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This week's Feature Blog

Trolling Lines In-Depth

By: Mark Romanack

When walleye T-Bone a crankbait like this, you know you’ve made a good choice.

Trolling is a popular walleye presentation and also a fishing method practiced with a wide variety of fishing lines. The problem is, most fishing lines don’t have the necessary properties to make them “good” for the job.

Understanding what constitutes the ideal trolling line is an important part of refining this popular presentation. Using fishing lines that don’t meet a select set of “trolling friendly” standards is toying with fishing disaster.

To function properly, a trolling line must provide superior abrasion resistance, consistency, controlled stretch, thin diameter, low visibility and exceptional knot strength. Many monofilament lines meet these standards, but the best trolling lines are a more refined category of products that deliver exceptional performance.


For most walleye trolling applications 10 to 14 pound test monofilament line is the ideal choice. Lines of this pound test rating are more than strong enough to handle even big walleye, yet thin enough to enable crankbaits and other popular trolling lures to reach substantial depths.


Trolling lines require exceptional abrasion resistance because they are often subjected to abuse from popular trolling products like planer board releases, in-line boards, Snap Weights and other line clips. Also, trolling reels feature a large line capacity and the typical troller has several reels to fill. To keep line costs down, it’s important that trolling lines last longer than lines designed for casting applications.


Controlled stretch and superior knot strength are other important factors in selecting a trolling line. Too much stretch makes it difficult to achieve solid hook-sets. This is especially true when trolling with long lead lengths. The best trolling lines have a minimal amount of stretch, but some “give” that insures they can sustain hard strikes and land even the biggest fish without failure.


Knot strength is also critical because the knot is the weakest link in any fishing line. Lines designed for trolling deliver maximum knot strength that insures when a heavy fish is hooked, the line won’t fail. Also, should a lure get snagged, the line must be tough enough to provide anglers a fighting chance of recovering their lures.

The overwhelmingly most popular knot for attaching snaps or swivels to a trolling line would be the Palomar Knot. This knot is easy to tie. For those who don’t know how to tie the Polamar Knot, the web page is a good source for learning this knot and many others.

Using line counter reels is an important step in becoming a proficient troller. The author has been using the Daiwa LEXA LC reels for many years and finds these low profile reels are ideally suited for walleye trolling applications.


Trolling is a game of numbers. Lots and lots of numbers. Using line counter reels is the only practical way to monitor and duplicate important details like productive lead lengths.

All popular line counter reels use a mechanical means of measuring lead length based on how much line goes off the reel for each rotation of the spool. A gear driven digital counter keeps track of how much line is being let out, which in turn helps the angler determine the most productive lead lengths and then duplicate what’s working.

To get the most from mechanical line counter reels, it’s important to use similar reels, put the same amount of line on every reel and also to use the same diameter line on each reel. If one reel is full to capacity and another is half empty, the lead length recorded by these reels will be different because the smaller spool on the “half empty” reel is actually letting out less line per rotation of the spool than a reel that’s full to capacity.

Big reels with lots of line capacity monitor lead lengths differently than small reels with modest line capacity. This again occurs because the larger the reel spool, the more line that is let off for each rotation of the spool. If an angler is using a few large reels and a few small reels, the lead length information delivered by each reel size is different. It’s like one set of reels is talking in English while the other is talking in Spanish. For the most accurate lead length data, it’s critical to use reels that are all similar in size and line capacity.

Also, if one reel is loaded with rather thin 10 pound test and another is equipped with thicker 17 pound test, the reel with the heavier line will hold less line. As a result when the spool lets out line, the spool diameter will shrink quickly and again under estimate the amount of line actually being played off the reel.


It’s possible to calibrate a line counter reel so that when exactly 100 feet of line has been played off the reel, the digital counter also reads 100 clicks. This process is well explained in the video link How to Calibrate Line Counter Reels to Precision Trolling Data produced by Precision Trolling Data.


Finally, it’s important to explore no stretch lines for trolling. Monofilament is the best line choice for trolling in most situations, but there are times when low stretch lines have the edge. Because low stretch lines are super thin, they enable trolling lures like crankbaits to pick up significantly more depth compared to monofilament lines of the same break strength.

Low stretch super lines also have the ability to telegraph strikes easily even when trolling with exceptionally long lead lengths. Specialized line releases are required for using super lines in combination with planer boards.

Bryan Darland of Jay’s Sporting Goods (left) and Mark Romanack used their understanding of trolling lines recently on Saginaw Bay to troll up an impressive mess of walleye. Understanding the properties of various fishing lines is important. For trolling applications a fishing line needs to have consistency, controlled stretch, great abrasion resistance and exceptional knot strength.


Different kinds of lines suitable for trolling have varying properties. The biggest differences are the diameter of specific lines for specific break strengths. This is confusing because not all 10 pound test lines are the same diameter.

Hands down one of the most popular walleye trolling lines of all time is Berkley’s Trilene XT in 10 pound test. This product has all the necessary properties required to perform flawlessly in a wide range of trolling situations.

Stren Original in 10 pound test is another exceptional choice for serious walleye trolling applications. Another excellent line option for trolling is Berkley’s Big Game in 12 pound test. This line is designed for trolling and the diameter of 12 pound test is nearly identical to 10 pound test XT. Berkley Sensation is a fourth excellent option for trolling lines. The diameter of 14 pound test Sensation is similar to 10 pound test XT, 12 pound test Big Game and 10 pound test Stren.

Other manufacturers to consider when selecting trolling lines includes P-Line CXX in 10 pound test, Maxima Ultra Green in 12 pound test and Sunline SuperNatural in 16 pound test. All of these lines have a diameter similar to Berkley XT in 10 pound test and the ideal properties to make them excellent trolling lines.


In the super line department, Berkley Fireline is hands down the most popular choice for trollers who are trying to reach maximum depths. The 10/4 size Fireline is a popular choice among serious walleye trollers because this line has more than adequate strength and knot strength, combined with very thin diameter.

Anglers who enjoy using braid can also bump up to 40 pound test braid, which is similar in diameter to the 10 pound test monofilament used in the Precision Trolling Data phone app. This option makes it possible to use braided line with the benefits of low stretch and superior durability, but still benefit from the precise Dive Curve data published in the Precision Trolling Data phone app.


Anglers have a lot of choices when it comes to picking fishing lines. Some might argue that with so many choices, it can become difficult to make the right choice. It’s true that not all lines are created equally and some lines are simply not ideally suited to trolling presentations. Sorting through the options is the best way to insure the line on your trolling reels is the best line for the job.


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