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Best Trolling Rods For Kayaks And Small Boats

Mark Armstrong
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When you’re looking for the best trolling rods there can be a few things you might want to consider, such as the type of fish you want to catch and the type of water you want to troll in.

Trolling can be a great way to catch a variety of species of fish, in a range of different waters. But it can be useful to have a dedicated trolling rod. We’ve put together this guide to help you check out some of the features to look for, as well as some of our favorite gear.

Our Top Picks:

Best Rods & Reels For Trolling

1: Okuma Classic Pro GLT (best trolling rod)

Okuma Classic Pro GLTPin
  • Length: 8 foot 6 inches
  • Weight: 13.2 ounces

The Okuma Classic Pro GLT is a medium power rod that’s built for freshwater trolling. It’s designed to be used with line between 12 and 27 pounds and features 11 guides plus the tip. It’s also designed to be used with copper and lead core lines, which can be useful if you’re fishing with planer boards in deep water.

The trolling rod features a fiberglass blank with durable double-foot solid stainless steel guides. It also benefits from having an up-locking Fuji-style reel seat with a stainless steel hood.

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 when your hands are wet.


  • Solid stainless steel guides
  • Ideal for freshwater trolling
  • Rubberized rod butt

2: Avet SXJ 5.3:1 Single Speed Reel (best trolling reel)

Avet SXJ 5.3:1 Single Speed ReelPin
  • Length: 7 inches
  • Weight: 12 ounces

This Avet SXJ reel is a solid marine grade machined aluminum single speed reel with a gear ratio of 5.3:1. It features a smooth drag of up to 14 pounds at full and up to 9 pounds at strike, and can be an ideal trolling reel to use with the Okuma Classic Pro GLT rod.

The reel benefits from having a clicker so that you can be alerted when your line starts reeling off your spool, meaning you can keep an eye on other rods or control your boat without missing a strike.

It has a spool capacity of 175 yards of 20 pound monofilament line and 350 yards of 20 pound braided line.


  • Smooth drag
  • Machined aluminum construction
  • Alarm clicker

3: Shimano Scimitar 9’6 Trolling Rod

Shimano Scimitar 9’6 Trolling RodPin
  • Length: 9 foot 6 inches
  • Weight: 12 ounces

The Shimano Scimitar is a 9 foot 6 inch trolling rod that comes in two pieces for easy transportation and storage. It is a heavy power rod that is designed for trolling in freshwater but can also be used for light inshore fishing.

Featuring a strong but lightweight carbon graphite blank, this rod benefits from having durable aluminum-oxide guides that are designed to be strong and corrosion resistant, which could come in handy if you fish in saltwater.

This rod is designed for use with 10 to 30 pound line and could be a good option if you’re looking to target salmon or steelhead trout.


  • Two piece rod
  • Ideal for both freshwater and saltwater trolling
  • Carbon graphite construction

4: Ugly Stik USCAWAL762ML Rod And Reel Combo

Ugly Stik USCAWAL762ML Rod And Reel ComboPin
  • Length: 7 foot 6 inches
  • Weight: 1.2 pounds

This Ugly Stik trolling rod and reel combo can be a great option if you’re a beginner, as it can give you a good starting point with a compatible rod and reel that’s suitable for freshwater trolling. It can be ideal for fishing for walleye.

The two piece rod features Ugly Tech construction, which is a combination of graphite and fiberglass, to create a strong, durable blank. It also features Ugly Tuff one-piece stainless steel guides.

The 20 size reel benefits from having a built-in line counter so that you can see how much line has come off your spool while trolling. It also features a clicker to let you know when a fish is pulling your line off your reel. The spool has a capacity of 290 yards of 14 pound mono line and the combo is designed to be used with line between 6 and 12 pound test.


  • Rod and reel combo
  • Ideal for freshwater trolling
  • Good for beginners

5: Shimano TLD 2-Speed Conventional Reel

Shimano TLD 2-Speed Conventional ReelPin
  • Length: 9.5 inches
  • Weight: 2.2 pounds

This Shimano TLD reel can be an ideal trolling reel for saltwater fishing. It has a high capacity spool of 700 yards of 20 pound line, letting you fish in larger and deeper bodies of water, such as the ocean.

It has four bearings that are designed to be resistant to corrosion, making it ideal for saltwater conditions. It also features dual speed gears, which can be useful if you’re fighting larger fish.

The reel benefits from having a graphite frame and sides, and an aluminum spool for durability. It has a gear ratio of 4.0:1 and features a loud clicker to alert you to bites. The reel also features an ergonomic power handle for ease of use and comfort while cranking.


  • Dual speed reel
  • Corrosion resistant bearings
  • High capacity spool

What Is A Trolling Rod?

A trolling rod is designed to be used for trolling so it can be a little different to a rod that’s built for casting. Trolling rods tend to be thicker towards the tip compared with some casting rods and can often be shorter. This is because they don’t need to cast lures or bait out into the distance.

Video: Trolling Rods And Reels Explained

You may also notice that the handle on a trolling rod is not like the one on a casting rod, as the butt and handle are designed to fit into rod holders rather than hands. This means they’re not built to have a comfortable grip, like you might find on some casting rods.

When Should You Use One?

You should use a trolling rod anytime you want to troll for fish, whether that’s in freshwater or saltwater. Trolling can be done in most bodies of water, from lakes and rivers to oceans and bays, as long as you have enough room and depth to maneuver your kayak or boat.

Trolling can also give you the opportunity to catch a wide range of fish. Some freshwater targets can include bass, walleye, trout and salmon. Saltwater targets can include kingfish and barracuda, or if you want to head to deeper waters with a larger boat you could even catch tuna and marlin, depending on where you are.

What About Trolling Rod Holders?

Rod holders will probably be an essential part of your trolling gear, as this can let you control your boat while your rod holders hang onto your rods.

It can be a good idea to make sure your rods are secured in the rod holders so that they don’t end up overboard. A rod holder, such as this Scotty one, that has a strap or some type of attachment point can be useful in preventing your rod from being pulled out.

As well as using standard rod holders on your kayak you can also use planer boards that can help you extend the reach of your line away from your kayak.

Video: Kayak Fishing With Planer Boards

Additionally, you may choose to use outriggers or downriggers, which can both help to extend the reach of your line and can help you to set the depths of your lures, while helping to prevent tangles.

Features To Help You Choose A Trolling Rod


One of the main features you should look for in a trolling rod is that it is able to stand up to the impact of a fish striking at your lure. Generally, a light powered rod usually won’t be suitable for trolling because it may not have the power needed to withstand the strength of a fish pulling at your line.

Type Of Fish

The size and strength of the rod you’ll need will likely vary depending on the type of fish you plan to target while trolling. If you plan to troll in saltwater you may find that a heavier, stiffer rod is beneficial. However, you may be able to use a lighter rod if you’re targeting lighter biting fish or fish with more delicate mouths.

Roller Guides

If you’re planning to catch larger species of fish, particularly if you’re heading out for saltwater trolling, roller guides can be useful. Roller guides can reduce the amount of friction between your line and the guides when your rod is bent while fighting a fish.

However, these types of guides are not always necessary, especially if you’ll be targeting smaller freshwater species.

Bent Butt

This is a feature sometimes seen on trolling rods, where the rod butt is not straight. This can make it more suitable for sitting in a rod holder, giving you a more convenient angle for your rod blank.

However, bent butt rods are less common than straight butt rods, and you may find that your personal trolling techniques can be more lucrative than the angle of your rod’s butt.

Kayak Trolling Tips

Use A Fish Finder

A fish finder can be a useful tool for just about any kind of fishing but for trolling it can be even more beneficial. Importantly, a fish finder can let you see the depth of the water and the depth of the fish, meaning you can use the right length of line and set your lures at the right depth.

Change Direction

Rather than simply pulling your lures along with your boat in the same direction, it can be worth changing direction every so often to change up the movement of your lures. It can also be worth adjusting the speed of your boat, as this can create more realistic lure action.

Crosscurrent Trolling

It may be worth trolling crosscurrent, if you’re in a river or other water where there’s a current. This can let you move your lure into the path of fish that may be swimming into the current, which can be more lucrative than if your lure is moving either against or with the current.

Vary Your Depth And Lures

It can be helpful to vary the depth of your lures when you’re using multiple rods, rather than have them all trolling at the same depth. This can sometimes result in catching bigger fish that may be lingering outside of the main schools.

You may find your success rate can improve if you use different types of lures. This can be particularly useful if you’re in a new body of water or if the fish don’t seem to be biting. Try using different lures on each rod, so you can experiment and see what works for you.

How To Rig A Trolling Rod

Step 1: Set Your Depth And Drop Your Line

Firstly you need to find out where and how deep the fish are. Once you’ve found the depth, you can set your line to that depth. You may need to use relevant weights or a downrigger in order to keep your lure at that specific depth.

If you’re using more than one rod you may find it’s easier to use planer boards to help separate the two or more lines to prevent tangles and to move your lures a greater distance away from your kayak.

Step 2: Secure Your Rod

Make sure your rod is secure in the rod holder so that there’s no risk of it being lost overboard if a fish takes your lure.

Step 3: Set Your Speed

If you’re using a trolling motor on your kayak or small boat then it may be easier to set your speed. It can be useful to use a GPS so that you can see how fast you’re moving. If you’re paddling or pedaling, try to maintain a constant speed while you cover water.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Best Trolling Speed?

This will usually depend on the type of fish you want to catch but a general average speed might be between 1 and 2 mph.

How Do You Care For Trolling Rods And Reels?

Similar to how you would care for your standard rods and reels, making sure you rinse them after each use to get rid of any silt, salt or sand and dry them. It can also prolong the life of your reel if you store the reel without the drag engaged, so it’s in free spool.

Video: Maintaining Offshore Trolling Reels

Can You Use Any Rod For Trolling?

Technically, yes. However, lightweight or finesse rods may not work as well as a stiffer, heavier rod.

In Conclusion

The best trolling rod, in our opinion, is the Okuma Classic Pro GLT as it is designed specifically for trolling and can be ideal for both freshwater and saltwater trolling, giving you more options for fishing locations. If you’re looking for a trolling reel to go with it, the Avet SXJ5.3-B can be a great choice.

However, if you’re just starting out and are looking for something that’s easy to use and ready to go, the Ugly Stick Combo rod and reel can be an ideal beginner option.

Remember to think about where you want to fish and what type and size of fish you want to catch, as this can affect the type and size of gear you’ll need.

Best Trolling Rods For Kayaks And Small Boats - PinterestPin

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