Mark Romanack’s Essential Walleye Rod and Reel Combinations

For every fishing situation there is a combination of fishing rod, reel and line that’s “perfect.” In other words, for the specific application, the rod and reel combination do everything right. It’s balanced, both in the hand and with regard to power. If the technique requires sensitivity, the rod delivers. If it’s a trolling application, the rod action and reel’s features and performance enhance success.
Mark Romanack, Jigging Walleye

It’s no secret that the number one essential rod and reel for walleyes is a jig stick.

Through direct contact between members of our Product Development and Pro-Staff teams, new product releases like Dead Eye walleye fishing rods and reels, or Cold Water line counter reels approach fisheries from a broad view, then break them down into their unique characteristics and angler techniques.  What follows are technique-specific products with actions, powers, capacities and features that are constructed to excel in these environments.  Within Dead Eye walleye fishing rods, that selection now includes 30 specific rod models for everything from jigging, to trolling bottom bouncers to big board rods and “slow-death” rods.

This is great for the serious angler.  The deep availability of options allow many choices to fit personal preferences.  For the more recreational angler, however, too many options can lead to confusion, and nobody benefits from that.
For anglers that simply need a place to begin on the best footing, or any angler looking to cost-effectively increase their walleye rod and reel selection, we asked Okuma Pro-Staff member and host of Fishing 411 television, Mark Romanack, to detail his walleye fishing systems. The goal is to provide a place to begin, and a plan to effectively add depth to the selection.
Romanack detailed eight walleye rod and reel combinations, beginning with what he views as “essentials” and advancing from there.
These first three combinations are, as described, the essential, day-in day-out workhorse walleye rods and reels Romanack relies upon.

1) Dead Eye DE-S-701ML rod (7-foot for 4-10# line) matched to new Dead Eye DE-25 spinning reel and 10-pound test super braid. This essential walleye fishing rod and reel is perhaps the most universal combo an angler can own. This single set up is ideal for pitching jigs tipped with soft plastics or live bait, it’s also perfect for casting slip bobbers, casting small crankbaits, slip sinker rigging and for vertical jigging with up to 3/8-ounce jigs.

2) Dead Eye DE-C-861M-T rod (8’6″ telescopic for 6-15# line) matched to the new Cold Water 203D line counter reel, loaded with 12# test monofilament. This rod and reel combination is ideal for trolling with both standard sized and mini in-line planer boards used in combination with crankbaits, spinners or spoons. The backbone of this rod is matched perfectly to handling the resistance of planer boards and trophy sized walleye. This workhorse trolling rod can also be used for trolling lead core line and bottom bouncers. The telescopic feature of this rod allows it to store nicely in the rod locker of any fishing boat.

Cold Water Line Counter Reels

New Cold Water Line Counter reels are available in sizes 15 and up, in both right and left hand retrieve.

3) Dead Eye DE-CBR861M-T bottom bouncer rod (8’6″ telescopic for 6-20# line) matched to the Akena-250 round baitcasting reel loaded with 12# monofilament. The ultimate set up for fishing bottom bouncers and if any rod and reel combination deserves to be designated to a single presentation, it’s bottom bouncing with spinner rigs. Among walleye tournament anglers bottom bouncing with spinners is considered the “money rig” as this simple presentation produces walleye in just about every body of water in North America. The Dead Eye telescopic bottom bouncer rod stores easily in the rod locker of any fishing boat and quickly expands to provide the perfect soft tip action needed for pulling bottom bouncers ranging in size from 1/2- to 3-ounces.

Romanack calls these next three walleye fishing systems “important.”  Not essential, but very nice to have to round out your technique on different water bodies.

4) Dead Eye DE-CSD-1062M Slow Death rod (10’6″ for 8-17# line) matched with a Citrix Ci254v low profile baitcasting reel and 10-12 pound test monofilament. The Slow Death presentation is practiced with a bottom bouncer, 4′ fluorocarbon leader and a single Mustad Slow Death hook baited with half a nightcrawler. This unique presentation catches walleye when other presentations will not. The extra length and super slow action of the Slow Death rod makes this set up especially deadly. The length is important because the Slow Death presentation is normally practiced with a pair of rods positioned in rod holders on either side of the boat. Bites are detected by monitoring the soft rod tip, which loads up when a fish is hooked. The soft action also makes it especially difficult for hooked fish to escape.

Trolling planer boards.

The Dead Eye rod series offers many options for planer boards and open water trolling.

5) Dead Eye DE-CBB-701ML Big Board Rod (7′ for 10-20# line) matched with a Cold Water 203D line counter reel and 12# monofilament or 30# super braid line. Fishing with a planer board mast and ski system requires a rod and reel set up specific to that presentation. The Big Board Rod is short enough to make it easy to reach the rod tip and grab the line which is in turn placed in a line release and attached to the tether line connecting the board to the mast. Secondly, the Big Board Rod features a soft tip that enables the angler to detect hooked fish by noticing an obvious bend in the rod tip. Thirdly, the Big Board Rod has enough backbone to fight stubborn fish flawlessly. Any angler who prefers to troll using a mast system will appreciate the value of the Big Board Rod. Line counter reels like the Cold Water series are invaluable to this style of trolling. Lead lengths are varied and monitored closely. When a fish is landed using a specific lead length, the line counter reel makes it easy to duplicate a productive lead length to other rods.

6) Dead Eye DE-CAP-701M-T All Purpose Baitcasting Rod (7′ for 8-17# line) matched with a Akena-250 round baitcasting reel and 12# test monofilament or 30# test super braid. This 7′ medium action baitcasting outfit will handle a lot of walleye fishing chores including fishing bottom bouncers as a hand-held rod, fishing jigging spoons or blade baits, casting crankbaits, flat-line trolling chores and trolling applictions involving mini in-line planer boards. Because this rod is telescopic it travels well and will fit in the rod locker of any fishing boat. The All Purpose Baitcasting Rod does a lot of things well and fills a unique niche among walleye anglers.

These final two walleye combinations fill in for special situations or provide extensions to specific techniques.

7) Dead Eye DE-601MHFRT spinning rod (6′ for 8-17# line) with Dead Eye DE-25 spinning reel and 10-15# test super braid line. The six foot one piece MH action Dead Eye spinning rod is ideal for some specialized jig fishing applications including rip jigging in weed cover and vertical jigging with heavy jigs often used in deep or swift rivers like the Columbia, Detroit and St. Clair Rivers. For vertical jigging applications the 10# test super braid is the perfect line option. For rig jigging, a little heavier 15# test super braid is a little tougher and better able to tear through weed cover without abrasion issues. In both cases using a short fluorocarbon leader of 8- to10-pound test is a good option.

8) Dead Eye DE-C-701M Dead Eye Crankbait rod (7′ for 10-20# line) matched with the Citrix Ci-254v slow speed (5.4:1) baitcasting reel and 10# test fluorocarbon line. This soft action fiberglass rod is designed for casting medium sized crankbaits, but is also useful for several other presentations. This same rod is a good choice for hand holding a bottom bouncer rig while fishing off the bow of the boat with an electric motor, structure trolling lead core line set ups in rivers or along meandering bottom structure and in a pinch this rod is also a good option for trolling crankbaits or spinners with in-line planer boards.
As gear becomes more technique-specific, there will always remain a core, highly versatile set of rods and reels that have proven themselves to be the most used, most productive gear on the water.
Mark Romanack

The best results come from beginning with a core selection of balanced rod and reel combinations, then adding as angler technique and interest increases.