PENN International VISX Series – A Bluefin Experience

We were slowly sliding south down “The 5” surrounded by six lanes of thousands of vehicles headed the same way when a couple calls came in that immediately dropped. A call back got a recording that said the satellite phone was unavailable at this time.

We were on our way to fish an overnight trip on the Impulse, a 42 Bertram based out of Dana Landing in Mission Bay and run by Capt. Matt Barlow, who also happens to sell saltwater tackle for PENN.

The boat is a great choice to fish with family and friends of all skill levels – super comfortable and, best of all, the rod racks are filled with all the latest PENN reels, including the new International VISX series.

The phone rang again. Barlow was on the line and he offered an option. An option to get a taste of the amazing local Southern California offshore featuring bluefin tuna over 200-pounds and up into 300’s.

The big bluefin had hammered the Flat Fall jigs off San Clemente Island the night before and we could change the trip to a 1 1/2-day run, head 100 miles out to fish the morning yellowtail bite on the Cortez Bank and then slip back in to the backside of the island and look for schools on the Furuno.

What’s another grand and a dawn drive home a bit late to everyday life compared to a lifetime experience? We were all in.

The yellowtail cooperated, dozens hooked and a dozen landed. The sea was incredibly flat and calm on the Cortez, a reef known for giant surf. During the afternoon ride to Clemente, Barlow talked about the new International VISX’s he had aboard.

PENN International“As always, the reels are built in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “They come in a 12, a 16 and a 20, which is new to the VI series, a 30 and a 50 and are all available either in silver or gold.

“The reels were definitely designed with West Coast fishing in mind,” he added. “They are lighter, freespool better, and, this is one of my favorite features, have a quiet anti-reverse, so when you are fishing Flat Falls or other jigs, you don’t have a ratcheting noise all the time you are turning the handle.”

PENN International“There’s also an adjustable strike zone, so you can hone in where your drag settings are, and the tolerances are a lot tighter,” Barlow noted. “They are built from a single one-piece aluminum frame and feature our top-of-the-line, patented Dura drag washers which are basically the longest lasting, strongest drags that have ever been built. They all have PENN’s upgraded drag cam, so you get more drag range.”

PENN InternationalBarlow explained why the International VISX series is very much geared towards West Coast live bait fishing and jig fishing,

“My favorite thing about the 12, 16 and 20 is they are just very easy to handle, it feels like you have a lighter reel in your hand. Even though you have a 20 size or 16 you can fish it all day, they are very comfortable to fish,” Matt added. “The 50 is a perfect reel for the long range guys who like to fish the PL68 (a 16-ounce lure).

“The Internationals VISX are narrower reels that still have a lot of line capacity and every reel in the series is topless (no crossbar). It’s easier to manage a narrower reel.

PENN International“Locally for the Flat Fall, I prefer the 12 and the 16. We fish 80#- to 100# braid and a top shot of 75-yards of 80#- to 100# mono to our leader,” said Barlow as the island grew larger on the horizon.  Close enough that off to starboard the Pegasus deployed its Boston kite.

PENN International“The new 50 International VISX is great for skipping the Yummee Flyer around, it holds a bunch of line and the spool is narrowed out a little bit so you get even more capacity,” Barlow noted as he glassed the surrounding waters. “And we really like it when we hook a Yummee fish on the new 70 International VIS.”

Kite bites before dark had been a solid pattern and boats crisscrossed as the sky went from orange to black and we spread out along the rails of the Impulse, dropping jigs on a sonar school. No bites on this one.

“Oh my gosh, this is the biggest school of bluefin I have ever seen on the screen, drop ‘em, they’re at 20 fathoms,” yelled Matt from the bridge. “Oh man we have to get bit on this one!”

We did, three times. First time the jig unbuttoned. Next an excited angler pushed the drag too far and the lure snapped off. The third time was the charm as this writer got to experience the gobbling bite the Flat Fall induces.

PENN International VISXA heavy fish, the bluefin ran straight out, was coerced inward by the smooth power of the International’s two speeds – high was definitely needed during the typical head wrenching runs straight at the boat. An easy shift to low speed when the fish was straight up and down and really heavy. It was still heavy with three gaffs in it. More than 200-pounds of tuna slid through the transom door. Jubilation was in order.

PENN International VISX“I can’t say enough about the International VISX reels, they are a smooth, lighter reel with the big punch of an International,” concluded Barlow. “I fish them a lot and they perform. I like their silence and they are deadly.”

Learn more about PENN rods and reels on BD.

Outdoor journalist Rich Holland has spent his life chasing the next bite and offers a fisherman's perspective on any topic.