There’s hardly anything better than spending the day on a boat deep in the sea with and returning with a cooler chock-full of trophy fish such as mackerel, tuna, halibut, and a lot more.
To achieve such a goal, you don’t have to be sweating all day long. You just need to work smart, not hard, and go for a trolling reel. What is a trolling reel? And what is trolling?
Generally, a trolling reel is a larger, sturdier reel, that’s more on the heavyweight side in relation to baitcasting and spinning reels. Trolling is the act of dunking one or more baits into the water and dragging them using your boat. The movement of the lures and your boat will excite the fish and attract them.
Trolling is generally a fishing technique that offers significant gain per trip while you mostly relax and enjoy nature. Nevertheless, just like any fishing technique, it needs the right equipment, and every angler is unique.
Plus, as always, the variety of the market can be overwhelming, which is why we have scoured online and offline markets to compile this list of the seven best trolling reels available today. Additionally, we’ve created a straightforward guide that will help you navigate these markets on your own.
List of the Best Trolling Reels:
- Penn Squall Lever Drag 2 – Best Overall
- Okuma Cold Water Line Counter – Runner-Up
- Okuma Magda Pro Line Counter – Best Budget
- Penn Fathom Lever Drag – Best Durability
- Shimano Tekota Levelwind – Best Salt/Fresh Water Reel
- KastKing Spartacus – Best Brake System
- Okuma Trio High Speed – Best for Beginners
|Raw Material||Maximum Drag||Gear Ratio||Ball Bearing|
|Penn Squall Lever Drag 2||Graphite||40 lbs.||2.9:1/1.5:1||
Okuma Cold Water Line Counter
|Aluminum – Titanium||20 lbs.||4.2:1||2+1|
Okuma Magda Pro Line Counter
|Stainless Steel – Graphite||20 lbs.||4.0:1||2|
Penn Fathom Lever Drag
|Die-cast Aluminum||20 lbs.||5.3:1||5|
Shimano Tekota Level Wind
|Die-cast Aluminum||18 lbs.||4.2:1||3+1|
Okuma Trio High Speed
|Aluminum – Graphite||19.8 lbs.||6.0:1||9+1|
The 7 Best Trolling Reels in 2021
1. Penn Squall Lever Drag 2 – Best Overall
The reasons why this reel is at the top of our list are countless. From its construction to the gear systems to the drag system to the handle, everything has been taken care of down to the very last detail.
Firstly, it is constructed out of lightweight, durable graphite that can take some serious beating. This reel is fit for going after deepwater species such as sharks, kingfish, and awe-inspiring fish.
It has a Dura-Drag system with HT-100 carbon felt washers. This means that the carbon fiber is laminated onto fiberglass when the carbon is heated. It starts to relax and therefore absorbs the majority of the friction coming from the reel, giving it unprecedented smoothness and a maximum of 40 lbs.
Moreover, here we do not have just one gear system, but two gear systems. The first one is the primary gear system, which is made out of high-quality stainless steel, while the other one is made out of bronze pinion.
They have gear ratios of 2.9:1 and 1.5:1. Combining these two systems happens seamlessly and results in a hassle-free fishing experience, even with the most challenging conditions.
Furthermore, it boasts a large machined aluminum spool with capacity rings for you to know how much line you have left plus three stainless steel ball bearings and a handle with adjustable length to move it freely and not pump against the reel or the rod.
Still, this reel has problems that need to be worked on, such as the counter system’s ability to deliver wrong results at times. Also, the whole reel is not corrosion-resistant, so it needs thorough, consistent cleaning and drying to protect it.
Lastly, the bearings cannot be replaced, so if they break or burn, you will have to throw the whole reel into the trash.
- Bronze and stainless steel gears
- Two gears
- Adjustable handle
- Machined aluminum spool with capacity rings
- Suitable for big fish
- Dura HT-100 drag system
- Faulty counter system
- Not corrosion resistant
- Permanently mounted bearings
With a revolutionary drag system that absorbs the majority of friction and two gear systems working cohesively, you will hardly find a reel that is smoother than the Penn Squall Lever Drag 2.
2. Okuma Cold Water Line Counter – Runner Up
This Line Counter by Okuma is definitely a worthy opponent as it comes with an incredible gearing system, revolutionary counter, a Mechanical Stabilizing System, strategically placed ball bearings, and internal components in general, plus a lot more.
Firstly, this reel is made out of aluminum and titanium, which gives it strength, durability, and lightweight at the same time. It’s corrosion-resistant and, therefore, quite reliable.
The drag system is a multi-disc carbonite one along with a ratchet drag star. This combination allows for smoothness, and a maximum of 20 lbs, while maintaining comfort and easy-access for anglers.
Moreover, the counter line is a CVT (Clear View Technology), anti-fogging adjustable one that you can place on either the right or the left side of the device to ensure perfect visibility for you.
Additionally, it has three ball bearings that are placed to absorb as much friction as possible from the speed-lock pinion gears. Such placement enhances the efficiency of the reel as a whole.
The main gear, driveshaft, pinion gear, and spool shaft are all placed on a holding plate, which keeps them exactly where they should be. Therefore, the slickness of the process is boosted significantly.
In addition to that, it also supports the spool, making it capable of withstanding a significant amount of pressure. This mechanism is known as MSS or the Mechanical Stabilizing System.
Furthermore, the gearbox is exceptionally large, and in addition to it being drop-down for extra convenience, the gearing system itself, 4.2:1, has been revolutionized, making it self lubricating, which takes a lot of effort and work off fishers. One more thing is that the handle is ambidextrous to suit everyone.
Unfortunately, like always, there are some drawbacks to this device, such as that the drag system might become jerky sometimes and cause sudden stops. Another con is that the clicker system is way too noisy.
- Mechanical stabilizing system
- Adjustable counter
- CVT anti-fogging counter line
- Dual anti-reverse system
- Self-lubricating gear system
- Bait clicker
- Faulty drag sometimes
- Noisy clicker
If you’re all about a smooth experience with a reel that’s quite revolutionary and in possession of an excellent line counter, then the Okuma Cold Water Line Counter would be a perfect choice for you.
3. Okuma Magda Pro Line Counter – Best Budget
This is the second reel in a row by Okuma. Yet, this one is all about maximizing your gain for the smallest cost possible. What Okuma has done with the Magda Pro is that they’ve applied everything that you might need in a trolling reel and placed a within-budget price tag on it.
Firstly, it is made out of stainless steel and graphite; the body itself is corrosion resistant graphite, while a lot of the internal components, including the two ball bearings and side plates, are made out of stainless steel.
It has a super fast-reactive multi-disc carbonate drag system with a maximum of 20 lbs. Although you cannot say that this drag system is the smoothest that you’ve ever used, it is quite efficient and fires the moment your bait is caught.
The internal design has been taken care of quite diligently here to give you a lasting top-quality product. The entire gear system is machined-cut brass, self-lubricated, and has a gear ratio of 4.0:1.
Moreover, the spool is made out of graphite, while the wind level is made out of stainless steel. Lastly, it has a mechanical counter pre-installed.
Some defects that come with this device include the fact that the counter is affected by and may very well become stuck from the cold weather. Also, some internal components are made of plastic.
- Self-lubricating gear system
- Fast-reaction, multi-disc carbonate drag system
- Graphite spool
- Stainless steel level wind
- Mechanical counter
- Counter is affected by the cold
- Some plastic parts
This reel offers you a lot for a small price. It is a win-win situation, as you get a
corrosion-resistant reel with a fast-reaction drag system, a pre-installed counter, a level wind, and a lot more for an affordable price.
4. Penn Fathom Lever Drag – Best Durability
This device by Penn is the epitome of rigidity, strength, and durability. The body is entirely made out of die-cast aluminum, so it will take whatever you throw at it.
Still, that’s not the end of it, it’s just a beginning, as the drag system is a Dura-Drag one that’s designed with a phenolic bonding agent, making the entire system water-resistant. It can also handle up to 20 lbs.
The gear system is also quite efficient as it shifts quickly from low to high gear and vice versa, according to the current situation’s needs. The gear ratio here is 5.3:1, while the five ball bearings are made out of shielded stainless steel. The last two features contribute towards fluid, smooth cranking and, therefore, a comfortable hassle-free experience for the anglers.
The defects of this reel include that although the drag system is completely sealed, the same cannot be said for the whole reel. The braid capacity is falsely advertised to be bigger than it actually is, which can also be quite annoying.
- Super durability
- Dura-Drag system
- Quick-shift gear system
- Not completely sealed
- Falsely advertised braid capacity
This reel is straight to the point; Penn has worked hard to produce a reel that will last you ages and is insusceptible to the elements no matter how harsh the environment is.
5. Shimano Tekota Levelwind – Best Salt/Fresh Water Reel
This device by Shimano proudly boasts one feature that we have not seen and do not see quite often in trolling reels, which is the ability to work efficiently in both salt and freshwater. Many design elements have gone into this reel in order to give it this ability.
Firstly, it is made out of one piece of die-cast aluminum; thus, it is quite rigid and sturdy. Moreover, it has an open device design that allows you easy access to the reel’s inner components in case you want to wash them after every use and, therefore, expand their lifespan. Also, this means that the level wind is smoother than ever.
It has a gear ratio of 4.2:1, a controlled star-drag system with a maximum of 18 lbs, and four-ball bearings that have been chemically treated in order to make them completely resistant to rust.
Actually, Shimano claims that these ball bearings would last up to 10 times as long as it’s peers.
Furthermore, Shimano has introduced its “Super Free Spool” design in several models, including this one, where one of the ball bearings is used to support the pinion gear.
This, therefore, decreases the friction between it and the main shaft significantly when the clutch is disengaged. Of course, whenever the friction goes down, the smoothness of the operation goes up.
Additionally, the reel comes with counter Septon grip handles to increase torque and control when you are reeling in your catch along with a large line capacity that will make you feel comfortable while warring with aggressive species.
The biggest downside to this device is its price. It’s quite expensive, and not everyone can spare that much money to spend on a fishing reel. Plus, some find that it can’t work with monstrous fish efficiently enough. However, others say that the line capacity makes up for any deficiency.
- Suitable for both salt and freshwater
- Included counter
- Open frame design
- Specially treated anti-corrosion ball bearings
- Smooth level wind system
- Die-cast aluminum
- Septon grip
- Large line capacity
- Not suitable for monster fish
If money is no problem for you, and you want a reel that will give you a prolonged hassle-free experience on any waterfront that you would prefer, then you should definitely go for the Shimano Tekota Levelwind.
6. KastKing Spartacus – Best Brake System
KastKing has worked on this reel in order to give it the ultimate brake system. But, let’s run over the basics first.
This reel is entirely made out of graphite, making it corrosion resistant and lightweight at the same time. It has twelve shielded, stainless steel, MaxiDur corrosion-resistant ball bearings which allow for extra smoothness and sleekness for your fishing trip, plus a gear ratio of 6.3:1.
Furthermore, it boasts an instant anti-reverse bearing, high-quality cork with 95 mm handles, and a CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled), aluminum spool for maximum durability.
Now, on to the star of this show, the brake system. It is a micro-cast, dual centrifugal, dual magnetic brake system with superior carbon fiber washers with a maximum of 18 lbs.
Although some other drag systems can exceed this maximum, it’s not just about that, the smoothness of this drag system and how it eliminates the pressure and heat generated by constant friction are what makes it genuinely superior.
One last thing is that the price here is not too high. While it’s not the cheapest, it’s within the budget of most people, making it a common choice.
The disadvantage that comes with this reel is that although it has eleven ball bearings with one being a reverse bearing, they tend to be quite flimsy and very prone to breaking.
- Great break system
- Suitable for trophy catches
- Top-notch cork handles
- Flimsy ball bearings
Although this reel focuses on its excellent brake system and provides a smooth reeling experience, other aspects have not been forgotten. It’s quite rigid and lightweight due to the graphite body, boasts shielded stainless steel ball bearings, and has top-notch cork handles.
7. Okuma Trio High Speed – Best for Beginners
Our final product on this list is best suited for beginners, as it offers a lot of stability and rigidity along with a great drag system without the complexity of other models.
First of all, this reel is made of both aluminum and graphite, so it gives you the best of both worlds. It grants the strength and reliability of aluminum while maintaining the lightness of graphite.
Moreover, it has ten ball bearings with an anti-reverse one, which is quick-set. This helps the brake system a lot as it relieves a lot of pressure.
Additionally, it boasts an impressive spool made entirely out of graphite, except for the lip, which is made out of aluminum. This hybrid spool can hold a significant length of line.
Furthermore, the drag system here is quite impressive as it is the precision dual force one, and what it does is that it utilizes the different surfaces of the reel in order to increase its efficiency. Also, this drag system, as a whole, is housed in a special aluminum drag compartment, which allows it even more stability.
The disadvantages of this piece of machinery include the fact that it’s not that suitable for trophy catches as we have said it is more of a beginner reel, so you might want to stick to smaller species. Also, the screws on it are a bit flimsy, and they have been known to strip quite fast
- Precision Dual Drag Force drag system
- 9+1 ball bearings
- Rigid aluminum
- Quick anti-reverse system
- Not suitable for trophy fish
- Flimsy screws
If you want to try your hand at trolling with something straightforward that will allow you to go through your learning curve as fast/slow as you want, this reel will give you a lot of security and stability, plus a great drag system that will support you immensely.
How to Pick a Trolling Reel
Logically, the very first thing that you should think about when purchasing any reel, not just a trolling one, is its core structure. You are investing your money here, so you need to know that it will last.
There are three materials out of which trolling reels are made: graphite, machined aluminum, and cast aluminum. Graphite is the least expensive and most suitable for beginners who are trying their hand with trolling. It is the most lightweight. However, it’s not as durable or resilient as aluminum.
Next comes the cast aluminum trolling reels, which are a lot stronger and heavier. Lastly, we have the machined aluminum reel, which is the perfect choice if you intend to catch trophy tuna. They’re definitely the most robust trolling reels out there.
When you are fighting aggressive seawater fish, you need to be able to have an adequate back-and-forth with the fish without snapping your line, breaking your equipment, or losing your catch. The key to achieving that is an efficient drag system.
A drag system is the part of the reel that allows a certain length of line out to tire out the fish. You can go for a multi-disc drag system, which is quite smooth and practical or a star drag system, which is all about anglers’ convenience and comfort.
3. Levelwind System
When your prey catches the bait, you need to act quite fast, and a level wind system will undoubtedly help you do that. Basically, this system is a bar that keeps going over the spool left right as you reel in your fishing line in order to guarantee even distribution of the line over the spool.
This prevents the line from piling up in one side of your spool and therefore hurdling its action and possibly costing you your catch of the day.
4. Clicker System
What a clicker system does is that it makes noise to let you know that your line is still going down into the water, or it has settled in place. It ought to be loud enough for you to hear over the sound of waves, wind, motor, and everything that will be happening around you. Otherwise, it will be useless.
5. Line Capacity
When you are out at sea or even in freshwater, you are mostly going for trophy preys.
Hence, you will need adequate line capacity so that you don’t run short. You could hardly have too much line, but you can very easily have too little line.
6. Counter System
This is an observation system that tells you how deep your line is. This is especially helpful when we are aiming for different species that exist at different depths of the sea.
A counter system can be either electric or manual. However, anglers mostly go for a manual system because of the digital obstacles that face the electric one due to moisture damage.
Always make sure to go for a larger spool, preferably braid-ready, so that you will save yourself a lot of effort in spooling.
8. Reel Size
Real sizes run from 15 all the way to 300. Thus, the variety of options here is incredibly vast. Mostly, a reel size 30 and less will be too small for any sort of trolling.
The most common sizes that are used would be the 50 and 60 as they are fit for a lot of the trophy catches that are commonly available on the sea.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a Trolling Reel be Used for Casting?
Practically and theoretically, yes, you can. But, in reality, there is no need for that. Trolling means heavier and more baits in general.
With casting, you need an average size/weight reel that can cast just one bait. Hence, if you use a trolling reel for casting, you’ll be overloading yourself for no reason and no extra gain whatsoever.
Can a Spinning Reel be Used for Trolling?
As we have stated before, every fishing technique needs its own equipment to be efficient. A spinning reel, of course, can be used for trolling.
However, it will not give you the same results as it can’t use as many baits and doesn’t offer the same features as trolling gear.
What are the Best Tips for Efficient Trolling?
- Always use a fishfinder.
- Use different types of baits to attract different fish.
- Dunk different baits at different depths to create a commotion that will attract the fish, and to attract different species, you can utilize your counter system.
- Make sure that your baits are at least 20- 150 ft away from your boat.
- Always disassemble and clean your reel thoroughly after every use.
Trolling is genuinely one of the most amusing fishing techniques that you could possibly practice. You throw your baits, and you will be quite surprised by what comes out more often than not.
Today, we have covered the topic of trolling reels. We have shown you our picks for the eight best trolling reels and broken down a simple guide that will help you navigate the market.
If you want a premium reel that will last you ages, make you feel secure and not in-want of anything else when trolling, then our top pick, the Penn Squall Lever Drag 2 is an excellent choice for anyone.
Our runner-up, the Okuma Cold Water Line Counter, is also an excellent piece of machinery that guarantees you unprecedented smoothness and efficiency.
Nevertheless, if you’re all about cost efficiency and require something within your budget and not break the bank, then the Okuma Magda Pro Line Counter will not fail you.