I live in Philly, and Penn (basically a family-owned business) was recently sold to a bigger company. The old line of Penn Reels are still being made here in Philly (for now), but I'd be sceptical of any new items with a Penn label. You can see on Ebay how the value of "old" Penn reels have gone up, and there was a recent thread where members wrote how their old Penns (up to 45 years old) still work like new. Penn has introduced liveliners and smaller baitcasting reels in an effort to compete with Shimano and newcomer TICA.
I have no idea how the new models will work out, but the fact that larger companies usually sacrifice quality for a better looking bottom line doesn't bode well for Penn. Plus the Penn factory is unionized (which corporate types hate), and there is no room for expansion. Chances are the PENN name will go the way of Mitchell reels (I still have a few of the cherished "made in France" reels...)
i've got two jarvis walekr reels, BG5500's. for the price i think they are generally well made, and i have had no problems, the drag is the only thing i don't care much for.
the drag is smooth enough for the price of the reel but it does not have much range of adjustment. you go from just about right for 15 lb line to locked down in a very short time, not much more adjustment available. it may be possible to improve on that i have not taken one apart to play with yet, but it might be tough to land a large fish with one of these reels.
i have them on diawa sealine-x surf rods of 8 and 9 feet and i can cast either 350 feet, they will throw further when i get some more practice.
all in all for the $34 i paid including shipping i think they are a good buy. i don't live near the ocean and so i can only surf fish once a year on vacation and i am confident these will do the job fine for me. i would also think they would be a good back-up to keep in the tackle box. If you are looking for a lifetime reel, look at something else.
you might also compare the price at www.jamestackle.com which is where i got mine, james is not fast but he is a good guy and has fair pricing.
hope that helps
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