can you use spinning reels for trolling

Can You Use Spinning Reels for Trolling?

Trolling requires towing a lure or bait behind a boat while it moves around in search of hungry fish that are on the prowl looking for their prey.

The fishing equipment used for trolling requires 

A typical trolling reel is an overhead baitcast reel that holds a lot of line and has a powerful drag. And while this is great for open water trolling, it is not always necessary to have this kind of reel.

You also need a specific rod to match the trolling reel, some of the heavier duty rods can only be used for trolling and nothing else.

can you use spinning reels for trolling

Over recent years the evolution of spinning reels has seen them designed with increased drag power, line capacity, and overall brute strength.

The same can be said of spinning rods, they have a lot more strength in them now due to the strong graphite materials they can be constructed from, and they can be put in the rod holder on a boat and absorb the powerful strikes of a hungry feeding pelagic fish when it smashes your lure.

Of course, you will need heavy spinning gear for the big game fishing, when trolling in the offshore deep water. But not all trolling requires the heaviest of gear.

Trolling for trout is a very popular and effective way to catch them, and this does not require heavy gear at all. You can use a 3000 or 4000-size spinning reel to great effect.

Why a strong drag is important

The nature of trolling means that fish are enticed into a fast-moving lure, and when they hit the lure they hit it hard.

This is the same whether you are targeting smaller fish such as trout or larger fish species such as tuna or billfish.

The sudden pressure can put an immense amount of strain onto all of the fishing gear being used, from the line, through the rod to the reel seat, and then testing the mechanics of the reel to their fullest.

The drag has to be set to the right resistance for all the fish to initially run once it has taken the lure and then take some line from the spool. Without this, the line is much more likely to snap.

Once you have allowed the fish to take that initial run, you need to try and up the pressure on the fish by tightening the drag when you feel the fish is starting to tire. 

This in itself takes a fair bit of skill, but it can’t be done without good usage of the drag. 

If you intend to use or buy a spinning reel for the purpose of trolling, then you should always check the drag pressure of the reel first. 

You want to ensure that you have plenty of drag to play with so you can put some pressure on the fish. Check the manufactures page for the reel you want to use and see how many pounds of drag it has.

Pros of using a spinning reel for trolling

The retrieve rate of a spinning reel is generally much faster than a trolling reel. This is ideal for getting your fish to the boat in a more timely manner. The longer the fish is on your line and still in the water, the more chance you have of losing it.

Make sure you get a spin reel with a front drag, as they are easier to adjust when fighting a fish than a rear-positioned drag knob.

The macro adjustments you can make with the drag on a spinning reel can be very useful when you are quite a way into the fight with a big fish. You want to gradually drain the fish of energy, and the drag adjustment capabilities on a spinning reel will allow for this.

Cons of using a spinning reel for trolling

One of the cons of using a spinning reel for trolling is the positioning of the drag. When you are playing a hard-fighting large pelagic fish, your front drag knob is harder to adjust when you are holding onto the rod for dear life.

It is much easier to adjust the drag settings on a trolling reel using a lever drag, and why a lot of the deep sea trolling anglers that target the biggest fish will prefer to use a proper trolling reel a lot of the time.

This is not such as issue if you are targeting smaller fish though, so the above is not relevant to all trolling situations.

Another con of using a spinning reel for trolling is the line capacity, or lack of it when compared to some of the bigger trolling reels. 

If you are targeting larger fish, then spooling your reel with 500 yards of line may be necessary when trolling. This will rule out all but the biggest of spinning reels. For example, the 30,000 size Shimano Stella will hold 570 yards of 100lb braid.  

Trolling reels have much greater spool capacity and are designed to hold a lot of line, so you will not have to buy a reel that is half the size of a truck to fit the required amount of line.

Depending on how you rig up your lure, the potential is there to get a lot of line twist when trolling with a spinning rod and reel. 

This can be remedied quite easily though by just adding a good quality snap swivel onto your line. This will prevent large amounts of line twist, which can in turn lead to ugly tangles in your line.

How to avoid tangles when trolling with a spinning reel

If you don’t use your spinning gear in the right way when trolling, you stand a much higher chance of getting a big, ugly birds-nest tangle in your line.

This can happen when you put the lure / bait out the back of the boat and open the bail arm to let some line out. This is not the best way to do it.

An effective technique to use is to back the drag off so that when you put the lure into the water while the boat is moving it will start to pull line off and get you the distance you need. 

That spool tension will stop and lose line from potentially bunching up and causing the big tangles you never want to see.

Use a swivel on your line

Using a swivel will greatly reduce any line twist, and as a result, this will reduce the potential risks of line tangles. 

I recommend you use one snap swivel to connect your leader line to your lure, and then another swivel to connect your main line to your leader line. This way you have double the security against line twist and prevent those tangles from occurring.


A spin reel can be a great option for trolling, and many anglers that troll will regularly use a spinning reel setup.

There are some benefits of using a spinning reel over a trolling or baitcasting reel, but you do need to make sure that you choose your spinning reel and rod well and choose a combo that has enough power for the fishing you will be doing.

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