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Mark's Mailbag - Choosing the right rod/reel combo

Mark's Mailbag are occasional posts to the blog in response to questions people submit on the Fishing 411 website.  Mark personally responds to the question and when relevant, we repost his answer here.  If you have a question you would like to ask Mark, please visit us at

On May 15th, Mike wrote -  Mark - Relatively new to your show but really love it! The way you guys break down each segment and show what you are doing and why you chose a certain technique/method really adds to the education of the viewer. Just gearing up for walleye trolling. May be on Saginaw Bay or Erie the first week of June.  I've got big Ugly Stik rods with line counters but I want to downsize for walleyes. What specifics would you recommend to for pulling boards or Tadpoles? Can I get away with 7' med action spinning rods? Or would you go with casting reels and line counters? Size and action? I only want to buy this gear once so any insights would be most appreciated and THANKS in advance! Hoping you and your son keep up the good work for many years to come! -Mike

Mark replied - Mike:
Thanks for watching Fishing 411. I’m happy to answer your question and will also post this answer to our weekly fishing blog as I feel your questions will resonate with a lot of other walleye anglers. 

I’m willing to bet the Ugly Stick rods and line counter reels you already have are going to be ideal for walleye trolling. Ideally I recommend size 20 line counter reels for walleye
fishing, but if you already have 30 or 40 size reels there is no reason these can’t be used effectively for walleye fishing. If you have the larger 30 or 40 size reels, it’s a good idea to fill up half or a little more of the reel with an inexpensive off-brand monofilament line as backing. Next top dress the reels with a premium line like Maxima Ultra Green to fill the reel to capacity. For walleye fishing you’ll only need approximately 100 to 150 yards of line, so its more economical to top dress rather than filling the reels completely with premium line. This step is especially useful and provides even more cost savings if you opt for a braided line. Braid is much more expensive than monofilament. In this case I’d recommend 40# test Maxima Eight Strand Braid which is about the same diameter as most 10-12 pound test monofilaments and again 100 to 150 yards of top dressed onto the reel is plenty.

I discourage walleye anglers from the temptation of downsizing their reels to the 15 or 17 size reels on the market. The problem with these line counter reels is they don’t have enough line capacity. If you need to let out 150 to 200 feet of line to get your baits diving to the desired depth, these reels will have little reserve line left on them. Also, the line counters on these reels are typically inaccurate because mechanical line counters are based on how much line comes off the spool for each rotation of the spool. With these small reels, the amount of line on the reel spool is noticeably less when fishing longer lead lengths. In turn this causes the line counter to under estimate how much line is being played off the reel for every spool rotation. Stick with the 20, 30 or 40 size reels and the line counters will be more accurate.

In my opinion the ideal rods for walleye trolling are telescopic models. This feature allows the angler to have a longer and more forgiving rod for fighting fish, yet they telescope down to easily fit in the rod locker. All the major brands currently offer telescopic rods and a medium action model 7’-6” to 8’-6” long is about perfect for fishing Tadpoles, crankbaits and also using in-line boards like the Off Shore Tackle Side-Planer. Spinning rods don’t typically have enough backbone to handle boards and most serious trollers are going to opt for trolling style rods and line counter reels.

Thanks Mike for writing. Early June is prime time for walleye fishing on both Erie and Saginaw Bay. Good luck and don’t hesitate to send result photos when you get out on the water.

Best fishes,

Mark Romanack