Best Trolling Rod and Reel Combos: Walleye, Salmon, and Pelagic Options Reviewed

Written by: Pete D
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Rod and reel combos can offer tremendous value for the money, and they can take a lot of the guesswork of rod and reel choice out of the fishing equation for less experienced anglers.

Both of those are great things.

But the wrong combo will cost you far more money than it’s worth, or worse yet, just not perform to your expectations.

If you’re in the market for a new trolling rod and reel combo, look no further!

Below, you’ll find reviews of some of our favorites:

Related:

Best Trolling Rod and Reel Combos Reviewed

Right off the top, we’ll tell you that we couldn’t find any dedicated crappie trolling rod and reel combos that we could recommend.

Penn Squall Lever Drag Combo - Best All-Around Trolling Combo

Penn SQL50LD3050C66 Squall Lever Drag (6-Feet 6-Inches)

Amazon 

Length: 6’ 6”

Material: tubular fiberglass

Power/action: medium-heavy/moderate

Guides: turbo aluminum oxide

Handle: EVA foam

Max. drag: 20 lbs.

Capacity: 1050/50, 875/65, 750/80

Gear ratio: 4.3:1 (35”)

Penn’s Squall Lever Drag Combo covers a range of possible species, from walleye to salmon and even larger fish like wahoo, tuna, and marlin.

Rather than duplicate the offerings we’ve reviewed above, we’re reviewing the 6-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy rod that’s rated for lines in the 30- to 50-pound range.

Ideal for stand-up fishing, this rod is built around the needs of trolling for saltwater species that fight hard. Its fiberglass blank is strong enough to fight big tuna or wrestle a wahoo in close, and it’s got more than enough oomph to tilt the odds in your favor.

Expect excellent guides - though not roller guides - that will do a good job protecting your line in a hard fight.

The handle is long and comfortable and designed around the needs of stand-up inshore and offshore angling. It’ll provide plenty of grip and torque, helping you win line from big, strong fish.

Penn pairs this excellent rod with a Squall Lever drag reel, and that’s just amazing in its own right.

An almost unbeatable lever drag system that’s shielded from saltwater intrusion provides fight-winning drag with a sensible maximum of 20 pounds. Smooth, reliable release is guaranteed, and Penn’s drag system won’t let you down.

Capacity is excellent as well, with line markers on the spool to help you keep track of where you are. And the gear ratio and spool size add up to a lightning-fast retrieve, allowing you to keep your line tight with explosive species like wahoo.

Overall, this is an outstanding combo at a very reasonable price, and in lighter powers, it may just outshine the competition from Shakespeare and Okuma.

Pros:

  • Strong, tough blank with the right action for trolling
  • Plenty of power for big fish
  • Excellent guides
  • Tough, comfortable, long handle
  • Designed for stand-up angling
  • Awesome reel
  • Great drag system
  • Excellent capacity
  • Great speed for large, fast fish

Cons:

  • ???

EatMyTackle 30 Wide 2 Speed Fishing Reels on 30-50 Pound Tournament Rods - Best Premium Trolling Combo

EatMyTackle 30 Wide 2 Speed Fishing Reels on 30-50 Pound Tournament Rods (2 Pack)

Amazon 

Length: 5’ 5”

Material: carbon composite

Power/action: heavy

Guides: leader roller guides

Handle: EVA foam

Max. drag: 85 lbs.

Capacity: 950/30

Gear ratio: 2 speed gear ratio 3.6 :1 and 1.6 :1

Let’s not mess around. 

If you’re fishing for shark, tuna, marlin, swordfish, or any other species that will test your rod and reel to their limits, this is the combo to have - full stop.

EatMyTackle has a well-earned reputation among guides, and in this case, you get not one but two rod and reel combos. It’s clear who this deal is aimed at, and for anglers who want uncompromising performance, look no further.

The blank is 5 feet, 5 inches of carbon composite that can win ground from makos, tuna, or anything else you might tie into offshore. Roller guides are going to keep your line intact in a long, challenging fight, and the handle is going to do its part to help you - and your back - stay in the struggle.

The conventional reel is a beast, offering two speeds, amazing capacity, and an 85-pound max drag for switching to braid when needed.

No question - this is the rod and reel combo to have if you can afford it.

Pros:

  • Uncompromising strength in the rod and reel
  • Ultra-strong blank designed for trolling for big fish
  • Plenty of power to win line
  • Awesome guides
  • Tough, comfortable, long handle
  • Designed for stand-up angling
  • Awesome reel
  • Amazing drag
  • Amazing capacity
  • Great speed for large, fast fish

Cons:

  • Expensive!

Okuma Great Lakes Trolling Combo with Magda 30

Okuma CPDR-862M-30DXT Great Lakes Trolling Combo, 8'6' Length, 2 Piece Rod, Medium Action, 2BB Bearings,Black

Amazon 

Length: 8’ 6”

Material: E glass

Power/action: medium/moderate

Guides: aluminum oxide

Handle: EVA foam

Max. drag: 17 lbs.

Capacity: 510/15, 420/20, 310/25

Gear ratio: 4.0:1 (24”)

Okuma’s Great Lakes Trolling Combo has been designed specifically around the needs of walleye fanatics, and whether you troll a crankbait, run a downrigger, or just need true precision, this combo has you covered.

Let’s start with the rod.

The blank is constructed from fiberglass, providing the moderate action you need when telling, especially with downriggers. It’ll provide plenty of pop when your lure gets hit, taking in the slack and getting you ready for the fight.

At 8 feet, 6 inches, it’s plenty long enough for the job without becoming cumbersome. 

Expect plenty of power in this medium rod, and the backbone will be evenly distributed along its length. Walleye aren’t ferocious fighters, but they are big and strong, and Okuma can wrestle even the biggest wallies into your landing net.

The handle is long, tough EVA foam that slides easily into and out of rod holders, and there’s plenty of territory for even the biggest hands.

Okuma pairs this rod with a Magda 30-size reel. It wears a line counter for precision trolling and holds plenty of strong monofilament - or loads of braid if that’s your choice.

With a maximum drag setting of 17 pounds, it’s got you covered for really heavy lines if you press it into double-duty with salmon, too, though this reel is probably a bit slow for that species.

Overall, this is an impressive combo for Great Lakes trolling and a great buy.

Pros:

  • Strong, tough blank with the right action for trolling
  • Excellent guides
  • Tough, comfortable, long handle
  • Plenty of length for using downriggers

Cons:

  • Probably not quite enough reel for salmon

Shakespeare Wild Series Trolling Combo

St. Croix Rods Legend Glass Casting Rod, Honey Pearl, 7'4'

Amazon 

Length: 8’ 6”

Material: composite

Power/action: medium/moderate

Guides: stainless steel with aluminum oxide inserts

Handle: EVA foam

Max. drag: ?

Capacity: ?

Gear ratio: ?

Shakespeare’s Wild Series trolling combo offers an outstanding rod for walleye and salmon, backed by a blank that doesn’t know the word “quit.”

Manufactured from their legendary fiberglass/graphite composite, this rod is tough and strong, and it’ll definitely win a fight with any walleye. I’d be pretty confident fighting big salmon, too. 

Expect Shakespeare’s medium power, offering lots of backbone with a moderate action that’s perfect for treble hooks. There’s plenty of length here for downriggers, and this rod will take up the slack nicely on a strike.

Shakespeare uses very well-made stainless steel guides that work admirably to protect your lines, and they know you’ll want a tough, no-nonsense handle for trolling that’s big enough for even the largest hands.

They’re not saying much of anything about the reel they pair this great rod with, and that makes me a bit nervous. It comes with a line counter, and I’m sure it has a reasonable capacity and good drag maximum, but I can’t promise you that.

Overall, I like this rod a lot for trolling, but the reel leaves me guessing.

Pros:

  • Strong, tough blank with the right action for trolling
  • Excellent guides
  • Tough, comfortable, long handle
  • Plenty of length for using downriggers

Cons:

  • The lack of any info on the reel makes me nervous

Buying Guide: What to Look for in a Trolling Combo

We’d love to review some crappie rod and reel combos, specifically for spider rigging, but they seem to be in short supply, and the few combo offerings we did find were unimpressive.

So our shortlist covers species ranging from walleye to salmon to even bigger pelagic species, which with the exception of crappie, are the most common species for which trolling is a popular technique.

Walleye and salmon

For walleye and salmon, a good rod and reel combo is probably going to feature a fiberglass blank in the neighborhood of 8 to 9 feet.

You want fiberglass to provide the softer action necessary when trolling crankbaits and the like, and you want a longer rod to pop the slack out of your line if you’re running downriggers.

Other things to look for include tough handles that are long enough for hard fights and deep rod holders, excellent guides to protect your line, and enough backbone to win fights with big salmon.

Good reels for these species are going to be tough enough to take the salt, hold plenty of monofilament, and sport powerful, smooth drags.

Pelagic species

For species like tuna, marlin, wahoo, shark, and tarpon, you need a rod and reel combo that just doesn’t quit.

Whether your blank is fiberglass or graphite, it needs to be tough and strong, and heavy power is definitely preferred. Short is better, as the extra power that offers is necessary for stand-up fishing, and the guides need to be top-notch to take the friction of a long, fast run.

The handles need to be comfortable and long, providing enough leverage to win line from big, strong fish.

And the reels need to be tougher than a brawling biker, featuring huge capacities, powerful drag systems, and gearing that can provide fight-winning torque. Anything less just isn’t up to the job.

Final Thoughts

For walleye and salmon, our top pick is the amazing Penn Squall Lever Drag Combo in medium power. It’s everything you need for both species, and if you step up the medium-heavy combo, it’s got you covered on anything less than the biggest pelagic species.

Expect a rod with an excellent fiberglass blank that’s just perfect for trolling with or without downriggers. It’ll win fights - no question about it - and the guides, handle, and reel seat are built for big steelhead.

The Penn reel that comes with it is simply excellent, offering a great drag system and plenty of capacity for trolling.

If you step up to bigger, offshore species like tuna or shark, the expensive EatMyTackle 30 Wide 2 Speed Fishing Reels on 30-50 Pound Tournament Rods is the choice to make, as its uncompromising strength and performance are the choice of pros and charter captains alike.

We hope that we’ve helped you make the right choice for a rod and reel combo today, and as always, we’d love to hear from you.

Please leave a comment below.

About The Author
Pete D
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.
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