Before we move onto the best trolling reels, i want to give you an introduction to them, just in case you don’t know what they are.
I have always said that everyone should at least try different types of fishing. It is the only way of knowing whether or not something is right for you. While trying out different experiences you have the time of your life and actually be extremely satisfied with yourself. One of the most interesting and demanding types of fishing is trolling.
Before giving it a try I was really suspicious if it was right for me and whether or not I would have fun while doing it. However, a friend and fellow fishermen had set up the whole trip and I couldn’t refuse him. Hopped on the boat and he was telling me about how the process should go, and boy oh boy, was it fun and exciting. We caught a ton of fish and had a blast at the same time. Since then I have always looked forward to trolling trips.
For those that aren’t in the know, trolling, refers to the kind of fishing that is practiced by dragging the fishing line from a moving boat, with multiple baits optimally and most of the time, thus covering a larger area of the water to get better chances of scoring a catch. While it can be also done in a stationary boat or a dock, the proper way to do it is from a moving boat.
Preparing for a trolling trip is a little bit tasking since you need to study the area you are planning to fish and prepare your bait for them specifically. After that, you should prepare your boat to mount your fish finder and get moving to the designated area of fishing. I should warn you that the most important part of trolling is having appropriate reels. It should be of high-quality and durable first of all. You should know that a trolling reel has special bearings that smoothen the process of gathering the line. Each of these bearings has a particular brake that decreases the rotation speed.
So if you want to practice efficient trolling and do it in the best possible manner you should definitely invest in a good trolling reel. Some may ask how? The answer is simple to stick around with this guide and I will reveal the top trolling reels in the market, how to choose the best one, answer some frequently asked questions and so much more. Now without further ado, let’s dive deeper into it.
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We are going to start with the top picks here. These are the definite best options you have in the market so far and are all fail-safe and efficient. If you don’t want to waste any time check these products and check them out for yourself. These products are handpicked by me, based on my years of experience trolling, market research, expert consultation and value based on the price.
7. Shakespeare ATS Trolling
We are going to start this list off with an affordable trolling reel coming in from Shakespeare, the ATS Trolling. Shakespeare has always delivered super durable products and the ATS Trolling line of theirs never has disappointed.
Due to its price and construction, I can see that the Shakespeare ATS Trolling is built for beginners and those who want to give trolling a try. I wanted to see whether it can withstand the demands of trolling.
This device is pretty much excellent in paper, coming in with a one-piece graphite frame and side covers. two ball bearings for smoothness and feel. The pinion is made out of stainless steel and it has a selective bait clicker. The level wind is also made out of stainless steel and it comes in various sizes, including 15, 20 and 30, all with and without line counters.
In terms of performance and feel, the Shakespeare ATS Trolling provided a confident appearance, with smooth performance and durability. While it is not the best in the market, it will do justice for the price that it comes at.
6. Okuma Cold Water
Okuma is one of the most notable reels and rod manufacturers in the market, and the Okuma Cold Water is pretty much excellent for trolling. While the Okuma Cold Water is not super expensive, it delivers features that will really convince you that it is a high end trolling reel.
The Okuma Cold Water is designed for those that really know their money’s worth, and always want to get the most bang for their buck. I have used the Okuma Cold Water for a long time now and I can’t praise it enough, for that reason I decided to include it here.
In terms of features, the Okuma Cold Water has a million of them including the lightweight corrosion resistant side-plates and frame, a multi-disc carbonite drag system, 2BB + 1RB stainless steel bearings, self-lubricating gearing system, star drag for precision, line counter and so much more.
Right from the first try, I knew that the Okuma Cold Water was definitely one of the best, it is definitely a joy to reel it in. Its mechanical stabilizing system, smoothness, and durability really deliver a priceless experience in trolling, a must-try.
5. Abu Garcia Ambassadeur
The Abu Garcia Ambassadeur is our next entry in this list, and it is an excellent trolling reel that I have had first hand experience with. It is a value-packed for power and performance, smoothness and durability in the same package.
If you have tried any Abu Garcia product you know what quality feels like and the manufacturer has always delivered, this one just makes things better than they already are. As I said I have had experience with the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur and want to present to you its features and performance.
Looking at the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur feature and spec list, I was genuinely impressed especially at the price of it. It has a round design, that is engineered to be as smooth as possible with 3 stainless steel ball bearings and one roller bearing. My favorite feature of it was the Carbon Matrix drag system that delivers a smooth and consistent drag. it also has a 6 pin centrifugal brake that provides proper pressure for the perfect cast.
Moving on I have to say that the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur is designed as a baitcasting reel, however, experienced troll fishers have noticed that it has all the qualities that a trolling reel should have. Based on those qualities and my experience I can definitely say that the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur has definitely delivered prowess.
4. Penn Warfare Level Wind
Coming up next Penn has come to the rescue with the Warfare Level Wind trolling reel. This reel comes as one of the best all-round packages in the market, and it has all the features to support you catching big game fish without a problem.
The Penn Warfare Level Wind is a value-based all-rounder, a jack of all trades, in all the good sense of the word, since it has provided a great package for trolling and so much more. Before buying this I was skeptical of the performance of the Penn Warfare Level Wind and wanted to see if it could perform.
The Penn Warfare Level Wind comes with a solid list of features that will make every trolling trip pleasant. It has a graphite frame and side plates, a machined aluminum spool, brass main and pinion gear, and HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers that go along perfectly with the instant anti-reverse bearing.
The Penn Warfare Level Wind isn’t the most feature-packed trolling reel in the market, but like I said it is a good all-rounder delivering everything that you may need, and not much more. It is a good one for those that want to start out with trolling and I could comfortably recommend it to everyone.
3. Okuma Magda Pro
The Okuma Magda Pro-Line is the best affordable trolling reel in the market, and it will make every fisherman happy. The Okuma Magda Pro is a super simple and functional trolling reel that is durable, has various features, lightweight and so much more.
While the Okuma Magda Pro is an affordable trolling reel, it delivers all the features and performance that the bigger and more high-end reels have. I have had some experience with this one and upon deeper inspection, it really deserves all the praise.
The Okuma Magda Pro has a feature and spec list that is endless. It is constructed with a corrosion-resistant graphite all-around, has a mechanical line counter, a multi-disc carbonite drag system, two stainless steel ball-bearing system and 16 point anti-reverse for better hookups.
In real life performance the Okuma Magda Pro didn’t disappoint as well, delivering a pretty much effortless outing. It was extremely smooth and all of its features worked flawlessly. The self-lubricating gear system releases oil to decrease friction and the wide mouth level wind was great overall.
2. Shimano Tekota
The runner up on this list is the high-end but ultra-powerful and mighty, Shimano Tekota. This trolling reel is the perfect solution for more experienced fishermen that want versatility power and performance from their reels, great capacity, smoothness, and durability, in the same body.
Like I said the Shimano Tekota comes at a premium price, and it features all the things that may cross your mind when it comes to trolling, pretty much flawless. I wanted to see if it is worth all the hype that it gets, or if it is just a proper tool that will help you catch big game fish.
The Shimano Tekota is constructed from a one-piece die-cast aluminum frame that is extremely durable, to say the least.s It has a cross-bar forward design that will give you direct access to the spool, and a non-disengaging level-wind system. The anti-rust bearings deliver a super-smooth performance, and it has a nice gear ratio of 4.2:1, with a maximum drag of 24-lbs.
During testing, I noticed that the Shimano Tekota is definitely the best in the market, and it is a super safe choice for anglers and who want to troll in both fresh and saltwater. The line counter works properly and the strength is over the top with this reel. A must try reel, perfect from every angle.
1. Penn Squall LevelWind
On top of the list, I have the Penn Squall LevelWind which was the definite best trolling reel for everybody. It is the successor of the GT series reels that have been the first-hand choice of many trolling anglers and it delivers all its features plus its own personality.
The Penn Squall LevelWind is designed and manufactured for those that want the best performance without paying a hefty price, superb value for the price. I have to say that the Squall LevelWind has been my favorite trolling reel for a long time now and I can’t seem to switch to another one.
Looking at its feature and spec list, you will spot some interesting things. First, off I should mention the graphite frame and side plates, that keeps it lightweight, however, the spool is made out of forged aluminum. The pinion gear is made out of stainless steel for smoothness and durability and the HT-100 drag washers stay cool and give a priceless experience.
While testing the Penn Squall LevelWind I noticed that it is pretty much extremely smooth in every way thanks to its 2+1 shielded stainless steel ball-bearing system and anti-reverse. Overall the Penn Squall LevelWind is great and you can’t get a better trolling reel anytime soon, especially for the price.
Features and Qualities to Consider Before Buying a Trolling Reel
I have to say that like every product you might be planning to buy, you have to be informed and knowledgeable about the features and functionalities of the product before buying it. It is no different in a trolling reel, it is better to know more about the product and the features that it offers, so you can get the most out of your hard-earned money and get the best reel for your needs.
The body and build of a trolling reel is the first thing you should take a look before buying one. This is important not just for trolling reels, you should be careful about the construction of your reels regardless of what type is it. Most of the time trolling reels are built from cast aluminum, graphite, and machined aluminum.
There are some slight differences between the three of them that deliver different qualities. For example, reels made from graphite are lightweight and a little less expensive than the other giving various advantages. However, they are not as strong as cast aluminum reels, which are a little more expensive too. The premium choice when it comes to trolling reels are machined aluminum reels, that are super strong, the largest, and by far the best choice when it comes to them.
However, the choice of the material must correspond to your skill level, for example, it is not very advisable to get a high-end machined aluminum reel if you are going to break it. For that reason, I recommend graphite and affordable reels to beginners so they get a better feel for it so they can afford to make mistakes that will definitely occur in the process.
One of the most important features when it comes to trolling reels is the drag, and it should be as smooth as possible. Your catch will definitely make a run for its life, and if you don’t have a drag system without any jerk, you will struggle to catch it, smoothness is key in fishing. There are some interesting systems with multi-disc drags that deliver smooth control when reeling in fishes. There are also Star drag adjustments for convenience, and I have to stress it again that smooth drag is extremely important when fishing, but this is especially true when it comes to catching big game fish.
This might not be a well-known thing but the level of wind in the reel you are planning to buy for trolling is super important and will help you hunt for larger saltwater fish. However, if you don’t plan on catching big game fish this is not an important feature, so like I said it will depend on your skill level, needs, and preferences.
While the line capacity is a factor you should consider to some degree when you are buying other kinds of a reel, when it comes to trolling reels, it is crucial. While trolling you have to use thicker lines, and this means that if the spool’s line capacity is mediocre it wouldn’t be enough to accommodate an adequate amount of reel, you are in trouble. However, this will also depend on the fish you are trying to catch and the depth that they live. But then again the more the better when it comes to line capacity, you never know.
Size of the Reel
You will notice that these reels come in a wide range of sizes, and manufacturers have really outdone themselves here, as you will see some super small trolling reels that are pretty suspicious, and some extremely large ones.
Generally speaking, they come in 17, 27, 47, 57, and 60 sizes. 17 size reels are pretty small, to be honest, and I don’t think that they are enough for open water trolling since the size translates to line capacity as well. While on the largest end of the spectrum you will notice that the reels have super heavy bodies and have so much line on them that you won’t ever need.
Sticking to 27 size reels is a pretty safe choice, one of the best all-rounders in the market, good line capacity and the best value for their price. However, in my opinion, if you want to get an adequate trolling experience and never left wanting for more, the size 47 reels are the best.
Clickers and Counters
Clickers are interesting features added, that click like their name implies when the line is paying out. Check to see if the clicker is loud enough for you to hear it through engine sounds and chatting.
As you already know fishing should be fun and relaxing, and if the whole ordeal is a little boring and stressful, why bother right? Counting the depth of the line is one of the most annoying things you have to do, but if your reel has a counter you don’t have to do it.
There are generally two types of counters you will find manual and electric, and I would suggest you invest in a reel with a manual counter since electric counters are prone to failure thanks to various electrical components such as LCD screens which are not ideal for moist environments.
Difference Between Trolling & Casting Reels
Looking at the function and mechanism, trolling and normal spinning reels and baitcasting reels look pretty much similar and not very distinct from each other. One thing that differentiates trolling reels from other kinds of reels is that they are created solely for trolling. They aren’t made to be cast like the former, as you need to drop the line behind the moving boat.
Most of the trolling reels are made out of graphite, frequently with larger reel handles and feet. The drag systems are also pretty tough as well, on top of that most of the time they have clicker alarms and many other features that we will discuss later. Since they don’t need to be cast, they come in larger and heavier bodies which makes room for more lines to be spooled around them. Also, they are most likely paired with thicker lines that are more durable.
Trolling reels are also coupled with special rods for better efficiency. They are pretty difficult to match with traditional rods, due to their larger size and feet so while you are at it, it is a good idea to shop for a trolling rod as well. You will find tons of trolling reels in the market, ranging from very simple features to super impressive and futuristic tricks up their sleeve.
There you have it folks, your guide to buying the best trolling reels, regardless of if you are looking for a new set or you are just starting out. If you follow these guidelines you will know exactly how to buy a trolling reel, what features and qualities you should consider and so much more. You won’t make a bad choice either now nor in the future when it comes to trolling reels, just stick with the tips and you are good to go. Then again the top picks that I have provided are fail-safe and you will be satisfied every time you use them. Until next time.