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Best Trolling Reels in 2017 – Top Models Reviewed

So you have the boat, you have the fish finder, and you know what the fish are biting on. You are ready to roll out to get that last key piece of gear you need in order to be successful at trolling. With as many brands as there are fish in the sea, finding that perfect piece of gear can be a daunting task, but I have labored to make life a little easier for you.

If you are looking to invest in a good trolling reel that will serve you well but you are also unsure where to start, I have compiled this extensive list of the 10 best trolling reels you can find on the market today.

Accessibility to fishing is my goal, and I want you out there trolling for those trout using the right reel for the right price. Every angler has a budget and my aim is to try and find the right reel for everyone's price point.

7 Best Trolling Reels - Comparisons

Best Trolling Reels in 2017 - Reviews

1. Penn Warfare Level Wind Reel

Penn Warfare Level Wind Reel

If there was ever a most trusted name in trolling reels, I cannot think of a more reliable one than Penn.

Penn has been making reels for many decades and the Warfare reel comes in a variety of sizes to fit whatever you are chasing. It is going to feel like you are fishing with a much more expensive reel—they definitely did not skimp on the quality.

This reel has a great design that is smooth and sure to make your fellow anglers jealous thinking you’d paid a lot more. Since you’ve probably already forked out lots of money on everything else, save a little with this reel, and you can still keep all the quality you deserve. The only real downside is the release button is a bit harsh on the thumb as it is small and stiff.

What we liked

  • Lightweight graphite frame and side plates
  • HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers
  • 5.1:1 gear ratio 
  • Line capacity rings
  • Durable and dependable
  • Trusted name without a doubt 

What we didn't like

  • The release button is small and stiff

2. Okuma Classic Pro XP Levelwind Trolling Reel

Okuma Classic Pro XP Levelwind Trolling Reel

Who said you needed to invest a lot to get a lot out of a good trolling reel? Okuma makes sure to remind you that you can get high quality without spending a lot more than you need to.

This Okuma Classic Pro XP Levelwind trolling reel is a great option for bottom fishing, and it’s strong enough to deal with even those big blue 100-pound catfish lurking down below. A reel that can deal with some serious fish that is affordable not only makes sense, it’s a no brainer.

Get one of these and spend your money on fuel so you can go further and stay out longer. You are going to want to because reeling in monsters with this rig will have you grinning faster than 9 gars can gut a minnow. It comes with the optional line clicker as well that you can turn on and off with ease. Of course it’s only right handed, so that might be a deal breaker for some.

What we liked

  • Corrosion-resistant graphite frame
  • 2 ball-bearing drive systems
  • 3.8:1 gear ration
  • Self-lubricating gear system
  • Can land even 100+ pound fish 
  • Great for bottom fishing 

What we didn't like

  • Right-handed only

3. Penn Squall Livewell

Penn Squall Livewell

Coming back to Penn, this reel demonstrates why they are such a known and trusted name. This one has been made with the pros in mind, but for those of us who do not have sponsored status—and for the price, this one performs up there with others at twice the cost.

Penn make a solid reel so you won’t have to worry, should you hook into something bigger than you expected—this reel will withstand some torture and abuse. Landing 90-pound yellow fin tuna off the coast of NC and never once questioning your equipment is essential, so give yourself some peace of mind with this high quality and affordable reel.

One issue could be that one of the bearings is permanently mounted so if that burns out, it is done.

What we liked

  • Graphite frame and side plates
  • 2+1 shielded stainless steel bearings
  • HT-100 drag washers
  • 4.9:1 gear ratio
  • Strong and built to last
  • Made for pros with the budget of Joes

What we didn't like

  • Bearing could fail resulting in a broken reel

4. Okuma Cold Water Trolling Reel with Line Counter

Okuma Cold Water Trolling Reel with Line Counter

Those lake trout sure do love cold water and require equipment that can hold up to their size and cold nature. Yet again, the fine people at Okuma answer the call and bring us the perfect trolling reel for cold water species like those fat lakers.

The addition of the line counter means you are always aware of how much line you got out, and keeping the proper depth to present that spoon for the record trout is more than necessary to seal the deal. Once hooked up, you need to make sure you can land the beast and this reel will do the job with no issue.

Used by professionals all over the world, this reel is superior even to some of its more expensive competitors. It pulls with ease is almost on par with reels nearly three times the price.

However, it will not last for decades after catching many fish—if you want a lifetime reel, that is going to cost a bit more.

What we liked

  • Lightweight, corrosion-resistant frame and side plates
  • Multi disc, carbonite drag system
  • 2 stainless steel ball bearings and 1 roller bearing
  • CVT anti-fogging line counter
  • Built for cold water
  • Pulls like a more expensive reel

What we didn't like

  • Not as durable as other more expensive options

5. Fin-Nor Sportfisher Lever-Drag Trolling Fishing Reel

Fin-Nor Sportfisher Lever-Drag Trolling Fishing Reel

This Fin-Nor Sportfisher Lever-Drag trolling fishing reel might seem familiar to some, it reminds me a lot of one made by Shimano only it’s a little better, believe it or not.

This reel is light, but stronger due to advances in technology, and easily keeps pace with those legends that were made many decades ago, but with a lot less weight and bulk. Fin-Nor may be new in terms of reel companies, but they have come on the scene and proved that new dogs can teach the old dogs a few new tricks.

The Sportfisher is a great reel and will give you a very professional feel. I have really nothing bad to say about these reels, only I wish I had more of them.

What we liked

  • Solid 1-piece graphite frame
  • Forged 1-piece aluminum spool
  • Oversized, heavy-duty carbon fiber drag system
  • Lighter but just as durable as older designs 
  • Professional quality at a price you can appreciate 

What we didn't like

  • Nothing, it’s an excellent reel

6. Shimano Tekota 300 Conventional Trolling Reel

Shimano Tekota 300 Conventional Trolling Reel

Speaking of Shimano, say hello to the Tekota 300. This puppy is something to be excited about, with a name you can trust and a reel that holds up to the hype.

Designed with long-term use in mind, Shimano has made an excellent reel again, giving you a lot to work with so you can fight some beasts of a fish and not worry about having to replace worn out parts.

Heading out onto the river to chase after inland salmon and some sturgeon, this reel will hold up to the pressure. It can also hold a lot of line, almost 300 ft of braided line, so let them run, tire them out, and save your arms and gear. This piece of gear proves the old adage that dynamite comes in small packages.

What we liked

  • Diecast aluminum frame
  • 4.2:1 gear ratio
  • Septon handle grip
  • Can hold a good amount of line for its size (300ft)
  • Great for chasing trophy fish as well as mid-sized ones
  • Small but durable 
  • Suitable for both fresh- and saltwater

What we didn't like

  • It is smaller and is not designed for catching monster fish

7. Penn Warfare Star Drag

Penn Warfare Star Drag

I keep coming back to Penn for a reason and it’s due to their unmatched quality. This Penn Warfare Star Drag is a great little action reel that will fill the void for a good in-between reel. Chase after some decent-sized kings and land them with ease with this is strong reel.

Trolling requires a lot of line out, and this reel has you covered—it has a perfect gear ratio to make that fight smooth as well as for clean line retrievals.

Trust it to land the fish you want, but remember that it’s not meant for those trophy fish. This is a good casual reel or even a good starter.

What we liked

  • Graphite frame and side plates 
  • HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers
  • 5.1:1 gear ratio
  • Line capacity rings
  • Made for smaller to mid-sized fish so great action
  • Lands stronger fish despite small size and design

What we didn't like

  • Not as smooth as other Penn designs

Final Thoughts

With a ton of options out there ranging from all sorts of price ranges and price points, it is important to find the middle ground between what you can afford and what is right for you. With so many reels out there with varying levels of performance, it’s hard to tell exactly what they are worth. Some reels you will see will blow you away in terms of price, but most anglers do not need to invest hundreds of dollars in a reel.

With this list I have complied a pretty comparable list of trolling reels that will all get the job done. Of course, from here the prices get out of control so I will leave you with these options—you need to get out and fish and not break the bank. So hit the water, drop the out riggers and get ready to reel in some big ones. Good luck out there, and tight lines! 

David Valle
 

I started this blog to provide advanced material, guiding you towards a better and more comfortable fishing experience. I deliver more than fishing gear guides, and motivate people to hit the water!

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