27 Best Offshore Conventional Trolling Fishing Reels 2022

Conventional trolling reels hold lots of fishing line, have strong drags, and are able to catch large fish. When I think of conventional reels, the first reel that comes to mind is a Penn International 80 which is a big game offshore fishing reel. This 80 class reel can catch the biggest fish in the ocean like bluefin tuna, marlin, swordfish, and large sharks.

There are many different styles and sizes of conventional reels and can be used to catch all types of fish. Small conventional trolling reels are used in freshwater to catch walleye, bass, musky, steelhead and salmon.

best conventional offshore trolling reel

Lever drag and star drag are the two drag-styles for conventional reels. Star drag should be set in advance to the desired tension level. Lever drag should alow be set in advance but can be adjusted with the level to different pre-set values depending on the fishing situation.

Many conventional reels are two-speed reels which means that they have two line retrieval speeds. This is a nice feature because the fast line retrieval speed allows lures to be reeled in quickly and helps keep slack out of the line when fighting fast-moving fish. The low gear setting retrieves line slowly but provides higher torque. With a higher torque value, less force is needed to turn the handle. This is a good setting to use when fighting large powerful fish.

Here Are the Best Conventional Fishing Reels


1. Penn International VIS 2 Speed Big Game Reel

penn international vis 2-speed big game offshore trolling reel

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Model 16
Weighs 36 oz
Drag 20 Pounds Retrieves 48-14 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 770/20 L-C Braid 765/80
Model 30
Weighs 56 oz
Drag 30 Pounds Retrieves 41-14 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 1030/30 L-C Braid 1015/130
Model 70
Weighs 74 oz
Drag 55Pounds Retrieves 40-19 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 960/60 L-C Braid 2230/100
Model 80
Weighs 113 oz
Drag 65Pounds Retrieves 40-19 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 1120/80 L-C Braid 3025/130
Model 130
Weighs 169 oz
Drag 100 Pounds Retrieves 41-19 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 1330/100 L-C Braid 4175/130

The Penn International VI series reels come in gold or silver color options. This is the 6th generation of this classic high-quality big game fishing reel. Features of the reel include quick shift two-speed drag, dura-drag with two large-diameter drag washers, stainless steel gears, and an anodized aluminum reel body.

Line capacity rings mark approximately one third, two-third, and a full spool. These reels have line shedding lugs. The lugs allow a fishing harness to be hooked onto the reel. Vesa-strike allows the strike button position to be adjusted with a screwdriver. These Penn reels are made in Philadelphia USA. Below is a video that goes over all the new features of Penn International reels.


2. Penn Squall Two Speed Big Game Offshore Reel

penn squall 2-speed offshore trolling reel

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Model 16
Weighs 38.5 oz
Drag 26 Pounds Retrieves 39-18 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 540/30 L-C Braid 1040/65
Model 30
Weighs 47 oz
Drag 32 Pounds Retrieves 41-18 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 595/50 L-C Braid 1435/80
Model 50
Weighs 55.6 oz
Drag 40 Pounds Retrieves 33-17 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 890/50 L-C Braid 1835/100

Note: The drag values are the max drag for the reel.

The Penn Squall 50 VSW is one of my favorite big game offshore fishing reels. This reel and the Shimano TLD 50 which is reviewed later are both awesome lightweight reels that can catch big fish. This reel even works well for high-speed trolling for wahoo.  The size 50 reel weight is about the same a Penn international 30 and is half the weight of a Penn international 80. I like to always have a 50 class reel on the boat because a reel this large can catch almost any fish in the ocean.

Features of the reel include the Dura-drag system, 4 stainless steel bearings, and aluminum spool that has line capacity rings. The body of the reel is lightweight graphite and the gears are made of stainless steel. It also has a quiet double-dog anti-reverse system.


3. Penn International VISX 2 Speed Gold Reel

penn international visx 2-speed conventional fishing reel

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Model 12
Weighs 32 oz
Drag 40 Pounds Retrieves 40-14 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 880/15 L-C Braid 840/50
Model 16
Weighs 36 oz
Drag 45 Pounds Retrieves 40-14 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 280/60 L-C Braid 765/80
Model 20
Weighs 51 oz
Drag 50 Pounds Retrieves 40-14 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 325/60 L-C Braid 750/100
Model 30
Weighs 53 oz
Drag 55 Pounds Retrieves 40-14 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 390/60 L-C Braid 905/100
Model 50
Weighs 63 oz
Drag 60 Pounds Retrieves 40-15 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 575/60 L-C Braid 1330/100

The Penn International VSIX is a topless reel similar to the VIS. This reel has higher drag which works well with a strong braided fishing line. Since it is a topless reel anglers can have their finger on the spool to change the drag on the bait, lure or fish. If there is slack in the line the topless reel has a higher chance the line will come out of the spool. If this happens, be careful the line does not go over the lug hooks that are on the reel for the fighting harness. The lugs are line shedding lugs and are shaped so the line is less likely to get cut or stuck if this happens.

Features of the VISX reel include 5 stainless steel ball bearings, Dura-drag, quick-shift 2-speed reel, and anti-reverse. The body of the reel is made with aircraft grade anodized aluminum and the gears are made with stainless steel. This is a great reel for catching large pelagic fish like tuna, wahoo, mahi-mahi, marlin, and large sharks.


4. Penn Torque Gold Lever Drag Fishing Reel

penn torque gold reel lever drag conventional bottom fishing reel

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Model 15
Weighs 16.7 oz
Drag 20 Pounds Retrieves 30-14 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 200/20 L-C Braid 290/50
Model 25N
Weighs 21.1 oz
Drag 33 Pounds Retrieves 38-19 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 245/30 L-C Braid 475/50
Model 30
Weighs 21.5 oz
Drag 33 Pounds Retrieves 38-19 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 330/30 L-C Braid 455/80
Model 40N
Weighs 27.4 oz
Drag 40 Pounds Retrieves 42-21 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 235/50 L-C Braid 565/80
Model 60
Weighs 28.3 oz
Drag 40 Pounds Retrieves 42-21 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 335/50 L-C Braid 860/80

The Penn Torque LD2 is much smaller and lighter than the international series reels. However, they do not hold as much line. These reels are well-built and are great for trolling or verticle jigging.

Color options are silver or gold. Features of the reel include 6 shielded stainless steel ball bearings, anti-reverse, and Dura-drag. This reel has a lever drag system and has two reel retrieve speeds than can be adjusted with one hand using the quick shift system. The Penn Torque 25N and 40N have a narrow spool. These hold about the same amount of line though because the spool is taller than the standard width spool.


5. Penn Fathom Lever Drag Fishing Reel

penn fathom lever drag conventional fishing reel

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Model 15
Weighs 15.6 oz
Drag 20 Pounds Retrieves 31-14 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 200/20 L-C Braid 290/50
Model 25N
Weighs 19.6 oz
Drag 33 Pounds Retrieves 38-19 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 245/30 L-C Braid 475/50
Model 30
Weighs 20.0 oz
Drag 33 Pounds Retrieves 38-19 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 330/30 L-C Braid 455/80
Model 40N
Weighs 25.7 oz
Drag 40 Pounds Retrieves 42-21 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 235/50 L-C Braid 565/80
Model 60
Weighs 27.3 oz
Drag 40 Pounds Retrieves 42-21 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 335/50 L-C Braid 860/80

The Penn Fathom LD2 is very similar to the Torque LD2 above except its body and side plates are made from diecast aluminum rather than machined aluminum. This does make the reel slightly lighter.

Left-handed reels are available in the 25N and 30 size options. When using a conventional fishing reel most right-handed people hold the reel with their right hand. If you are left-handed getting a left-handed reel is likely a good idea. The narrow reels are less wide but have taller spools.


6. Penn Fathom Star Drag Fishing Reel

penn fathom star drag conventional fishing reels

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Model 12
Weighs 16.9 oz
Drag 30 Pounds Retrieves 30 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 250/15 L-C Braid 345/30
Model 15
Weighs 17.1 oz
Drag 30 Pounds Retrieves 30 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 200/20 L-C Braid 290/50
Model 25N
Weighs 19.4 oz
Drag 30 Pounds Retrieves 42 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 255/30 L-C Braid 495/50
Model 30
Weighs 20.1 oz
Drag 30 Pounds Retrieves 42 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 355/30 L-C Braid 495/80
Model 40
Weighs 20.3 oz
Drag 40 Pounds Retrieves 42 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 240/50 L-C Braid 580/80

This Penn Fathom II is a similar version to the Fathom LD2 but has a star drag system rather than a lever drag system. Features include a diecast aluminum body, bronze main gear, Versa drag with carbon fiber washers, and 6+1 shielded stainless steel bearings. The size 12 and 15 reels also have a magnetic casting braking system rather than the standard centrifugal braking system.

The stand out feature of this reel is the live spindle design, this allows a bait to be pitched, cast, or jigged with minimal resistance against the spool. This is possible because the design allows the spool to spin independently of the gears.


7. Penn Fathom II Levelwind Trolling Reel

penn fathom II level wind conventional fishing reel

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Model 15
Weighs 19.8 oz
Drag 30 Pounds Retrieves 30 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 215/20 L-C Braid 310/50
Model 20
Weighs 20.9 oz
Drag 30 Pounds Retrieves 30 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 315/20 L-C Braid 450/50
Model 30
Weighs 26.1 oz
Drag 30 Pounds Retrieves 31 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 375/30 L-C Braid 725/50
Model 50
Weighs 27 oz
Drag 30 Pounds Retrieves 30 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 320/50 L-C Braid 770/80

The Penn Fathom II is a levelwind reel. This means that line is evenly placed on the spool without having the move the line back and forth with your hand. For novice anglers this a great feature. Levelwinds can bend under high force and are not place on large high drag reels. LH stands for left-handed reel and LC stands for line counter reel.

This reel with 30 pounds of drag is still large enough to catch most types of fish including small tuna, mahi-mahi, mackerel, barracuda, striped bass, and many more. Features of the reel include a star drag system with HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers, diecast aluminum body, and 4+1 stainless steel bearing system. This Penn Fantom is a great option for a large levelwind reel. Other good large levelwind reels are the Penn Squall and Shimano Tekota 800 which will be reviewed below.


8. Penn Squall Levelwind Conventional Trolling Reel

penn squall level wind conventional trolling reel

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Model 15
Weighs 16.2 oz
Drag 15 Pounds Retrieves 28 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 220/20 L-C Braid 305/50
Model 20
Weighs 16.9 oz
Drag 15 Pounds Retrieves 28 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 315/20 L-C Braid 455/50
Model 30
Weighs 20.9 oz
Drag 20 Pounds Retrieves 35 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 370/30 L-C Braid 710/50
Model 50
Weighs 24.6 oz
Drag 20 Pounds Retrieves 32 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 320/50 L-C Braid 775/80

The Penn Squall is a cheaper version of the Fathom II shown above. Rather than being made from aluminum, this reels frame and side plates are made from graphite. The max drag strength is 10-15 pounds less than the Fanthom depending on the size of the reel. This is still a great conventional trolling reel and works well to catch fish under 50 pounds.

LW stands for levelwind and this reel does automatically spool the reel evenly during line retrieval. LC stands for line counter and the size 20 has a line counter option. This allows the angler to know how much fishing line has been taken off the spool. The line counter allows the depth of lure and distance behind the boat to be estimated. LH stands for a left-handed reel.  Other features include a machined aluminum spool, bronze main gear, HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers, and 2+1 stainless steel bearings. The size 50 reel has switchblade lugs than come up and down to secure a fishing fighting belt if desired.


9. Penn Squall Lever Drag Conventional Reels

penn squall lever drag conventional fishing reel

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Model DC 30
Weighs 18.2 oz
Drag 13 Pounds Retrieves 37 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 260/30 L-C Braid 550/50
Model DC 40
Weighs 20.9 oz
Drag 20 Pounds Retrieves 37 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 360/30 L-C Braid 750/50
Model DC 50
Weighs 27.4 oz
Drag 27 Pounds Retrieves 35 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 310/50 L-C Braid 750/80
Model DC 60
Weighs 28.1 oz
Drag 33 Pounds Retrieves 33 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 370/50 L-C Braid 900/80

The Penn Squall LD is a lever drag conventional reel. Size 30 and 40 are topless and size 50 and 60 have a top reel frame. Features include a graphite frame, aluminum spool, Dura-drag, and 6+1 stainless steel ball bearings. On the size 50 and 60 reels, there are retractable lugs which are also called switchblade lugs.

This lever drag reel has more drag that than the star drag levelwind Penn Squall. The Penn Fathom LD2 is a very similar reel but is made of aluminum and has a higher max drag. This Penn Squall is a great reel though and works well for trolling and bottom fishing with bait or jigs.


10. Penn Warefare Star Drag Fishing Reel

penn warefare star drag conventional bottom fishing reel

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Model 20
Weighs 18.3 oz
Drag 15Pounds Retrieves 34 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 280/20 L-C Braid 400/50
Model 30
Weighs 19.6 oz
Drag 15 Pounds Retrieves 34 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 360/30 L-C Braid 690/50

The Penn Warfare comes in levelwind and non-levelwind versions. Both models have star drag systems. There is a 30cp version that comes in a plastic clam pack rather than a box. However, both reels are identical. These reels are only available in right-handed models.


11. Penn Senator Star Drag Conventional Reel

penn senator high speed star drag conventional fishing reel

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Model 112
Weighs 22.0 oz
Drag 11 Pounds Retrieves 29 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 300/30 L-C Braid 625/50
Model 113
Weighs 30 oz
Drag 20 Pounds Retrieves 26 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 370/40 L-C Braid 925/50
Model 113LW
Weighs 31 oz
Drag 20 Pounds Retrieves 26 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 490/40 L-C Braid 1200/50
Model 114
Weighs 45 oz
Drag 22 Pounds Retrieves 28 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 450/50 L-C Braid 1075/80
Model 114LW
Weighs 48 oz
Drag 22 Pounds Retrieves 28 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 560/50 L-C Braid 1350/80

The Penn Senator is an iconic saltwater fishing reel that has been sold since 1936. Whether it is fishing from a pier or fishing from a party boat the Penn Senators have been an industry leader for decades. Today there are many lighter-weight reels with higher performance but you will still see many people fishing these reels today.

Features include an anodized aluminum spool, stainless steel reinforced rings, bronze main gear, stainless steel pinion gear, HT-100 carbon fiber drag, and shielded stainless steel ball bearings.  This reel can be used for trolling or bottom fishing. It has a low gear ratio and is most often used for bottom fishing for fish like grouper, salmon, ling-cod, and halibut.

These are also good reels to troll teasers or umbrella rigs. Some people use the large 114LW to fish for large goliath groupers. The star drag is hit forward with a hammer and the reel is basically used as a winch with a really heavy 200 plus pound fishing line.


12. Penn Rival Levelwind Conventional Trolling Reel

penn rival level wind conventional fishing reel

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Model 15
Weighs 17.7 oz
Drag 15 Pounds Retrieves 29 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 215/20 L-C Braid 305/50
Model 20
Weighs 18.40 oz
Drag 15 Pounds Retrieves 29 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 315/20 L-C Braid 455/50
Model 30
Weighs 22.0 oz
Drag 15 Pounds Retrieves 27 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 370/30 L-C Braid 710/50

The Penn Rival is a levelwind star drag conventional fishing reel. This reel can be used in saltwater but is best suited for freshwater. It comes with left-handed and right-handed options. All sizes are available with line counters. This reel can be used for trolling, bottom fishing, or flatline baits when on anchor.

Features of the reel include a lightweight graphite body, bronze main gear, brass pinion, HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers, and 2 shielded stainless steel bearings. The spool has line capacity rings to help determine the amount of line left on the reel.


13. Shimano Tiagra Big Game Offshore Reel

shimano tiagra offshore big game fishing reel

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Model 16
Weighs 37.4 oz
Drag 31 Pounds Retrieves 36-16 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 430/30 L-C Braid 520/80
Model 30A
Weighs 52.4 oz
Drag 35 Pounds Retrieves 41-18 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 420/50 L-C Braid 770/80
Model DC 30WLRSA
Weighs 55.6 oz
Drag 35 Pounds Retrieves 41-18 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 570/50 L-C Braid 1180/80
Model 50WA
Weighs 86.2 oz
Drag 37.5 Pounds Retrieves 37-15 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 850/50 L-C Braid 1575/80
Model 80WA
Weighs 115.2 oz
Drag 40 Pounds Retrieves 37-19 in/turn
Line-capacity 950/80 L-C Braid 2445/100
Model 130A
Weighs 174.1 oz
Drag 88 Pounds Retrieves 39-22 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 1000/130 L-C Braid 3315/150

This Shimano Tiagra A is one of the highest quality big game offshore fishing reels on the market today. The A model is the standard size, the WA model has and wide spool and the WLRSA model is the wide spool long rage model. The drag values are similar for both reels but LRS reels are said to have a narrow range of low drag settings and a large range for high drag settings. Hooker Electric turns the Shimao Tiagra into an electric fishing reel.

Features of Tiagra include cross carbon drag, A-RB treated stainless steel bearings, corrosion-resistant body, large drive gear, large pinion gear, and a rigid frame that reduces flexing that could cause gears to grind. This is a powerhouse of a reel that will last for decades with proper care and maintenance. The 130 size is the largest class fishing reel made. It can be used to catch 1000 pounds plus sharks, marlin, and bluefin tuna. The size 30 – 50 reels are commonly used when trolling offshore for wahoo, tuna, marlin, and mahi-mahi.


14. Shimano TLD Two Speed Conventional Trolling Reel

shimano tld 2 speed big game conventional fishing reel

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Model 20A
Weighs 36.2 oz
Drag 30 Pounds Retrieves 137-16 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 250/50 L-C Braid 820/50
Model 30A
Weighs 37.5 oz
Drag 33 Pounds Retrieves 37-18 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 350/50 L-C Braid 1210/50
Model 50A
Weighs 57.3 oz
Drag 37 Pounds Retrieves 38-15 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 700/50 L-C Braid 920/100
Model 50LRS
Weighs 57.3 oz
Drag 42 Pounds Retrieves 38-15 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 700/50 L-C Braid 920/100

The Shimano TLD-II is an offshore trolling reel that is widely used in charger fishing operations. This is because it is lightweight, durable, strong, and a great value compared to similar class reels. The TLD 50LRS can catch all types of fish from a 1 pound bonito to a 500 pound blue marlin.

This is a two-speed reel with lever drag. Features of the reel include 4+1 A-RB corrosion-resistant ball bearings, stamped graphite frame, aluminum spool, and a loud clicker. There is a football-shaped handle on the 20-30 size reels and a large offset handle on the 50 class reels. These reels will last for many years of heavy use with proper care and maintenance.


15. Shimano Talica Big Game Offshore Fishing Reel

shimano talic big game offshore trolling fishing reel

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Model 8
Weighs 7.6 oz
Drag 20 Pounds Retrieves 38-25 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 200/20 L-C Braid 390/30
Model 10
Weighs 7.6 oz
Drag 20 Pounds Retrieves 38-25 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 270/20 L-C Braid 535/50
Model 12
Weighs 7.6 oz
Drag 40 Pounds Retrieves 41-22 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 230/30 L-C Braid 700/50
Model 16
Weighs 7.6 oz
Drag 40 Pounds Retrieves 41-22 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 300/30 L-C Braid 430/80
Model 20
Weighs 7.6 oz
Drag 45Pounds Retrieves 46-20 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 260/50 L-C Braid 575/80
Model 25
Weighs 7.6 oz
Drag 45 Pounds Retrieves 46-20 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 340/50 L-C Braid 730/80
Model 50
Weighs 7.6 oz
Drag 60 Pounds Retrieves 45-20 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 440/60 L-C Braid 1120/80

The Shimano Talica is an offshore trolling reel with sizes to catch all types of fish. This is a big game lever drag reel but is smaller and lighter than the Shimano Tiagra model. This is one of the few lever drag reels that can actually be cast. The super free spool stops the pinion gears contact with the spool during the cast which eliminates a large amount of friction.

It also has powerful low torque gears that can be used to catch large fish. This is a lightweight 2-speed reel that can be used with braided fishing lines to allow stand up reeling on big game pelagic fish.  Features include a topless design, one-piece cold-forged aluminum frame, oversized cross carbon drag washers, shielded A-RB ball bearings, and an S-compact body.


16. Shimano Torium Conventional Saltwater Reel

shimano torium conventional saltwater star drag fishing reel

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Model 16
Weighs 18.9 oz
Drag 24 Pounds Retrieves 46 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 320/20 L-C Braid 370/50
Model 20
Weighs 19.2 oz
Drag 24 Pounds Retrieves 46 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 280/30 L-C Braid 710/50
Model 20PGA
Weighs 19.4 oz
Drag 33 Pounds Retrieves 34 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 260/25 L-C Braid 530/50
Model 30
Weighs 19.8 oz
Drag 24 Pounds Retrieves 46 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 350/30 L-C Braid 1015/50

This Shimano Torium is a high-speed star drag reel. It has a super free spool so the lures and baits can be cast with minimal spool resistance. Other features include cross carbon drag, HEG gearing, one-piece frame, S-compact body, and 3+1 A-RB shielded corrosion resistant bearings. This is a popular reel for mooching, trolling, jigging, and bottom-fishing.


17. Shimano Tyronos II Conventional 2 Speed Reel

shimano tyrnos 2-speed conventional fishing reel

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Model 20
Weighs 39.2 oz
Drag 33 Pounds Retrieves 45-18 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 450/30 L-C Braid 660/80
Model 30
Weighs 40.9 oz
Drag 33 Pounds Retrieves 45-18 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 350/50 L-C Braid 790/80
Model 50
Weighs 54.7 oz
Drag 33 Pounds Retrieves 44-16 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 700/50 L-C Braid 1120/80

The Tyrnos is a solid high-quality two-speed lever drag reel. This reel in a size 50 is what I used on charters to bottom fish for halibut and rockfish. The high gear was nice for bring up the 2-pound lead weights quickly from around 400 feet of water depth. Pushing the button in the reel handle puts the reel in low-speed for more torque when reeling in a large heavy halibut. This reel also works well when trolling inshore or offshore for small and large pelagic fish.

Feature of the reel includes a Hagane rigid die-cast aluminum body, 4+1 A-RB corrosion resistant ball bearings, and cross carbon drag. In the video below I show how to properly set your drag using a pull scale on both star and lever drag conventional reels.


18. Shimano Tekota Levelwind Trolling Reel

shimano tekota level wind conventional trolling reel

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Model 300
Weighs 13.3 oz
Drag 18 Pounds Retrieves 25 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 185/16 L-C Braid 255/30
Model 500
Weighs 15.3 oz
Drag 18 Pounds Retrieves 25 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 285/16 L-C Braid 390/40
Model 600
Weighs 16.0 oz
Drag 18 Pounds Retrieves 25 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 390/16 L-C Braid 750/80
Model 700
Weighs 28.8 oz
Drag 24 Pounds Retrieves 33 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 350/30 L-C Braid 430/80
Model 800
Weighs 30.0 oz
Drag 24 Pounds Retrieves 33 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 450/30 L-C Braid 640/80

The Shimano Tekota series are levelwind reels. This is a very popular reel for trolling and bottom fishing because the levelwind feature automatically places the line evenly back on the spool. These reels can be used in both freshwater and saltwater. Line counters can break after heavy use in saltwater. The line counter LC version of this reel is widely used in the great lakes to fish for walleye and salmon. If the reel is used on a downrigger the line counter is not needed.

When trolling offshore the Tekota 800 with the levelwind makes a great reel for novice anglers. This is a durable smooth levelwind and holds enough line to catch big fish. Feature of this reel includes 3+1 corrosion-resistant stainless steel ball bearings, rigid Hagane aluminum body, cross carbon drag, and a super free spool to reduce friction during casts. The clicker on the reel can be turned on to slow the descent rate of heavy baits without birdnesting the spool.


19. Shimano Tekota 600 Line Counter Reel

shimano tek500hglca tekota A 500 line counter level wind star drag reel

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Model 500
Weighs 15.3 oz
Drag 24 Pounds Retrieves 25 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 285/16 L-C Braid 330/50
Model 600
Weighs 15.3 oz
Drag 24Pounds Retrieves 25 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb)  390/16 L-C Braid 460/50

I used these Shimano Tekota 500 line counter reels for a full salmon charter season in Alaska. My initial thought was that it did not hold enough line. I spooled the reels with a 30-pound monofilament line. When mooching this reel would get to about 220 feet. If you fish deeper than the next size up the Tekota 600 would be needed.

The HGLCA model has a line counter the HGA does not have a line counter. The 501 and 601 series are left-handed versions of this reel.

I use the Shimano Tekota as a salmon fishing reels in Alaska as it works great for both mooching and trolling for salmon. Out of 10 reels I used last season, one did have a levelwind that broke pretty much right out of the box and got returned. The line counters held up all season fishing pretty much every day without any problems. My only complaint about the reel is the star drag would not always hold a constant value. The drag would decrease at times when fighting fish. I do not like touching the drag once a fish is hooked but often had to increase the drag if I notice the pole was not bending over enough.

The super free spoon this reel is great for casting when mooching for salmon. Other features are 3+1 A-RB stainless steel ball bearings, cross carbon drag, and a compact Hagane metal body.


20. Shimano Calcutta Conventional Baitcasting Reel

shimano calcutta conventional trolling reel

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Model 100
Weighs 9.0 oz
Drag 9.5 Pounds Retrieves 23 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 110/14 L-C Braid 175/30
Model 200
Weighs 10.1 oz
Drag 11 Pounds Retrieves 27 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb)  120/14 L-C Braid 130/50
Model 400
Weighs 11.7 oz
Drag 17 Pounds Retrieves 24 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 160/20 L-C Braid 305/50
Model 700
Weighs 18.2 oz
Drag 16 Pounds Retrieves 28 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 310/20 L-C Braid 620/50

The Shimano Calcutta is actually a baitcasting reel. These reels are most often used for pitching jigs when bass fishing. This reel can be used in freshwater or saltwater and the larger sizes work well for casting and trolling.

Features of the reel include a cold forged-aluminum body, 3+1 A-RB stainless steel bearings, cross carbon drag, and a super-free spool for low resistance casting. The cast breaking system uses centrifugal force to control the spool speed during a cast.


21. Fin-Nor Marquesa Lever Drag Bottom Fishing Reel

fin nor marquesa lever drag conventional fishing reel

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Model 12
Weighs 20 oz
Drag 17 Pounds Retrieves 43 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 270/15 L-C Braid 280/50
Model 16
Weighs 21 oz
Drag 17 Pounds Retrieves 43 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 290/20 L-C Braid 400/50
Model 20
Weighs 26.8 oz
Drag 20 Pounds Retrieves 51 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 300/25 L-C Braid 530/50

The Fin-Nor Marquesa is a great conventional reel for jigging and bottom fishing. It is lightweight and can be fished standing up with the rod and reel in hand.

The reel body and handle are made from 6061 aluminum. Features of the reel include a topless design, 5+1 ball bearings, and continuously anti-reverse. This is a high-speed reel and the Marquesa II is the same reel in a two speed. This is a popular high-end reel that is built to last.


22. Avet Lever Drag Jigging Reel

avet lever drag conventional reel

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Model SX 5.3
Weighs 14 oz
Drag 14 Pounds Retrieves 30 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 350/15 L-C Braid 350/50

The Avet is a lever drag reel with a 5.3:1 gear ratio. Color options include gold, blue, green, green camo, pink, red, and silver. The body and handle of the reel are made with 6061-T6 marine-grade aluminum. These reels are made in the USA.

If you see a bright-colored conventional reel on a boat it is very likely an Avet fishing reel. Feature of the reel includes Avedrag carbon fiber drag, 8 sealed stainless steel ball bearings, and an alarm clicker. The reel is constructed with a one-piece aluminum frame, machined aluminum rod clamp that fits most rod seats, and machined stainless steel gears.


23. Daiwa Seagate Jigging Reel

daiwa seagate star drag conventional bottom fishing reel

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Model 30
Weighs 15.0 oz
Drag 15.4 Pounds Retrieves 35 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 295/20 L-C Braid 280/50
Model 35
Weighs 20.4 oz
Drag 19.8 Pounds Retrieves 48 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 300/20 L-C Braid 360/50
Model 50
Weighs 21.9 oz
Drag 19.8 Pounds Retrieves 48 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 350/30 L-C Braid 630/50

The Daiwa Seagate is a topless conventional reel with a star drag. Features include 3 corrosion resistant ball bearings, an anti-reverse bearing, power handle, centrifugal spool break, and ultimate tournament carbon drag. The reel is constructed with an anodized aluminum spool, aluminum frame, aluminum side plate, and brass gears.

This reel also comes in a version with star drag and a levelwind. A line counter version of the reel is also available and is called the Sealine SG-3B. Diawa and Okuma are both known for their line counter reels.


24. Okuma Cold Water Line Counter Trolling Reel

okuma cold water line counter trolling reel

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Model 153
Weighs 14.6 oz
Drag 18 Pounds Retrieves 23 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 290/12 L-C Braid 290/40
Model 203
Weighs 15 oz
Drag 18 Pounds Retrieves 23 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 290/14 L-C Braid 290/45
Model 303
Weighs 20 oz
Drag 20 Pounds Retrieves 24 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 420/20 L-C Braid 420/65
Model 453
Weighs 21.8 oz
Drag 20 Pounds Retrieves 26 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 580/20 L-C Braid 580/65

The Okuma Cold Water is a very popular line counter fishing reel. Features of the reel include 2+1 stainless steel bearings, a drop-down gearbox that lubricates the gears, ratcheting star drag, and a speed lock pinion gear system. This reel is constructed with an aluminum two-tone spool, large brass drive gear, and a graphite body. The 203 model is a ladies edition reel with pink rather than orange anodized parts.

This is a great reel for trolling for walleye, striped bass, steelhead, and salmon. The levelwind of this trolling reel does work with a lead core fishing line. There is an Okuma Cold Water Cw-553ls levelwind reel that works with wire-line. That particular reel retrieves 40.7 inches of line per turn of the handle. However, the reel does not have a line counter.


25. Okuma Magda Pro Line Counter Trolling Reel

okuma magda pro line counter trolling reel

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Model 15
Weighs 12.6 oz
Drag 15 Pounds Retrieves 23 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 290/12 L-C Braid 290/40
Model 20
Weighs 13.8 oz
Drag 15 Pounds Retrieves 23 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 290/14 L-C Braid 290/45
Model 30
Weighs 16.4 oz
Drag 17 Pounds Retrieves 24 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 420/20 L-C Braid 420/65
Model 45
Weighs 17.4 oz
Drag 17 Pounds Retrieves 26 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 580/20 L-C Braid 580/65

This is the newest model of the very popular Okuma Magda Pro line counter reel. It also comes as a rod and reel combo. Left-hand reel versions are available in size 20 and size 30. The size 15 has twin handles like a baitcasting reel. Bass Pros Shops has the Okuma Convector which is very similar to the Magda Pro.

Features of this reel include 2 stainless steel ball bearings, a 16 point anti-reverse stop, multi-disk carbonite drag, lubricated gears. The reel is constructed with a graphite body, stainless steel levelwind guides, and brass gearing. This is a very affordable reel that works great on freshwater. I would not recommend using this reel in saltwater.


26. Kastking Rover Round Conventional Reel

kastking rover round conventional reel for catfish and salmon fishing

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Estimated Price: $45-$72

Model 40
Weighs 11.6 oz
Drag 15 Pounds Retrieves 25.9 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 200/12 L-C Braid 200/50
Model 60
Weighs 12.6 oz
Drag 20 Pounds Retrieves 25.9 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 250/16 L-C Braid 250/70
Model 70
Weighs 19 oz
Drag 25 Pounds Retrieves 24.9 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 430/16 L-C Braid 430/70
Model 90
Weighs 21.2 oz
Drag 30 Pounds Retrieves 25.4 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 750/16 L-C Braid 750/70

The KastKing Rover is a Baitcasting reel but it can also be fished like a conventional fishing reel.  This reel has modes that are much larger than typical baitcasting reels. Right-handed and left-handed reels should be available in all sizes. This reel works well in both freshwater and saltwater. It is commonly used to catch catfish, walleye, and striped bass.

Features of the reel include a minimum of 4+1 shielded ball bearings, stainless steel worm shaft, centrifugal braking system, and carbon fiber drag. The reel’s body is all metal and has a forged aluminum handle, stainless steel washers, a one-piece aluminum frame, and a stainless steel main shaft. Size 70 and 90 have an oversized T-handle and the smaller sizes have two paddle handles.


27. Piscifun Salis X Conventional Trolling Reel

piscifun salis-x saltwater conventional trolling reel

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Estimated Price: $100

Model 3000
Weighs 25.7 oz
Drag 26 Pounds Retrieves 39 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 330/24 L-C Braid 290/80
Model 5000
Weighs 35.6 oz
Drag 37 Pounds Retrieves 49 in/turn
Line-capacity (yd/lb) 490/30 L-C Braid 520/80

The Salis X is a levelwind star drag conventional reel. Both the 3000 and 5000 sizes come in right-handed and left-handed reels. This is a great reel for trolling offshore or bottom fishing on the reef. It is built to work in both freshwater and saltwater.

Features of the reel include a linkage levelwind, bait clicker, and 6+1 ball bearings.  The reel’s body is made of graphite and has an oversize main gear and pinion gear. It has a super-wide spool that is knurled so it is ready for braided fishing line.


Frequently asked Questions

What is a conventional fishing reel?

Conventional fishing reels are sometimes called trolling reels, big game reels, deep-sea fishing reels, and bottom fishing reels. These reels hold lots of fishing line and are built to catch large fish. Some conventional reels have a levelwind to evenly place the line on the spool. However, with big game reels, the force on the line can bend and break the levelwind. 50 class reels, 80 class reels, and 130 class reels do not come with a levelwind and the angler has to move the line back and forth with his hand.

Another important feature for a conventional reel is the type of drag. There is lever drag and star drag. Lever drag is typically stronger and more consistent. A newer feature on many conventional reels is a topless design. This makes it so the angler can manually adjust the force on the spool when sending out lures and jigs. This is done by pressing down on the spool with your fingers.

What is a star drag fishing reel?

A star drag fishing reel has a drag that is adjusted by a star-shaped knob next to the handle. These drag systems are very similar to spinning reel drags. The drag should maintain its value but it is important to pull the line out to make sure the value seems reasonable before setting lines out. If a reel is not going to be used for a week or longer the drag should be set loose. Star drags work but are not typically as precise as a lever drag system. However, star drag reels are typically cheaper and frequently have level winds to evenly place the fishing line on the spool.

What is a lever drag fishing reel?

A lever drag fishing reel is a conventional reel with a lever on the right side that moves about 90 degrees to adjust the drag. When the lever is pulled all the way down the reel is in free spool. This free spool setting allows the line to be easily let off the reel. If the clicker is turned on there will be some resistance on the spool as the line is let out. This can help prevent the spool from bird-nesting.

There is typically a strike position about 3/4 of the way up the levers movement range. A button on the side of the reel blocks the lever from going forward. This is the position that the fish should initially be fought from and is about 25-30 percent of the line strength. If the lever is placed all the way forward that is the max drag. The max drag should be set no higher than 50 percent of the line strength. What is nice about the lever drag is as you adjust the drag you can know exactly how much force is going to be added to the line. Star drag adjustments are arbitrary so you can add to much drag and break the line.

What is a levelwind fishing reel?

A levelwind fishing reel has a worm shaft geat that moves a line guide back and forth as the reel handle turns. This places the fishing line evenly on the reel spool on conventional fishing reels. This is a really nice feature because the line does not need to be manually moved back and forth with your hand. Having the hand available allows a better grip of the pole and allow the angler to focus on reeling in the fish.

There is a limit to how much force a levelwind can handle. I would not put more than 30 pounds of max drag on a levelwind reel. The risk is you could bend the levelwind or break the guide within the wormgear. When fighting big game fish like marlin and tuna it is better to have open spool. If using a braided fishing line wearing a glove to move the line back and forth is a good idea.

What are two-speed reels for?

Two-speed reels have both a high gear ratio and a low gear ratio. Different gear ratios change the amount line that is retrieved per crank of the handle. The low gear ratio brings in less line per crank of the handle but has higher torque so the handle can be turned with less force. When bringing in a heavy fish like a halibut or large tuna a low gear ratio is a great option. When bringing in line or fighting a fast fish like a mahi-mahi a higher line retrieve rate is the better option.

Which gear ratio the reel is in can be changed by pressing a button. Pushing the button in takes the reel from high gear to low gear. By turning a knob the button comes out and the reel is back in high gear.

How do I choose a conventional reel?

When choosing a conventional reel is is important to buy the proper size reel. The two main factors when it comes to size is line capacity and max drag. Braided fishing line is much thinner than monofilament and often allows smaller lighter reels to be a good option.

The max drag should be 50 percent or more of the line strength intended to be fished with. For example, if you plan to fish with a 50-pound test line the max drag should be 25 pounds or greater. If fishing in saltwater the reel should have a sealed drag and a sealed bearing system. Having a line counter on the reel is nice when fishing with diving plugs to help estimate lure depth.

What reels are good for trolling and bottom fishing?

Topless conventional reels work well for trolling and bottom fishing. These reels often have lever drag that is strong and smooth for trolling. The open-top area allows manual resistance to be easily applied to the spool with fingers. This is nice when sending lines deep when bottom fishing or jigging.

When bottom fishing casting is not needed so a spinning reel is not the best option. Spinning reels are nice when jigging because they are lightweight. There are many small conventional reels today that can be spooled with braided line and perfect for stand up jigging.

What is the best tuna reel?

The best tuna reel depends on what size tuna is being targeted. For small skipjack, bonito, albacore, and blackfin tuna a 30 class reel is a great option. When trolling for yellowfin tuna a Penn International 50 or Shimano Tiagra 50 would be a good option. For bluefin tuna, over 400 pounds a Penn International 80 or Penn International 130 class reel is needed.

There are some heavy-duty saltwater spinning reels that can catch large tuna up to about 400 pounds. That is more for the challenge though than for practical reasons. For smaller tuna spinning reels are a good way to pitch live baits and use topwater poppers.

Can you troll with a braided line?

There are advantages and disadvantages to trolling with a braided fishing line. When trolling with diving lip plug lures braided fishing lines allow the lures to dive deeper into the water because there is less drag on the line itself. However, the braided line is more visible to the fish and using a monofilament or fluorocarbon leader is a good idea.

Braided line is stronger for a given thickness but is static and has very little stretch to the line. For this reason, it is important to have a reel with a quality smooth drag when trolling with a braided line. When high speed trolling for wahoo with a braided fishing line a 20-foot shock leader is added to add some flex to the system to prevent high forces from pulling the hook or breaking the line.

How do you spool a big game reel?

The most common way to spool a big game reel is to use a 60-pound monofilament line on the entire spool. This line is strong enough to catch wahoo, tuna, marlin, and mahi-mahi. Often times the leader line will be much heavier than the mainline.

When fishing for fish over 500 pounds it is common to use a 200-pound dacron line as backing to add lots of line to the spool that will stay good for several years. The reel is then topped off with a 130-pound monofilament line that is replaced once a year or as needed with heavy use. When daytime swordfishing it is common to fish deeper than 1800 feet. For swordfish reel it common to spool a large electric 80 class reel completely with braided line. The thinner diameter braid also has less drag in the current which helps keep the bait deep with less weight.

What are the best brands for conventional fishing reels?

The two larges brands for conventional reels are Penn and Shimano. Penn has a larger part of the market and is typically lower cost. Shimano has a very quality product at a slightly higher price point. One exception is the Shimano TLD 50 which is a great affordable conventional reel from Shimano. Other major brands are Fin-Nor, Avet, Diawa, and Okuma.

Can you use a conventional reel from shore?

Most conventional reels can only be cast a short distance and do not work well from shore. However, sometimes when fishing for large sharks, for example, a large conventional reel that holds lots of line is needed. Rather than casting the line can be set by the wind or current by using a float. Another common way to set a line from shore is by sending the out with a kayak but still fishing from shore. Some people even used drones to drop fishing lines while beach fishing. In general, though a bait runner spinning reel is the best option for shore and surf fishing.

Are expensive reels worth it?

Low-cost reels have become more and more quality and do not have a significantly different performance compared to the highest price reel options. Expensive reels like a Penn International or a Shimano Tiagra are heavy quality reels and with proper care and maintenance can last for decades. However, the disadvantage is they are much heavier than some of the graphite-based reels. These graphite reels have very similar internal parts which is why they have a similar performance. If you go to small or too cheap the reel will not have a similar performance which can result in broken gear and big fish that getaway. Large reels will also need a quality saltwater fishing rod.

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