Best Salmon Trolling Reel: Downrigger, Spinning, Baitcasting Reel

While you are targetting salmons, you must go for downrigging. This is a technique when you have to send your fishing jug under around a hundred feet. You will have to have a super long fishing line on the reel, and the reel has to handle a lot of pressure. This is why most anglers choose to have a decent setup equipped with the best salmon trolling rod.

Trolling reels are the toughest one in this job. There are thousands of companies that make trolling reels for big fishes. Today, we will be taking a look at some of the trolling reels that have been used by many professional anglers out there.

We will be going through the most important features of these reels and shortlist the advantages.

Penn Fathom II Level Wind Conventional...
PENN Fishing SQL20LWLC Squall LevelWind...
Shimano Triton 200G Levelwind Graphite...
Penn Fathom II Level Wind Conventional...
PENN Fishing SQL20LWLC Squall LevelWind...
Shimano Triton 200G Levelwind Graphite...
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Penn Fathom II Level Wind Conventional...
Penn Fathom II Level Wind Conventional...
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PENN Fishing SQL20LWLC Squall LevelWind...
PENN Fishing SQL20LWLC Squall LevelWind...
Shimano Triton 200G Levelwind Graphite...
Shimano Triton 200G Levelwind Graphite...
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Reviews of the Best Salmon Trolling Reel


Best Salmon Trolling Reel

We have tested the most popular trolling rods for salmon fishing in the market and made a list to review them. With an extensive reel research over the internet we have checked how the consumers have experienced different reels and also check some of them ourselves. Here are the top salmon rods we can suggest to our readers for reviews.

Checkout the reviews for getting your best rod for salmon fishing with trolling.

Penn Fathom II Level Wind 

Penn Fantom II is a super high-quality fishing line that has been known to many anglers due to the built quality. In the built, they have used decent metal, and the heft ensures that this will perform like a champ in downrigging.

This fishing reel is expensive, and the reason this is called the best reel for salmon is the built quality. This is fully made of metal. Also, the enclosure seems like it is going to stand very well in the saltwater. The gear feels smooth and does not feel like it will fall apart or struggle on fishes up to 50 lbs. The side gears are easily accessible if it needs adjustments or lubing very soon. You can easily adjust the drag using the side-mounted start drag adjustment wheel.

The bearing inside makes everything as smooth as a trolling reel can be. Everything along with the spool release leaver feels super smooth. As everything is made of metal, you have a better grip. Moreover, you will find them grooved to have a better grip.


  • You will find this reel in different sizes which is convenient for different users
  • Can be used with both monofilament line and braid ready line
  • Durable and tough to handle fly fishing and salmon fishing
  • Can handle high amount of line
  • The overall metal construction is promising and does not seem to fail at any point
  • The handle is super thick and nice when pulling your lines


  • Casting on these reel might feel a bit too loose and you will have to adjust and practice to get used to it

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Almost every angler knows about Shimano as one of the best manufacturers of sports gear. However, Tekota Levelwind is the best downrigger reels for salmon that come in such a small and compact size. This is like one of those travel-friendly salmon fishing reels that you can tuck in your backpack and ready to go.

If you are a beginner at downrigging, this might be the right salmon trolling reel. This has a nice finish that does not have any coating and does not even have any finish that might wear off. The clean finish does help it stay in shape for years.

One thing to be impressed by these reel models is the drag capacity, which is very wide. With the better line capacity, you can better use your trolling rod in the middle of the water on a fishing kayak.

All the parts of this reel are based on a specific die-cast aluminum, which ensures that it will easily fight over big fishes. Also, the stainless steel ball bearings system is resistant to any kinds of corrosion or rust, so that you can use it for a long time, even in saltwater.

The spool design is unique, and the line does not go straight to the spool, which maximizes the ability to manage the lies easily; you will rarely find any tangles in braid lines even if you are using braided lines.

The bearing is considered one of the smoothest ones out there. It stays super smooth even after using it on a stress and downrigging setup.


  • The whole design and form factor is small and compact
  • Wide drag with better line capacity
  • Better gear ratio to control bigger fishes and salmons
  • Rust and Corrosion resistant stainless steel ball bearings
  • Unibody aluminum structure feels solid and robust on hand
  • You can use this both in saltwater and lake water which is a plus point for every angler 


  • You can not use high capacity fishing lines like copper fishing lines

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If you are a full-time saltwater angler, you should be interested in SQL20LWLC by PENN Fishing. Many anglers consider this a perfect salmon trolling reel because of the built quality and materials used in construction. People also love this reel because of the cost. This does not cost any closer to the most other salmon reels in the market.

What makes it ideal for salmon is the construction, features and performance.

This whole thing is made of metal and graphite composite, making it one of the lightest trolling reels out there. You can literally take this model in your backpack and go for a saltwater fishing ride.

This salmon reel s ready for saltwater as the enclosure is airtight, and you will never have to worry about the gears and bring them inside. The star drag inside is made of carbon fiber drag washers, which is highly powerful than most other drugs on the market. This max drag capacity is also great for the longevity of the reel while kayaking for salmons.

You will find these with a line counter or without a line counter. You can choose whatever seems the right choice for you with the 4.9:1 gear ratio. On most of the parts, you will see that it has bronze alloy, which is an excellent material to keep up with salty water,


  • Made lightweight and composite material keeps the balance just right
  • This reel is ready to be dunk in salt water as well as lakewater
  • Better max drag with the HT-100 carbon fiber system
  • Better line capacity for fishing with trolling boat
  • The hybrid carbon fiber rag is great for heavy fishes and ruthless fights


  • The line counter can malfunction sometimes 

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Shimano Triton 200G Levelwind

By just looking at the design, it can be ensured that this unit is made for people who want to get the most out of their fishing sessions. This is the best salmon reel you can buy for fishing in saltwater and a downrigging setup.

What makes it the best fly reels for salmon fishing?

The most beautiful thing about this salmon reel is that it is made of forged graphite and dies to the use of material; the weight is under a pound which is nuts. Though this might not be the best salmon fly reels, this can easily give you excellent performance while casting for fishes over 30 lbs. As a result, it has been recommended by anglers worldwide to fish in deep water.

The braided line management to the spool of this reel is promising, and you can even use this reel on rods with high raised line guides. It feels like that it is designed to reduce friction and backlash problems.

The handlebar grip is designed like no other. It has a thin and lightweight handlebar that you can grab quickly and wind up all the lines as fast as possible.


  • The overall weight is extremely light
  • This model is relatively easy to use
  • Can be used with monofilament line
  • It is designed efficiently to reduce tangles and resistance
  • The handle grip design is loved by most of the anglers out there


  • This reel has exposed metal parts that might be a threat to corrosion and rust

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Okuma Classic CLX

If you want o go as low as the price of a trolling reel can get, this is the one for you. Though the price is surprisingly low, you can still manage to get decent performance and a good specification out of this unit. Okuma Classic CLX is made of metal and with all the gears inside. Therefore, this can perform like a professional reel.

The most surprising thing about this reel is that it is made in the USA. So, the built quality can never be questioned. When you are placing your order, you can either choose a 420 yard or a 230-yard option. These two types of reels will have the capacity only when you are using a monofilament line. Monofilament lines are not that great with bigger fishes, but this can be the perfect choice for beginners.

Though you can not say that this is the best baitcasting reel for salmon, you can still say that this is one of the bests with the metal built and great finishing.


  • Comes at an unimaginable cheap rate which is rare in the market
  • Great for beginners who are starting with trolling rods
  • Better lever drag to prevent backlash
  • A versatile fishing rod for different fishes and different water conditions


  • You can not use a high capacity braided fishing line on this
  • Doesn’t have anti reverse feature

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​Buying Guides For Choosing the ​Best Salmon Trolling Reel

​Buying Guides For Choosing the ​Best Salmon Trolling Reel

We all know that reels are the best choice for anglers to get big salmons from deep underwater. But, unfortunately, you can not match the result even if you have got the best salmon spinning reel in your hand.

When you are placing your order for a trolling reel, you should consider several things. These things will change what result you might get from your fishing exploration. We have gone through many salmon reel reviews and shortlisted several of the factors that you should examine.

How is the Salmon Reel Built? Construction and Body

The built quality of the reel will be the priority you should look at. In addition, the frame of a trolling reel body will be the factor that will define how the reel will last on heavy usage.

When you go through the spec sheet, you should look for unibody aluminum, anodized aluminum, shielded stainless, graphite construction, or metal body. Machined aluminum is also one of the most robust materials used companies use to make the base frame.

You should also check the side plates and spools of the fishing reels for quality and construction for salmon angling. Graphite-made side plates are better for quality; with a multi-disc setup, this construction can go for a long time giving excellent drag.

There are also composite elements like graphite and aluminum, which are excellent. Still, you have to ensure that that exact reel set is concealed and water does not damage the internal gear mechanism.

Maximum Drag Weight and Drag System of the Reel

Drag is a system when the reel loses the line on a specific weight pull. You can generally change the drag of the line using the star drag on the winding handlebar. The higher the drag, the higher the chance of getting bigger fishes on the line. 

The gear system’s drag gear system consists of graphite and carbon fiber, which will definitely be great for the longevity of the drag to catch salmon.

Generally, metal and other drag materials that decay off over time are not suitable for better performance. The carbonite drag system will be the best here. The dual carbon drag system is also a great system to get excellent performance out of your spinning reel.

What fishing line you can use on the reel?

What fishing line you can use on the reel?

When you go through the spec sheet, you will see that they mention what braided line you can use on the fishing lines. The size of salmon can start from 10 lbs and that can even go higher than 50 lbs.

As the weight of the fish goes high as 50 lbs, you should definitely use metal fishing lines. Your fishing reel should also be able to use metal fishing lines. Generally, cheap and affordable reels are not able to handle the stress of a metal fishing line. This is why an expensive salmon reel will be necessary to use metal and braided lines.

How Many Lines this Reel Can Accommodate?

Generally, a simple reel will have an indication of what fishing line is recommended to use in that specific reel. You will also find that it is declared in the spec sheet that how many lines you can carry in that reel. This is important to keep in mind because downrigging a trolling reel will require a lot of fishing line which is about a hundred yards. You should at least buy a reel that has a capacity of at least two hundred yards.

Salmon Trolling Reel Types

Spinning reels and baitcasting reels for trolling are superb within their respective fields of use. However, a spinning reel is easiest for a beginner to operate, and it is best suited to light casting weights of 2-10 grams.

A baitcaster, however, casts farthest with weights from 10 grams upward. This reel’s structure also better conveys the feel of a fight and the contact with a fish, as the braid-ready line is in direct touch with the spool during the fight.

Besides, a multireel has very good power transmission and therefore, makes it easier to fight big fish with a small reel.

On the other hand, in a headwind where the lures are readily blown sideways, problems can arise with this type of fishing reel: the accelerating force does not stop when the lure has been cast, and a backlash may well result. But while retrieving the contact with the lure is better with casting reels.

Spinning reels for

Anyone can learn to cast with a modern spinning reel after just a few hours’ training. Sizes range from the smallest UL types, through fairly large reels that suit almost all fish species, to big reels for salmon and sea fishing. Nearly all

Spinning reels are made according to the same principle, although the drug may be placed differently and the brake discs manufactured of different materials. As a result, the spool’s form and the handle’s way of folding may also vary.

The design of the reel handle makes it possible to retrieve the lure with either your left or right hand. The reel may also have a few or many ball bearings. The number of ball bearings is often a sellers’ argument, but in fact, there are many examples of reels with 3-4 bearings that last longer than others with 5. 6 surf lubricating bearings.

The material of which the reel itself is made has varied in recent decades. Most reels were once made of aluminum, fol. Lowed by graphite reels during the 1970s. These, however, were not very durable, and the trend is now back toward aluminum reels, although graphite reels will continue in the low. Price category. Gearing

Today, most reels have a helical pinion, but some – mainly German ones – still have a worm pinion. This is a simple and practical design, which at first goes a little more sluggishly than a helical pinion but soon becomes “run in.” To put it briefly, the worm pinion is a pretty reliable gear that can last for years, and not a few have worked for 30 years.

Baitcasting reels

Baitcasting reels

In contrast to spinning reels, the baitcasting reel has a rotating horizontal spool. The handle drives the spool utilizing toothed wheels, whose gear ratio depends on the kind of fishing intended. Normally the ratio is around 5.1.

Granted that many modern small baitcasting reels are technical wonders, the basic principle of a casting reel is elementary. But a certain amount of training is needed to cast with this reel.

Despite its frequently well-planned brake system, beginners, in particular, are bound to suffer a backlash when the spool overwinds in the cast.

Prices are often much higher for casting reels than for spinning reels. Like the latter, baitcasting reels of graphite were made during the 1980s, but time has shown that aluminum reel houses are best.

There are two types of baitcasting reel in terms of design: the classic cylindrical reel with round side-gables and the more low-profiled variety. Both types have excellent mechanics and satisfy all the requirements of spinning and baitcasting.

Should be able to use on downrigging?

Downrigging is one of the best fishing techniques that many anglers use to get fishes from the deepest water possible. However, as the line goes deeper by the pull of your downrigging setup, that will definitely cause problems like pulling too hard on the spool.

You have to make sure that the gears inside the spinning reel will give it the smoothness and fluid movement to stand the pull of your downrigger setup.

The reel size and weight

The reel size and weight will determine the power of the fishing reel. This weight will also define how portable your salmon trolling setup is. While fishing on a boat and sending your fishing jig under a hundred feet, you should consider having a heavy and overweighed fishing reel. Be used to carrying a heavy and big fishing setup.

Does it come with a counter?

The counter is one of those advanced features that anglers should have in their trolling reel. Generally, you will find two types of line counters in trolling reels. Analogue and digital counters. It is recommended not to have a digital counter because it has risks of getting damaged by water.

An analog counter will keep the report of how many fluorocarbon or mono lines you are sending down to the business, and thus you will be able to monitor the line. This will significantly help you fishing deep underwater.

Line Capacity for Salmon Fishing Reel

Line Capacity for Salmon Fishing Reel

You need to check the line capacity of a salmon casting reel to have better performance in line maneuvering. While trolling for Salomon, Better line capacity with an aluminum spool can play a handy role.

Does the reel match your fishing rod?

If you are buying a fishing reel, it is almost necessary to get a salmon trolling rod that makes a great additional overall fishing setup. If you own a salmon reel and rod setup, and you want to utilize your gears, you should ensure that the older fishing rod can equip the new reel you are having.

Trolling for Salmon: Tips and Techniques

North Coasters react to the first reports of salmon activity the same way Southlanders get excited about albacore. Feisty chinook, or king salmon, is one of the premium saltwater game fish caught off the Central and Northern coastlines.

In this article, I want to review the primary techniques salmon anglers use to catch these fish. Salmon can be exceptionally aggressive biters at times, then all of a sudden “shut off” with a severe case of marine lockjaw. As a result, the accomplished chinook fisherman has to develop an array of specialized tactics. Let’s focus first on some of the rudimentary trolling methods.

Time for Salmon Fishes

King salmon can be taken from mid-February through the first part of November during a regular season. In the early part of the run, veteran salmon experts rely upon trolling to find the fish scattered over a large area.

Depth for Trolling

Most salmon trolling is done at depths around 20 to 60 feet. Popular fishing areas are in San Francisco Bay outside of the Golden Gate Bridge between Duxbury Point and the Farallon Islands, Pillar Point, Monterey, Humboldt Bays, Pacifica, Muir Beach, Half Moon Bay, Rock Point, Stinson Beach, and Bolinas Point.

Salmon trolling is best at 2 to 4 miles per hour. There are a variety of trolling tactics that will work. All are worth trying.

Setting Up the Sinker

Perhaps the simplest is to set up a sinker release system. The release mechanism itself is nothing more than a spring-loaded device used to hold a relatively heavy 1-to-3-pound ball weight down until the chinook strikes.

Your mainline is attached to one end of the sinker release. The cast-iron weight is snapped into the release bar, and your leader with either a natural bait or a lure is tied to the rear eye of the sinker release. (Sometimes, a flasher or dodger is also used as an attractor. More on these in a moment.)

Using Dodger

​Best Salmon Trolling Reel Using Dodger

Now then, when the salmon hits the trolled lure or bait, the pressure from the strike pulls the spring on the release device, opening the clip that holds the cast-iron weight. The sinker is automatically released and falls to the bottom.

The cast-iron weights are comparatively inexpensive in contrast to smooth, and slick sinkers poured from formidable lead. The cast-iron ball looks crude, but remember, it sinks to the bottom and becomes disposable.

Many anglers are adamant that they will receive more strikes trolling for salmon if they use large metal attractors.

Dodgers are made to rotate through the water in a side-topside motion. This slow wobble effect can be maintained only at modest speeds. Flashers, on the other hand, actually rotate on a 360-degree plane. This spinning effect allows the fisherman to troll somewhat faster using the flasher.

Colors for Dodger and Flashers

The most popular colors preferred in dodgers and flashers for salmon trolling are nickel, prism, hammered brass, and chrome 50/50 combination. Some local experts recommend a precise length of 14 inches of leader between the attractor and the lure or trolled bait.

Planning devices can also be used to take either bait or lures to the proper depths where salmon are holding. Planners have been popular in certain inland trout circles for many years.

Using Planer for Going Deep

Interestingly, the unit itself is quite simple to understand. The planer is akin to the diving lip of a crank plug. But to get the “lip” to go deeper, it is weighted.

You tie your mainline to the front or lip portion of the planer, then a leader with either bait or a lure (with or without a flasher or dodger in between) is tied to the rear of the unit.

As you let outline, the diving plane sort of “cocks” itself into position to “dig” in and takes the offering down. But, when the salmon strikes the lure or bait, the planer “trips” into a neutral plane. The lip no longer digs in, and the device can be retrieved with minimal resistance.

Some Precautions for Using Items

Some famous diving planes sold for salmon fishing are the Deep Six, Pink Lady, Depth Glider, and Fish Seeker. Read the instructions carefully with each model. Some will dive deep into others. Try to obtain reports from local sources about what depths the salmon are cruising and use planers with corresponding diving capabilities.

Both sinker release and diving plane systems for trolling require fairly stout tackle and heavier monofilament lines. With diving planes, a 12-to-15-pound test for your mainline would be the bare minimum. For sinker release outfits, dragging 1 to 3 pounds of cast iron requires at least a 20-pound string.

Using Downrigger for Trolling Salmon

Using Downrigger for Trolling Salmon

An alternative method that allows the angler to troll a much lighter line with the optimal depth control is to use a downrigger.

The downrigger can accommodate the lightest to the heaviest monofilament permitting the angler to play the salmon up from deep water without any significant encumbrances.

Using Anchovies

Anchovies are the principal natural bait used for salmon trolling. They are typically threaded onto either a crowbar hook harness or a plastic baitholder rig. The crowbar hook is the more traditional setup. But more and more salmon slammers now prefer one of the popular plastic baitholders.

These are sold as Rotary Salmon Killers or Herring Aids. They help provide a more natural spinning and wobbling motion when the frozen ‘anchovy is dragged through the water.

The anchovies can be trolled behind any one of three primary setups:

(1) a cannonball sinker release system,

(2) a diving plane, or

(3) a downrigger.

The first two methods also commonly involve adding a dodger to the leader to generate greater flash and attraction.

Numerous lures can be slow-trolled for kings. The “hoochie” is a generic term used to describe the popular plastic squid-like jig dragged behind any of the basic trolling combinations. Shiny spoons such as the Crocodile and Apex will also produce on the slow troll.

The key to remember is to throttle down when you pull lures in this genre. These fish are somewhat cautious in their feeding habits when it comes to trolled offerings. Therefore, they won’t usually annihilate a fast-moving lure as will tuna or yellowtail.

Deep Trolling Approach

The deep trolling approach is essential when the chinooks are disbursed or when the sea is rough with many chops and swells. If you are a private boater, try to be a little imaginative when you drag the lures or bait behind the boat.

Many GPS set trolling motors and anchor trolling motor options are available now for more accuracy with finding salmons, especially the bigger ones. You can choose them if you can afford them.

Trolling Pattern to Catch Salmon Fishes

You will find that your success ratio at salmon trolling will dramatically improve if you are more creative with your trolling patterns. How is this done?

Well, to begin with, vary your line of direction. Instead of trolling in a routine straight line, pull your lures or bait in an “S” pattern. As the line swings through the different curves in this trolling sequence, the lures or bait will increase then decrease in action.

This appears much more life-like to the salmon. Natural baitfish don’t swim in straight lines, at the same pace, in the same manner, all the time. By varying the boat’s direction, this more natural erratic movement is imparted into your trolled offerings.

Trolling Gear Trick

Trolling Gear Trick

Here’s another trick that private boaters can try to generate a similar effect. As you are trolling along, intermittently throw your motor into neutral, then back into gear again. As you put the boat into the neutral position, your trolled bait or lures will start to flutter to the bottom.

Putting the boat back into gear starts the bait or lures moving quicker along the normal plane. This subtle “go-and-stop-and-go” procedure gives the trolled offerings the illusion of dying, wounded bait fish-a a natural target for finicky salmon.

Go Deeper In

Finally, there seems to be some evidence that the largest kings are quite frequently caught at greater depths. Try letting out more lines to get the trolled bait or lure down deeper. This can be especially effective on a party boat if you troll slightly more profoundly than the other passengers. You may end up with the jackpot king!


Fishing deep under over a hundred feet is challenging, and you should depend on the best tool for fishing here. We have listed several best of the best salmon fishing reels available in the market.

Not all are in the same price range. But they all are going to serve the best value for the price. So if money does not matter to you and you want to have the best trolling reel in the market, you should check out Penn Fantom II. In the mid-range, you can try one of the Shimano ones.

Despite having the best reel, you should also take care of your fishing techniques. You have to practice with a specific fishing setup and get used to the sensitivity and power. You will improve a lot in this way.

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