The 2-speed gearing concept wasn’t a new idea in reels even in the 1980s. Back in the 30s and 40s machinists tinkered with the idea in order to give anglers more of an advantage while fighting large saltwater fish such as marlin and tuna. The concept was always good but the technology of the time lent a lot to be desired.
Then in the ‘80s, Penn developed what would become the benchmark of 2-speed reels for saltwater. The reels were simple to operate, had limited breakage and flat out worked when hung to a 300-pound tuna or 1000-pound black marlin.
So, with all the attention they were getting from the salty folks, Penn decided it was time to design and manufacture a 2-speed reel for bass anglers. In Penn’s mind, the Speed Shifter 2000 (for some reason Bass-o-Matic ’76 comes to mind here) would change the bass fishing scene forever. It had a 6.0:1 gear ratio for those times you needed speed and a 2.0:1 ratio for those times you needed power. Along with a flippin’ feature, it also possessed a setting, called Variable Lure Setting (VLS), on its automatic transmission that would change back and forth between the two gears in order to, “…(give) a crankbait or spoon the erratic action that draws more strikes.”
The reel was manufactured in Japan but doesn’t possess any markings from Diawa or Shimano, so it’s difficult to determine whether one of the big manufacturers made it or some other smaller company. The reel didn’t weigh much more than its competitors’ reels, but the size of the reel was large – speaking conservatively. It was more like one of the reels anglers use to fish downriggers.
I never used one nor did I know anyone else who did, but we had them in stock at the shop I worked at and to my knowledge, we never sold one of them. They were clunky, even in those days of the ABU 5500C, which is probably why they didn’t last long in Penn’s sales brochure.
Even with today’s modern design and manufacturing capabilities, no one has yet been able to come up with a 2-speed design that fits the bill of a bass angler. Yet, as reels get faster and faster, one would think that some design team would be looking into it. Who knows, maybe someday soon a reel company will debut one at ICAST. I won’t hold my breath, though.