One might think that with 20, 30, maybe even 40 years of fishing under one’s belt that an angler would have some sort of idea how much line they had out during their presentation, right? Golfers know their yardages like no one else. Bowhunters are tack-on within 50 yards. Big game rifle hunters can judge long distances in seconds.
With fishing, though? It ain’t that easy. Especially when it comes to trolling.
Yes, an angler can count rod lengths as line lays out behind the boat. However, it’s never perfectly accurate and, once found, you’d have to keep the magic number in your head.
Enter the line counter reel. It is a blessing for those that troll.
When to use a Line Counter Reel
Just as a fish finder tells you exactly how deep either the water or the fish are, a line counter reel tells you exactly how much line is dragging behind the boat.
Where is this important?
Here are some more examples:
Early-season King Salmon in somewhere around 50 feet of water on Lake Ontario. No absolute need for downriggers in this case, but planer boards—as well as Dipsys or Jets—are a plus to bring along. With or without either of these, a line counter is essential. So many times you’ll need to know how far back or how far down your lure is running.
Or summertime big water Lakers in Lake Nipigon that are hovering in 72 feet of water. Whether you’re downrigging or using a 3-way swivel rig, knowing your depth is crucial.
Lastly, how about those giant, late-fall Quinte Walleye? When the trolling bite is on, knowing how much line is behind your planer boards is an absolute must. You can start out with a variety of lengths of line but as soon as you hook up, start working with the number that’s glaring at you from that little counter.
Networking may be the best part of line counters. If your buddy is out on another boat dragging 20’ Reef Runners behind his boards at 175 feet with 30 lb braid and a ten-foot 15 lb fluorocarbon leader, and he calls you saying he’s pounding the Walleye over 90 feet of water, you better take heed!
Line Counter Tips
The first tip I can give you here is to always remember to zero out your counter before you start to drop your lure back. I know this sounds simple but it can be very easy to forget!
The second tip is: If your line counter reel has a clicker, let your boards out with the clicker left on. This helps achieve no backlash and gives you an audible signal that your boards are moving. As well, keep the clicker on while fishing. Often a big fish will pull drag and, with the clicker on, you could hear (before seeing) a giant make its first run.