Stick With Your Strengths – Penn 2-Speed

1989 Penn reel ad.

The 2-speed gearing concept wasn’t a new idea in reels even in the 1980s. Back in the 30s and 40s machinists tinkered with the idea in order to give anglers more of an advantage while fighting large saltwater fish such as marlin and tuna. The concept was always good but the technology of the time lent a lot to be desired.

Then in the ‘80s, Penn developed what would become the benchmark of 2-speed reels for saltwater. The reels were simple to operate, had limited breakage and flat out worked when hung to a 300-pound tuna or 1000-pound black marlin.

So, with all the attention they were getting from the salty folks, Penn decided it was time to design and manufacture a 2-speed reel for bass anglers. The Speed Shifter 2000 (for some reason Bas-o-Matic ’76 comes to mind here) would change the bass fishing scene forever. It had a 6.0:1 gear ratio for those times you needed speed and a 2.0:1 ratio for those times you needed power. It even had a setting, called Variable Lure Setting (VLS), on its automatic transmission that would change back and forth between the two gears in order to, “…(give) a crankbait or spoon the erratic action that draws more strikes.”

The reel didn’t weigh much more than its competitors but the size of the reel was large – speaking conservatively. It was more like one of the reels anglers use to fish downriggers.

I never used one nor did I know anyone else who did, which is probably why it didn’t last long. Is there anyone out there who had one? What did you think of it?

  • Didn’t try the Pen, but did try a 2 speed Ambassadeur for a few months. Clunky would be a kind term for it.

  • Chris

    I have one of the old Shimano Bantam Black Magnum II 2 speeds, although I’ve never handled one that worked well! Looks cool on the shelf anyway…

  • wayne

    Ive owned one since they first came out in the 80s, and still use it. Its a tank. It works well, and is great for surface fishing on the pads. the one drawback is once youve pulled the fish free of the pads, sometimes they swimm toward you, and the slow retrieve makes it impossible to catch up.

    • onesonek

      Mine is still going strong after buying when they came out. I like it for charging fish too. Once I got use to to it, settings came easy.