Trolling means different things to different fishermen. Today’s anglers troll for almost every type of fish out there, from bass to crappie to trout to walleye to tuna and whatnot. Trolling is as simple as letting out your crankbait with a hand-held fishing rod and reel, and then counting one Mississippi, two Mississippi…
However, the secret to your trolling success lies in being able to have continuous success.
We shortlisted today’s best conventional reels for both saltwater and freshwater fishing. We’re confident that our reviewed reels can help you take your game to a whole another level.
Table of Contents
10 Best Trolling Reels
01 PENN Squall II Level Wind Conventional Fishing Reel
Why it Stands Out To Us
Level wind reels may be quite uncommon for offshore rigs because you need knots to go through the spool with leaders and other things. But this is the best choice for rookies because when you’re fighting a fish, keeping your line level on the spool is something that you don’t want to worry about.
PENN Squall II is a beginner-friendly conventional reel for both saltwater and freshwater trolling.
Our Experience with the PENN Squall II Fishing Reel
- A one-piece solid reel that gives you the confidence to try to land some decent sized fish. The big stainless steel, aluminum and graphite parts are sure to last. Another plus is the lightweight body although that doesn’t matter much in trolling
- The large handle is comfortable that you can adjust for power or speed. This is a great upgrade from the previous version
- If you consider the low bearing count, the Squall II cranks real smooth without any possibility of line twist – even for the beginners.
- The clicker is loud enough to surpass all the noise that your boat and fellow anglers make. Some complained that their clickers broke after several days of use.
- With a 20# maxim drag, the Squall II facilitates great control on the drag. There is no need to make adjustments when fishing and you can reel in large fish without letting the line out
- Say goodbye to those odd days of reel backlash/birdnest that was enough to ruin the beautiful day on the waters. The second drag helps prevent backlash and the level wind works as expected
- If you do your regular lubrication, thorough cleaning and periodic maintenance, it’s bound to serve you one or two decades. Also, you will never have any corrosion issue if you take good care of this tackle.
What We Didn’t Like
- The clicker works fine but it doesn’t last long
- The counter seems a little off and does not provide the exact amount of line that goes out.
What Could Be Improved and Why
- Perhaps Penn should work on improving the quality of the clicker so it serves as long as the reel itself works
- Sturdy & durable
- Great for anglers who can’t manually level the line
- The secondary drag helps prevent backlashes and bird’s nest
- The reel performs well under heavy load
- Great pricing
- The clicker isn’t durable
- The counter seems off
02 Shimano Tiagra Reels
Why it Stands Out To Us
Shimano knows very well how to integrate modern technology into traditional fishing to make fishing a more enjoyable and productive endeavor. Their Tiagra series has earned quite a reputation in the fishing community for its outstanding performance on the waters.
It’s your go-to if you’re a skilled angler who mainly fishes offshore.
Our Experience with the Shimano Tiagra Reels
- The aircraft aluminum body is machined from a one-piece frame that gives it incredible strength and durability. You can tackle and land hard-fighting fish if you know how to make the best of this reel
- Pick the Tiagra 80WA if you’re planning to catch Marlin, Tuna, or even large sharks. We recommend that you spool it with the 130lb test mono to get your desired line capacity.
- The Tiagra is a right-handed reel that is interchangeable. Its ergonomic palm grip is rubberized to comfort your hands when you’re fighting a hard-to-control fish.
- The max 52lb drag has enough power and resistance to deal with large species of fish. The drag adjustment system allows you to choose between tight mode or a free spool for a loose drag.
- The clicker creates a higher decibel sound than most offshore reels you will find today. The clip rings on top of the frame help you attach trolling straps easily.
- You get to enjoy dual gearing with the Tiagra series. The high gear of the Tiagra 80WA is 2.5:1 while the low turning ratio is 1.3:1 so you can tell it’s made to catch big fish
- The extraordinary resistance and durability against the abuse of saltwater are what make the Tiagra so popular in the fishing community. The thick gold plating is a trademark of the Tiagra that protects the reel from corrosion and harsh environmental damages
- The Shimano Tiagra models have either 4 or 6 bearings with the A-RB technology for optimum corrosion resistance capability. Your reel stays safe from heat exposure, saltwater, and other corrosive agents for the many years to come
What We Didn’t Like
- This reel is very expensive although it’s extraordinary performance makes up for the extra costs. So, beginners should look for a cheaper reel.
What Could Be Improved and Why
- There could be a line counter for a fulfilling trolling experience
- Great material and design increase the durability
- High-torque gears to catch big fish
- Adjustable and highly sensitive lever drag
- Ergonomic rubberized handle for better control
- Pre-lubricated drag washers
- Only made to catch big fish
- Gears are not speedy
03 Daiwa Sealine SL-X-SHA Series Conventional Reel
Why it Stands Out To Us
Daiwa had a humble beginning in Japan in the 1950s as a reel maker. But they soon become a globally popular fishing tackle brand with quality products, serving anglers of all disciplines throughout the world.
Their tackles are also very popular here in the US and the Sealine SL-X-SHA Series is the first choice of many avid trolling enthusiasts.
Our Experience with the Daiwa Sealine Size 30
- The stainless steel body and aluminum parts are sand-and saltwater-resistant. You will be fine if you accidentally drop it into the water. Wash it with freshwater after every use and it will serve you well for decades. You can completely strip it down and follow online tutorials to do the cleaning effectively with no prior experience
- The spool can contain 380 yds of 40 pound braid or 280 yards of 50 pound braid. But this will depend on the braid type you use and how much tightly you pack it on the reel
- The size 20/30 has a low spool position for easy use. We recommend that you get a plastic brake collar to strengthen the handle grip and enhance a better fishing performance
- It’s a speedy reel. Be aware if you don’t know how to tackle bird nests. The best part is its versatility at a reasonable price range. From casting to jigging to bottom fishing to light and heavy trolling, you’re free to try your luck on any type of water bodies.
- Retrieve is always smooth and the 6:1 gear ratio helps avoid snags
- No need to take apart the drag or grease the washers since it can handle up to 4 feet sharks easily while the smaller fish don’t even stand to the chance to challenge this excellent reel
What We Didn’t Like
- May cause bird nests if you don’t use it correctly
- Easy to clean with water
- Simplified assemble and unassemble system
- Resistant to salt and sand
- Fast retrieving
- The soft metal rings may get scratched by hard objects
04 Penn Fathom Trolling Reel (Beginner’s Choice)
The Penn Fathom is a lever drag reel that is made to be durable with strong cranking power. It is fully die-cast aluminum in its side plates and body. This gives it an extreme rigidity.
It has all you need for a perfect reel and fulfills any requirements that you have in a wide range of angling activities.
The mechanism is made with a quick-shift dual-speed system that shifts quickly from a low gear to a high one. Additionally, the Drag system is superb. The Dura-Drag tech has a Phenolic bonding agent providing a water barrier. It’s been tested against the most difficult situations and passed with flying colors.
The technology is unique in that it means the reel is resistant to corrosion, keeping it in good condition.
The reel is strong too. The gears work in a powerful and smooth way. This means that it’s possible to manage up to a 20lb drag easily and smoothly. The five Stainless Steel ball bearings make it even smoother too! There’s also the anti-reverse, double-dog bearing which prevents sloping of the handle. You can keep your reel effective and stable even if there are big lures.
- Dura-Drag technology with phenolic bonding agent
- Strong and able to handle fish of up to 80lb
- Stainless Steel bearings and anti-reverse bearing
- Some users reported that the unit is not fully sealed.
With high drag levels, speed and strength, this model suits all kinds of trolling, even bottom trolling. The technology mentioned above speaks for itself. It will not corrode or fail and will run smoothly and with great strength for years. Try this top-rated trolling reel and see the difference for yourself!
05 Penn Squall 2-Speed
The Penn Squall 2-Speed is a perfect beginner’s reel. It has a metal spool and is powerful yet lightweight. Made with graphite side plates and frame, it is perfect for saltwater fishing, even for the big catch! It won’t corrode either. There’s also a fast 2-speed gear system, easily shifting between fast and slow gears.
Additionally, there’s the Dura-Drag system which works to pretty much eliminate hesitation and snagging, even if there’s an extreme drag. There’s also the addition of a double-dog ratchet system which prevents the handle from going into reverse.
All of these features make it a great choice for beginners as it is so easy to use and hard to get wrong. The graphite material is the lightweight meaning you will not get fatigued as easily when you are using it, which is important if you are a novice angler.
The graphite is also corrosion-resistant which means it won’t need as much maintenance as other materials, which is especially useful if you are using it in the ocean as saltwater trolling reels tend to corrode more quickly.
- The Dura-Drag system is top quality, meaning there’s little snagging.
- The double-dog ratchet means no reversing
- The lightweight frame is quite fragile
- More expensive than other options
For a beginner, this is a really good shout. Its ease of use and easy maintenance makes it a safe bet for anyone giving trolling reels a try for the first time. However, it is worth considering some of the non-beginner trolling reels too as they actually may come up cheaper!
06 Penn Warfare Level Wind Conventional Fishing Reel
This Penn Warfare Level is from their Warfare Level Wind range. The company was founded in 1932, so you know that, with Penn, you can expect exceptional quality due to their experience. This trolling reel is no different.
This was designed to be exceptionally versatile and a good all-round affordable choice. The frame is made from lightweight graphite, as are the side plates, whereas the frame rings are made from aluminum to prevent any flexing of the frame and to offer increased rigidity.
Additionally, the HT-100 drag washers, made from carbon fiber, meaning that the drag is smooth, even with heavy loads. There are line capacity rings. These let you know how much line is left when you are in the process of catching fish.
The spool is made from machined and forged aluminum with machined brass pinion and main gears. As with other Penn models, the reel has an anti-reverse feature. There are three models available in this type of reel, depending on your line and weight requirements.
- Made by Penn
- Great features
- Durable materials
- Reasonable cost
- Not as popular as some of the others in our list
PENN Warfare may not be the best-rated out there but it certainly ticks a huge amount of boxes. It is made of durable, rigid materials that are also lightweight. The starting price is pretty reasonable too!
07 One Bass Fishing Reels Level Wind
The One Bass TA is a conventional saltwater trolling reel with a drag system made from carbon fiber. The drag system provides up to 20kg/45lb of drag. The multi-disc drag system is made from carbonite and has proven to be reliable again and again, giving you the stopping power, durability, and smoothness that you need.
The Stainless Steel bearings are plentiful. In fact, there are 14 of them and there’s one roller bearing that’s also made from Stainless Steel to give you the smoothest of retrieves, withstanding all the conditions associated with long-term saltwater fishing.
There is also a line-out clicker and a thumb bar easy-access spool release. The handle and handle arm remains in the frame when disassembled, which is a super quick process. It is ergonomic in its design, fitting in your hand easily. The over-sized buttons and handles with non-slip touch are brilliant for reducing user fatigue and giving maximum control.
The frame is made from machine-cut aluminum (the type that’s found in aircraft), meaning you’ll not miss that all-important catch, whether out fishing off-shore or flat fishing in freshwater.
What’s more, this reel comes with an impressive three-year warranty! That beats some of the others right out of the water.
- Impressive 3-year warranty.
- Ergonomic design
- Some parts are made from plastic
Overall, the One Bass is a great choice with a three-year warranty! One of its major design pluses is how ergonomic it is. With big, comfortable and easy to operate handles and buttons, you will be catching those fish without even the slightest ache, even after hours of fishing and trolling.
The make-up of the reel is also resistant to corrosion meaning it makes a great choice for the saltwater anglers amongst us. Having said that, it doesn’t have the highest rating on Amazon in this range, which is worth bearing in mind.
08 Okuma Classic CLX Trolling Reel
This Okuma product is the Classic Pro Star Drag Reel or Pro XP. It has a Stainless Steel foot, giving it strength, a power handle made from aluminum with T knobs, and a lever wind line guide also made from Stainless Steel to ensure proper clearance of knots when you are fishing with a double line.
It is resistant to corrosion in both the frame and the side plates thanks to its ported graphite construction. There’s also the added addition of a Rubidium multi-disc drag system and gear system that is self-lubricating. The drag washers are also carbonite meaning there’s a much smoother and wider range for drag for the utmost efficiency.
The Classic Pro XP has two ball bearings with an anodized machined aluminum spool as well as machine cut Stainless Steel and brass gears. It features the Speed LOC Pinion Gear System, which allows positive engagement even at extreme speeds.
There’s a legal disclaimer that comes with this product that we haven’t seen on other products. The disclaimer states that the product can expose the user to a certain chemical which includes TDI. These chemicals are known to cause birth defects, other harm reproductively, and cancers. There is also a website listed for potential purchasers to seek further information.
- Multi-disc carbonite drag system
- Stainless Steel foot
- Aluminum power handle
- Resistant to corrosion thanks to its composition.
- Legal disclaimer about chemicals
- Makes a reportedly annoying noise, even without the clicker
If you want a reliable trolling reel with great features, strength and durability, then this one would make a good choice. This one has a reasonable price too! As for its reviews, it has a pleasing 4.2 out of 5 stars on Amazon, despite the limited details on the listing.
Having said that, the cons are definitely something to be aware of, particularly the point relating to chemical exposure. It is certainly worth doing some extra research if this is the one you want to go for.
09 Shimano Tekota 300 Linecounter Conventional Trolling Reel
This is a great choice for anglers who want to troll in both salt and freshwater. There is an excellent line capacity and it has advanced features in its construction. It is made from a single piece of die-cast aluminum which gives enhanced durability and tight tolerances. It is a reel that is certainly built to stand the test of time.
It also has a crossbar-forward design that is unique, proving direct and easy access to a non-disengaging level-wind mechanism and the spool. There’s an underbrace too for improved line management.
As well as the above, the bearings have been especially treated so that they don’t rush and give a minimum of ten times the resistance to corrosion than your regular Stainless Steel bearings. The line flow is therefore even and smooth.
- One-piece reel
- Unique crossbar-forward design
- Anti-rust bearings that have been specially treated.
We have all the reasons to put it on our list of the best trolling reels. If money were no object, this would beat many competitors hands down. It has impressive features and impressive design and structure. Who could argue with a one-piece structure, unique cross-bar design, and anti-rust bearings? But, as you also know, extensive features and top quality reviews and ratings come at a price. And this one certainly is not cheap!
Other Shimano models that you might like to check out: Triton 50W Series.
10 SHIMANO TORIUM HGA
The Shimano Torium HGA is a solidly-built yet lightweight star-drag trolling reel that is ideal for using live bait. This reel can also be used for bottom fishing and is full of fantastic features.
First up is its High-Efficiency Gear (HEG) system, delivering incredible rigidity and strength, gently increasing the power and leverage for years and years’ worth of fishing to come. There are also Anti-Rust Bearings (A-RB) which offer ten times the resistance to corrosion than standard bearings made from Stainless Steel do.
This promotes even and smooth flow of the line. Another brilliant feature is its Cross Carbon Drag. This provides smoothness that is long-lasting so it can withstand powerful, fast runs from large inshore and pelagic species
- Cross Carbon Drag
- Anti-Rust Bearings
- High Efficiency Gear system.
- More expensive
If you are looking for a high-quality, top-caliber trolling reel then you could not go far wrong with this one. As mentioned in our pros, it is full of amazing high-specification features including A-RB, HEG system, and Cross Carbon Drag. But, the downside is the cost. There most definitely are less expensive ones out there, but would the cheaper options be full of such amazing features? I think not!
Best Trolling Reels: Buying Guide
Essentially, there are three simple features that all trolling reels have in common: a release lever, a line-out alarm, and star drag. This kind of reel is versatile given the fact that they can accommodate all kinds of fishing lines.
Trolling reels have certain parts in common:
- Large Reel Handles and Feet
- Spools and Star Drags
- Spool Release Levers
- Bait Clicker Alarm
- Level-Wind Systems (some models)
- Line-counters (some models)
Rods, if chosen well, absorb much of the energy. However, multi-disc drags give the smoothest control when handling a big game. Users want drag that will operate smoothly with no jerking when the fish is making a tough run. Located near the handle, star drag modifications are really convenient for anglers.
2. Line Capacity
The line capacity is most important when the species you are fishing for is strong enough to strip the spool. This is mostly an issue in saltwater. Having said that, if you are fishing in deep freshwater and need to pay out lots of line, you could end up being short of room to work with a reel that’s small spooled.
With trolling reels, you let the line go straight down into the water to reach a certain depth. You should consider what species you’re trying to catch and at what depth you are most likely to find them. This will let you know what line capacity you will need. You can use a downrigger device for setting the right depth for your lures when out fishing at deep sea levels.
3. High vs Low Gear Ratio
Trolling reels usually come in lever drag systems that come in one-or two-speed gear ratio versions. In 2-speed reels, the high gear facilitates more spool revolutions per crank of the handle, allowing for quick line retrieval when the fish starts charging the boat. On the other hand, the low gear retrieves lesser line per crank but gains much more power and torque for landing the stubborn fish.
There are many sizes available today. Some of the reels are really small and it is difficult to picture them as being useful for trolling. Other ones are so big that it puzzles us as to why anyone would need so much capacity for line.
Most trolling reel manufacturers make them in similar sizes so that they don’t miss any ‘niche’ for their customers. Some typical sizes are sizes 17, 27, 47, 57 and 60.
With the 17 size reels, these are usually too small for trolling on the open water as there is just not enough capacity in the line. With trolling, long lines are needed to get crankbaits to the required maximum depth.
If you have a lead that is between 200 and 300 feet, the spool ends up skinny and because there’s not much line left, the line counter can underestimate the length of the lead. This size does not carry heavy loads well but it can be useful for structure or flat line trolling.
Size 27 reels have often been said to be the best trolling reel at their price range in the all-around reel category. They have good line capacity and for walleye trolling, the reel holds more than adequate amounts of line.
A size 47 reel is ideal if you want to use the thicker, lead core line and you can easily spool 200 yards on. It is perfect for those wanting to troll the Great Lakes with 30 to 40lb test sizes.
The 55 and 60 size reels are the largest and these are ideal for when you want to use 300 feet of lead-core line.
The material a reel is made from is a really important consideration when buying this product. However, trolling reels are usually only made from a choice of three materials, making this choice a little easier. Generally, they are made from aluminum, machined aluminum material, or graphite. All of these materials have their own flaws and benefits, as you will see.
Of all of these materials, the lighter weight trolling reels are made from graphite. But, they are generally weaker too and are more affordable. If you are a beginner, then this material would make a good choice. Yes, they are more likely to break.
But, it’s better you break a cheaper reel when you’re inexperienced than buying a more expensive one and break that! Most mishaps happen due to manhandling resulting from inexperience, so using a cheaper trolling reel will mean that your breaks (if they happen) don’t end up being too costly.
For the intermediate fisherman who knows what s/he is doing and are not concerned about spending a little extra for enhanced durability, a cast aluminum reel is a good choice. They tend to be better where quality and strength are considered.
The most practical choice if you’re catching large fish are the reels made from machined aluminum. These prevent wear and tear and premature failure. Whilst this material is best in terms of quality and durability, it is the most expensive of all the materials. Those who are passionate anglers and experts should probably choose a machined aluminum reel and a camouflage, blue or gold color coating on top of it.
A clicker provides an audible sound that your line is paying out. You want to make sure your clicker is loud so that you can hear it over any engine noise or if your fellow anglers are chatting.
Fishing is often used as a means of escapism and so the easier it is to do, the better it is for the angler. Counting the depth of a line can be irritating and tedious. With a counter, an angler can experience much more peace and less stress while fishing.
There are two main types of counter: an electric and a manual. The problem with an electric counter is usually due to their failure with the electric components such as the LCD screens thanks to being in wet environments.
The size of the spool is just as important as the line capacity. You need to make sure you consider the right type of line as well as its length to match the inside of the spool. What type do you intend to use? A braided line, a lead core, or a monofilament line?
The type of fishing line that you choose will affect the size of the spool you will need, thanks to the different diameters. A monofilament line’s diameter is between that of the other two types mentioned. When you are using a braided line with the same weight as a monofilament line, you can actually wind bigger lengths of it around the spool because of the smaller diameter.
On the other hand, a lead core line has a bigger diameter which means you can’t wind as much around your spool.
This greatly impacts on the size of the spool that you need to use when trolling and being able to reach the depths that you desire.
How a Trolling Reel is Different from Other Reels?
Before we cast out into comparing trolling reels, let’s have a quick look at what it is and how it differs from the other kinds of reels that you may already be familiar with.
As an angler, whether a novice or more experienced, you are probably already familiar with spinning reels and baitcasters. A trolling reel, however, is an altogether different kind of best. Trolling is where you drag a fishing line behind the boat. Sometimes you may attach more than one lure and are able to cover more water.
Of course, this kind of fishing takes practice and you need to make sure that you have got all the necessary equipment. With this type of reel, you need to understand how a reel is suitable for this purpose.
A trolling reel is needed for trolling, sometimes jigging, in deeper waters no matter if you’re fishing for freshwater or saltwater fish species, instead of using a regular casting reel. This type tends to look a bit rounder in its profile in comparison with other reels as they hold more fishing lines within them.
They are similar in some ways to reels used for bait casting with having a reel that is mounted above in both kinds. Yet, trolling reels have a much higher spool line capacity in comparison with bait casting reels.
In comparison to bait casting, trolling reels have less accuracy and control. They do not allow you to feather a spool so that you can place it precisely. Bait casters have more balance, control and are easier to operate one-handed.
If we compare trolling reels to electric reels, which are assisted electrically, it is not difficult to realize that the main difference is in how you retrieve the jig back!
But, it’s certainly not all bad. Trolling reels allow their users to fish for much greater distances and off-shore too – further than any other kind of reel. They also often have a reel counter which will help you in releasing a certain amount of fishing line when you are trolling in open waters. This does, however, come at a cost and these reels tend to cost more than the other kinds of reels you can buy.
Trolling Reels Cleaning & Maintenance Tips
One of the most important aspects of owning any kind of trolling reel is making sure that you maintain it well. It should go without saying that if you look after your kit, it will last much longer than if you don’t. So, how do you take care of your trolling reel?
First of all, you need to make sure that you have everything you need to carry out the DIY cleaning. You will need:
- A tub of hot water
- A cleaning compound, preferably one that is biodegradable such as Simple Green
- Reel X
- Super Lube Grease
- Ronsonol Lighter Fluid
- Reel Oil, such as TG’s Rocket Fuel
The second stage is disassembly. You will need to remove the side covers. Place all parts on a mat or towel to keep them protected and close by whilst you are cleaning. Indeed, number or label the parts as you take them out so that you can reassemble it more easily. Or, with today’s easily accessible pocket cameras (AKA your smartphone!) take a photograph of it as you dismantle it in case you get stuck later.
You should also use tweezers for handling the smallest parts such as wire clips and springs so that you don’t damage them or misplace them.
Before you continue with cleaning once it has been disassembled, make sure that the spool is free from fishing line or that it has been secured.
You should use your biodegradable cleaning product with a toothbrush and clean every part of the reel. With a small brush or toothpick, you need to apply the grease to the teeth.
The lighter fluid is to clean the bearings. Make sure that you test them too so that they definitely spin. After this, they should be oiled with a toothpick and the oil like TG’s Rocket Fuel.
When you have carried out all of these steps you should carefully put the reel back together. Once it has been fully reassembled, rub the outside with a protector such as Reel Magic.
Wrapping It Up
Our comprehensive guide is almost complete. We hope that you have found our trolling reels reviews informative and interesting. Finding the best trolling reel for your needs and budget is always going to be tricky when there are so many things to consider and so many products to choose from. However, with a bit of luck, one of our listed products might just have hit the spot for you.
If you’re still unsure or can’t make up your mind, you need to work out what exactly it is you want from your trolling reel choice. Will you fish in the open water and therefore need a trolling reel that is resistant to corrosion or will you stick to freshwater?
Do you need a budget choice as money is a bit tight? Are you a beginner looking to get into trolling for the first time? Whatever it is, it is important that you determine your needs if you still can’t make that decision. Once those factors are in place, read our reviews again, and see which one is your best match.
Q: 1. Can you cast trolling reel?
Ans: Trolling reels are not designed for casting. These are small reels with options for releasing lines. So, we don’t recommend you trying to cast with such reels.
Q: 2. How many lines should be on a trolling reel?
Ans: You shouldn’t fill the reel with voluminous lines. Only a line length of 150 to 200 yards should give you enough line to work the reel.
Q: 3. What fish can you catch trolling?
Ans: You can catch mackerel, salmon and kingfish using trolling reels.