Our overall rating:4
- Rugged reel with all metal body, spool, bail, and handle
- Nice range of models that covers most fishing applications
- One of the best gear systems that rival upper echelon reels
- Two anti-reverse mechanism
- Sealed Drag system
- Finely tuned drag adjustments across its range
- Excellent oversized grip knob on handle
- Even oscillation system
- Average casting ability
- Poor Bearing placement
- Some areas are saltwater susceptible
- Drag wears down quicker than it should
- No ultralight model.
The PENN Fishing Tackle Company has been an American fishing institution since the early 1930’s and produces trusted reels for both fresh and saltwater fishing, including the topic of this review, the PENN® Clash™ spinning reel.
In this PENN Clash review, we will not only look at technical features of the Penn Clash but how these features translate to performance on the water.
Key Features of the PENN Clash
The PENN Clash is available in seven models. Like any series of reels, they range from smaller to larger reels for different fishing application:
- CLA 2000: 8.2oz
- CLA 2500: 8.5oz
- CLA 3000: 10.2oz
- CLA 4000: 10.7oz
- CLA 5000: 16.9oz
- CLA 6000: 20.7oz
- CLA 8000: 27.2oz
Maybe the only issue with these models is the lack of a true ultralight reel. Besides this, they have models covering most fishing applications.
The reel features a visually pleasing black gloss and matte finish with gold accents. The overall reel might seem a little bulky, but that because it’s built like a tank!
While PENN is an American based company, these reels are made in China.
While the quality is still excellent, it is a little odd how PENN tries to hide this with a tiny hidden sticker. While nothing appears wrong with the reel, it does make you question their intentions.
One of the biggest selling points for the PENN Clash is the all-metal body including an aluminum spool, side plates, bail, and handle.
The larger models feature an aluminum rotor as well while the 2000-4000 models feature a carbon graphite rotor.
This design gives the Clash incredible durability and provides a reel that resists flexing when pressure is put on it from working fish.
The aluminum body is also going to resist corrosion well.
The body is sealed in several key areas, but there are some access points on the reel for salt accumulation. If submerged for any amount of time you will need to do a thorough cleaning.
CNC (Computer Numerical Control) gear technology optimizes gear to gear contact and fitting.
The 2000-5000 models use a brass pinion gear and aluminum drive gear. The 6000 and 8000 models use both a brass pinion and brass drive gear.
It’s not only the craftsmanship and material of the gears that have put this system near the top of any spinning reel gear list, but the postings and bushings used for support are also well designed and sturdy.
Gear Ratios and Line Retrieval Rates:
- CLA 2000: 6.2:1, 30” retrieval rate
- CLA 2500: 6.2:1, 33” retrieval rate
- CLA 3000: 6.2:1, 35” retrieval rate
- CLA 4000: 6.2:1, 37” retrieval rate
- CLA 5000: 5.6:1, 36” retrieval rate
- CLA 6000: 5.6:1, 41” retrieval rate
- CLA 8000: 4.7:1, 40” retrieval rate
The spools are made from anodized aluminum for durability and resistance to malformation.
All spools are designed with a textured gasket and allows for direct braid attachment to the spool. The spool also features line capacity rings along the base for easy monitoring.
Oscillation and Line Management
PENN uses a Leveline Oscillation system that keeps the rotor at a constant speed that lays down line evenly across the spool regardless of the amount of pressure and speed being put onto the reel.
This is due to a reduction gear that slows down the spin of the oscillation gear and keeps it on an even keel.
The line roller on the bail has shown some issues for some consumers. The roller on some reels is not set correctly in the bail arm and can hinder smooth line retrieval and proper line management.
PENN uses its renown sealed HT-100 carbon fiber drag system. It is a top stacked drag system that uses both stainless steel and carbon fiber washers.
It also utilizes a wave spring for laying down the pressure. The adjustment knob on the top of the spool is easy to access.
PENN always has exceptional max drag pressures as shown here:
- CLA 2000: 10lb
- CLA 2500: 12lb
- CLA 3000: 15lb
- CLA 4000: 15lb
- CLA 5000: 20lb
- CLA 6000: 25lb
- CLA 8000: 30lb
All models of the PENN clash feature an 8+1 bearing system with eight stainless steel ball bearings that are sealed. These bearings support the handle, spool, and gears within the reel.
For whatever reason, PENN does have some odd placements of the bearings on the Clash.
One of these are the two bearings on the pinion gear that makes the spin of the reel feel tight when the reel comes out of the box.
It also has an odd placement of a bearing supporting the spool that doesn’t seem to serve any purpose at all.
They also feature an instant anti-reverse bearing that prevents back play.
While not an actual bearing we did want to mention in this section that the Clash features a backup anti-reverse system in case of the first failing.
Handle and Bail
All models use a thick aluminum bail that features a friction trip ramp that keeps the bail from closing prematurely during the cast.
The Clash models also feature an aluminum handle that can be oriented for both left and right-handed users.
All models feature an oversized EVA foam handle that grips well and is easy to clean.
How does it Perform
What the all-metal body provides you is a reel that is going to keep turning and cranking regardless of the pressure put on it.
When you work a large fish, often the body flexes or torques out of shape.
With this body design, the Clash can resist and funnel more power through the gear system to land those trophy fish.
When you have a huge fish on the end of your line, the reel is going to perform near as well as simply retrieving your lure. This is also helped with the housing, but the way these gears stay aligned is incredible.
The gears are going to perform this way for a long time, due to the Dura-Gear technology that PENN uses to create durable and long lasting drive, oscillation, and pinion gears.
Gear Ratios and line retrieval rates
They are all slightly above average regarding gear ratios, but their line retrieval is up around the top of most lists.
These are great reels for moderate to faster lure retrieval speeds and can get a good amount of line back on the spool quickly.
You’re not going to have any issue with holding a decent amount of line of Clash spools, whether it’s mono, braid, of fluorocarbon.
You can pack a lot of braid on the line since it is designed to attach braid directly to the spool without the fear of it slipping.
There is nothing fancy about the lip design or angle and that hurts the reels casting performance some. It will work well for short and medium casts, but it’s definitely lacking compared to other top name spinning reel brands.
The line capacity rings on the spool are useful for monitoring the amount of line usage and knowing if you are going to have to start upping the pressure on large, running fish. For the 6000 and 8000 models, it’s a really nice feature.
Oscillation and Line Management
Whether retrieving a light lure or a fat bass, the rotor on the Clash does not show wobble and will consistently lay line throughout the entire spool.
The issue that occurs with the line management system is at the line roller on the ball bearing.
The big problem is that over time it will become looser if not fixed and you’re going to get a lot more line twist which is going to result in tangles and knots within your line.
Your never going to need more drag pressure on these reels.
The top stacking design with the wave spring also puts a smooth and consistent drag throughout the entirety of the reels range, which is important when you are trying to work larger, more aggressive fish.
The drag adjustment is also fantastic, and you can fine tune your drag pressure with ease. The drag is also sealed and is perfect for saltwater applications.
The problem with the HT-100 drag system on the Clash is PENN cut back on a number of washers used.
The way they designed the remaining washers, puts a lot of stress on both sides.
While the drag functions fine, the problem is the washers will wear out a lot quicker than they should.
The eight stainless steel bearings used on all models are also rubber sealed for to keep them from corroding. The quality of the bearings are great, and they help support and keep part moving smoothly while on the water.
There are some questionable design issues with where the bearings are put, but for the most part, it will not affect performance.
The bearings on the pinion gear do make the spin of the reel feel tight, but it seems to loosen up over time.
The two anti-reverse mechanism on the Clash are exceptional, and you won’t feel any back play in the gears or spool. It also allows you to have maximum hook setting ability when on the water.
Handle and Bail
We like the both the bail and handle on the PENN Clash. The bail can take a little extra force to close, but it is worth it for the confidence that is not going to close from getting tapped when casting.
The handle is extremely durable, and it’s not going to warp when you have to lay some cranking power into it.
The large EVA knob is also easy to grip and handle during any conditions you might encounter.
Is the PENN Clash for You?
With this reels performance and value, it’s a reel for anyone. It’s a good reel for beginners or anglers who are looking for a better performing reel without needing a loan taken out, and it’s also a great backup reel for anglers with a higher end primary reel.
With all the reel models available you can find one that is great for bass, muskie, and pike in freshwater settings to light and heavy saltwater species in the surf, flats, or open ocean.
The PENN Clash is not the greatest spinning reel to ever break into the market.
It doesn’t have all of the frills as some spinning reels, but what it does have is a solid design, with solid base components that perform admirably.
It has a few design flaws, but they don’t overshadow the pros of this spinning reel. If you get this reel in the water, you’re going to be happy with it.