The Best Big Game Fishing Reel


A person holding a microphone and pipe

When talking about big game fishing reels, no other reels get glorified more than the two “gold standards”. The Penn International and the Shimano Tiagra. Both reels are constantly under serious pressure to perform during big-game tournaments around the world. They have reached legendary status by successfully landing world record fish, reliably and consistently. Plenty of charter captains around the world either fish Internationals or Tiagras exclusively, and for a good reason.

They are highly reliable, durable, and are made with the best components available. Both have rich histories and have been battle-tested for decades, further solidifying the trust between anglers and equipment.

Which one is best for me?

A person sitting on a rock

If you are planning to invest in bulletproof game fishing reels for your boat, you will not go wrong with either of them. But you’ll still have to choose right? In the ideal world, it would be great to be able to own both Tiagras and Internationals. But the deciding factors will be divided into two main categories.

Ease of maintenance and personal preference.

A person sitting at a table with a box of food

A third deciding factor could be aesthetics or looks. Some like their equipment to be uniform. But this is minor. Most anglers will be happy if the reel catches fish without breaking. Both reels are similarly priced so budget constraints won’t be much of an issue. And if you are considering fitting out your game boat with any of these reels, the budget will be the last thing on your mind. This won’t be an in-depth review of Penn International and Shimano Tiagra. This post will be more like a side to side comparison to help you decide which reel to buy for your big game outfit.

Penn International VI and VISX

The Penn International VI is the 6th iteration of the Penn International series of big game fishing reels and was released back in 2017. The Internationals are made in Philadelphia, U.S.A., since their birth over 50 years ago. This 6th version of the International has received a complete makeover, with a focus on the drag system.

Differences Between the International VI and International VISX

There are two main differences between the standard VI and the VISX. First is the frame design. The standard International VI is made primarily for fishing with monofilament has the well-known top bar with the beautifully engraved INTERNATIONAL label and model number. The VISX is designed for use with braided line and has an open-top design, allowing anglers to control line with the thumb and fingers more freely. It also has a more aggressive drag curve, which makes sense as you will load heavier braided line onto the reel for maximum power transfer. The VISX versions are only available in 12, 16, 20, 30, and 50 sizes. They are designed for braided line, so they will be able to hold ridiculous amounts of braid. Perfect for small reel – big fish style fishing.

The Body

The body and side plates are fully made out of machined anodized aluminum. This allows it to be fairly light for its massive size. The smaller sizes from size 12 (880g) to size 50 (1871g) are very manageable even with standard stand-up gear. The bigger reels from size 70 to size 130 are meant for fishing on bent butt rods in the rod holders. The reels are also available in silver if you’re the type who wants a subtle and softer look.

Subscribe to our monthly Newsletter
Subscribe to our monthly Newsletter