that I encountered with the 320GTi was when free spooling the reel needs to be held flat. If tilted to the left the free spool physically touches the inner frame of the reel when spinning, causing the spool to decelerate and make a noticeable clicking noise.

At the end of the day both MP and I did very well, and both of us vastly surpassed our daily limit, and had to pass out the extra fish to other not so fortunate anglers. (Look for MP's upcoming review of the Calcutta) The 320GTi performed well during all tests, and I still remained surprised by the amount of power and smoothness this reel could generate with the implementation of only 2 ball bearings.

Ratings:

Penn 320GTi Ratings (?/10)

Construction/Quality Good construction and choice of materials. the graphite resists corrosion, and the stainless steel reinforces the frame 9
Performance Very strong reel that is able to muscle large fish with ease 8.5
Price A good price for a reel of this quality 8
Features Just the features you need to tackle small to medium sized ocean fish. The clicker works well, and the metal start drag is constructed to be easy to use and durable 7
Design (Ergonomics) Good design, while a bit bulky for casting and finesse lure fishing it is a excellent workhorse design with a ergonomically comfortable barrel grip 8.5
Application Serious deep sea fisherman may want more from their reels but the 320GTi is a great reel for starters or anglers who don't want to hassle with conventional casting gear. 8

Total Score

8.16


Pluses and Minuses:

                 Plus                                    Minus

J Strong Construction L Free spool issue
J Powerful performance L Won't win any beauty contests
J Surprisingly smooth  
J Good weight/power ratio  
J Good price  


Conclusion:
The 320GTi may not win any beauty contests but then again I could tell that Penn has designed the 320GTi with function over form. The 320GTi is a great reel for anglers who are more interested in catching fish then making sure your line comes in straight. This is one strong reel for its size and offers a great balance of power, speed, and smoothness for a price that makes it even more attractive.
 

Lates News: For left handed anglers Penn has just released the new 321GTi which offers the exact same features and performance in a left handed orientation.


Until next time...Tight Lines!



 

 

 

 

 

 
 





 

 



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