Everything you wanted to know about return of the PENN 704/706Z

This interview appears in the current issue of the Surfcaster’s Journal Magazine. We know there is a lot of interest about the reappearance of these reels so we decided to put in on our blog too.


We recently chatted with Mike Rice, PENN Reels business manager about reintroduction of Z Series reels, 704Z and 706 Z.


Hi Mike. Thank you for giving us few minutes of your time. Let us start at the beginning. Fill us in a little on history of these very popular reels among surfcasters.


The Henze family which owned PENN up until 2003 decided to stop manufacturing them in the early 2000s.  This was when PENN was beginning plans to transition some spinning reel manufacturing overseas. The volume on the Z series in the late 1990s and early 2000s was dwindling which made it far less attractive to retool overseas, and with the Spinfisher and Slammer reels being the top 2 priorities it seems like the Z series was left behind.


Ok, that makes sense but why are you bringing these classic reels back after all these years?


We decided to bring these 2 reels back into production because the number of requests from consumers has been overwhelming. In the world of social/digital media (forums, facebook, youtube, etc) you truly get to hear from the consumer on a daily basis, and you have to be ready to listen, which in this case meant reviving a discontinued product.


It is very refreshing to see PENN engage their customers and fans via not only tournaments and sponsorships but with social media too. it shows not only commitment to customer service but also a continued support for the products and willingness to listen to customer feedback. Are they any changes from the original models and are the parts interchangeable with existing reels? I am sure many will ask why you did  not improve the reels with the current technology?


Updating a 50 year old design is difficult. Should we seal it? That would be tough…older design with large tolerances was never meant to be sealed…we’d basically need to redesign every part on the reel. Should we add an instant anti-reverse bearing? The way people fish the Z reels if we added an instant anti-reverse we would have constant failures…think about how much salt and sand would come into contact with such a tight tolerance part. If we tried to make all the updates to the Z that it would take to truly modernize the reel we’d be designing something totally different. Not to mention that we already have the Spinfisher V reel in the lineup which is water tight and has the instant anti-reverse bearing.

PENN Zseries All Parts

All parts are interchangeable between old and new models, this was one of the biggest questions we considered with the re-launch of these reels. We are running low on parts, and there are a ton of older reels out there that need gears, and handles, and drag knobs. By manufacturing them exactly as they were, we’re able to get a lot of older reels back on the water.


While on a subject of torque are there any plans to possibly introduce a model in between number 5 and 7 in the future?
No plans to introduce a model between the 5 and 7….and no plans to introduce a model below the 5.  This could change of course but there is nothing in the plans at the moment.

Back to Z series, where will it be made? Will there be any custom options available either at launch or in the future?

They will be made in Philadelphia and both the 704Z and 706Z will retail for $200. Not sure on the custom options yet. We might mess around with some different colors but sometimes it’s best to leave true custom work (handles knobs, fancy machining, etc) to the smaller local machine shops.

Some have questioned the need for PENN  to ” test” these reels before reintroducing them in September. After all there were no changes as you stated previously.  Why did you feel that testing should be done before making them available to the public?

Because we’re making them in a different factory (Hunting Park) with different assembly workers then they were previously made, and everyone needed a little practice. We also had to move a couple of the moulds to new vendors. Never hurts to test things…kind of like the old adage “measure twice cut once”.


Thank you Mike




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20 comments on “Everything you wanted to know about return of the PENN 704/706Z

  1. JohnP

    I remember my father raving about the Chrysler Slant Six engine. Not a sophisticated engine, but a durable workhorse that he said was easy to work on. It reportedly stayed in production from 1959 and 2000.

    The Z series reminds me of that.

  2. Bill Kacinski

    I can’t wait to add these back into my arsenal. I’ll keep one with pink 20# Ande mono,(if I can find it! Lol) and try the other with braid…my birthday is coming up fast! :-p

  3. Ted Jackson

    Can’t wait to see back in the market place long over due.These have been very good reels in the past and I want afew of these.

  4. Bill Dykstra

    love love LOVE manual reels… bails are for kids and beginners…. always the first thing to let you down and responsible for gobs of hard luck stories. once you are able to learn and be proficient with a manual you are amazed at the speed you pick up line, or drop back/free line and forget the anti reverse… shouldnt be on if the reel is in your hand – its for rod holders(trolling & live baiting) and storage…. i still search out and buy 50-60 year old FIX manuals for everyday use because i cant find affordable manuals (price a van stall or zeebaas)

  5. Hank

    Don’t spend 200 bucks on a new one until Alan Hawk dissects it. Go to his site and request he move this reel to the top of the list. See his reviews of other spinning reels. Very thorough, unbiased, and detailed; with pictures and arrows pointing out weaknesses and strengths. I can’t wait to read his review of this reel!

      1. Hank

        I didn’t say “test.” I have an older one and love it. But, I didn’t pay $200.00 either. Mr. Hawk may say that for that kind of money, he recommends another reel instead. But, if you are already familiar with this reel and know that you like it; why wait? And, in my opinion, a new one is worth 200 bucks.

  6. silverkings

    Kudos to Penn. I immediately bought another 706. I started with 3 greenies in the late 60’s @ $29.95 each. My 706s have all been underwater repeatedly but clean up easily and perfectly. I don’t crank it when it is submerged, however (no skishing). And I wouldn’t do Z’s bury it in the sand test, either. I can’t recall ever laying it in the sand for that matter and I don’t deadstick. These things excepted, there is still no reel that matches the value of a 706 for use in the salt, IMO, so I recommend it highly. The concave front spool face can lead to “wind” knots with braid but the backing can be put on so that the line lay is almost level.

    Bill Dykstra’s point about never having the anti reverse on when fishing is right on and seldom heard. He is also right about the manual PU. That is, except that kids do better (at least mine did) with a manual than a bail, if they are taught to use it correctly. I tried to get Rob Koewlyn (VS & later ZeeBaas) to make me a VS that I could backwind, but he didn’t want another hole in the case to have to seal. I would have taken one without the AR, but said he couldn’t sell it that way.

    Alan Hawk does invaluable work fishing with, disecting and analyzing, reels and seems entirely unbiased, trustworthy and honest. I’ve asked him to review the 706, but he’s a boat fisherman and will do the 704, but not the 706. The larger spool, the roller bearing in the oversized roller and the handle bearing in the 706Z make it an entirely different animal than the 704. Maybe, if enough others asked for a 706 review, he might at least review the guts of the 706 when he does the 704 review.

    As you know, to optimize the casting distance with an internal spool reel , you want to set it up as followes: with the rod held horizontal with the reel down and 9 o’clock facing towards the rod tip, you want the handle to be at about 6:30-7 when the spool is fully extended, so that the line won’t rub on the spool or catch on the roller during the cast. I believe Penn when they say they are using the same tooling, etc. Every one of my 706s has needed a 1/4″ SS washer (OD <= 15/32") added under the handle to set it up correctly. It would be a whole different experience casting one that was improperly setup, just as they come from the factory. (Warning: please don't try this on a VS; all it will do is to compress the seal on the handle shaft too tightly, making it too hard to crank).

    Apologies if this has been well covered enough elsewhere or if the post is too long. Thanks for reading.

  7. Hank

    Good points. Never tried a 706, but believe you about it being different than a 704. Before my used 704z, I bought a new 710z for freshwater, and “hated” it. The last series they made (2000 I think) with the newer bail and rubber handle. It was slow and had no power (great drag, though). I used it about 10-12 times at the lake, boxed it up, and bought a used Mitchell 306 for freshwater — and “loved” it. Then, relunctantly bought the 704z for the surf, and “loved” it, too. (Not at all the same real as the 710z.) Couple years back, as a gift for an elderly friend (who fishes freshwater); gave him the option of a used Mitchell 300, a Mitchell 406 (which I had refurbished), and that 710z (w/box, x-tra spool and bail spring), and he chose the 406 (don’t blame him). That 710z is a joke IMO (no wonder they’re not re-releasing them). I would try to sell it, but I can’t pretend it’s such a “great reel” when I hate it so much (I’d feel like a con artist). The 704 is a world apart. Much faster retrieve (probably the larger diameter spool) and has the power of a wench. But, it’s a little too big for the lake and river (for me, anyway); so I only use it at the ocean. All the other 704z’s I’ve seen have a plastic side plate, but mine is metal like the green ones were, even though it’s black. (But, I’m on the west coast, so you don’t see a lot of old Penns over here.) The new 704z’s don’t have that recessed area in the rotor cup for the decal. Looks better without it to me. And they have the newer bail wire and rubber handle. I thought the older bail wires and plastic handles, like mine has, “looked” better from a cosmetic view. Sometimes, when it’s in a sand spike, I look at it, smile, and say to myself: “Now, that’s a surf reel!”

  8. Carl Silkey

    Just took my 704Z out today with my teenage boys after being tucked away for 10 years. It worked great and felt good reeling. Boys were impressed as all of my older good quality gear often works better than what’s available today for the same price.

  9. Brian Smalarz

    the old 704 reel is it as good as the new 704 do they have interchangable parts have an old 704 wondering if it is worth cleaning up .

  10. Hank

    Well guys,

    Looks like Alan Hawk is in no hurry to review the 704Z. I won’t be so quick the next time to tell folks to wait to buy until he reviews a reel that he said he would. (it’s been on his list since 11/13). But, you really don’t need his review on this one. There have been too many fishing trips with those tanks (704’s). By now, any weaknesses would be well known.

    How it compares to other reels in the 200 buck range is another issue. You can probably get a good used one for half that. Most likely, with a good cleaning, you will find the insides to be just as good as new; and, the more beat up it looks on the outside, the less chance there is of someone swiping it. I’ve been fortunate; but, I’ve been to places where fishermen parked, and you could see glass all over the ground from where windows had been broken, in order to get at whatever gear was left in the car. I’ve learned to hide my goodies under blankets. New or used; the 704z is a reel that time has proven is one of the best for the surf.


  11. Hank

    Recently, I did some checking around, and thought I’d share some of what I found. I’m no expert on this reel, so this may seem like “common knowledge” to some of you. The drag maxes out at 15 pounds (less if you put drag grease on the fiber washers). But, there are guys using very expensive, and very heavy-duty braided lines on them (like 80 pound test). Maybe they do that for others reasons than to handle the size fish they are after; otherwise, it just seems like a waste of money. 20 pound mono is about right, since that allows the maximum drag to be set at 1/3 of the breaking strength of the line; which is what is recommended that you never exceed. I like 15 for the added casting distance and increased line capacity. In reality, 15 pound mono weakens some in water; and, with the knots being the weak link, probably breaks a few pounds shy of 15. So, I’m not going to crank my drag down completely if a big one hits (like I could do without worries with 20 – 25 pound mono).

    The drag contains one teflon washer (which allows for smoothness on the initial pull); and 2, HT-100 (fiber) washers. Some say to replace the teflon with another HT-100 washer; since the teflon washer can “warp” from friction in a serious fight. Plus, this supposedly adds a tiny bit more resistance to the drag. To date, there have been so many BIG fish caught on these reels that, no doubt, 15 pounds of drag is perfect for the line ratings (of monofilament) that this reel was designed for.

  12. Hank

    I meant to say, that it’s recommended that you never set the drag to more than 1/3 to 1/4 of the point where the line would snap. (But, that answer differs depending on who you talk to.)

    Also, some guys who feel they need more drag when a big fish is on the run; simply use their casting finger to apply some pressure to the lip of the spool. Provided you are using line heavy enough to justify this; you can add several pounds of pressure to the 15 pound drag. That’s how they did it “back in the day.”

  13. Hank

    Learned a little more about this great reel. That 15 pounds max drag on the 704z is more than enough. Saw a video on You tube: “Alligator Gar Fish – Fish Warrior,” where the fishing guide used braided line on Penn 5600 Live Liner reels (which also have only 15-pounds of max drag). He had no problems. Even with river current to help the fish in the fight. They were monsters. 40 – 60 pounds is “average” with those fish. They caught one over 120 pounds. I doubt they even had that drag set to its maximum. So 15 pounds of drag easily does the job on big fish. Oh, and I’ve had both those reels apart, and IMO, the Live Liner isn’t half the reel (strength-wise) as the 704z.

    In my research, I’ve heard many complain that the bail “flips” during a cast with the 704z, causing a loss of lures and terminal tackle. I’ve “never” had that happen to me. It is caused by user error, or mechanical error (meaning, “the mechanic”). The bail can only flip on this reel when the handle is turned. When casting, the position of the handle should be somewhere between directly down and under the reel, and to the back of the reel. That is, with the stem representing 12 o’clock, the handle should point somewhere between 6 o’clock and 3 o’clock. But, if the handle is high, the force of the cast can cause it to move forward, flipping the bail prematurely.

    Another reason the bail could prematurely flip, is putting the “bearing retainer” in the wrong position when servicing the reel (part # 21-704). I watched a video where the guy (who I think was oiling the bearing) put the retainer back in wrong. There is a little “ramp” on that part. It should be up, in the 12 o’clock position, when you screw it back on. That way, the rotor cup will have to spin half-way before the bail can flip shut. That is, you should have to turn the handle to get the side of the rotor cup which has the line roller, nearly to the bottom position, before the bail flips.

    Also, there is a rubber part called the “rotor brake” (part # 21B 704) on top of that bearing retainer. Its function is to add friction, so that the rotor cup won’t turn so easily while the bail is open. So putting too much grease on that rubber part reduces friction, and defeats its entire purpose.

    My 704z weighs 25 ounces with line. It’s heavy-duty appearance and weight testify that it’s a man’s reel. I took a small woman surf fishing with me once, who couldn’t handle it. It was too heavy on a long, fiberglass rod. I personally like the weight of this reel. When I’ve got 4 or 5 ounces hanging off the end of the rod, this reels weight helps me bring the butt end of the rod down faster. I can cast the 704z farther than any reel I’ve ever tried; and I’ve tried several other surf reels, with so-called “long cast” spools. I think that’s due to the weight; and, because the line flies off a wider spool in bigger coils. The older “greenie” 704’s were about an ounce heavier. The green spools (and black ones) weighed a little more than the gold. And, they had heavier bail wires, and metal side plates (the newer side plates are plastic). But, the older style drag knobs were a touch lighter, since they were plastic; whereas the newer “sealed” drag knobs are metal. That’s all folks.

  14. Hank

    Well Guys,

    I just noticed Alan Hawk has removed the 704z from his list of reels to be reviewed. He had it on that list since November, 2013. He removed it, and as of today, gave no explanation as to why (which is unlike him). What a shame. since no one does a better reel review — at least, not that I’ve found. He still has it as #5 on his list of “Best General use Saltwater Reels from $150 – $250.” I really don’t know how he can make that claim, without giving it one of his thorough reviews, and putting it through his “fish on” testing process. (I mean, how does he know it’s not the 3rd best?) Someone who does the testing he does, with so many different reels, could really tell us how well it stacks up against other reels in the same price range. That’s important information to have, before a guy spends 200 bucks. I really wanted to know if there is anything else available today, for the same money, which he considers to be better. He’s got the right to change his mind, but I wish he hadn’t have got my hopes up for so long. I, for one, was looking forward to it. I guess another way to look at it; is to leave the 704z to many stories that can be told, by the men who used it to land the fish of their lifetimes. Whether legends or folklore, those fish stories have added to the thrill of getting men back to the surf; with their trusty 704z’s in hand.

  15. Michael S. Allen

    I own a Penn power drag 704Z Power Drag (original), with the 52-710 original knob and handle. What was the original manufacture date for this reel? (My Granddads reel, I’m 60 yrs. old now) Hit my e-mail and I’ll send a picture.


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