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Best Trolling Rods For Freshwater and Saltwater

Mark Armstrong
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Selecting the perfect trolling fishing rod can make or break your fishing expedition. In this guide, I delve into the top contenders for the best trolling rods, considering factors like material, length, and action. 

Whether you’re chasing trophy marlins or freshwater game, these rods promise to elevate your trolling experience to new heights. 

Don’t have time for the rest? The top pick is the Penn Squall rod and reel combo, thanks to its versatility and value for money.

Top Picks:

Table of Contents

Top 11 Best Trolling Rods Reviewed

1: Penn Squall Lever Drag Conventional Reel And Fishing Rod Combo (best overall)

Penn Squall Lever Drag Rod and Reel ComboPin
  • Length: 6 foot 6 inches
  • Weight: 2 pounds
  • Material: fiberglass
  • Guides: aluminum-oxide
  • Power/Action: medium-heavy/moderate

The Penn Squall Lever Drag Rod and Reel Combo is my top pick for the best trolling rod. This is an excellent all-rounder and can handle both freshwater and saltwater, making it a versatile choice. However, it might be a little too much for very small fish.

A great feature of this trolling rod is that it comes complete with a reel. This adds extra value and can be great for beginners looking for convenience. The reel also has a useful anti-reverse feature.

It features a one-piece tubular glass blank, roller guides made from tough aluminum oxide, and an EVA grip. It also benefits from having a slick butt to prevent damage while in a rod holder.


  • One-piece construction 
  • Great for trolling for big fish
  • Reel included 


  • Not ideal for catching small fish

2: Ugly Stik Walleye Round Spinning Combo (best for walleye)

Ugly Stik Walleye Round Spinning ComboPin
  • Length: 7 foot 6 inches
  • Weight: 3.2 pounds
  • Material: graphite/fiberglass
  • Guides: stainless steel
  • Power/Action: medium

This Ugly Stik Walleye Round trolling fishing rod is designed specifically for trolling for walleye. And what makes it extra special in my book is that it comes with a size 20 reel.

This walleye rod features Ugly Tech construction, which is a combination of graphite and fiberglass to provide both strength and durability. 

It has a comfortable EVA handle with a rubber butt and there are eight stainless steel rod guides.

The spinning reel features two ball bearings, 15-pound max drag, and a gear ratio of 5:1:1.

This is an excellent walleye rod but it’s not as versatile as some of the others. It’s only suitable for freshwater fishing. 


  • Rod and reel combo
  • Specifically designed walleye rod 
  • Strong and durable


  • Not saltwater-friendly

3: G. Loomis IMX Salmon Trolling Rod (best for salmon)

G. Loomis IMX Salmon Trolling RodPin
  • Length: 9 foot
  • Weight: 16 ounces
  • Material: graphite
  • Guides: Fuji
  • Power/Action: heavy/moderate

The G. Loomis IMX salmon trolling rod is lightweight and balanced. This rod is specifically designed for trolling for salmon, with a good combination of sensitivity and power.

This heavy-power salmon trolling rod is powerful enough to control large fish, with a softer upper section to give the fish time to take the bait. 

The premium cork handle is long and comfortable to hold, providing good grip and warmth in cooler conditions.  

A downside of this salmon trolling rod is the price. It’s expensive, so it might be more suitable for experienced anglers rather than first-timers. 


  • Lightweight
  • Cork handle 
  • Powerful butt section 


  • Expensive 

4: St. Croix Legend Glass Casting Rod (best for bass)

St. Croix Legend Glass Casting RodPin
  • Length: 7 foot 4 inches
  • Weight: 5.7 ounces
  • Material: fiberglass
  • Guides: Fuji K-Series with Alconite rings
  • Power/Action: medium-heavy/moderate

The St. Croix Legend Glass is a medium-heavy power fishing rod with moderate action that is ideal for trolling for bass.

This lightweight American-made rod features a strong fiberglass blank with linear S-Glass construction. This helps to maintain the sensitivity of the rod while providing enough strength to handle big bass. 

The Fuji K-Series rod guides are crafted to prevent tangled lines for smoother fishing. It also benefits from having a split-grip cork handle and a Kigan hook-keeper.  

I wouldn’t recommend it for saltwater fishing, as it’s designed specifically for freshwater applications. 


  • Good sensitivity for bass fishing
  • Lightweight fishing rod


  • Not for saltwater fishing

5: St. Croix Mojo Musky Trolling Rod (best for muskie)

St. Croix Mojo Musky Trolling RodPin
  • Length: 8 foot
  • Weight: 11 ounces
  • Material: SCII graphite/S-glass
  • Guides: stainless steel
  • Power/Action: heavy/moderate

The St. Croix Mojo Musky trolling fishing rod is made for trolling for muskies. This is a one-piece fishing rod with a linear S-Glass and SCII graphite blank construction. 

This durable construction means it has enough backbone to handle large baits and catch big muskies from a moving boat. It also features an EVA foam handle for improved grip whether in a rod holder or your hand. 

This can handle line weights from 50 to 100 pounds. It features Sea Guide guides with black frames for smooth performance and a Fuji DPS reel seat.  

However, it’s not the easiest rod to cast with, which could affect your accuracy. 


  • Very strong
  • Designed for musky trolling


  • Not the most accurate casting

6: B’n’M Pro Staff Crappie Trolling Rod (best for crappie)

B’n’M Pro Staff Crappie Trolling RodPin
  • Length: 12 foot
  • Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Material: graphite
  • Guides: Dyna-Flow
  • Power/Action: medium-heavy/moderate

The B’n’M Pro Staff Crappie Trolling Rod is an ideal rod for trolling lakes for crappie and it works well with crankbaits and for spider-rigging. 

It’s very long but it’s easy to cast. However, its long length makes it inconvenient for kayak fishing. I find this is better suited to larger boats.

It features a strong graphite blank, with tough Dyna-Flow guides and an EVA foam handle. A thing I like about this trolling rod is that the reel seat is placed a little higher than normal. This makes it easier to fit in most rod holders.   


  • Easy to cast
  • Strong and durable
  • Higher reel seat


  • Not great for kayak fishing

7: Okuma Classic Pro GLT Lake Trolling Rod (best for freshwater)

Okuma Classic Pro GLTPin
  • Length: 7 foot 6 inches
  • Weight: 10.9 ounces
  • Material: fiberglass
  • Guides: stainless steel with titanium-oxide inserts
  • Power/Action: medium

The Okuma Classic Pro GLT is an affordable medium power rod that’s built for freshwater trolling. This means it’s not designed for saltwater fishing.

It’s designed to be used with fishing line between 12 and 27 pounds and features 11 guides plus the tip. It’s also designed to be used with lead-core and copper lines which can be useful if you’re fishing with planer boards in deep water.

The grips are made from EVA foam and the butt is rubberized with a shrink tube overlay to make it easier to get the rod out of your rod holder, as well as more comfortable to hold with wet hands.


  • Affordable
  • Ideal for fishing with planer boards
  • Great for lake trolling


  • Not saltwater-rated

8: Fiblink 1-Piece Saltwater Trolling Rod (best for saltwater)

Fiblink 1-Piece Saltwater Trolling RodPin
  • Length: 5 foot 6 inches
  • Weight: 27.95 ounces
  • Material: fiberglass
  • Guides: stainless steel
  • Power/Action: heavy

The Fiblink 1-Piece saltwater trolling rod is a short trolling rod that is built specifically for trolling in saltwater environments, whether it be a lagoon, bay, or the open ocean.

The short length also makes it a good choice for kayak anglers, as it can be easier to cast and control in a small space. It’s also ideal for stand-up fishing.

It features roller guides that can be useful for offshore fishing applications, particularly when targeting grouper and tuna, as well as most other game fish. 

A downside of this trolling rod is that some reels don’t fit properly and can spin around on the rod if not connected securely. 


  • Short length
  • Roller rod


  • May not work with some reels

9: Ugly Stik GX2 Casting Rod (best for kayaks)

Ugly Stik GX2 Casting RodPin
  • Length: 6 foot 6 inches
  • Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Material: graphite/fiberglass
  • Guides: Ugly Tuff stainless steel
  • Power/Action: medium-heavy/moderate-fast

The Ugly Stik GX2 casting rod is one of the best fishing rods for trolling from a kayak thanks to its convenient length and lightweight construction.

It features durable Ugly Tuff guides that are designed for all types of fishing line including braided line.

One of the best things about this trolling rod is that it can be used in both freshwater and saltwater, so it’s a versatile rod if you’re looking to fish in more than one location with just one rod. 

However, it can only handle 10 to 25-pound fishing line and up to ¾-ounce lures.  


  • Compatible with all types of fishing line
  • Saltwater and freshwater rod
  • Short and lightweight


  • Not for heavy lines or lures

10: EatMyTackle 3PC Deep Drop Trolling Rod (best for boats)

EatMyTackle 3PC Deep Drop Trolling RodPin
  • Length: 5 foot 5 inches
  • Weight: 5.7 pounds
  • Material: carbon fiber
  • Guides: stainless steel
  • Power/Action: heavy/fast

The EatMyTackle Deep Drop trolling rod is the ideal choice for trolling for a boat. It has a bent butt section for an improved angle for trolling off the back of a boat. It also comes with a straight butt section for versatility.

This rod can be an ideal trolling rod for targeting saltwater species such as mahi, tuna, wahoo, and even king mackerel. 

It features carbon fiber construction, with a heavy-duty swing tip and stainless steel roller guides. However, this is not a lightweight rod.


  • Ideal for saltwater fishing
  • Bent butt


  • Heavy to hold

11: Daiwa Wilderness Downrigger Trolling Freshwater Rod (best budget trolling rod)

  • Length: 8 foot
  • Weight: 10 ounces
  • Material: fiberglass
  • Guides: titanium-oxide
  • Power/Action: medium

The Daiwa Wilderness Downrigger trolling rod is an excellent choice if you want to stick to a tight budget. This affordable trolling rod can be a good choice for walleye trolling as well as trolling for other smaller fish.

This can also be a good trolling rod for kayak anglers, as it’s a convenient length and comes in two pieces for easy storage. 

This medium power rod features a fiberglass blank and is rated for a 10 to 20-pound line. 

This is a budget rod, so it doesn’t have the highest quality finishes and may not be the best choice for targeting larger fish.  


  • Budget-friendly
  • Good walleye trolling rod


  • Not for large fish

Why You Need A Trolling Rod

If you plan to target fish in deep water with moving lures or a moving boat, a trolling rod can be the best rod for the job.

Trolling rods are designed to fit in rod holders. The purpose of this is so that the rod can do the fishing while you move your vessel or watch for the strike on the fishing line.

Trolling rods come in a variety of different lengths but tend to have extra power to handle strikes of larger fish while the rod is unattended.

You can troll for fish with almost any rod. But a trolling rod will tend to have a stiffer construction but with enough flexibility to handle the force of a fish. 

This type of construction can be more suitable for trolling than a lightweight fishing rod used for jigging, for example.

Key Features Of Trolling Rods To Look Out For

Materials Commonly Used In The Construction Of Trolling Rods

One of the most commonly used materials in trolling fishing rod construction is fiberglass. Occasionally, you will also find trolling rods with graphite or carbon fiber blanks.

Fiberglass rods can be better for trolling because they tend to be more flexible while maintaining the strength required for fishing with moving lures.

The Importance Of Rod Power In Choosing The Best Trolling Rod

Fishing rod power is how much force the rod can take before it starts to bend. 

Heavier power rods will generally be able to handle heavier fish and heavier fishing lines. 

Lower-power rods can be more suitable for lighter tackle and less powerful fish, where the rod bends closer to the tip. 

A good trolling rod will usually be a medium to heavy power rod. A heavy power rod can be ideal for catching big saltwater game fish, such as tuna and marlin, as well as freshwater fish, such as musky and salmon.

Medium power rods can be ideal for trolling for walleye, bass, or crappie. 

The Impact Of Trolling Rod Length On Performance

Trolling rods come in various lengths. Shorter rods can be easier to maneuver on kayaks, small boats, and for stand-up fishing. 

On the flip side, longer rods can provide additional length to keep your longer lines away from the motor on your boat (or your paddle) to avoid tangles. A very long rod can be trickier when it comes to landing big fish, especially if you’re on your own.

Longer rods are often used for fishing off the side of a boat, with shorter rods often used off the back of the boat as part of your trolling spread.

The best length of fishing rod for trolling will generally depend on your personal preference. The power of the rod and its ability to handle the type of fish you want to catch can be more important in my opinion. 

The Essential Role Of Rod Action In Trolling Rods

Generally speaking, you need a moderate to fast action rod for trolling but this will usually depend on the type of fish you plan to catch.

You can set the hook faster with a fast-action fishing rod. A moderate action rod or moderate to fast action rod can be ideal for trolling in most applications.

What Strength Fishing Line For Trolling Rods?

Heavier fishing line is generally more suitable for trolling because it can handle the weight of a powerful fish striking the bait. 

Monofilament is typically preferred for trolling because it’s stretchy, strong (and can hold a knot well), and almost invisible in the water (so the fish don’t see it).

Monofilament line can also be great for deep-water trolling because its thinner diameter means less resistance in the water so you can get your lures to greater depths. It’s also pretty tough when it comes to abrasion resistance.

Some anglers use braided line on the trolling reel and use monofilament or fluorocarbon line as a leader.

The strength of the fishing line will vary depending on the type of fish you plan to catch. Bigger, more powerful fish will require a higher test strength line.

For freshwater fish, such as walleye or salmon, an eight to 20-pound mono line can be ideal. For saltwater fish, I recommend using a fishing line between 25 to 50 pounds test strength. 

What Reel To Pair With A Trolling Rod?

A specific trolling reel can be the best reel to choose as this will usually be capable of holding more fishing line. Trolling reels are similar to baitcasting reels but tend to be heavier.

Trolling reels are better than conventional reels or spinning reels because they offer improved drag functions, such as star drag or lever drag. This means you can set the drag on the spool to suit your type of fishing. 

Whether you choose star drag or lever drag is up to you and the size of fish you plan to catch. Lever drag can be easier to see and easier to adjust the level of drag, which can be better for larger fish.  

Is There A Significant Difference Between Saltwater And Freshwater Trolling Rods?

The main difference between freshwater and saltwater trolling rods is generally the strength of the rod. 

For saltwater fishing, you will usually need a heavier powered rod to handle the heavier and more powerful ocean fish

Commonly Asked Questions On Trolling Rods

What Types Of Fish Are Typically Caught Using Trolling Rods?

Walleye is commonly caught by trolling.

However, anglers troll for all kinds of fish, including bass, salmon, crappie, and a range of saltwater species, including wahoo and tuna. 

How Essential Is Rod Action In Choosing The Best Trolling Rod?

The best trolling rod will generally have a fast or moderate action because this is better for catching large fish in deep water and with moving baits, allowing you to set the hook quickly. 

Slower action rods are generally for catching panfish in shallow water. 

What Maintenance Tips Should I Follow To Extend The Lifetime Of My Trolling Rod?

I recommend rinsing your trolling fishing rod in clean, fresh water after each use.

You should take it apart and rinse each part, including the line and reel. 

Allow the parts to dry and store the rod safely indoors away from heat sources. 

Check out this guide to storing fishing rods.

> How to clean fishing reels

What Size Reel Is Best For Trolling?

A medium-sized reel can be best for trolling.

The larger the reel the more line it should be able to hold. However, the larger the reel, the heavier it will be. 

Reels around 2000 to 5000 size should be ideal for most types of trolling. 

Is Mono Or Braid Better For Trolling Rods?

Mono is better for trolling because it offers more stretch.

Braid is less stretchy and could snap under the pressure of a large fish.

> Best lines for spinning reels

Catch Of The Day: Unveiling The Best Trolling Rod

The winner of the best trolling rods, in my opinion, is the Penn Squall rod and reel combo. It has a useful lever drag reel and it’s a durable rod with handy roller guides for added strength while trolling.  

An excellent runner-up pick is the Ugly Stik Walleye Rod. This is built for walleye trolling, making it an excellent choice if you fish in the Great Lakes. It’s durable, with stainless steel guides, and comes with a reel to get you started.

Another one of my favorite fishing rods is the G. Loomis IMX salmon trolling fishing rod. If you’re looking to troll for salmon and don’t mind the high price tag, this is one of the top graphite rods with cork handles, with ample sensitivity to detect salmon and the power to reel them in. 

Remember to think of the fish you plan to catch as this can make it easier to choose the best trolling rod for the job.

Best Trolling Rods For Kayaks And Small Boats - PinterestPin

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