Man Fishing In A River

Penn Pursuit 2 vs Penn Pursuit 3 (In-Depth Comparison)

Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.

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The Penn Pursuit III

Don’t be fooled by the low price. This is a serious reel, not a throwaway one-use wonder toy. There are plenty of experienced anglers who would find value and serviceability in the pursuit.

There’s plenty of anglers who can’t wait to hear the latest news about their favorite reel manufacturer to release the new edition of their favorite fishing reel series.

Makes sense. Who wouldn’t want their favorite reel reimagined with a bunch of new fancy bits, fishing better than its predecessor, and at the same price?

There’s plenty of anglers, like me however, who love a new release in a series for another reason. It’s simply because the superseded model becomes, necessarily, cheaper.

Most manufacturers will keep the price of the new edition of a reel series very close to (if not the same as) the price of its predecessor.

The bonus is that most retailers will reduce the price of the superseded model to make way for stocks of the upgrade.

This is where savvy shoppers can get some serious bargains on reels.

So, do you go for the upgraded Penn Pursuit 3? Or do you seek out the superseded Pursuit II, taking advantage of potential run-out pricing?

Let’s review the Penn Pursuit 3, go over the upgrades, reel features and briefly revisit the pursuit II. By the end, you can decide. Is it the III the II, or does it even matter?

The 3000 Spin Reel Size

Available in six sizes from 2500 to 8000, the Penn Pursuit 3 has a reel for most fisheries.

So, why look at the 3000 size fishing gear in particular? Essentially, the 3000 size has become the inshore all-rounder. In short, it’s a very popular size, and a strong recommendation for covering most in-shore applications and fish species.

Essentially, the 3000 size has become the inshore all-rounder…

Once upon a time, this designation would have rested with the 4000 or the 5000. However, modern spinning reel technology has provided access to a large fish with a much smaller reel.

Generally speaking, a 3000 size spin reel will punch well above its considerably lightweight and compact size. It’s also never overkill for the most diminutive of panfish, particularly when spooled with a light class of line.

As spinning reel technology has advanced, so too has spinning reel capabilities. Now, hitting the inshore with a 5000 reel is more like harvesting than a sports class of fishing, unless, of course, you’re chasing huge inshore fish.

Who’s Buying the Penn Pursuit III 3000?

The Penn Pursuit 3 is a great reel and genuinely has a broad appeal. However, it sits firmly at the bottom end of entry-level pricing.

In that regard, Penn has created this spinning reel for the occasional angler, and the angler on the strictest of budgets. It’s also an excellent option for the kids or the angler who treats their gear with a level of contempt.

Don’t be fooled by the low price. This is a serious reel, not a throwaway one-use wonder toy…

Don’t be fooled by the low price. This is a serious and great reel, not a throwaway one-use wonder toy. There are plenty of experienced anglers who would find value and serviceability in the pursuit.

Where is the Penn Pursuit III 3000 Deployed?

The Penn Pursuit III 3000 is designed to be fished in the lakes, rivers, dams, ponds, and streams. It’s ideal for the fresh and the salt, land-based or afloat. It’s a really great size for kayak anglers in particular.

The Penn Pursuit III 3000 is designed to be fished in the lakes, rivers, dams, ponds, and streams…

I also like it for chasing a smaller class of fish when surf fishing, working the gutters and features close to the shore-line for fish such as flounder, pompano, and of course whiting.

The casting manners of the Pursuit are very good. Strapped to a light, 9-foot rod to 4kg, it will work beautifully in a light surf fishing for awesome sport and fun.

For all other applications, a 6 to 7-foot rod rated 3 to 7kg is a great balance.

The 3000 will dominate the inshore grounds and is an important spin reel size for many inshore anglers.

Penn Pursuit III Spinning Reel
Penn Pursuit III Spinning Reel

Would I Recommend the Penn Pursuit III 3000?

In short, yes, but with qualification. The lower entry-level spin reel market is highly competitive. All the big brands now have really cool spinning reels at a rock bottom price point. Whether or not it’s right for you depends on how it ‘feels’ for you.

I would not have recommended its predecessor, the Pursuit II. Other brands were doing base model drag systems far better.

Penn’s base model oiled felt drag technology was simply not cutting it against its competitors. It’s served Penn and its fans for many years, but technologically speaking, it’s pretty old school and is better relegated to nostalgia.

The Penn Pursuit 3 reel has Penn’s HT 100 drag system technology. This is the notable upgrade on its predecessor…

The Penn Pursuit 3 reel has Penn’s HT 100 drag system technology. This is the notable upgrade on its predecessor and ensures the Pursuit now commands consideration.

The III series has a couple of minor upgrades which I’ll go into shortly, but the drag improvement is the key new feature making it competitive. 

The Qualification

To be honest, there is very little between many of the reel brands in this category. A purchase decision will generally come down to price, availability and most of all, feel.

Feel, being a little bit X-factor, is also subjective, so it is difficult to rate it relative to its immediate competitors.

My purchase or recommendation qualification comes down to feel. It’s something a little intangible. My decision to purchase would be based on feeling the III and its competitors in my hand.

TIP

Select the Penn reels, plus three other competing reels. Have the retailer hand you each reel, but make sure your eyes are closed and the pro doesn’t tell you which reel is being handed to you.

Don’t cheat by feeling for obvious features. Just turn the handle and feel the crank. Which one ‘feels’ right to you? You may well be surprised at the results. 

Penn Pursuit III Upgrades from its Predecessor

The new Pursuit 3 reel is the third incarnation of the Pursuit series and was released at ICAST 2018.

there are a couple of significant changes that make the III a far more competitive spin reel…

While the upgrades are modest in number, there are a couple of significant changes that make the III a far more competitive spin reel in this class.

With the Pursuit II having hit the market back in 2013, one could argue the update was due right about now.

Let’s take a look at the upgrades.

The HT 100 Drag System

The Pursuit 3 features HT 100 carbon fiber drag system to ensure smooth operation and this is by far the biggest and best upgrade. The old oiled felt drag tech, while effective enough for a while, would quickly need servicing due to loss of oil and washer deterioration.

I’m aware of anglers who frequently changed the washers, but this sort of maintenance effort seems way over the top for a reel at this low price point.

With the addition of the HT100 drag system, the Pursuit 3 now has a reliable and predictable drag system…

With the addition of the HT 100 drag system, the Pursuit 3 now has a reliable and predictable drag system that won’t require regular maintenance or repairs. The HT100 carbon fiber drag washers won’t fail you under the load of a personal best.

It’s a solid and smooth drag system that’ll handle the rough stuff. Its inclusion has thrown the Pursuit up quite a few levels of performance relative to its predecessor.

Penn Pursuit III Gear Ratio
Penn Pursuit III Gear Ratio

Gear Speed Upgrade

I’m not sure what might have inspired Penn toward the speed upgrade. While the II had a regular 5.2 ratio, the new Penn Pursuit 3 has a gear ratio 6.2 1.

There are many casual anglers and weekend danglers for whom this upgrade will mean little. Most won’t notice or care.

experienced budget-driven anglers will be very pleased. The speed increase will allow them flip and pitch far more effectively…

However, experienced budget-driven anglers will be very pleased. The speed increase will allow them flip and pitch far more effectively, without compromising its ability to work cranks at a suitable speed.

Super Line Gasket

A small addition, but useful for braid anglers in particular. It’s ideal for preventing annoying line slippage when spooling up, and also avoids the need for a mono backing.

It may help in a long battle when the fish has taken most of your line – again, preventing line slippage.

This is no biggie. I think (if cynically) this addition is to provide a visual indication of an upgrade, as all of the other upgrades are internal.

New Reel Size

The Pursuit 3 from Penn reels now offers a 2500 size. A little research suggests that this addition is due to requests from Penn fans. While this review is about the 3000, this addition to the series deserves a mention.

The 2500 is very light and suitable only for a smaller class of fish or finesse style fishing…

The 2500 is very light and suitable only for a smaller class of fish or finesse style fishing. This could indicate that Pursuit users are not only weekend, casual anglers.

The 2500 size, generally speaking, appeals to serious finesse anglers. This suggests the Pursuit series has a strong fan base amongst experienced yet budget-conscious anglers. 

Other Notable Pursuit III Features

The following Penn Pursuit III features are notable inclusions carried over from the Pursuit II.

Penn Pursuit III 4+1 Bearing System
Penn Pursuit III 4+1 Bearing System

4+1 Stainless Steel Bearing System

Stainless bearings ensure the Pursuit III spinning reel has reasonable saltwater credentials. That’s good news for saltwater anglers. It won’t save your reel from water and dirt ingress, but the reel will last longer if cared for. There’s no stopping corrosion without diligent cleaning.

Two bearings on the main gear and two on the pinion gear delivers a smooth gear system anglers would love and a strong feeling crank. The gears feel tightly meshed and strong. The bearings work in concert with the instant anti-reverse, providing a feel more in keeping with an expensive model spin reel.

Ultra Lightweight and Corrosion-resistant Graphite Body

I’m not a fan of graphite bodies. But this certainly keeps the weight and price down, while adding a level of durability and potential longevity.

I think the full metal side plate and Aluminum spool goes a long way in compensating for the graphite body.

The metal side plate should protect the gears and ensure they stay aligned.

Instant Anti-Reverse

I have used expensive reels with an anti-reverse but they are nowhere near as good compared to the Pursuit 3.

Its instant-anti reverse eliminates even the slightest rotor back-play and provides far more secure hook-ups more often. These days, this feature should be a standard inclusion on every spinning reel. No points for Penn including it here. It should be there.

Model: Pursuit III 3000

  • Ratio: 6.2:1
  • Mono Capacity (yds/lb): 200 yds /8lb 
  • Braid Capacity (yds/lb): 250yds /15lb 
  • Max Drag (kg):5.4 
  • Retrieve (cm): 89
  • Weight (g): 335 
  • HT-100 carbon fiber drag system
  • Instant Anti-Reverse
  • Lightweight and corrosion-resistant graphite body
  • 4+1 stainless steel bearing system
  • Machined, double anodized aluminum spool
  • Line Capacity Rings
  • Superline Spool 

See the full features and specifications.

Alternatives to the Pursuit III

As I mentioned earlier, the lower entry-level category is a highly competitive category. There are several competitors that will be an option for those seeking a 3000 spin reel at this price point.

It’s worth stating now, that its predecessor the Pursuit II is not one of those options. Despite the fact you may find a Pursuit II at a significantly reduced price, other reels are better.

I’ve included 3 selections here but it’s worth noting that there are many more. Keep in mind I’ve done my best to match apples with apples, keeping the price point as close as possible.

Shimano NEXAVE 3000

For only a few extra dollars you get a much lighter, much more powerful reel. The sacrifice is one less bearing than the Pursuit III spinning reel but I challenge anybody to feel the difference.

Shimano NEXAVE 3000

For only a few extra dollars you get a much lighter, much more powerful reel. The sacrifice is one less bearing than the Pursuit 3 but I challenge anybody to feel the difference.

  • XT-7 body
  • 3+1 Shielded stainless steel ball bearings
  • Single-piece aluminum handle
  • Ratio: 6.2:1
  • Mono Capacity: 6lb/230yds, 8lb/170yds, 10lb/140yds
  • Braid Capacity:10lb /200yds, 20 lb /140yds
  • Drag: 8.5kg
  • Weight: 260g 

Specs

  • XT-7 body
  • 3+1 Shielded stainless steel ball bearings
  • Single-piece aluminum handle
  • Ratio: 6.2:1
  • Mono: 6lb/230yds, 8lb/170yds, 10lb/140yds
  • Braid:10lb /200yds, 20 lb /140yds
  • Drag: 8.5kg
  • Weight: 260g
  • See the full specs for the Shimano NEXAVE 3000

Okuma Ceymar

The Okuma might suit the more experienced angler, it’s a classier reel and certainly, a better-looking reel with its striking colors

Okuma Ceymar

A much lighter reel with 3 more bearings. However, while it is noticeably giving smooth retrieves, the Ceymar has a much slower retrieve.

The max drag is marginally more powerful, but I believe the Penn spinning reels might be more robust. 

The Okuma might suit the more experienced angler, it’s a classier reel and certainly, a better-looking reel with its striking colors and aggressive spool porting; however, the slower retrieve makes the Okuma a little less versatile.

Specs

  • 7+1 Ball bearings
  • Brass pinion gear – machine cut
  • Body: Graphite narrow body design
  • Spool: Aluminium
  • Handle: Aluminium
  • EVA knob handles
  • Heavy-duty bail wire
  • Gear ratio: 5.0:1
  • Mono Line Capacity: 0.2/240, 0.25/120 or 0.30/110
  • Weight: 232 grams
  • Max drag: 6kg
  • Line Retrieve cm per crank: 64cm
  • See the full specs for the Okuma Ceymar

Abu Garcia BLACK MAX 3000

The Black Max is very basic but definitely robust. It’s lighter, with a more powerful drag.

Abu Garcia BLACK MAX 3000

The Black Max is very basic but definitely robust. It’s lighter, with a more powerful drag. There is one less bearing and the crank feels a little less solid than the Pursuit.

However, the ABU Everlast bail system, slow oscillation, Rocket line management system and Rocket spool lip design combine to deliver better casting manners.

Specs

  • 3 + 1 bearings
  • Lightweight graphite body and rotor
  • Machined aluminum spool
  • Everlast bail system
  • Slow Oscillation
  • Rocket line management system
  • Rocket Spool Lip Design
  • Weight: 261g
  • Drag: 6kg
  • Ratio: 5.1:1
  • Mono Line Capacity: 150 yards/6kg
  • See the full specs for the Abu Garcia BLACK MAX 3000

The Penn Pursuit III 3000 Verdict

This is definitely one reel where I’d seek out the upgraded model instead of trying to save some money by purchasing its predecessor. The Pursuit III spinning reel is unquestionably better than the Pursuit II.

The Pursuit series was a very solid spinning reel right from the get-go. However, it was always let down by an older style drag system, clearly inferior to its competitors.

The Pursuit series was a very solid spin reel right from the get-go. However, it was always let down by an older style drag system…

This is a great reel series where brand, accessible pricing, and a solid, smooth feel were driving sales. The first two Pursuits were never on my radar, however, due to the felt drag system.

The inclusion of the HT100 drag system to their reels has changed that completely. The upgrade has made the Pursuit a strong competitor, not only because of price and brand but now more importantly, because of its improved performance.

Stronger and More Durable

The drag is stronger, more predictable, smoother, more reliable and with durable construction. Importantly, it leaves the old system for dead in terms of longevity.

With the Penn Pursuit 3, you’ll now have a reel that will last many jam-packed seasons, as opposed to just a couple…

I never really understood why anglers would purchase the Pursuit I or II, knowing that a few extra bucks would be rewarded with a far stronger, more reliable and smooth drag system.

Faster is Better (In this Case)

The upgrade in gear speed is also a significant improvement because it delivers a greater level of versatility.

As I said earlier, this feature will only appeal to the more experienced angler, but the option to flip and pitch with greater efficiency will be appreciated by many. 

It’s Still a Great Looking Reel

In terms of aesthetics, the pursuit hasn’t changed that much, if at all. It’s a great looking reel with a slick multi-tone black theme. The porting, alloy spool and line capacity rings add notable cosmetic highlights.

In terms of aesthetics, the pursuit hasn’t changed that much…

I also like the look of the oversized bail wire. Not only does this have a cosmetic appeal like the line capacity rings, but it will also stand up to the bumps, scrapes and pressure, better than the thinner gauge wire.

A Solid Smooth Feel

The feel has never changed. It’s been very solid and smooth from its inception. The Penn Pursuit 3 carries the distinct solid, reliable Penn feel that instills confidence. It maintains a stealthy, more refined look, while being more robust at heart.

The Graphite Body

For me, the only drawback is the graphite body. I’d rather go full metal and take the hit of a weight increase than use graphite.

I know the change to a full metal body would increase the price, but again, the extra few money you spend would be worth it.

A Final Word

I feel the Pursuit series has made a huge leap forward by relegating the old felt drag system. The HT 100 inclusion alone makes the Penn Pursuit 3 a worthy choice for the dollars.

Forget the Pursuit II. Despite the fact that every other feature on the II, apart from the drag, is good, it’ll never be cheap enough to warrant selecting it over the Penn Pursuit 3.

If you’re on a strict budget or just starting out fishing, the Penn Pursuit 3 is a good reel that offers great value and a performance that is genuinely better than its price point suggests.

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Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.
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