Testing the Penn Battle

When I skied 100 days a year in Alaska I thought it would be perfect to own a ski shop, not so much to make a living but to be able to test every new pair of boards that came out that year. My write offs would have been huge, I probably wouldn’t have made it two quarters, but I sure wish I pulled the trigger back then.

Well I’m not making the same mistake today almost 20 years later the passion is fishing instead of skiing, and yeap I own a store that sells tackle. I am really hoping that, being a bit wiser and heaps older, I don’t go broke, and my sales balance out my write offs but this is a pretty cool opportunity to test new stuff.

Again back in the old Alaskan days I was a product researcher and tester for LL Bean, you would never knew what Bean would send you, a fly rod, a set of back country skies, or a pair of hiking boots.

A box would arrive by FedEx and we took it out into the mountains and rivers and did our best to tear up whatever those Mainers sent us.

There is a lot to be said for not having a sponsor’s feelings to worry about and taking an item you paid for, to see if it would hold up in the field. It makes for a pretty unbiased test, and of course I throw in a little Bean attitude.

So with all that said, let’s take this 2000 Penn Battle to battle; this is a hundred dollar rod and reel combo, (I have leader material that costs a hundred dollars!) but under close scrutiny it just feels and looks like a much higher end unit. I loaded it up full with 10-pound test Power Pro, and put together a testing plan.

First I’d take it trout fishing down at the new Port Richey Power plant, use it as it was designed for, catching trout and ladyfish. Then lets see…I’ll take it grouper fishing, the red grouper should be moving back inshore and a fifteen pound red should put it though the Bean phase, (You know I just love this stuff…)

As a trout rod the little Battle will cast a small, light-rigged live shrimp 100 feet with ease, and loaded with braid it is super sensitive. The little reel has a max drag around 7 lbs., so this is no cobia reel but a nice trout will pull some string.

This is a nice rig for the money, the 6 and a half-foot rod has some backbone. I caught a few nice jacks and some big size spanish mackerel, so the Battle had a good go. The outfit cleaned up nice with a fresh water bath and chamois, nothing busted, and it was the perfect match for these fish.

When Grouper fishing a few days later, there were no grouper present, but heaps of 14 inch grunts and small sea bass. I had some fun with it, but realize a legal red grouper is probably not a good idea on this little trout rod, so I was a bit relieved that a grouper didn’t bust my stuff.

The little battle now two fishing days old is still looking new after a bath, still nothing busted, still hasn’t earned the Bean rating yet. Day three, another excuse for me to not really go to work, I mumble to Maggie I gotta go do an assignment, have a dead line, or something stupid and sneak by her. Back down to the power plant, it’s a Saturday so the canal is crowded. I walked down the beach and had a nice incoming tide. The little Battle’s test this morning is going to be finding a couple of reds. Inshore, I’ve become addicted to Savage Shrimp, because they work; so armed with a pocket of Savage and the Penn Battle, day three is off the shelf, going fishing. We do find a small school of keeper reds, but I forgot, not a good idea to sneak my chocolate lab Abby onto the beach and try to catch fish right after duck season just ended.

Day Four, I know this is starting to get a bit silly. Another day of “ummm… I’ll be right back” and without ‘thinks every things a duck’ Labrador, I am back looking for a school of red fish. At the end of a quiet and peaceful walk though the tidal flats I caught a few trout and a couple small reds but nothing big.

The Penn Battle has done it’s job, held up well to fish in the size range it is meant to catch, and now I have a whole rack of for sale at the store. I’ve concluded that these are pretty good little spinning outfits for a hundred bucks.

The Battle reels come in 8 different sizes and Penn has done a really good job matching a good quality spinning rod to the reels, offering a good combo for a really good deal. I can only give thumbs up to the one size outfit the blt 2000; it holds 225 yards of ten-pound test power pro has a 6.2:1 ratio, (so it is pretty quick) and a max drag of 7 pounds.

I have had a lot of fun handing the Battle to buddies to take a few photos of them catching fish on the little rod, and it has become a favorite thing to toss in my truck each morning, just in case I need to go catch a trout. When the cobia start showing I’ll have to sneak a 7,000 Battle out the back door.

Yep, no doubt owning that ski shop back then would have been pretty cool, but a tackle shop works better for 50-year-old knees.

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Capt. Mark S. “Corky” Decker is an IGFA-certified captain, freelance writer and a proven world-class billfish guide. He grew up commercial fishing on the East Coast, prior to quitting college and relocating to Alaska to cash in on the booming fisheries of the 1980s. After almost 20 years of incredible success, it all suddenly came crashing down with a looming federal lawsuit for illegal fishing practices that changed a whole way of life — not just for him but for commercial fishermen in general.

 At age 40 Corky ran away to the South Pacific to start over, fishing for marlin and writing about the sport. Today, Corky's home port is Destin, Florida, where he lives with his New Zealand-born wife, Maggie. Corky recently completed his first novel To See A Green Flash and is currently working on a sequel to his personal memoir A Hardway to Make an Easy Living. In the Spring of 2012 Corky came full circle yet again and purchased a Maine harpoon boat to pursue the fish of his youth — giant bluefin tuna. He fishes out of Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, Maine, during the summer — where his passion for fishing began. To find out more about Corky and order one of his books, visit corkydecker.com.