Fishing

The 10 Best Trolling Reels of 2020

Best Trolling Reel

As the name suggests, a trolling reel helps you to drag a fishing line while you are on a moving boat. At times, multiple lures are attached to the line when using this reel. This enables you to cover a large area faster while also improving your chances of catching monster fish.

That said, the reel should at least be strong enough to handle the intense pulling and durable enough to resist corrosion. To help you get a suitable piece, the article below covers 10 of the best trolling reels that are worth buying. Read more!

You can also read other product reviews such as baitcasting reel, fly reel, spinning reel, spincast reel, ice fishing reel.

10 Best Trolling Reels – Review 

IMAGE

​PRODUCT

​FEATURES

Penn 50VSW

1. Penn 50VSW (Best Overall)

  • High max drag rating
  • Long line-capacity
  • 2-speed quick-shift system
  • Non-reversing double dog ratchet system
Okuma MA-15DX

2. Okuma MA-15DX (Best for the Money)

  • Affordable
  • Self-lubricating gear system
  • Fast retrieval gear ratio
  • Lightweight (12.6 oz.)
Shimano Torium Conventional Reel

3. Shimano Torium Conventional Reel (Best High-Efficiency)

  • High efficiency 6.2:1 gearing system
  • Smooth cross carbon drag system
  • 4 anti-rust bearings
  • Super stopper
Okuma CW-303D

4. Okuma CW-303D (Best Self-Lubricating)

  • Self-lubricating drop-down gearbox
  • Sturdy multi-disc carbonite drag system
  • Mechanical stabilizing system
  • Dual anti-reverse system
Shimano TLD Conventional Reel

5. Shimano TLD Conventional Reel (Best for Beginners)

  • Ergonomic power handle
  • Smooth 4 anti-rust bearings
  • 2-speed system
  • Relatively high 23-lb maximum drag
Penn SQL50LW

6. Penn SQL50LW (Durable)

  • Durable graphite frame and side plates
  • Machined bronze alloy main gear
  • Sturdy forged aluminum spool
  • Smooth HT 100 carbon fiber drag system
Penn 309mcp

7. Penn 309mcp (Has Counter Balancing Handle)

  • Comfortable counter-balanced handle
  • Ergonomic oversized paddle knob
  • Level wind reel
  • Machined aluminum spool
Shimano Tekota Levelwind Reel

8. Shimano Tekota Levelwind Reel (Has Crossbar Forward Design)

  • Accessible crossbar forward design
  • Non-disengaging level-wind system
  • 4 anti-rust bearings
  • Counter-balanced handle
Okuma CLX-200La

9. Okuma CLX-200La (Comes with Stainless Steel Gearing)

  • Reliable stainless-steel gearing
  • Self-lubricating system
  • Wide mouth level wind
  • Durable ported graphite frame
KastKing Rover Baitcasting Reel

10. KastKing Rover Baitcasting Reel (Smoothest)

  • Smooth 7-bearing design
  • High 30 lbs. max drag
  • Durable all-metal body design
  • Lightweight (12.6 oz.)

PRODUCT

1. Penn 50VSW

(Best Overall)

Penn 50VSW
  • High max drag rating
  • Long line-capacity
  • 2-speed quick-shift system
  • Non-reversing double dog ratchet system

2. Okuma MA-15DX

(Best for the Money)

Okuma MA-15DX
  • Affordable
  • Self-lubricating gear system
  • Fast retrieval gear ratio
  • Lightweight (12.6 oz.)

3. Shimano Torium Conventional Reel

(Best High-Efficiency)

Shimano Torium Conventional Reel
  • High efficiency 6.2:1 gearing system
  • Smooth cross carbon drag system
  • 4 anti-rust bearings
  • Super stopper

4. Okuma CW-303D

(Best Self-Lubricating)

Okuma CW-303D
  • Self-lubricating drop-down gearbox
  • Sturdy multi-disc carbonite drag system
  • Mechanical stabilizing system
  • Dual anti-reverse system

5. Shimano TLD Conventional Reel

(Best for Beginners)

Shimano TLD Conventional Reel
  • Ergonomic power handle
  • Smooth 4 anti-rust bearings
  • 2-speed system
  • Relatively high 23-lb maximum drag

6. Penn SQL50LW

(Durable)

Penn SQL50LW
  • Durable graphite frame and side plates
  • Machined bronze alloy main gear
  • Sturdy forged aluminum spool
  • Smooth HT 100 carbon fiber drag system

7. Penn 309mcp

(Has Counter Balancing Handle)

Penn 309mcp
  • Comfortable counter-balanced handle
  • Ergonomic oversized paddle knob
  • Level wind reel
  • Machined aluminum spool

8. Shimano Tekota Levelwind Reel

(Has Crossbar Forward Design)

Shimano Tekota Levelwind Reel
  • Accessible crossbar forward design
  • Non-disengaging level-wind system
  • 4 anti-rust bearings
  • Counter-balanced handle

9. Okuma CLX-200La

(Comes with Stainless Steel Gearing)

Okuma CLX-200La
  • Reliable stainless-steel gearing
  • Self-lubricating system
  • Wide mouth level wind
  • Durable ported graphite frame

10. KastKing Rover Baitcasting Reel

(Smoothest)

KastKing Rover Baitcasting Reel
  • Smooth 7-bearing design
  • High 30 lbs. max drag
  • Durable all-metal body design
  • Lightweight (12.6 oz.)

1. Penn 50VSW – Best Overall Trolling Reel

Penn 50VSW

Photo: Penn

  • Line Capacity: 890/50
  • Bearing Count: 4
  • Max Drag: 28 lbs.
  • Gear Ratio: 2.9:1, 1.5:1
  • Weight: 75 oz.

Starting off the list is Penn’s 50VSW and it takes the overall best spot because of several reasons. For starters, it has a high 28-lb max drag, which ensures you get enough resistance to pull large, heavy fish. This is enhanced by a dura-drag system for eliminating snags.

The reel also has a very long line capacity because it can hold a thick 50-lb line that is up to 890 yds long. This is ideal for fishing offshore where long, thick lines are required.

Other than that, the unit is equipped with a 2-speed quick-shift system that allows you to easily switch between a 2.9:1 high gear ratio for fast retrieval and a 1.5:1 low gear ratio for high torque retrieval of heavy fish.

More features include a corrosion-resistant graphite frame, a double dog ratchet system that prevents handle reversing and 4 bearings (3BB and 1RB) for smooth running.

However, the reel is very costly and weighs a lot (75 oz.).

Pros:

  • High max drag rating
  • Long line-capacity
  • 2-speed quick-shift system
  • Durable graphite frame
  • Non-reversing double dog ratchet system

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Heavy

2. Okuma MA-15DX – Best Trolling Reel for the Money

Okuma MA-15DX

Photo: Okuma

  • Line Capacity: 290/12
  • Bearing Count: 2
  • Max Drag: 15 lbs.
  • Gear Ratio: 5.1:1
  • Weight: 12.6 oz.

For those on a tight budget, Okuma’s MA-15DX is the best trolling reel to buy because it is very affordable. Despite this, the unit is built using high-quality materials such as a corrosion-resistant graphite spool, stainless steel side plates, and a stainless steel level wind line guide.

The unit is also equipped with a self-lubricating gear system that automatically releases oil if friction increases. This ensures the gear and shaft run with minimal wear and tear for long-lasting use.

Other features are a mechanical line counter function that measures the line in feet, a fast retrieval 5.1:1 gear ratio, corrosion-resistant machine-cut brass gearing and a lightweight design that only weighs 12.6 oz.

On the downside, the reel has a relatively low max drag of 15 lbs., which is not suitable for heavy fish, and contains only 2 gears, which are very few.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Corrosion-resistant graphite spool
  • Self-lubricating gear system
  • Fast retrieval gear ratio
  • Lightweight design

Cons:

  • Few gears
  • Low max drag rating

3. Shimano Torium Conventional Reel – Best High-Efficiency Trolling Reel

Shimano Torium Conventional Reel

Photo: Shimano

  • Line Capacity: 320/20
  • Bearing Count: 4
  • Max Drag: 24 lbs.
  • Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
  • Weight: 18.9-19.8 oz.

Shimano’s Torium is unique because it is fitted with a high-efficiency gearing system that has a 6.2:1 ratio. This makes it very quick during the retrieval process while also retaining structural strength, rigidity and better leverage from the system.

The reel also has a cross carbon drag system that is very smooth and provides a max drag of 24 lbs., which is enough to withstand powerful runs from large fish such as pelagic.

You also get 4 anti-rust bearings (3BB and 1RB) that are 10x more resistant as compared to standard stainless-steel bearings and a super stopper for anti-reverse.

The only problem is that you don’t get a 2-speed system for switching between high and low gear.

Pros:

  • High efficiency 6.2:1 gearing system
  • Smooth cross carbon drag system
  • 4 anti-rust bearings
  • Super stopper

Cons:

  • Lacks 2-speed system

4. Okuma CW-303D – Best Self-Lubricating Trolling Reel

Okuma CW-303D

Photo: Okuma

  • Line Capacity: 420/20
  • Bearing Count: 3
  • Max Drag: 20 lbs.
  • Gear Ratio: 4.2:1
  • Weight: 20 oz.

The drop-down gearbox in Okuma’s CW-303D has a self-lubricating system, which ensures oil is released automatically if friction increases. This ensures smoothness and durability of the system’s 4.2:1 gear ratio when reeling in the line.

Apart from that, the unit has a multi-disc carbonite drag system that gives a maximum drag of 20 lbs. This system has a ratcheting drag star that ensures high precision on the drag settings.

More features include a mechanical stabilizing system that holds all the internal components together, a dual anti-reverse system, a clear view anti-fog line counter, a corrosion-resistant frame and side plates and 3 stainless steel bearings (2BB and 1RB).

On the downside, the reel’s handle is not counterbalanced for comfortable cranking.

Pros:

  • Self-lubricating drop-down gearbox
  • Sturdy multi-disc carbonite drag system
  • Mechanical stabilizing system
  • Clear view anti-fog line counter

Cons:

  • Handle is not counter-balanced

5. Shimano TLD Conventional Reel – Best Trolling Reel for Beginners

Shimano TLD Conventional Reel

Photo: Shimano

  • Line Capacity: 700/20
  • Bearing Count: 4
  • Max Drag: 23 lbs.
  • Gear Ratio: 3.5:1, 1.7:1
  • Weight: 23.6 oz.

If you are a beginner in trolling, Shimano’s TLD is the best reel to buy because it has an ergonomic power handle that makes cranking easy.

Additionally, the unit is equipped with 4 bearings (3BB and 1RB), which make it smooth to reel in the line or retrieve the fish. These bearings are rust-resistant for maximum durability.

Other than that, you get a 2-speed system that offers a high 3.5:1 gear ratio for quick retrieval and a low 1.7:1 ratio for high torque retrieval.

You also get a maximum drag of 23 lbs., which is quite high, a line capacity of 700 yds for a 20-lb. line and a durable graphite frame. There are larger size options of this TLD but they are costlier to buy.

Regardless of size though, you don’t get a self-lubricating gearbox that automatically oils itself for reduced friction.

Pros:

  • Easy cranking ergonomic power handle
  • Smooth 4 anti-rust bearings
  • 2-speed system
  • Relatively high 23-lb maximum drag
  • Durable graphite frame

Cons:

  • Lacks a self-oiling gearbox

6. Penn SQL50LW – Durable Trolling Reel

Penn SQL50LW

Photo: Penn

  • Line Capacity: 320/50
  • Bearing Count: 3
  • Max Drag: 20 lbs.
  • Gear Ratio: 4.0:1
  • Weight: 24.6 oz.

Penn’s SQL50LW has a very durable design that consists of a corrosion-resistant graphite frame and side plates, a stainless-steel pinion gear and a machined high-strength bronze alloy main gear.

You also get a machined and forged aluminum spool, two rustproof stainless-steel ball bearings, and an instant anti-reverse bearing that gets rid of back play.

Other than that, the reel is fitted with an HT 100 carbon fiber drag system that remains very smooth while delivering a maximum drag of up to 20 lbs.

The system’s performance is enhanced with HT 100 drag washers, which remain cool and smooth despite the increase in friction.

More features include a 320 yd line capacity for a 50-lb. line and line capacity markings that show if the spool is 1/3, 2/3 or full.

On the downside, the handle is not counterbalanced for smooth cranking.

Pros:

  • Durable graphite frame and side plates
  • Machined bronze alloy main gear
  • Sturdy forged aluminum spool
  • Smooth HT 100 carbon fiber drag system
  • Cool HT 100 drag washers

Cons:

  • Handle is not counterbalanced

7. Penn 309mcp – Trolling Reel with a Counter Balancing Handle

Penn 309mcp

Photo: Penn

  • Line Capacity: 300/30
  • Bearing Count: 2
  • Max Drag: 15 lbs.
  • Gear Ratio: 2.8:1
  • Weight: 23 oz.

Penn’s 309mcp features a counterbalance on the handle that works in tandem with the oversized paddle knob to give you smooth, comfortable cranking.

Other than that, the unit is a level wind reel that distributes the line evenly during retrieval, which is ideal for fresh or saltwater trolling.

The reel also has a durable design that consists of a machined aluminum spool, stainless steel gears and bake light side plates.

However, despite having an HT-100 carbon fiber drag system, the unit’s maximum drag is quite low because it is rated at 15 lbs.

Pros:

  • Comfortable counter-balanced handle
  • Ergonomic oversized paddle knob
  • Level wind reel with even line distribution
  • Sturdy machined aluminum spool

Cons:

  • Low max drag rating

8. Shimano Tekota Levelwind Reel – Trolling Reel with a Crossbar Forward Design

Shimano Tekota Levelwind Reel

Photo: Shimano

  • Line Capacity: 185/16
  • Bearing Count: 4
  • Max Drag: 18-24 lbs.
  • Gear Ratio: 4.2:1
  • Weight: 13.3-31 oz.

With its crossbar forward design, Shimano’s Tekota gives you direct access to the spool. Combined with its non-disengaging level-wind system with underbrace, this design gives you better and easier line management, which is recommended when dealing with long lines.

The reel runs on specially treated anti-rust bearings that are ideal for saltwater use because they are 10x more resistant to corrosion as compared to other stainless-steel bearings.

This entire structure is held in place by a single-piece die-cast aluminum frame that is built to withstand heavy use while 4 bearings (3BB and 1RB) ensure smooth operation.

You also get a counterbalanced handle for comfortable cranking but the issue is that the unit can hold a relatively short line. This is because it has a line capacity of 185 yds for a 16-lb line. However, there are larger size options if you want a longer line capacity.

Pros:

  • Crossbar forward design for direct spool access
  • Non-disengaging level-wind system
  • 4 anti-rust bearings
  • Comfortable counterbalanced handle

Cons:

  • Short line-capacity

9. Okuma CLX-200La – Trolling Reel with Stainless Steel Gearing

Okuma CLX-200La

Photo: Okuma

  • Line Capacity: 230/18
  • Bearing Count: 1
  • Max Drag: 12 lbs.
  • Gear Ratio: 5.1:1
  • Weight: 15.2 oz.

This Okuma CLX-200La is characterized by stainless steel gearing that is highly durable and reliable. The gearing system is also self-lubricating, which makes it very smooth even with increased friction.

Considering that the reel’s gear ratio is 5.1:1, the smoothness and reliability of the system makes it easier when doing a fast retrieval.

Apart from that, you get a wide mouth level wind that allows knots to pass through easily when fishing using double lines, a sturdy aluminum power handle with T knobs, a rustproof graphite spool and a ported graphite frame that is also very durable.

However, the reel is only fitted with one bearing, which is not as smooth as having multiple bearings. It also has a max drag of 12 lbs., which not suitable for trolling large fish.

Pros:

  • Reliable stainless-steel gearing
  • Self-lubricating system
  • Wide mouth level wind
  • Sturdy aluminum power handle
  • Durable ported graphite frame

Cons:

  • Only equipped with 1 bearing
  • Low max drag rating

10. KastKing Rover Baitcasting Reel – Smoothest Trolling Reel

KastKing Rover Baitcasting Reel

Photo: KastKing

  • Line Capacity: 250/16
  • Bearing Count: 7
  • Max Drag: 30 lbs.
  • Gear Ratio: 5.3:1
  • Weight: 12.6 oz.

KastKing’s Rover is fitted with 7 double-shielded stainless-steel ball bearings (6BB and 1RB), which are quite many and ensure it runs super smoothly regardless of the pressure exerted on it.

Additionally, the reel features a newly redesigned cymbal washer system that offers up to 30 lbs. of smooth drag, which is ideal for retrieving heavy saltwater fish.

Apart from that, the unit has an all-metal body design that is highly durable and is rated as bulletproof. This consists of a CNC machined spool, aluminum side plates, a metal idle gear, and a stainless-steel shaft, just to name a few.

Other features include an oversized T-handle with non-slip EVA grips, a line out clicker alarm and a thumb bar release for easy spool access.

The piece is also very lightweight (12.6 oz.) but on the downside, it has a relatively small line capacity because it can hold a 250-yd max length of a 16-lb line.

Pros:

  • Smooth 7-bearing design
  • High 30 lbs. max drag
  • Durable all-metal body design
  • Non-slip EVA grips
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Relatively small line capacity

How to Buy the Best Trolling Reel

How to Buy the Best Trolling Reel

1. Body Construction

Two main materials are used in the making trolling reel frames: aluminum and graphite. While both are corrosion resistant, aluminum is tougher and results in a sturdier body.

On the other hand, graphite is lightweight and cheaper than aluminum. Of course, other factors contribute towards the weight, cost, and durability of a reel.

That said, Penn’s SQL50LW has a graphite frame but contains metallic parts inside that make it very tough and durable.

2. Drag

Drag is the resistance that a fish feels once it is hooked to the bait and starts to fight back. With that in mind, the higher the resistance, the larger the fish that the reel can handle.

Given in pounds, a drag weight that is above 25 lbs. is ideal for retrieving large, heavy fish and this is highly recommended. For this, be sure to check out Penn’s 50VSW.

3. Level Wind

Level wind is a mechanism that distributes the line evenly on the spool during retrieval, which helps with line management. The feature is highly recommended when fishing offshore because a long line is required to get to the deep waters.

4. Counter

When trolling in very deep waters using a long line, a counter is very handy because it lets you know the line length that has left the spool. This gives you an idea of how far the bait is so that you can reel it back in or out, depending on your speed or the type of fish you are targeting.

Okuma’s CW-303D takes it up a notch by having a clear-view anti-fog counter. This ensures the reading remains clearly visible regardless of the weather conditions.

5. Spool

Just like its body, the reel’s spool can either be made of aluminum or graphite. As stated above, aluminum is sturdier than graphite but graphite has the benefit of being lightweight.

6. Line Capacity

The strength of a fishing line is determined by its diameter and is usually measured in pounds(lbs). For instance, a 30-lb line can hold up to 30 lbs. without snapping.

That said, thick and strong lines occupy more space in the spool as compared to thin ones. This means that a spool holding 200 yds of a 50-lb line will hold less for a 60-lb line.

Therefore, a reel’s capacity depends on the thickness of the line. Ideally, the larger the capacity, the better and thus, you need to check for a high value on both the yardage and test-lb.

For instance, Penn’s 50VSW has an 890/50 line-capacity, which means it can hold a very long 890-yd, 50-lb line. With a narrower 20-lb line, the reel can hold a very long length. This capacity is highly recommended, especially for offshore fishing.

7. Speed

Lastly, you need to consider the reel’s speed and this is usually determined by the gear ratio. High gear ratios like the 6.2:1 in Shimano’s Torium give a very fast retrieval speed but the catch is that with high speed, you get low torque.

Therefore, high gear ratios are ideal for pulling in small and medium-sized fish.

On the other hand, low gear ratios like the 1.5:1 in Penn’s 50VSW gives it a very high torque, which is ideal for reeling in large, heavy fish.

This unit actually has a 2-speed system that allows you to switch to a slightly higher 2.9:1 gear ratio for faster retrieval. Such a setup is highly recommended for versatile use.

Conclusion 

In conclusion, Penn’s 50VSW takes the overall best trolling reel spot because it has a high maximum drag of 28 lbs., a 2-speed gear system with relatively low gear ratios for tackling heavy fish and a long line capacity, which is ideal for deepwater offshore fishing.

However, if you are looking for a quick-retrieval trolling reel, Shimano’s Torium has a fast 6.2:1 gear ratio for high-efficiency retrieval. If you are a bit short on cash though, be sure to check out the affordable Okuma MA-15DX.

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