Penn is quite simply the most popular brand of saltwater fishing reels and rods in the industry. TackleDirect is proud to claim that Penn fishing reels, rods, and downriggers are our top sellers, fishing season after fishing season. From inshore bass fishing tackle to offshore big game marlin and tuna, Penn Reels has been a leader of innovation as well as world records. Fishing reels like the Penn International, Penn Senator, and Penn Spinfisher reel lines have been associated with the top anglers in the industry since their inception.
The beginning of Penn Reels is not only a story of an American dream, but also a story of a fishing tackle manufacturer that revolutionized saltwater angling. It started in 1922 when Otto Henze, a 25-year-old machinist, moved from Germany to the United States and began working for the Ocean City Reels Company in Philadelphia. Ten years later, Henze left Ocean City Reels and started his own fishing reel business called Penn Fishing Tackle Manufacturing Company.
The company’s first recorded sale occurred in February 1933 when Miller Auto Supply Company of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, purchased one of each of Penn’s reel models: a Sea Hawk for $1.21, a Bayside for $1.93, and a Long Beach for $2.48. Within the next year, the company doubled its reel models, which were each named after the seaside communities on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. It was this branding strategy that helped establish Penn Reels as a tackle company focused on saltwater fishing.
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The company became the leading manufacturer of quality saltwater fishing reels. Pictures of record size fish were sent to PENN from all over the world. PENN Reels became the mainstay of charter boat captains and serious anglers for their performance and reliability.
In 1948, Otto Henze suddenly died. His wife, Martha, did something few women of the time would even consider. At age 39, she took responsibility for running the company as its President, and PENN Reels continued to prosper under her surprising management skills. Martha was an avid angler, once catching a 613-pound Bluefin tuna, and this first hand knowledge of fishing helped guide her decisions at PENN.
The Mod F and the MOD K were Mr. Henze's first reels in 1932. The Mod F was a 12-ounce surf casting reel with genuine bakelite side plates. The Mod K had many of the same parts as the Mod F but with a lever type free spool and metal reinforced side plates. Two types of MOD K's were developed - one with a star drag, and one without.
In 1933, Otto Henze began selling his reels to the general public. The Mod F was renamed Sea Hawk; the Mod K without a star drag was renamed Bayside; the MOD K with a star drag was renamed Long Beach.
The company doubled the number of reels it offered from 1933 to 1934. Mr. Henze named his reels after the seaside communities on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. This branding strategy helped establish PENN as a tackle company focused on "saltwater fishing." Most of PENN Reels earliest models were built for the beach or bay fisherman.
By the end of 1934, Penn sales were almost $48,000 annually, and the company made its first profit - $1,500. The largest customer for Penn in 1934 was the Edw. K. Tryon Company of Philadelphia, the same company that built the legendary PENNEL fishing tackle brand in the late 1800's. Tryon accounted for 41% of all Penn sales during 1934. Another large customer (6% of sales) was the W. H. Hoegee Company of Los Angeles, which helped build Penn sales in California.
Penn's growth in the early thirties was dramatic, especially considering that America was at the height of the depression. Tough times proved to be an advantage for the start-up company, since many people fished for their food. Penn's affordable reels were just what the beach and bay fisherman needed to put food on the table, day after day
PENN sales grew 38% in 1935, as the company expanded distribution up and down the east coast and west coast. The company also reduced its dependence on Edw. K. Tryon which dropped to Penn's #2 customer with 13% of total sales. Union Hardware & Metal Company became Penn's #1 customer with 21% of company sales.