Whether you’re trolling for deep-water walleye, salmon, lake trout, or saltwater giants like tuna, kingfish, or dorado, you’ll need the right rod and reel combo to get the job done.
While you can always purchase your rod and reel separately, if you want to save time and money, a trolling rod and reel combo will have you on the water catching fish in no time. As trolling is a popular fishing method for a wide variety of fresh and saltwater species, you’ll want to match your gear to the task at hand.
I’ll break down some of the best trolling rod and reel combos on the market, and how to select the ideal one for your needs.
Quick Answer: 5 Best Trolling Rod & Reel Combos
- Best Freshwater Trolling Combo: Okuma Great Lakes Trolling Combo
- Runner Up: Cabela’s DepthMaster III
- Best Saltwater Trolling Combo: PENN Squall Level Wind Reel & Rod
- Runner Up: Penn Senator Rod and Reel Combo
- Best Heavy-Duty Trolling Combo: EatMyTackle 50 Wide 2 Speed Reel Bent Butt
Best Freshwater Trolling Combo: Okuma Great Lakes Trolling Combo
Designed specifically with freshwater trolling in mind, the Okuma Great Lakes Trolling Combo is the perfect all-around trolling rod and reel. It will perform well at a variety of fishing tasks, including fishing with dipsy divers, planers, and downriggers – plus its reasonable price means picking up multiple rods won’t set you back too much.
The rod features durable E-glass blanks and double-footed aluminum oxide guides, making it more than durable enough to handle the stress of heavy trolling. Stainless steel hooded reel seats boost leverage, while the EVA foam handles with rubberized, shrink overlay provide both comfort and control when fighting a fish.
The Okuma Magda Pro DXT Line Counter Reels offer a built-in levelwind line guide system, a mechanical line counter measured in feet, as well as a self-lubricating gear system. Two stainless steel ball bearings and a multi-disc carbonite drag system provide smooth operation, so you’ll be well equipped to tackle anything that strikes your lure.
The reels are tough and durable, constructed from lightweight corrosion-resistant frames and sideplates, and feature corrosion-resistant graphite spools. This ensures you’ll get years of hard use from these rod and reel combos.
- Ideal freshwater trolling combo
- Durable enough for fishing dipsy divers, planers, and downriggers
- Excellent value
- Corrosion-resistant construction
- Comfortable EVA foam handles
Runner Up: Cabela’s DepthMaster III
If you’re looking for an effective and affordable freshwater trolling rod and reel combo, you’ll have a tough time beating this well-made package. It’s built to handle depth and large, hard-charging fish with ease.
A durable and lightweight graphite composite blank provides plenty of backbone to the rod while offering the right combination of flex and power needed for effective trolling. Stainless steel line guides reduce friction, while durable EVA foam grips provide years of comfortable usage.
The reel features a lightweight graphite frame and sideplates – providing both the durability and muscle needed to tackle large fish. A mechanical linecounter and stainless steel levelwind give you a precise reading on your remaining line, plus preventing tangles while reeling in line. Two stainless steel ball bearings along with a self-lubricating gear system ensure smooth operation no matter what the conditions are like.
Cabela’s manufactures the rod and reel combo in a wide variety of different reel sizes, rod lengths, and power ratings, so you can easily find the ideal combination for your needs.
- Well-made and affordable rod and reel combo
- Durable lightweight graphite composite blank
- Stainless steel guides and EVA foam handles
- The reel features a mechanical line counter, stainless steel levelwind, and self-lubricating gears
View Pricing On:
Best Saltwater Trolling Combo: PENN Squall Level Wind Reel & Rod
One of Penn’s most popular offerings, this rod and reel combo pairs the extraordinary Squall Levelwind Reel with a nearly indestructible rock-solid 1-piece fiberglass blank. This combo is the ideal choice for tackling everything from nearshore species to larger offshore bruisers.
The reel features a lightweight graphite frame and sideplates, a butter-smooth 2+1-bearing system, and a marine-grade bronze alloy main gear. HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers provide smooth and consistent drag for the star drag system.
The level wind mechanism ensures smooth and even distribution as line is being retrieved, preventing build-up. A double anodized aluminum spool with easy-to-read line capacity rings pairs nicely with the oversized handle knob for fighting large, aggressive fish.
Penn’s paired the reel with a short 6’6” medium-heavy rod – making it ideal for serious trolling tasks. The rod’s made from solid tubular fiberglass, with a graphite reel seat, and aluminum oxide guides. EVA grips with rubber shrink tube on the butt provide a sure grip and the durability needed for trolling tasks.
- Level wind reel is ideal for a variety of saltwater trolling
- HT-100 carbon fiber star drag system
- 2+1 stainless steel ball bearings with instant anti-reverse
- Durable, sensitive tubular solid graphite rod
- Max drag 15 lbs
Runner Up: Penn Senator Rod and Reel Combo
If you’re looking for a versatile and well-made rod and reel combo that can handle just about anything you can throw at it, you’ll have a tough time beating this combo. The combo pairs the excellent Senator Reel with the rugged Slammer Rod, creating a similar combo to the Penn Squall above but priced a little more competitively.
The Senator reel utilizes corrosion-resistant construction with manganese-bronze main gears, a machined stainless steel pinion gear, and bakelight sideplates with stainless reinforcement rings. The excellent star drag system features HT-100 drag washers, providing smooth drag even when it’s under heavy loads. 2 shielded stainless steel bearings ensure smooth overall operation, while a heavy-duty clicker makes it great for trolling with.
The included rod is no slouch either – featuring an angler-friendly 1-piece tapered tubular graphite composite blank. It features rugged aluminum oxide guides, EVA foam grips, as well as a graphite reel seat with aluminum hoods.
With a rugged and versatile design, the combo is perfectly at home bottom fishing as it is offshore trolling, so if you’re looking for a do-it-all rod/reel combo, this is an excellent option.
- Versatile trolling and bottom fishing combo.
- Star drag system features HT-100 drag washers.
- 2 stainless steel bearings.
- Tough and durable 1-piece E-glass rod blank.
- Excellent corrosion-resistance.
View Pricing On:
Best Heavy-Duty Trolling Combo: EatMyTackle 50 Wide 2 Speed Reel on Bent Butt
While the above rod and reel combos can handle most nearshore species, if you’re after real bluewater monsters like marlin, cow tuna, or trophy wahoo, then you’ll need to step up to something a little more serious. This combo is well equipped to handle serious offshore trolling and is designed specifically with the rugged offshore environment in mind.
The gorgeous 2-speed reel features an easy-to-use 1-touch gear shift. This allows you to toggle between high-speed (3.1:1) for rapidly reeling in line when a fish runs towards your boat, to low-speed (1.3:1) for the added torque needed to haul up giants from the depths.
9 stainless steel ball bearings ensure butter-smooth operation, while the impressive aircraft brake drag system provides an extraordinary 107 lbs. of max drag. All the internal components and gears are made from hardened and tempered stainless steel, while the entire reel is anodized for a durable saltwater-resistant finish.
While the reel is truly a thing of beauty, the rod is no slouch either. It’s made from a high carbon composite with span wrap construction to minimize twists and side loads. Wide mouth wind on rollers keeps your line protected and moving smoothly. The overall rod length is a compact 5’5” – making it ideal for trolling from rod holders as well as utilizing a fighting chair.
- Extraordinarily tough and durable rod/reel combo for serious offshore trolling
- 2-speed reel with 1-touch gear shift allows for versatility when fighting fish
- 9 stainless steel bearings
- High-carbon composite rod is ideal for heavy-duty trolling
- Line rollers reduce line stress and keep line moving smoothly
- Bent-butt with leather grips
How to pick the right trolling rod and reel combo
As you might have noticed, trolling rod and reel combos differ significantly in terms of design, materials, use case, and price point. Let’s take a look at some of the most important features to consider when picking out a rod and reel combo.
Level wind reels feature a moving guide that articulates back and forth across the front of your reel as you retrieve line. This ensures that your line is evenly distributed across your spool, without any uneven buildups. Without a level wind, if you don’t consciously distribute the line across the spool, it can build up in one spot, which can interfere with the operation of the reel.
Level winds are a good choice when trolling, as you won’t need to worry about laying down line correctly when fighting a large fish. They’re also a good choice if you plan to fish with mono line – as it has a tendency to build up in a single spot on the spool.
Another useful feature to have when trolling, a line counter gives you a precise measurement of how much line you’ve let out from the spool. When you combine this with a little practice, you should have a good idea of your lure depth based on the reading on the line counter.
One of the keys to successful trolling is getting your lure to a precise depth – so you can replicate trolling patterns effectively. This is fairly simple when using a downrigger, but when you’re trolling with other methods a line counter is worth consideration.
A clicker – sometimes called a “line out alarm” – is a simple but effective reel feature that produces a loud noise when the reel goes into free spool. This gives you a clear indication that a fish has taken your lure or bait, so you can grab the rod and get to work.
A key consideration when you’re considering a trolling reel is its line capacity. This is especially true when fishing for saltwater species at depth, and for large fish that can take your line for a run.
There is a lot to consider when selecting the right line capacity including your target species, the type of line you plan on fishing with, and the pound test needed.
Monofilament line tends to have a wider diameter than a comparable braided line, so fishing with mono will require a larger line capacity. Fluorocarbon line generally has a similar diameter to mono of the same strength, while lead core line is generally wider than any of the above options.
Dual-speed reels are often found on heavy-duty conventional reels and offer major advantages when you’re fishing for large, powerful fish. These reels enable you to toggle between a high-speed retrieve for quickly reeling in line, and a powerful low-speed retrieve for muscling a large fish up from the depths.
Trolling rods aren’t nearly as complex as trolling reels and generally feature similar designs. Most trolling rods are short and powerful, with the strength needed to withstand the impact of a big fish striking at speed.
Most trolling rods measure between 5 and 6 ½ feet, putting them on the shorter side. Trolling rods designed for soft-mouthed fish – like salmon and kokanee – tend to be on the longer side, which gives you the sensitivity needed to set the hook.
The only other significant feature of trolling rods is their guides. Trolling guides tend to take a high degree of stress, so you’ll want to invest in something that can handle the pressure. Saltwater rods often feature roller guides, which put less stress on the line and help prevent line twists when under heavy loads.