THE TWO MOST POPULAR BAITCASTERS-
This has been a big debate ever since Penn launched their international baitcasting line back in the late 90s to compete with Shimanos very popular, top of the line, Calcutta line.
Both the Calcutta 400 and the Penn International 965 are top of the line baitcasters. They both cast well, have good cranking power, comfortable to use, and are made by companies that have good customer service policies. But, like any product on the reel market, each reel does have noticeable differences.
The Penn International baitcaters in particular, have better drags due to the use of the HT-100 drag material. The gears are stainless, and the reel frame is noticeably sturdier. The rubber knobbed handle is well designed, and the levelwind can take abuse. The reels anodizing is top notch, and scratches do not show up as easily as seen on other aluminum framed reels.
The Calcutta is a more refined reel, which is noticeably smoother to cast. The drags are silky smooth, but 'feel' like they do not give you as much pressure as the Penn Internationals HT-100s. The levelwind feature, is slightly smoother then the penns. The anodizing on the Calcuttas while pretty does scratch much easier. The handles while decent, can be changed out quickly to the wooden knobbed power handle. Shimano uses a bronze main, which is much quieter and noticeably smoother then the penn.
Both reels use nylon gears for the levelwind feature. Unlike the old shimano 'Bantam 50' series levelwind metal gears which were pretty much indestructible, the gears in both these level winds can be 'blown out' when fighting big fish. It is a rare occurence, but it does happen.
I would consider owning both, but i find the shimano calutta 400 the standard for tossing large lures, since its freespool is much better. I do prefer the Penn Internationals for worming, and light chunking. Both reels will serve well if you are using live bait.
What reel will hold up longer? Well i have seen some shimano 400s that have been abused for a couple of seasons and still function very well and spin smoothly, while the frame looks like it has been 'dragged through the streets'. The Penn Internationals do seem to hold up a little better due to their heavier frame, better anodizing, and sturdier handles, but i see little advantage of one reel over another here. I do find the the top cross piece on the Penn International baitcaster, a little cumbersome, and should be made thinner or removed.
One area i do see a advantage is that the Penn International baitcasters, are very simple to service and the ease of getting parts. Bearings though are easy to get for both reels.
Its really a tossup as you can see. Both are priced similarly, although you will find the Penn Internationals baitcasters discounted slightly from time to time.
One thing i do hope that Penn does, is to make the 975 without the level wind feature and no top crossbar like on the CS line. This would make it similar to the old discontinued TLD 5 reels, which were incredible little powerhouses. But after looking at all the 'pros' and 'cons' of either reel, you could not go wrong by purchasing either baitcaster.
EC NEWELL MAN*