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This week's Feature Blog

A Little Dock Talk

The times, they are a changing. When I first started taking a serious look at developing my trolling skills, there wasn’t much in the way of trolling reels on the market to pick from. Most of the reels we did have to choose from were sloppy handled bushing reels. The silky smooth continuous anti-reverse and ball bearing reels we have today were only pipe dreams in those days.

The times have certainly changed since the author purchased his first Daiwa trolling reels more than 40 years ago. These days trolling reels come in a much wider assortment of models, sizes and features including both traditional round frame reels and the new low profile designs.

The retrieve ratio on those reels were also painfully slow. Landing a fish back in those days required lots of cranking. Also, there were no such thing as power handles, left hand retrieve reels, self engaging clutches or high capacity reels.


Round frame trolling reels like the iconic Daiwa Sealine and later the Saltist series of reels have kind of established themselves as the “standard” among anglers who do a lot of big water trolling. The composite frame Sealine came first and quickly became the reel of choice among charter captains and serious amateur trollers. Both level wind (suitable for downrigger fishing) and line counter (ideal for diver fishing) style reels were offered in the Sealine series.

The Sealine reels quickly established themselves as an affordable reel that held up well to lots of use and abuse. Some years later the Saltist reels, a machined metal frame reel hit the market. While the name suggests these were saltwater reels, they are actually a freshwater reel built to saltwater toughness standards.

Available in level wind and also line counter reels, the Saltist has become the choice of professionals who appreciate the best money can buy.


A few years ago low profile reels similar to the bait casting reels bass fishermen use started impacting onto the trolling market. The difference was that the trolling grade low profile reels were larger, had greatly expanded line capacity and more drag pressure needed for fighting big and powerful fish such as chinook salmon, musky, striper and steelhead.

Originally these reels filled the niche of downrigger fishing and also casting for musky, trophy pike and striper. It wasn’t long before low profile reels with line counters were introduced, changing the face of trolling in the process.

Low profile line counter reels are lighter and smoother than traditional round frame reels. Guides who fish steelhead and salmon in rivers were the first to see value in these new reel designs. It didn’t take long however for anglers who target walleye, brown trout and kokanee to discover the pleasure of fighting fish on these low profile reel designs.

Low profile reels are more enjoyable to use than round frame reels, but they also feature more drag pressure. The ideal reel for subduing big and powerful fish, if low profile reels have a shortcoming it’s line capacity.

Low profile reels have enough line capacity for most trolling chores, but for things like lead core, copper and weighted stainless wire, the low profile simply doesn’t have enough line capacity.

The Daiwa Lexa series of low profile line counter reels are offered in a 100, 300 and 400 size. The 100 size is ideal for light duty chores such as bottom bouncer fishing for walleye, back-trolling plugs in rivers for steelhead and long lining for crappie and kokanee.

The 300 size reels are perfect for trolling walleye, brown trout and kokanee using both in-line planer boards and planer board mast systems. The 300 size reel is also a good choice for light duty downrigger fishing applications.

The 400 series work well for musky and striper trolling situations that require 30 to 40 pound test monofilament line. A 400 size low profile reel also works nicely for fishing diving planers with braided lines and targeting steelhead, lake trout, salmon and brown trout. The 400 size reel work well for heavy duty downrigger fishing chores as well.


The larger line capacity of round frame reels makes then an ideal choice for fishing sinking lines such as lead core, copper wire and the new weighted stainless steel wire. In the Sealine series Daiwa offers 17, 27, 47 and 57 size reels. The 17 is a touch small for sinking lines, but works nicely for light duty trolling chores such as bottom bouncer fishing for walleye or long line trolling for crappie and kokanee.

The 27 size reel will hold up to three colors (90 feet) of 27# test lead core line plus 200 yards of 20# test backing line. The 47 size reel will hold five to seven colors (150 to 210 feet) of 27# test lead core line, plus 200 yards of 20# pound test backing line. The 57 size reel will hold up to 10 colors (300 feet) of lead core line and 200 yards of 20# test backing line.

The more rugged Saltist reels are ideal for fishing copper line and the new weighted steel trolling lines. The 30 series Saltist will handle 100 feet of 45# test sinking wire and 200 yards of 20# test backing. The 40 size Saltist will handle 150 feet of sinking wire line and 200 yards of 20# test backing and the 50 series will handle 200 feet of sinking wire line and 200 yards of 20# test backing line.

For fishing 300 feet of 45# test copper or weighted stainless steel wire the Seagate 60 series of level wind reels is recommended.


Trolling reels these days are workhorses compared to the products anglers were fishing in the early days of the Great Lakes trout and salmon trolling era. Serious trollers these days are finding niches for both the generous line capacity of traditional round frame reels and also the pleasure of fighting fish on the newer and lighter low profile reels.

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