By now, you’re probably getting sick of me talking about my love for trolling for walleyes. If you’ve read any of my reviews here at Review Your Gear, you’ll know that I have quite a fancy for fishing walleyes. And I’ve become used to trolling…A LOT.
Is it my favorite way to fish??? To be honest, no. The thump on a jig is pretty darn tough to beat. But a close second is the sound of a trolling reel clicker going off…especially when it’s the sound a big fish makes that I can’t even describe. I do most of my trolling for walleyes, although I do spend a decent amount of days trolling for muskies as well. It’s tough to beat the ground you can cover trolling…especially at high speeds. So with that being said, when it comes to trolling reels, I’m VERY picky. I’ve used the following brands below and here are my recommendations.
Shimano Tekota Reels
Honestly, I don’t know how you can have a review on fishing reels of any kind without having at least one Shimano fishing reel. Their reputation goes without saying…they make great reels. The same goes for their trolling reel line of reels, the Tekota series.
I initially gave the nod to the Okuma Coldwaters, but after 3 years of use, most have failed. But the Tekota keeps on kicking!
This reel is being used heavily in both saltwater AND freshwater. It has the power to control big fish but the finesse for smaller species…such as walleye. It has probably the smoothest drag system of them all, and the feel of the reel is something else. Now I only run one, but I have a close friend that runs 4 of them and speaks extremely highly of them. I’ve used them in his boat and fell in love with them. The only problem is the price tag for me as I run a lot of trolling rods.
But like many things in life, you get what you pay for and these trolling reels are no different. I’m in the process of transitioning all my reels to Shimano for the simple durability factor. I will continue to add more to this review as time goes on.
PROS: Awesome reputation, smooth drag system, very durable
CONS: On the higher end for pricing
Okuma Cold Water Trolling Fishing Reels
This may come as a shocker that I eliminated the Cold Water reels by Okuma as the Editor’s Choice. There has been some heavy competition through the years for trolling fishing reels, without a doubt. I gave these fishing reels are a real work out over 3 years, and only one of them is remaining. The drag system failed and in some cases, the line counter quit working too.
Now to be fair, I used the Cold Water series that Scheels makes which is a different color. I’ve been told, on many occasions, that these are exactly the same (except for color, of course). But as usual, I hear the opposite. Any way you slice it, if you are going to go with Coldwater’s…make sure they’re orange!
So let’s talk about why I liked them in the first place. When I originally wrote this article, I felt the Okuma Cold Water trolling reels were the real deal…and why you may ask?
- Well, first of all, you can get them shipped to your door for under $100 (pretty reasonable in my opinion).
- Second, I own these trolling reels and they are smooth.
- Third, I LOVE the drag system on these. So many of the other reels are touchy, meaning you have to adjust them just right to get the desired tension. The drag system on the Okuma’s “click”…and that makes them easy to set and test.
I have various sizes of this reel, some for shallow water and others for deeper and even leadcore. No matter the situation, you should be happy with these trolling fishing reels for any species, for the price. How much you use them will determine the age.
PROS: Not too pricey, and a great drag system
CONS: The line counters can stick a bit, but I see that often with all of them to be fair. Don’t buy the knock-offs I’ve found!
Daiwa Sealine Trolling Fishing Reels
A close second to the Okuma Cold Waters, initially, was the Daiwa Sealine reels. Many anglers would’ve chosen this trolling reel over the Okuma’s or Shimano. Hey, to each their own.
I still have a lot of Sealine’s in my arsenal, but I did drop them in rank since I have had a few issues with mine. I found my older models of the Sealine’s lasted longer than the newer version. Maybe a different factory or something, but the quality seemed to drop a bit.
But outside of those issues, I still have owned around a half dozen and still use a few of them after many, many years. Their line counters always work, which sounds simple…but it isn’t. If a line counter goes out, I only use the reel for trolling 3-ways and snap weights (where the line counter isn’t as important).
The Sealine’s do have quite the following over the past decades, so that tells you something. There isn’t a ton of parts either, it’s all one mold. Not a bad design in that regard. They’re gone up in price a bit, but I feel they’re still around that $100 range.
PROS: Not too expensive, pretty reliable, and are smooth
CONS: The drag system can be touchy, not much turning of the setting can change drastically.
Penn Squall Lever Drag 2-Speed Trolling Reels
Traditionally, Penn fishing reels are more used on the coasts for saltwater fishing. And that’s cool, I love fishing saltwater whenever I can (which isn’t often enough). But I do own one Penn trolling reel and I have to say the thing is awesome.
It’s fairly newer, so I haven’t used it enough to give it the “reliable” or “durable” sticker just yet, but it’s on its way. This trolling reel is meant for BIG fish and is set up to take on the task. It’s built strong at all ends and has a multiple speed change setting that allows you to change how fast you’re reeling in a flash.
I’m told by a buddy who has used them the past couple years that I have to invest in them more. I would still like to give it one more season, as you never know if it fails. I’ve made that mistake of jumping the gun before, but I feel you should get YEARS out of a fishing reel (is that too much to ask?).
I must say that if you’re into trolling reels for saltwater, or freshwater walleyes or muskies…this is a reel that needs an honorable mention.
PROS: Has multiple speeds, built extremely well, a great reputation
CONS: Very expensive in comparison to the others
Daiwa AccuDepth Trolling Linecounter Reels
The Daiwa AccuDepths is the cheaper version, basically, of the Sealine trolling reels. They have a lot simpler drag system, it’s not built as strong. It doesn’t have small bells and whistles like it’s counterpart either.
But at the end of the day, there may be a cheaper price tag but they do flat out work. I bought 2 of these years back and now use them for running Leadcore. I can’t break the darn things haha! To me, that simple fact speaks volumes in any gear for that matter.
But if you go through as many fishing reels as I do, longevity is a serious factor in my reviews. I also like the auto-engage clutch built into the reel. Makes it pretty smooth for a cheap fishing reel.
So if you’re not looking to spend more than the $50 range on linecounter reels for trolling, than these are a good option to look into.
PROS: Great price tag, can last a long time
CONS: Not as solid of drag or as smooth with only one bearing, but still works well
So I would have to consider these to be the top trolling reels in the market today, based on durability, reliability, feel, and price. They’re all great fishing reels and I’ve used them all as I’ve stated.
When it comes to trolling crankbaits, you need to have a trolling reel you can count on. After all, a large part of fishing is confidence and it’s hard to be consistent without it. When I purchase a reel, I expect to get AT LEAST 3 HARD seasons out of it…no matter the price. If it can’t do that, I’m searching for an alternative plain and simple.
Get out and get fishing while the season is in full swing!