Trolling rods are typically marketed as multi-purpose boat rods. They can be used for bottom fishing, trolling, or jigging. Narrowing in on the best trolling rod for you, depends on how you plan to use it and what pound class line and reel you plan to use.
The best trolling rod is one with a fast action, 6-7 ft length, durable guides, an aluminum gimbal, and blank construction that maximizes torsional strength. As budget increases, the guide quality and blank construction improve. The Shimano Tallus PX is the best value trolling rod.
In this article, I’ll talk through the key rod features and why they matter for trolling. I’ll also mix in a discussion of a few comparable rods on the market. Read on to learn about choosing a trolling rod before you buy one.
Spinning vs Conventional
A spinning rod or a conventional rod is the first deciding factor when looking for a trolling rod. It’s also potentially the easiest decision because it’s completely dependent on the reel you’ve chosen.
When trolling, the line is let out a few hundred feet and is usually a 10-50 feet below the surface. This requires a lot of line, especially when considering the need for extra line to support a fight. Conventional reels have the upper hand over spinning reels of similar size when it comes to line capacity specs.
You can identify a conventional rod by looking at the guides. On a conventional rod, the guides are on the top side of the rod and are smaller in diameter than spinning guides. On heavier power rods, you may even see a roller stripper guide closest to the reel seat to decrease the friction as line comes off a large diameter conventional reel. Spinning rods will have a large diameter guide near the reel seat to accommodate the large spiral of line coming off the reel.
If you’re in the market for a trolling reel, read my article Trolling Reel Features to learn what specs are most ideal.
Trolling Rod Length
The length of a trolling rod varies from about 5’9” to about 7’. Any longer than 7 feet and you’ll experience some difficulty storing the rod on the boat. Any shorter than 5’9” and you won’t have enough distance away from the side of the boat to keep a good clearance.
As a general rule of thumb, a rod closer to 7’ in length is best for a wide line in the trolling spread. The longer length of the rod will help keep it out wide in the absence of an outrigger. If you plan to use an outrigger, any length between 5’9” and 7’ will do.
When setting up a shotgun line over top of the motor, you may also need around a 7’ rod. The longer length can help make sure the line stays over the motor and not too close to the prop wash.
A shorter rod, about 5’9” to 6’6”, is ideal for other lines in the spread and can be advantageous when standing for the fight. When stand up fishing, this length keeps the leverage in the angler’s favor. If you plan to always pick up the rod and hold it after a strike, I recommend choosing a rod in the 5’9” to 6’6” range.
Rod Power & Line Rating
Rod power and line rating are the features that will help you narrow down which rod model will be best for you. Depending on the type of trolling you plan to do, your line strength can vary from 30-200 lb test.
For me, I’m mostly targeting blackfin tuna, mahi, and king mackerel, so I spooled my reel with 65 lb test braid. My article Is Braid or Mono Best for Trolling explains why I chose braid, and why monofilament can also work well.
The table below shows the line rating and power for 3 conventional trolling rods, the Star Aerial Standup rod, the Shimano Tallus PX, and the Shimano Talavera Bluewater. You can see how the power goes up as the line rating goes up.
There are additional models of these rods available. I minimized how many were shown for a simpler visual. The links in the tables will take you to the product pages on Tackle Direct where all available models can be seen.
|Rod||Model #||Length||Power||Line Rating|
|Star Aerial Standup||EX1530C6||6′||M||15-30|
|Star Aerial Standup||EX2050C6||6′||M||20-50|
|Star Aerial Standup||EX3080C6||6′||MH||30-80|
|Star Aerial Standup||EX3080C6R||6′||MH||30-80|
|Shimano Talavera BW||TEBC70HA||7′||H||30-65B|
|Shimano Talavera BW||TEBC70MHA||7′||MH||20-50B|
|Shimano Talavera BW||TEBC70XHA||7′||XH||50-80B|
|Shimano Talavera BW||TEBC70XXHA||7′||XXH||65-100B|
|Shimano Tallus PX||TLXC66H||6'6″||H||40-80B|
|Shimano Tallus PX||TLXC66MH||6'6″||MH||30-65B|
|Shimano Tallus PX||TLXC66XH||6'6″||XH||50-100B|
|Shimano Tallus PX||TLXC66XXH||6'6″||XXH||65-200B|
Rod action tells you how far down towards the handle the rod bends before getting to its backbone. A fast action rod is flexible at the tip and stays stiff through the rest of the blank. A slow action rod bends all the way down to the handle of the rod.
A fast action rod is ideal for trolling because it gives you the sensitivity needed to sense the bite, while also giving you enough control to work a lure or live bait. A slow action rod is ideal for more rhythmic fishing techniques, such as slow jigging.
When looking at fishing rods, you’ll generally see options between a split grip and a full grip. Split grip is ideal for techniques where lightweight rods and reels are advantageous, such as slow pitch jigging where the rod is held and worked the entire time. Full grips weigh more than split grips, but are nice because they give the angler more options for hand placement.
When trolling, the rod spends a lot of time in a rod holder and lightweight isn’t nearly as important as it is with other techniques. The Star Aerial standup, Shimano Talavera Bluewater, and the Shimano Tallus PX trolling rods all have full grips.
A gimbal is an important feature in trolling. A gimbal is a rod component on the butt end that is notched to sit securely in a rod holder or fighting belt. Rod holders and fighting belts usually have crosspins that mate with the notches in a gimbal to prevent twisting.
This is beneficial in trolling when fishermen are usually cranking down on the handle to retrieve a hard fighting fish. The gimbal will prevent the rod from twisting and prevent the subsequent loss of leverage. It also helps before the fishermen gets to the rod. Right after strike a fish will usually take off swimming in all directions. A gimbal prevents the rod from twisting back and forth in the rod holder.
When fighting a fish while the rod sits in a fighting chair or rod holder, it is possible for the rod to experience high torsion as the fish swims back and forth and potentially under the boat. A good captain will drive the boat and keep the fish and boat in the proper relative positions for the best fighting leverage.
The Star Aerial Stand up rod, the Shimano Talavera Bluewater rod, and the Shimano Tallus PX rod all have aluminum gimbals, as a trolling rod should. Aluminum rods can do a number on an angler’s hips, stomach or legs, when standing and fighting without a belt. Products like the Cush-it are nice to pop on the bottom of the rod after removing the rod from the rod holder to cushion the rod against your body.
The guides on a fishing rod tend to be one of the driving factors for cost. High quality fishing guides are those that have a lightweight, strong and corrosion resistant frame, paired with a durable and low friction ring.
Silicon nitride and zirconia are among the best rod guide insert materials. On the lower end, you’ll see stainless steel, or titanium oxide.
A titanium frame is top notch, while Stainless steel 316 is a solid choice as well. I would caution against buying a rod with stainless steel 304 guide frames as it will not hold up well in saltwater conditions.
The Fuji Fazlite guides on the Shimano Talavera Bluewater rod feature a slick interior ring that’s durable enough to hold up against braid. Braid is very sharp and can cut through lower quality guide rings. The Fazlite guides also have a corrosion resistant frame, perfect for use in saltwater.
It can be difficult to know what material the frame or guide inserts are when the companies develop a proprietary blended material. After researching Fuji guides, the Fazlite inserts are about the middle of the road, a good compromise between durability and cost. Fazlite inserts are better than aluminum oxide, but not as good as zirconia.
The Shimano Tallus PX rod has Seaguide Zirconia guides. These guides are better (meaning stronger, lighter weight, more durable) than the Fuji Fazlite guides. Zirconia is a great material for a guide insert and you can be confident when pairing it with braided line.
The Star Aerial standup rod has “premium” guides, which consist of aluminum oxide inserts. Of the three trolling rods discussed in this article, the Star Aerial rod has the least durable ones. This is reflected in the price, as you can see Star Aerial rods are less expensive than the other two Shimano rods. The table below shows the guides and prices of all 3 rods.
|Star Aerial Standup||EX1530C6||hvy dty premium||$107.95|
|Star Aerial Standup||EX2050C6||hvy dty premium||$107.95|
|Star Aerial Standup||EX3080C6||hvy dty premium||$107.95|
|Star Aerial Standup||EX3080C6R||hvy dty premium + roller tip||$114.95|
|Shimano Talavera BW||TEBC70HA||Fuji Fazlite||$209.99|
|Shimano Talavera BW||TEBC70MHA||Fuji Fazlite||$209.99|
|Shimano Talavera BW||TEBC70XHA||Fuji Fazlite||$219.99|
|Shimano Talavera BW||TEBC70XXHA||Fuji Fazlite||$219.99|
|Shimano Tallus PX||TLXC66H||Seaguide Zirconia||$209.99|
|Shimano Tallus PX||TLXC66MH||Seaguide Zirconia||$199.99|
|Shimano Tallus PX||TLXC66XH||Seaguide Zirconia||$209.99|
|Shimano Tallus PX||TLXC66XXH||Seaguide Zirconia||$219.99|
The blank construction is another rod feature that greatly affects the price. When rods are built, fiberglass sheets are layed around a mandrel and a resin is applied and cured. Rod designers can manipulate the method of laying the sheets, and manipulate the fiberglass sheets as well, to alter the resilience of the rod.
The more complicated the manufacturing process, the higher the cost of the blank. The Shimano Talavera Bluewater and the Star Aerial rods have a more economical rod blank design, meaning they are likely crafted with layers of fiberglass going in the same direction.
The Shimano Tallux PX has Hi Power X technology which means the fiberglass sheets are wrapped in a diagonal pattern. This greatly improves the torsional strength of the rod. Of the 3 rods, the Shimano Tallus PX is the strongest.
Reel seats become important when dealing with big fish. With big fish, the angler cranks down hard on the handle, putting a lot of torsional force on the reel’s bracket. The reel seat must be strong enough to securely hold the reel during the fight, however this is all relative to the size of fish you’re targeting.
A graphite or carbon reel seat is a good choice for keeping the setup lightweight and relatively strong. It is not as strong as a metal reel seat, but would be perfectly adequate for the type of fishing most offshore anglers do. The Star Aerial rods have graphite reel seat with stainless steel hoods which is a great way to improve the strength while simultaneously shaving weight from a stand up rod.
The Shimano Talavera has a carbon reel seat which will be plenty when targeting the most common trolling species, like mahi and blackfin tuna. My article Trolling Species goes into more depth about the common species targeted with offshore trolling techniques.
The Shimano Tallus PX offers a lightweight carbon reel seat when the rod’s power is lighter. This goes hand in hand with the line rating. Lower power, lower range line rating, and lighter reel seat are all intended for smaller fish. As the power goes up and the line rating goes up, Shimano changes the Tallus PX reel seat to aluminum.
|Rod||Model #||Power||Line Rating||Reel Seat||Price|
|Star Aerial Standup||EX1530C6||M||15-30||Graphite + SS hood||$107.95|
|Star Aerial Standup||EX2050C6||M||20-50||Graphite + SS hood||$107.95|
|Star Aerial Standup||EX3080C6||MH||30-80||Graphite + SS hood||$107.95|
|Star Aerial Standup||EX3080C6R||MH||30-80||Graphite + SS hood||$114.95|
|Shimano Talavera BW||TEBC70HA||H||30-65B||Carbon||$209.99|
|Shimano Talavera BW||TEBC70MHA||MH||20-50B||Carbon||$209.99|
|Shimano Talavera BW||TEBC70XHA||XH||50-80B||Carbon||$219.99|
|Shimano Talavera BW||TEBC70XXHA||XXH||65-100B||Carbon||$219.99|
|Shimano Tallus PX||TLXC66H||H||40-80B||Carbon||$209.99|
|Shimano Tallus PX||TLXC66MH||MH||30-65B||Carbon||$199.99|
|Shimano Tallus PX||TLXC66XH||XH||50-100B||Aluminum||$209.99|
|Shimano Tallus PX||TLXC66XXH||XXH||65-200B||Aluminum||$219.99|
There are warranty differences between Star rods and Shimano. Star rods offers a 5 year limited warranty for the Aerial and Shimano offers only 1 year on these rods. Both warranties only cover manufacturing defects in workmanship or materials.
After reading this article, I hope you understand how all three of these rods, the Star Aerial, Shimano Talavera Bluewater, and the Shimano Tallus PX will all work well for trolling. You can choose the best model for you by considering the strength of the line you’ll be using and the guides you prefer. As long as it fits in your budget, the Shimano Tallus PX is the best of the three. Tight lines, y’all!