Lake trout, at least those swimming around the lake of North America seem to enjoy exploring their habitat. Trolling for them is an excellent way of increasing the chances of putting fish on the boat. The size of the Northern lakes means that a fair amount of water is going to be covered and with the depth they are found at trolling is one of the better ways to get lures in front of them.
Of course jigging, and surface fishing bring in fish as well but the majoity are caught trolling and for that you are going to have to look at your gear a little more carefully.
Trolling for trout requires a reel with a large enough line capacity to be able to get the lure down to the depth that fish are feeding. This is made easier with the addition of line counters. A smooth drag mechanism helps protect from fish runs, and a loud clicker helps indicate that all important bite.
The most important part of that gear is actually the choice of rod, which we cover here in our post on Trolling rods for trout. however, following in a close second is the choice of reel, and of course the lures you are using.
If you just want to know which one we recommend it is the Daiwa Sealine Sg-3B Line Counter Reel, for a couple of juicy reasons, the line counter is an essential luxury, and the range scales up if you are using heavier rods. Make sure you get the size 27 ( you will thanks us later)
It is small in stature but if you are not expecting monsters that will be a plus not a minus, and the price of around 100 dollars wont break the bank.
If you want to know more about it you can jump to our comments here
The word record lake trout is 72 pounds
pulled winched from Great Bear Lake in North Canada so unless you hook into that, a medium action rod will suit for the Northern lakes.
Trout of 2 to 10 pounds are more common, but on those special days a 30 pounder could be hooked into so be prepared.
Fortunately most conventional trolling reels are going to be suitable for Lake Trout you just need to make sure you look out for a couple of must haves.
What Features Do Trolling Reels Need for Trout?
We will highlight some of those nice to have features here, but really most of them are standard on medium price range reels so don’t over spend here if you are just starting out. We will highlight one at the end with all bells and whistles on in case any of you want one that others will wolf whistle at though.
1. Line Counters:
Line counter for trolling reels are a lovely addition, no matter how good at math’s you are: A little display telling you how much line you have hanging out the back of the boat, and therefore how deep your lure is going to be doing its magic is really important.
Once you find the fish it makes it so much easier to get the lure back in the correct depth again, they are not essential but they will catch you more fish.
One thing to mention is that line counters will take a little calibration to be accurate ( important!) and they can come in electric and manual forms. We have never seen a vital need for the LCD screen versions, but like most things fishing it is down to preferences. We will highlight one at the end for you anyway.
2. Drag For Trolling Reels
This is where the rod we mentioned with come into play. It will do most of the work if you hook into a larger fish. However if you more confidence then you want drag that prevents jerking if the fish decides it has had enough and heads in the opposite direction.
3. How Much Line Capacity Do You Need.
Truthfully, unless you hook into that Great Bear Lake Trout we mentioned above, or the bear who has it in its mouth, then on freshwater this is not so much of an issue.
Still if you are on the Great Lakes and have to get those lures down to a decent depth then giving line capacity some consideration is worth doing. The reels on this page will all suit that just fine though.
Great Trolling Reels for Trout Fishing
Below are our suggestions for some great reels for trolling for Salmon, Trout, Kokanee and Walleye. They all feature the key elements above and apart from the Shimano at the bottom are under 130 USD.
1. Daiwa SG27LC3BW Sealine SG-3B Line Counter Reel
This is a great reel in the 100 ish dollar range, which we feel is a reasonable price point for trolling reels. You can go up and down to your hearts desire, but if you are setting up a few on your boat that gets expensive ”reel” quickly.
This reel has a larger form than other Daiwa reels and a larger and with that are larger choice of options. It will hold more line if you need those lures deep, it therefore holds stronger line if you need to go big.
Its counter is super accurate and will help get you back on the fish again and again and its start drag is smooth. There are also size options if you are looking to cross use this reel in the ocean.
What it wont do is win any awards for beauty. However, we always think that its kinda nice to have substance over style when our lines are in the water! We want the best looking fish not the best looking kit!
You can check out the price and reviews on Amazon just below.
- Holds 300 Yards of 14lb Mono ( so more of braid)
- Star drag so easier to adjust.
- Aluminum Spools
- Choice of models and sizes
- Substance over style
2. Sougayilang Line Counter Trolling Reel
As most the reels in this list are north of 100 dollars and not all of us have hundreds to throw at kitting out a few trolling reels on a boat we thought it fair to look at a budget option.
This is the one we have heard good things about, and although we don’t actually own this one we do own combo Sougayilang Reel rod kits that are really well made. One tip we read was to tighten the screws on the reel before use, which we can confirm is a good idea.
This reel comes in different models so you can scale up or down as you need but its deep spool is going to hold line of pretty high strength and still get you down to the sweet spot in the water column.
It has a line counter, which at this price point is a great deal, and although its well made there are of course better options. It is not fair to call it an introduction reel as it is likely to be part of multi rig set ups a good few years after purchase.
- Great price
- Line counter
- Star Drag system
- Large spool
3. PENN Warfare Level Wind Conventional Fishing Reel
For trolling or deep drop fishing, Penn are a name that anglers both sea and freshwater return to again and again. The Penn® Warfare Level is at a surprisingly affordable price for the brand, perhaps because of the graphite construction.
There are versions of this, a little more expensive, with line counters on them. This would be a must as you can get 400 Yards of 40lb braid on these beasts.
The line rings built into the reel with help you keep an idea of how much line is still on the reel, and as you can probably guess these reels can handle sea and lake fishing.
- Lightweight graphite frame and side plates
- Forged-and-machined aluminum spool
- Machined brass main and pinion gears
- HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers
- Instant anti-reverse bearing
- Line capacity rings
4. Okuma Cold Water Trolling Reel with Line Counter
This Okuma Cold Water Trolling Reel is a well made trolling reel designed for cold water. Solid materials are apparent throughout and the big handle is useful in cold weather especially if you are in neoprene or thick gloves.
It will hold about 300 Yards of 10 lb line, down to 240 yards of 14lb line however different models scale up and down so it will depend on what fish you are expecting to haul up with this.
The line counter is accurate with an anti fog screen so you are not going to be wiping or trying to squint through water. The clicker is loud when a bite is on so it will be heard above boat engines and background noise.
- 2 stainless steel ball bearings and 1 roller bearing
- Corrosion resistant frame and side plates
- Star drag system
- Multi-disc, carbonate drag system
- CVT anti-fogging line counter
- Made for cold water
5. Shimano Tekota 500A Conventional Trolling Reel
Well we said we would finish on a high, price, and this Shimano isn’t cheap. however, it is built for two jobs. If you are trolling the great lakes one weekend, and offshore the next then this reel is strong enough to cover both.
Anti fogging line counters, deep spools for line as well as anti corrosion measures are there to demonstrate its aim to be a cross over reel for both fresh and salt water. ( and maybe to justify the price a little as well )
However it is a Shimano reel, so it comes with the quality that the brand usually does and even for this price it is worth a look if you have the means. It will hold 40/390; 50/330; 65/240 yards of line on that deep spool. However, it maybe just a little over sized if you are not pulling in 20lb trout all the time.
- Corrosion resistant
- Crossover for both salt and freshwater
- Its frame is made of steel
- cross carbon drag
- Great trolling reel
- Loud clicker
It is easy to go crazy with trolling gear, especially at the beginning, the cost adds up really quickly. However, for inland fishing it is not really needed to jump right in at the deep end. \
We have tried to keep the costs of these reels around 100 dollars and for the most part in a small form factor. Catching a 5lb on a Marlin set up it not going to provide the sport!
Either way a day on a boat is better than a day not on a boat, and picking up a couple of trolling outfits and getting a fresh trout on that boat grill will make that better day great!
Hi I am Marc, when I am not in a classroom teaching you will find me, or more likely not find me, on a boat, trekking through the woods, sitting by a river or pier hoping for tight lines or a straight shot. I have been teaching Outdoor skills, fishing, archery, shooting, Kayaking, Climbing and more for over 30 years. Its about time I shared some of that with you all.