Best Trolling Rods For Salmon Fishing

A good spread at the back of the boat using some of the best trolling rods for salmon that you can get.
A good spread at the back of the boat using some of the best trolling rods for salmon that you can get.

With the help of some expert charter captains, dedicated salmon trollers, and tackle shop pros, I’m going to give you the breakdown of the best salmon trolling rods for Ocean and Great Lakes fishing. I’ll break it down by the best trolling rods for salmon by the most common techniques used when trolling for salmon.

I’m going to show you the best salmon trolling rods for downrigger rods, rods for planer boards, dipsy rods, lead core and copper line rods, wire dipsy rods, as well as rods length preferences and why you need different rods for each method.

As a bonus, I’ll let you in on a brand new (fall 2023) salmon trolling rod that will likely be the best in the world.

What To Consider When Buying A Salmon Trolling Rod

A sunset view from the back of the boat with some of the best trolling rods for salmon rigged and waiting for a bite.

Trolling for salmon is a very effective way to catch many salmon in open water. There are some things you should consider before you go out and buy a trolling rod for salmon fishing.

Method Of Trolling

Different trolling methods require different rods for many reasons. As an example, downrigger rods are often shorter with a softer tip so they can be bent over hard when the downrigger ball is down.

Dipsy rods are often longer and they are stiffer because of the pressure the Dipsy’s create on the rod.

Anglers reeling in salmon using salmon trolling rods
Reeling in the big ones with Fire Plug Charters on Lake Michigan

Most of the rods mentioned below will have multiple models with each model specific to a trolling method, which is why you will same the same rods mentioned multiple times.

These are not the same rods anglers use for methods like back trolling in rivers. See Back Trolling For Salmon.

Rod Length

Two salmon trolling rods bent and out the side of the boat.

Often, the rod length is a personal preference, but there are a couple of things to consider when choosing the trolling rod length. Short rods are easier to handle in smaller boats. However, longer rods might be preferred with certain methods, such as when a longer rod is required to spread the lines out better.

Rod Power and Rod Action

Different methods require different rod actions and strengths. Just don’t use your bass rod for fishing, instead stick with rods specifically meant for trolling for salmon.

Rod Line Ratings

In general, a rod rating between 15 and 40 pounds is normal for salmon trolling rods. In some cases, you will want a lighter rod, but more most situations, a rod between 20 and 40 will do the job.


Your rods can take a beating in the rod holders and when bouncing around in the boat when the waves are big. Most salmon trolling rods are made of fiberglass or a fiberglass blend, and they are more durable than your high-end 100 percent graphite river catsing rods.

Rod Guides

One of the main problems with ceramic rod guides is that they pop out. For this reason, many anglers prefer salmon trolling rods that are made with stainless steel rod guides, or when using wire lines that will damage most rod guides, it’s best to use rod guides with zirconium inserts.

Rod Handle

Rod holders can be really hard on cork rod handles, denting them or even shredding them over time, which is why you should consider trolling rods with foam grip handles.


The fireplug charter boat with a dozen salmon trolling rods showing.
Image courtesy of “award winning” Fire Plug Charters.

Price is something you should think about considering how many rods some anglers and some charter guides use.

All the rods I have listed here will work as trolling rods for salmon, and many can be dual-purpose rods. Some of these rods are over $150.00, and some are under $50.00.

When you get into the higher-end rods you are getting higher quality construction on the rod blank and better components such as rod guides, reel seat, and handle.

In my experience, the more expensive rods tend to have a better feel and tend to last longer, but I have also beat the crap out of the cheaper rods like the TDR’s (listed below) and they did the job.

But the cheaper rods also broke more often, and I’ve had trouble with the handles starting to loosen and twist.

Best Downrigger Rods For Salmon Fishing, And Why?

Downrigger trolling rods for salmon rigged and waiting.

Salmon downrigger rods are typically lighter and whippier rods compared to other trolling rods, and this is for a good reason.

Downrigger Rod Action

Good salmon downrigger rods will have a softer tip section with a heavy butt section. The soft tip has benefits in the rod holder and the stiffer butt section is good for fighting big salmon.

Rods like the ugly stick big water can really bend over in the rod holder when the downrigger ball is down. The ugly stick is even one of the best selling rods for downriggers. I’ll list all the best downrigger rod options below.

The reason you want the lighter softer rod is that you can bend it over in the rod holder when the downrigger ball is down which gives you as little line as possible between the rod tip and the downrigger ball so when a fish hits, it will pop up fast which gives you a bit of a hook set.

Downrigger Rod Length

In the end, the downrigger rod length is a personal choice; however, these are some things to consider to help you decide what is best for you.

7- foot to 7’6″ Rods: In some areas, a seven foot downrigger rods are the most popular length. Some benefits of a shorter downrigger rod are:

  • Easier to transport and store in the boat and your vehicle
  • It is easier to handle in smaller boats and is preferred by anglers fishing from boats under 22 feet.
  • Allows angler to back up further when netting the fish.

8 and 9-foot Rods: Some anglers prefer 8 to 9-foot downrigger rods for salmon fishing but this is for personal preference. The primary benefit of a longer rod is reach and line control when fighting bigger salmon. Longer rods are often used in bigger boats.

Best Downrigger Rods For Salmon

Alex and his young client with a large king salmon.
Alex and his young client with a large king salmon. Charter captains like Alex from Fire Plug Charters use multiple downriggers to get his clients into more salmon.

These downrigger trolling rods are used by professional charter boats and the average salmon anglers. They are used with trolling spoons, flashers, flies, and cut baits.

These are four of the best salmon downrigger rods you should consider.

  1. FishUSA Flagship Trolling Rod: 8 Foot Medium Action – (Model: FFSHIP-T-802M or FFSHIP-T-902ML) Used by Captain Richard Hajecki when trolling spoons. Made for salmon and steelhead fishing. Check Price
  2. Shimano Talora A Trolling Rod: 7 to 9 feet – A little more backbone for fishing braided lines off the downrigger when fishing deeper, but is also suitable for Dispy Diver, Planneboard, and lead-core line fishing. Check Price
  3. Okuma Classic Pro GLT Trolling Rod: 7 foot to 8’6″ – An Inexpensive Salmon trolling rod for downriggers. Check Price
  4. Ugly Stik Bigwater Conventional Downrigger Rod: 7 to 10 feet – A very popular downrigger rod made specifically for downrigger fishing.
  5. Shimano TDR trolling rod – This is a budget rod suitable for downriggers and Dipsy Diver fishing. Check Price

Pair these rods up with a good line counter reel suitable for salmon fishing and you are good to go. See The Best Trolling Reels For Salmon Fishing.

Dipsy Diver Rods

John from Get Bent Guide Service with a Dipsy diver caught king salmon.
John from Get Bent Guide Service with a Dipsy diver caught king salmon. Notice the long rod and the dipsy diver behind him.

When it comes to Dipsy Diver Rods, there are types of rods that I recommend: Dipsy rods for braided lines, and dipsy rods for wire lines.

Wire lines can be hard on fishing guides so a rod with guides suitable for wire is highly recommended.

Rod Length for Dipsy Rods: When fishing with Dipsy Divers you will need a longer rod so you can deal with the longer leaders that are used behind the Dipsy Diver. A nine to eleven-foot rod is good for Dispy rods.

Road Weight and Action For Dipsy Rods: A dipsy rod should be a little heavier with a bit more moderate action than a downrigger rod because of the drag created by the Dipsy and because of how much pressure the Dipsy’s put on the rod.

You want a rod with some flex to absorb the shock when a big fish hits and when you are fighting big salmon.

Best Dipsy Rods For Braided Line

  • FishUSA Flagship Trolling Rod: 9-foot medium heavy (model FFSHIP-T-902MH) or 10-foot medium heavy (model FFSHIP-T-1002MH) – Check Price
  • Okuma White Diamond Trolling Rod: 10 foot medium heavy dispy rod – model number WD-DD-1002MH – Check Price
  • Shimano Tolara: 8’6″ medium or medium heavy – Check Price
  • Okuma Classic Pro GLT Trolling Rod – 9 foot to 10’6″ Dipsy Diver model – Check Price

If you are looking for a budget Dipsy rod you could also check out the Shimano TDR trolling rods.

Best Wire Trolling Rods

Wire lines are hard on rod guides and will destroy ceramic guides. Therefore, wire rods generally have a swivel tip and metal guides and/or one or multiple roller guides, or all roller guides which are to prevent wear on the guides.

You can also add a Torpedo Roller Tip or a twilly tip to the end of a wire rod.

  • FishUSA Flagship Trolling Rod: 9 foot model # FFSHIP-T-902MHW, or 10 foot model # FFSHIP-T-1002MHW. – Check Price
  • Okuma Classic Pro GLT Trolling Rod: 9 to 10’6″ Medium Power – Check Price
  • Okuma White Diamond Trolling Rod: 8’6″ Medium Heavy or 10 foot Medium Heavy wire line rod. – Check Price

Lead Core And Copper Lines

The difference between a copper and lead core trolling rod the the large metal guides. These larger metal guides allow bigger knots to slide through and it prevents the copper from wearing through standard ceramic rod guides.

Rod Guides – You can add a Torpedo Roller Guide Rod Tip which is designed for wire, copper, and lead core fishing lines. The roller tips prevent line breakage, which is common with a standard rod tip.

Rod Action – Your copper rod is generally a little bit heavier than a downrigger rod and it will have a bit faster action than a Dipsy Rod more moderate action. A copper rod is going to have more backbone and will be a little bit softer tip to absorb the shock of bigger waves hitting your planer boards.

Rod Length – Having all your copper and lead core lines the same length is a good option, but some anglers prefer longer 8 to 9-foot rods on the outside planner boards and shorter 7 to 8-foot rods on the inside.

  • FishUSA Flagship Trolling Rod: 8 foot medium – copper lead core line rod – FFSHIP-T-802MLC – Check Price
  • Okuma Classic Pro GLT Trolling Rod: 8’6″ Medium – Model: CP-CL-862MCheck Price
  • Okuma White Diamond Trolling Rod: This rod comes in an 8’6″ model made just for copper and lead cor lines. – Check Price.

Alternative option is the Okuma Blue Diamond Trolling Rod which has one model with roller guides. It costs around $75.00 – Check Price

Best Planner Board Trolling Rods

Best Rods For Planner Boards

  • FishUSA Flagship Trolling Rod: 8’6 Medium planner board rod – Model member FFSHIP-T-862M – Check Price
  • Ugly Stik Bigwater Rod: Some anglers love thier Ugly Stik rods and they will use the 8’6″ Medium Heavy Ugly Stik Bigwater Spinning Fishing Rod for trolling salmon. Check Price

Okuma X Series Salmon Trolling Rods Review: NEW!!

The New Okuma X Series was recently released in late 2023 and this will likely be the best trolling rod for salmon on the planet. This rod series is made for targeting Pacific salmon using multiple methods.

It’s still too early to tell how it stands up in the hands of professionals and recreational anglers, but we will find out soon.

I have all the details and my initial review at Okuma Series Trolling Rod Review.

Best Trolling Rods For Salmon Q&A

Hey guys, if you have a question or comment about the best trolling rods for salmon, let us know in the comments sections below. And, as always, I love hearing what others are using and like, so feel free to share your favorite trolling rods for salmon.

Tight Lines


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