3 Best Trolling Rod and Reel Combos for Walleye

Hey there anglers and welcome to my post where we will check out my three best trolling rod and reel combos for Walleye this year.  Trolling combos are a great way to level up your game against Walleye due to their strength and resilience and as they like to travel around in schools looking for baitfish, they are a great option.

As usual however there are quite a few to choose from too so to help you out I have had a good look around and come up with three decent options below.  Let’s check them out…

My three recommended trolling rod and reel combos for Walleye

I will review these in more detail below however if you just want to get moving without all the carry-on, my recommended products are listed here for your convenience: 

09/20/2022 11:37 pm GMT

What are trolling rod and reel combos for Walleye?

A trolling rod and reel combo (also known as an overhead combo) for Walleye is a rod and reel matched set built with specs that assist with this species of fish. This is most often a rod and reel from the same manufacturer however in some cases, consists of a fishing rod from one manufacturer and a reel from another, which a retailer usually puts together.

To achieve proper balance and function, the length and action of the rod are adequately matched with the reel’s size, weight, and line capacity. And whilst those used for Walleye are generally not as large as some of the deep sea trolling options, they are can certainly be adapted to use there as well.

trolling rod and reel combo for walleye - trolling rod on lake

What should you be looking for?

In light of the above, the following considerations can assist when looking for an overhead fishing rod and reel combo suitable for Walleye:

Rods

Let’s then start with rods:

Composition

When it comes to overhead combos, the only real difference between casting and spinning rods is that the reel is seated on the top instead of underneath. In terms of composition however, there is not a lot of difference. Both types these days are made from one of three main materials – Fiberglass, Graphite and Carbon Fiber with qualities as follows:

  • Fiberglass – Very strong and durable with little maintenance required (rinse off after fishing is generally all that is needed).
  • Graphite – Graphite rods are generally more rigid with higher power ratings (see below) but tend to have greater sensitivity than fiberglass cousins.
  • Glass Tip – Glass Tips or ‘Hybrid’ rods are made from a combination of graphite and fiberglass. These are designed to give the best of both worlds with extra strength of the graphite rod added to the sensitivity of the glass tip.
  • Carbon Fiber – This is a newer compound in fishing rods that is more rigid than fiberglass/ composite rods and lighter. These types are becoming more and more popular for all levels of experience due to their toughness and versatility.

In the past, most tended to go for a fiberglass rod due to their durability, low maintenance requirements and favorable prices however the cost of a good carbon fiber rod has reduced in recent times as well. Casting rods are also generally designed to be lighter in weight than their spinning cousins.

Length

When it comes to a Walleye fishing rod, it is not a case of the longer the better. Long rods can be used on Walleye fishing however in my research I have found the recommended size to be around 7- to 8-feet long. Shorter rods do provide for greater accuracy which can be helpful for fishing amongst ledges, drop offs and weed beds etc. where the Walleye hang.

So, depending on your location and casting requirements, I recommend that you can choose from the following lengths:

  • 5 – 6 foot – Use when dropping directly below on a kayak or boat etc. or precision of casting is needed. Not great for longer casting but can generally handle heavier sinker weights etc.
  • 6 – 7 foot – These are a good middle-of-the-road rod – and great for trolling.
  • 8 – 10 foot – You are getting to the absolute end of length suitability here but these can work well if you are going to be drifting or trolling at a faster pace for other species too. You could also look at this length if you wanted to use it for surf fishing with a drone etc. as well.

Power

There are plenty of technical terms for the power settings of a fishing rod but in simple language, I have always known the power rating as a measure of how ‘bendy’ it is. Light power rods bend with little force and heavy ones need a lot of pressure to bend. So, in short:

  • Light – very bendy – even whippy – will bend a lot with even the smallest fish. To be honest, in my experience, not great for trolling.
  • Medium – needs a bit more pressure to bend – In general, this is a good measure for a Walleye fishing rod and my suggestion for all-around use.
  • Heavy – takes a lot to make it bend – I would recommend these in areas where the current is quite strong or you want to use particularly heavy sinkers or lures, etc.

There is also a measurement that some rods have in regards to what they call Action or Speed. This is determined by where the rod bends. Fast action bends from the top third whereas slow rods bend down towards the reel. For general use, I would go moderate or medium, unless to need to cast a long way or are chasing larger fish, then maybe edge towards a faster rod as they allow for heavier lures/rigs.

Handle/Grip

This has nothing to do with the art of catching fish rather than the comfort of it. Some common options include:

  • Hard foam – sort of like a very hard version of a pool noodle.
  • EVA – Soft Rubbery stuff.
  • Cork.
  • Rubber Shrink Tube – soft and extremely durable.

I like the Rubber shrink tube or EVA handles myself as they are comfortable and will last well in most conditions. Cork is great if you want a light rod and a common choice for casting rods. I have also seen a few with golf club-type grips made of super polymer rubber in my recent research too.

Split/one piece

When it comes to fishing rods, whether you have a full piece or a split piece (where the rod pulls apart into two or more pieces) is, in my opinion, a matter of circumstance… I have used both and if I am being brutally honest, I don’t see enough of a difference when it comes to catching fish.

Ask yourself how you are going to transport the rod to your preferred fishing spot? If you have a rod holder on your SUV etc., then a full piece will be fine. If you need to put it in the boot or back seat of the car, then go the two-piece. And for those traveling, you may even want to look at telescopic or 4 piece setups as an alternative option.

trolling rod and reel combo for walleye - man with walleye

Reels

And now for the reels:

Construction material

When purchasing a trolling reel, it is critical to consider the material it is made of – typically aluminum, machined aluminum material, or graphite.

The lightest weight trolling reels are made of graphite. They did have a reputation of being generally weaker making a cast aluminum reel is a good choice for most anglers for increased durability. However, advances in technology have made graphite the material of choice for many manufacturers now.

Reels made of machined aluminum are the most practical choice for catching large fish such as Walleye. These guard against wear and tear as well as premature failure. While this material is of the best quality and durability, they are a little more expensive than the other types above.

Type of trolling reel

Here you have two available options: open style and level wind.

  • Level wind – Level wind reels feature a moving line guide with a pawl that runs back and forth across the front of the reel. As the line is retrieved back onto the reel, the moving line guide ensures that it is evenly distributed from side to side on the spool, with no large buildups of line in any one spot.
  • Open-style conventional – These reels lack a line guide, meaning the angler is responsible for redistributing the line back onto the spool – usually by their thumb.

Personally, I would recommend a level wind reel unless you are also using it on the beach and you want to cast it a little further than on a boat . They also tend to jam if sand gets in them too.

Size and weight

Trolling reels are more specialized than other types of reels, but they also come in various sizes and weights. If you choose a large reel, you will have more line capacity which comes in handy when reeling in larger fish but they may be a little heavier.

Most trolling reel manufacturers produce them in sizes such as 15, 25, 40, 50 and 60 etc. When it comes to trolling, the larger the fish you are chasing, the more line you will potentially need to stop its ‘run’ meaning a larger reel.

Line capacity

As per reel size above, line capacity is another important consideration when trolling. When trolling fishing, you simply let the line fall straight and smoothly into the water until it reaches the desired depth or distance from the boat. Troll reels are not generally cast as per other reels however due to the type of fish being chased and there is usually a ‘running’ period where the fish strikes and tries to escape.

For larger species, this can lead to a run taking up to 300 yards of line. As a result, the length of the line your reel spool can handle use has a significant impact on success.

This of course can also be determined by whether you have braid or mono loaded onto your spool as well.

Drag

This feature helps in reducing the friction once a fish takes your lure or bait. The drag’s purpose is to limit how much force can be applied before the spool slips and lets out more line. This avoids line breakage giving it a little more strength as well as protecting your reel at the same time.

Drag systems on trolling reels consist of a set of friction plates that allow you to control how fast the line is let out whilst the fish runs, and is then hauled in. When it comes to selecting your trolling reel, check the drag rating from the manufacturer as you generally want something that will withstand the type of fish you are chasing – usually measured in pounds.

Look also for a drag that is easily set and operates smoothly without jerking when the fish makes a run.

Release lever

And whilst we are discussing drag, one advantage of many trolling reels is a release lever that allows you to very quickly and effectively adjust the speed of the drag as you fish.

If you release it all the way out, you can actually use it to let line out if needed (much like a baitrunner type spinning reel) or adjust the drag up or down as you fight to control your catch.

Waterproofing

Most reels these days incorporate some sort of waterproofing in their components as saltwater in particular can do significant damage to the internal workings of a reel. Hence, anything that can be done to keep this out, will definitely increase its lifespan so look for:

  • Fully encased bearings
  • Corrosion-resistant components
  • Corrosion resistant coating on all external parts
  • Fully sealed, or increased seals around casing

As above, the more water resistant components that are included, the longer the reel will last.

Additions

  1. Counter – Line counter fishing reels measure the amount of line in the water allowing you to determine the depth of your fishing lures with precision. There are generally two types of line counters: electric and manual. The one issue with electric counters is that their LCD screens and other electronic components may fail due to exposure to a wet environment.
  2. Clicker – If you are fishing at night, or have a few lines out, a clicker will notify you audibly once a fish has hit.
  3. Bearings – As with a car wheel, the spinning mechanisms inside a fishing reel generally incorporate ball bearings for smoother operation. From my experience, most come with between 3 and 10 and I was always told that the more you can get for the price, the better.
  4. Ratio – One advantage of a spinning fishing reel is the winding ratio. This is usually set anywhere for 3:1 up to 6 or 7:1 (often listed as 6.0:1 etc.) This simply means that for every time the user turns the handle a full rotation, the spool holding the line has actually turned 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 times meaning less winding for faster line retrieval.

My three recommendations broken down

So based on the information above and my own experience, I recommend the following options:

1. Ugly Stik Walleye Round Combo

My first suggested walleye combo comes from a brand known for its durability and dependability with a great rod length and 20 size overhead reel. See its specifications below:

  • Brand: Ugly Stik
  • Rod blank material: Graphite and fiberglass (Composite)
  • Rod length: 7’6”
  • Rod action: Medium-light action
  • Reel gear ratio: 5.2:1
  • Reel line capacity: Mono Capacity yd/lb: 150/10  120/12  105/14

Other inclusions:

  • 2-ball bearings
  • Line counter clicker
  • On/off bait clicker
  • 7-year warranty for the rod

Why have I chosen it?

This walleye trolling combo offers impressive performance with a great reel size for a number of uses. The rod grip is made of EVA, which feels great in your hands with a clear tip that provides the sensitivity required to detect the Walleye’s strike. It also has the durability required to handle a sizeable 50-pound redfish or a 100-pound tarpon too. The reel is outfitted with a bait clicker that alerts you when a walleye takes your bait and the gear ratio provides smooth operation and mechanical advantage regardless of the species you target.


2. Okuma Great Lakes Trolling Combo

My second Walleye trolling combo is an excellent option thanks to its ergonomic design. The combo is perfectly matched to aid you in landing the Walleye in both rod length and reel size. See its specifications below:

  • Brand: Okuma
  • Rod blank material: Fiberglass blank construction
  • Rod length: 7’6″
  • Rod action: Medium action
  • Reel gear ratio: 4.0:1
  • Reel line capacity: Mono Capacity yd/lb: 580/20  430/25  330/30

Other inclusions:

  • Comfy EVA grips
  • Aluminum oxide guides

Why have I chosen it?

The rods are built to last with machine cut brass gearing, stainless steel hooded reel seats and a corrosion resistant graphite spool. The Eva grips are designed to provide comfort during long days on the water with a rubberized butt section that provides extra gripping power for wet hands and makes it easier to remove from a rod holder. This is a great option for Walleye and other species such as Striped Bass as well.


3. Abu Garcia Max DLC Fenwick Eagle Trolling Combo

My final option comes with an innovative design of graphite and aluminum for optimum performance. It is made with precision gears, oxide guides and a digital line counter for greater control. See its specifications below:

  • Brand: Abu Garcia
  • Rod blank material: Highly-sensitive graphite blank
  • Rod length: 8’6”
  • Rod action: Not indicated
  • Reel gear ratio: 6.4:1
  • Reel line capacity: Mono Capacity yd/lb: 135/10 110/12 80/17

Other inclusions:

  • Premium cork and TAC grips
  • Lighted digital line counter
  • Distance to Tip warning system
  • Stainless steel guides with aluminum oxide

Why have I chosen it?

The rod is highly sensitive due to its graphite construction integrated with premium cork and TAC grips for extra comfort. It is strong and durable with 5 ball bearings and a multi disk drag system. For extra functionality, the reel’s innovative distance-to-tip warning system prevents anglers from reeling baits and fish to the rod’s tip.

And to top it all off, the reel also offers:

  • After 20 seconds of inactivity, the display’s backlight turns off.
  • The backlight automatically turns on when there is a bite, making it ideal for fishing after dark or in low-light conditions.
  • When the handle is wound, the backlight returns.
  • The reel has a power-saving mode with memory that activates after 15 minutes of inactivity and resumes where you left off when you re-engage it.

Conclusion

There you have it; my three best baitcaster rod and reel combos for walleye. I would be pleased to know how this article helped you, and as usual,  let me know of your experiences with them.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections, or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time.

Have fun

Paul

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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.

Paul