Your choice of reel for walleye fishing will depend mostly on how an where you intend on fishing.
Different types of fishing call for different types of tackle. The right reel for a walleye jigging setup will generally be a poor choice for trolling.
There are many ways to catch walleye but the most popular are:
- Bottom bouncing
A different setup and tackle configuration is usually required for each technique although there can be a slight crossover between a few of them.
Matching your walleye rod and reel is pretty important if you want to get the best performance out of both.
Best Walleye Reels 2020/2021
1. Okuma Coldwater
2. Shimano Tekota
3. Okuma Coldwater
4. Abu Garcia 6500LC
5. Shimano Sedona FI
6. Okuma Helios
Trolling reels should be capable of holding lots of line and cranking hard against a fish that is down deep.
A trolling reel needs to withstand a lot of abuse that lighter built reels would generally not be capable of managing especially if you troll a lot.
They have to withstand a constant pressure on the drag not just from big walleye, how you fish from the boat also puts a lot of wear and tear on the reel especially the following trolling specific techniques:
- Planer boards
- Lead core lines
- Inline weights
Trolling reels can also be bought with a built in line counter. The line counter will usually be slightly more expensive than one without.
A lot of manufacturers will actually sell the same model with the choice of a line counter or without.
A good spinning outfit is probably the most versatile that you can have. You can throw jigs, spinners, blade baits and use slip sinker rigs.
In fact if you have a size 2000 or 2500 it can double easily as your jigging reel. All you need is an extra spool, one spool for the line you like best for spinning and one for your jigging.
You can also cast small crankbaits for walleye quite successfully on spinning gear.
When jigging for walleye the tackle is all about sensitivity especially is vertical jigging with really small jigs.
The rod is certainly far more important than the reel when jigging. The reel needs to be:
- Small and light
- Cast light lines and lures
- Have a sensitive drag
You are generally going to be looking at either a size 1000 or a size 2500 spinning reel for jigging.
Although you can use a finesse baitcasting reel they are usually very expensive sometimes $500 or more.
Best Trolling Reels for Walleye
Okuma Coldwater Wireline
The Okuma Coldwater line is said to be the replacement for the much loved Clarion line of trolling reels.
The Coldwater series is available with or without a line counter. You can view the lie counter version in the line counter section below.
There are three models available:
- CW-303DS(line counter)
- CW-453DS(line counter)
- CW-553LS(Level wind)
The model featured above is the CW-553LS level wind. It is capable of holding 440 yards of 40 lbs mono.
The Wireline version is specifically targeted at those trolling with wire lines and lead core lines.
The line counter models have a gear ratio of 6.2:1 they are a high speed reel. Whereas the high capacity level wind CW-553LS has a fairly standard 4.7:1 retrieve.
Given the larger capacity of the CW-553LS it is more suited to heavier work, specifically higher weighted leadcore and copper wire lines.
A 22 lbs drag rating
- Large spooled, level wind trolling reel
- Multi-disc Carbonite drag washers
- Machined aluminum spool
- MSS: Mechanical stabilizing system
- Weight 30 ounces
The Shimano Tekota much like the Okuma Coldwater wire line is available with or without a line counter.
The 300 series is a low profile trolling reel that can take a lot of abuse. You'll see these on salmon boats and on inshore trolling charter boats so they have proven themselves as quite the workhorse.
The 300 is better suited to shallower trolling using lighter mono or braid. They can hold 275 yards of 12lbs mono or 255 yards of 30 lbs power pro braid.
The maximum drag of 12 lbs is more than sufficient for walleye trolling without the addition of down riggers or lead core lines.
- Diecast aluminum frame
- 12 pound max drag
- 3 ball bearings, 1 roller bearing
- Gear ratio 4.2:1
Best Line Counter Reels for Walleye
Okuma Cold Water LC
The Okuma Cold Water line counter reel is probably their most successful freshwater trolling reel to date. Look closely on any boat in the great lakes that's heading out trolling and you'll most probably see either a collection of Okuma Cold Waters, Shimano Tekota or Okuma Magda Pro line counters.
The Cold Water comes in seven different models, three of which are left handed variations(they have a "DLX" in the model number).
For around $100 it's hard to find such a well built high performing line counter. If it is your first line counter that you are purchasing then the Okuma is the one to get. It requires less maintenance and is very simple to operate.
- Multi disc carbonite drag
- Oversize machined brass XL drive and pinion gears
- Self lubricating gearing system
- Suitable for copper/lead lines
- Mechanical stabilizing system
Abu Garcia Ambassadeur LC
Abu Garica's famous Ambassadeur line of reels has been around for decades. Continually refined through various model upgrades they have built a solid reputation of both high quality and exceptional performance.
The LC(Line Counter) is available in a size 5500 or 6500. Equipped with a carbon matrix drag system they are more than capable of handling the heavier loads that trolling can throw at reels.
- Carbon Matrix Drag system
- 2 stainless steel main bearings and one roller
- Line out alarm
- Anti-reverse bearing
Best Walleye Spinning Reel
Shimano Sedona FI
The Sedona for the money of on of the best value spinning reels available. It shares some of it's features and materials that are found in some of the more expensive models from Shimano.
You get the same Hagane internal gears found in the more expensive models, meaning less internal friction and movement especially as the reel ages.
A specially shaped spool lip for increased casting performance and less wear and tear on your line over the long run and G-Free body design that moves the center of balance of the reel closer to the rod for a more balanced setup.
These also make a great value jigging reel in the smaller sizes.
- Hagane gearing
- G-Free body
- 3 main bearings + one roller ball
- Propulsion spool lip design
Pflueger Supreme XT
The Supreme XT is the top of the range spinning reel from Pflueger. The other more popular Pflueger President is one of the most popular low priced ultralight reels available.
Both reel are absolute work horses. The Supreme XT being the top of the line model gets all the bells and whistles that Pflueger have to offer.
Available in four sizes:
- SP25X - 8lb drag, weighs 6 ounces
- SP30X - 10lb drag, weighs 6.8 ounces
- SP35X 12lb drag, weighs 8 ounces
- SP40X - 14lb drag, 8.7 ounces
A massive 10 stainless steel ball bearings give silky smooth performance. The drag system if fully sealed and as such it is also officially rated by Pflueger for salt water usage.
Everything about these reels is built with the aim of reducing weight. Even the handle gets special treatment as it is made from carbon fiber as opposed to the aluminum that you will normally find in reels of this class.
- 10 bearings
- Braid ready spool
- Carbon handle
- Sealed carbon drag
Shimano Stradic CI4+
The Stradic CI4+ is considered the creme de la creme of freshwater spinning reels. It has one of the smoothest drags available and built to an exceptionally high standard.
Shimano have used their carbon infused(CI) technology to produce a reel casing that is twenty percent lighter and one and a half times stronger than a tradition graphite blend.
The Stradic is one of the best sealed pinning reels available, a super water tight drag housing and internal gears means that it functions as normal even after being submerged for over a minute.
It's also capable of standing up to the corrosive effects of saltwater(like any other reel just be sure to rinse it in fresh water afterwards)
In a 2500 size it is one of the best all round spinning reels. Drop down to a 1000 size and pair it with an ultralight spinning rod and you have the most perfectly balanced ultralight combo.
If finesse jugging is your aim then the 1000 is probably the strongest lightweight spinning reel available, weighing in at a mere 5.6 ounces.
All that quality doesn't come cheap however as it usually retails for just over 200 dollars.
- Lightweight CI4+ construction
- Hagene cut gears
- Exceptionally well sealed reel housing and drag
Best Walleye Jigging Reel
Okuma Helios SX
The SX is the newest in the line of Helios spinning reels from Okuma. Released in 2016. It is built from a blend of C-40X carbon fiber and graphite that is said to be some 50% stronger than traditional graphite.
Although they are not the lightest reels in this line up they are still pretty light and paired with the right rod you should be able to place small jigs with lots of accuracy right where you want them.
There are four models available:
- HSX-20 - max drag 6lb, weight 6.2 ounces
- HSX-30 - max drag 13lb, weight 7 ounces
- HSX-40 - max drag 13lb, weight 9.1 ounces
- HSX-40S - high speed model of the HSX-40 above.
A jigging reel for walleye does not need to be big and heavy so the HSX-20 is probably the best option to go for. It can take 140 yards of 4 lb mono line or 110 of 6 lb.
The gear ratio on the HSX-20 is 5.0:1 and like all the other models it has 8 main stainless steel ball bearings, one roller bearing and a quick-set anti-reverse bearing.
- 8 HPB+ main bearings plus one roller bearing
- Anti-reverse bearing
- Elliptical gearing system
Abu Garcia Revo
The Revo SX spinning reel is Abu Garcia's answer to the Shimano Stradic CI4+ in the battle for best ultralight spinning reel.
It matches the Stradic on almost every feature except for how well it can handle saltwater, in that category the Stradis is hands down the winner.
However, the Revo SX depending on where you buy it from can close to $100 dollars cheaper than the Shimano which is a considerable saving.
Where the Revo really shines is in it's ability to cast super light weight lures with accuracy. Abu really focused on the line management side of things with the SX.
The spool has a specially shaped lip to help reduce drag allowing line to flow effortlessly off the spool.
The spool also has a larger than average arbor so your line will tend to twist less. Less line twist on a spinning reel for jigging is super important especially for finicky walleye.
- 9 bearings total
- Specially designed 'Rocket Spool'
- Precision machined internal gearing
- 6.2:1 gear ratio