Tackle Talk – The Penn Fathom Multiplier range

Kyle Waterhouse reports in the launch of the new Penn reel

This September saw the launch of PENN’s latest multiplier, the Fathom® II star drag. Like anything new from Penn, it’s been much-anticipated and there has been a great deal of hype among shore anglers for it. They have long awaited a new mag braked casting reel and though perhaps a long-distance casting reel is of less interest to our boat audience here, there has been some upgrades to the star drag boat reels too. I’m sure the Penn range must be a favourite among some of our readers, though if not, let me help shed some light.

A workhorse

The Fathom range has long been known as a workhorse multiplier and a like a lot of Penn products, it’s become a skipper’s favourite. Boat angling requires a certain degree of ruggedness and many reels just won’t stand up to the rigours it. This is where Penn has forged its reputation in the fishing world and the Fathom range is built to be solid, dependable and powerful.


Before we look closer at the upgrades to the new star drag reels, let me explain the different models in the Fathom line up. I’ll openly admit that even as someone who works with the brand, and has a strong interest in boat fishing, it has taken a while to get acquainted with all the different versions. Many of the reels share similar features, though these are often not very well understood so I’ll try my best to also explain the differences between them throughout this article.

Star Drags and Level Winds

The new Fathom 2-star drag is a direct replacement for the first-generation of Fathom star drags which were released right back in 2011! This new release brings all the Fathom 2 family in line with one and other, as last year the level wind versions were upgraded. Now it is the turn of the standard cages to follow suit and all now share the same core features including Versa Drags and HT-100 washers as well as the addition of the Fast Gear Access Side Plates.

HT-100 Drag

In case you were wondering what HT-100 stands for, well let me explain. The ‘HT’ of the name stands for ‘High Tech’ and the 100 means that the original testing ran the equivalent of 100 miles of fishing line against the full drag of a reel without any significant change to the drag washers. A quite significant feat when you consider that length and power compared to standard fishing applications!


Lever Drags

The next level up in the Fathom range is the Lever Drag which allows additional control so it can be set perfectly below the breaking strain of your line. The Lever Drag versions use what’s called the Dura Drag system. Dura-Drag is a variation, rather than an alternative, to the HT-100 which is present in nearly all the Penn reels now. Dura-Drag washers contain a special Phenolic bonding agent which prevents the premature breakdown of the material while also providing a water barrier. This improves the drag performance, giving it a silky-smooth feel from the start and right through the entire drag run. In practice, this means you also don’t need to grease the washers like many do with HT-100.

With the lever drag there is also the option to make very slight adjustments should the fight dictate and the adjustment itself is also visual, i.e. you can see how much drag is set without feeling it. The lever drag is viewed as an upgrade to a star drag and fetches a higher price tag for this reason. These versions are generally chosen by anglers targeting very hard fighting fish when an absolute certainty of drag pressure is required. In layman’s terms there’s less faffing with a lever and it’s also worth noting that these versions are not available with level winds either. This is usually desired by anglers who use heavy rubbing leaders and wind-ons as these can jam in a level wind system if you’re not careful.

2 Speeds

At the top end of the Fathom line-up is the Lever Drag 2-speed option which offers all of the above lever drag features, as well as a manually selectable Quick Shift two speed system. This offer a switch between 5.5:1 and a torque filled 2.8:1 and is highly desired by deep water anglers and those who visit Scotland and Norway targeting species such as common skate and deep-water cod and halibut. The 2 speed Lever Drag is at the very top end of the Fathom range, though the Squall also offers the same 2 speed configuration for a little bit less money, should that be a factor in your decision.

So, it would appear, there’s a Fathom for everyone and determining what one you want from this line up is usually just a matter of budget and personal preference. The new 2019 star drag reels now have the same features as the level wind versions that Penn launched last year. Many of which make the reel more rigid, rugged and even more angler friendly than ever before. Probably none more so than the fast gear access side plate which makes self-servicing a doddle.

Fast Gear Access Side Plate

Historically, opening multipliers has always been a bit of a worry since you must get the darn thing back together again without losing any parts or misaligning it. Nowadays, with a Penn Fathom 2, any cack-handed angler (like me) can service their gears and drag quickly and efficiently. Simply remove 4 screws and you’re in and there’s also no worry of any micro parts shooting out and getting lost, as its self-contained. Saltwater really is a nightmare so we think this upgrade is a brilliant idea and a simple tube of Penn reel grease will help to maintain your reels for much longer.

Here’s the full spec for the new 2019 Fathom 2 Star Drags that are now available in all Penn stockists.


  • Full metal body and side plates
  • Fast gear access side plate
  • Machine-cut marine grade bronze main gear with hardened stainless-steel pinion
  • Versa-Drag™ system with HT-100™ washers
  • Live Spindle with free floating spool
  • Line capacity rings
  • 6 shielded stainless-steel ball bearing system
  • Instant anti-reverse bearing
  • RRP £159.99-£195.99