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How to Calibrate Line-Counter Fishing Reels

Line counters are inherently inaccurate. Here's how to get your walleye bait in the zone.

How to Calibrate Line-Counter Fishing Reels

The more accurate your line-counting reel is, the more walleye trollers you’ll catch. (Shutterstoick image)

Most anglersthink a line-counter reel is the most accurate way of monitoring trolling lead lengths. Actually, line counters are inherently inaccurate; they’re factory calibrated with only one line diameter and type. Anglers using different line diameters will see false data.

Luckily, any line counter can be calibrated to any line type/diameter. Measure off and mark a known reference distance. Most use 100 feet as it represents the mid-range in common trolling leads. Two small stakes set exactly 100 feet apart works well.

Once a measured distance of 100 feet is marked off, load your line-counter reel with the chosen line type/diameter. Fill the reel to capacity, but do not cut the line from the filler spool.

Related: Deep Thinking for Fall Walleyes


Attach the line to one stake (planer board line releases work nicely) then zero out the line counter and walk until the rod tip is just touching the second stake. If the reel’s digital counter reads less than 100, it has too much line loaded and line must be removed from the reel. If the counter indicates a number greater than 100, then the reel doesn’t have enough line and more line must be added.


This is why the line isn’t cut from the filler spool until calibration is done. Achieve calibration by adding or removing line from the reel until the line counter says 100 feet when exactly 100 feet of line has been let off the reel. This process takes a few minutes per reel and ensures all reels in a trolling setup are speaking the same language.

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