The 6 Best Catfish Reels in 2023 For Your Money (and Bigger Catches)

Catfishing is an extraordinarily entertaining and tedious pastime. Catfish is a strong tricky species that will always make a run for its life and give you a run for your money. The fact that it’s so varied in size gives anglers a lot of versatility that they wouldn’t otherwise have with other species.

Fishing is generally a relaxing quiet pastime; however, those moments of excitement when your bait catches are what authentic fishermen live for. Consequently, we have created this article in order to inform you about our six top picks for catfish reels present on the market today. 

In addition to that, we have constructed a simplified guide as to how you can reach a solid conclusion regarding the best catfish reel for you.

List of the Best Catfish Reels:

Comparison Table:

Catfish Reel Type Weight Maximum DragBall Bearings Gear Ratio
Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C3-7000Baitcaster21.5 oz.20 lbs.3+14.1:1
KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting ReelBaitcaster1 lb.30 lbs.6+13.6:1
KastKing Sharky Baitfeeder IIISpinning Reel15.8 oz.26.5 lbs.10+15.5:1
PENN Spinfisher VSpinning Reel1.28 lbs.40 lbs.5+14.2:1
Abu Garcia Catfish CommandoBaitcaster3.22 lbs.20 lbs.25.1:1
Daiwa Black Gold (BG)Spinning Reel2.2 lbs33 lbs.34.3:1

The 6 Best Catfish Reels in 2021

1. Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C3-7000 – Best Catfish Baitcasting Reel

This reel is designed in a way that makes it stand out amongst its peers; the sleek orange/black look is undoubtedly attractive; however, it’s not its only merit. This reel comes in two sizes; the 7000, if you are going to be fishing for giant trophy catfish, and 6500 if you wish to go for a lighter reel.

It has 3+1 stainless steel ball bearings that are highly durable. Although some people might think that the four ball bearings is too little of a number, they are of high-quality stainless steel, and that’s what essentially matters. They keep the reel going smoothly.

The drag system is also quite impressive as it is a star carbon matrix one that can easily handle heavyweights. It is designed to keep your line from tangling with a maximum of 20 lbs.

Moreover, this reel is fitted with an advanced level wind system, which keeps your line where it should be allowing it to be reeled in uniformly, therefore, preventing birds’ nest and breakage.

Another thing that contributes to the sleekness of the entire fishing process when you are using this reel is the six-pin centrifugal brake system, which allows anglers to strike the perfect balance between tiring your fish and reeling it in. It also boosts the accuracy of your casts significantly.

This bait caster weighs 21.5 oz and has a gear ratio of 4.1:1.  Lastly, Abu Garcia has not forgotten the comfort of their fisherman, so they have designed a bent handle with power knobs which grant anglers strength, comfort, and versatility


  • Attractive 
  • Lightweight 
  • Durable 
  • 6-Pin centrifugal brake system 
  • Drag system with a max of 20 lbs. 
  • Power-bent handle 
  • Levelwind


  • Only 3+1 ball bearings 
  • Low gear ratio

Final Verdict

As you can see, this reel is ideally suited for catfish. Whether you’re going for smaller ones or you wish to land blues or flatheads; this reel will prove to be quite the asset for you. In addition to that, its deficits are not as extreme as to be deal-breakers; they can be worked on. 

2. KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel – Best Budget

This reel right here by KastKing is designed to last. It is made entirely out of metal with a CNC anodized aluminum spool, side plates, a stainless steel worm gear, and shaft plus precision cut brass gears. It also boasts 6+1 deep raced premium MaxiDur double-shielded stainless steel ball bearings that make operating this reel a piece of cake.

Moreover, the sealing that has been applied to each and every component of this reel, in addition to its thick shell, gives it superior protection. Therefore, it can work with any waterfront without being exposed to damage.

This reel boasts a carbon fiber drag system with a Cymbal Washer system and a maximum drag of 30 lbs, which makes the back-and-forth that’s going to happen between you and your catch a lot easier and a lot more efficient.

KastKing has designed this baitcaster with as many options and features as possible. It has a built-in line alarm, which starts making a clicking sound whenever the bait catches and therefore giving you the advantage of acting fast. Line alarms allow you to put several rods in action and leave them be if a catfish catches on one of them you will be notified through the clicker. 

It weighs 1 lb, has a gear ratio of 3.6:1, an easy-access bar release, a level wind system to prevent tangles, and an oversized T handle made completely out of EVA, which makes it non-slip and boosts the accuracy of your casts quite a few notches.

This specific reel is exceptionally versatile; it comes in several sizes in order to suit your needs, is available in 12 colors, can work on any waterfront, and for different types of fishing such as trolling, offshore fishing, and bottom-feeding. 

Besides, it has a 2-pin centrifugal brake system, which makes it good for casting. 

This is quite an impressive package; you don’t find all these features in one reel frequently. Thereupon, naturally, you would think that it will cost you a fortune; however, it is the exact opposite. This reel is the most affordable on our list and one of the most affordable reels on the market right now, so that is definitely a huge plus and one of the main reasons why it is the second on our list.

The only problem with this reel is that it doesn’t have a floating spool, which means that the spool is fixed in place.


  • Affordable 
  • Durable
  • Excellent drag system 
  • Level wind
  • Line alarm


  • Non-floating spool

Final Verdict

This reel boasts countless features and options that will be extremely helpful to anyone interested in catfishing. The fixed spool can be quite annoying for some people; however, you can get over it. This reel is an excellent choice for anyone. And for the price, it just doesn’t get any better than this.

3. KastKing Sharky Baitfeeder III – Best Catfish Spinning Reel

This spinning reel is the second product made by KastKing on our list, and just like the previous model, the company has sought to achieve perfection. It is durable, versatile, and quite reliable. It comes in many sizes; namely, 3000, 4000, 5000, and 6000. 

This device is made out of modulus corrosion-resistant graphite with precision alloy gears and a stainless steel main shaft, while the spool is CNC machined aluminum. The alloy gears, along with the entirety of the reel are completely resistant to corrosion. One remarkable feature of this reel is that it comes with a spare graphite spool.

It has a carbon fiber drag system that has the option of being front or rear and a maximum of 26.5 lbs. This reel weighs 15.8 oz, has a gear ratio of 5.5:1 and 10+1 shield stainless steel ball bearings which allow this reel to go on about its business like a knife slicing through butter.

Furthermore, it has been designed with a non-slip T handle, which is interchangeable from left to right in order to suit both left-handed and right-handed fishermen.

Lastly, this reel also enjoys a line alarm, which is a huge plus and can work with either fresh or saltwater due to its protection.


  • Stainless steel main shaft
  • CNC machined spool
  • Modulus Graphite material
  • Carbon fiber drag system
  • Max drag 26 lbs
  • Rear and front drag function
  • 10+1 ball bearing system


  • Lead exposure
  • Works better with small-medium fish

Final Verdict

Since this is a spinning reel, it is only logical that it will work better with small fish. However, there have not been any complaints where this reel had failed when it came to catching trophy catfish. This device will give you everything that you might need for catfishing, and there haven’t been any serious complaints regarding it.

If you want to explore more spinning reel options, you can check my picks for the best spinning reels here, or if you’re on a budget, you can check the absolute best spinning reels for under $100 here that provide just excellent value for the money.

4. PENN Spinfisher V – Best Saltwater Reel

This saltwater spinning reel by PENN is a fortress against water. It is designed to minimize the required cleaning and maintenance for the standard reel by placing sealing at every meeting point. Also, this sort of protection makes it suitable for saltwater.

The whole thing is made out of heavy-duty aluminum, the side plates, rotor, and the bail wire, which has a friction bail trip that is closed at all times except when you cast to allow you the most accurate cast.

This reel features 5+1 shielded corrosion-resistant stainless steel ball bearings. The anti-reverse bearing here is instant, therefore giving you ultimate control. The spool on this reel is braid ready, has capacity rings to show how much line is left, and needs no backing up whatsoever.

Another thing that contributes to the smoothness and precision of your cast when using this reel is the CNC gear system, which manages heavy loads. The drag system here is the HT 100 drag, which boasts a maximum of 40 lbs. 

Other options that come with this reel include the live line, which is PENN’s variation of a line clicker, a gear ratio of 4.2:1, and an oscillation system that allows for smooth performance. 

Furthermore, this reel has a considerable variety amongst its sub-models as it has sizes down to 3500. Since we are speaking of catfishing, we would recommend that you go for larger sizes in order to be able to land those trophy catfish.

The one downside to this reel is the fact that it is on the heavy side; it weighs 1.28 lbs. This means that you cannot really use it for an entire day of fishing as it will abuse your wrists, forearms, shoulders, and even back.


  • Saltwater-durable construction
  • HT 100 drag
  • 5+1 stainless steel ball-bearing system
  • Braid ready
  • Huge line capacity


  • Heavy
  • Loud live line noise

Final Verdict

This device is truly amazing. The amount of protection that has gone into its making has put it proudly on our list. However, the fact that it speeds up the onset of fatigue can make a lot of people shy away from it.

If you are going fishing in saltwater, make sure to check out my guide to the best saltwater fishing rods here. These are very reliable and durable and will give you the best value for your money.

5. Abu Garcia Catfish Commando – Best Catfish Rod & Reel Combo

This is the second product that we see on this list that has been made by Abu Garcia. Combos are manufactured so that fishermen are saved the hassle of pairing their reels with complementary rods. 

This device right here is 7 feet long, which allows for longer and broader casts. The rod is made out of composite blank while the reel is made out of graphite. Furthermore, the spool here is constructed out of machined aluminum and can take a considerable length of line. 

The combo as a whole weighs 3.22 lbs, has a gear ratio of 5.1:1, and a carbon matrix hybrid drag system with a maximum of 20 lbs. 

In addition to that, it boasts two ball bearings and a six-pin centrifugal brake system, which allow for smooth casting. This combo enjoys a synchronized level wind system, a bait-clicker that can be turned on and off through a simple switch on the left of the spool plus seven stainless steel guides, which all work towards keeping your line straight and tangle-free.

Moreover, this reel has a machined aluminum rotor, which takes significant weight off the combo and allows it to be a lot more sensitive than it would’ve been. Besides, it features an EVA handle, so it is comfortable to hold.  

The only downside to this combo is the fact that it is one piece, so transportation can be tiresome, and finding a place to store it will not be the easiest task. Lastly, some people may find a bait caster reel to be a little bit complicated for them.


  • Durable 
  • 7 feet long rod 
  • Accurate cast 
  • Lightweight 
  • 6-pin centrifugal brake system 
  • Capacious spool


  • Hard transportation 
  • Hard storage 
  • Requires experienced fishermen

Final Verdict

This combo is strong, relatively lightweight, durable, and gives accurate casts. It is definitely the easy way out; however, it is not a disappointing option. This reel will not fail you whatsoever.

6. Daiwa Black Gold (BG) – Most Practical

Last but certainly not least is this classic reel by Daiwa. It is a spinning reel with a sturdy, durable metal frame, more specifically a hard-anodized anti-corrosion one. Hence, this reel is perfectly suited for saltwater; nonetheless, always make sure that you thoroughly clean it after every use to prevent rust.

It weighs 2.2 lbs, has a gear ratio of 4.3:1, and boasts three high-quality stainless steel ball bearings. Its drag system can handle heavy baits, has a maximum of 33 lbs, plus Teflon and stainless steel washers.

This reel is designed to merge classic with practicality. You will find the handle on it is wooden, which is something that you don’t see a lot. Yet, it is designed in a specific way to give anglers maximum comfort. It is also foldable and can be moved silently from left to right.

There have been some complaints regarding individual mishaps with reels. Those included wobbly spool and saltwater damage; however, they have not been remarkably consistent.


  • Excellent drag system 
  • Foldable handle 
  • Comfortable 
  • Practical 
  • Anti-corrosive 
  • Durable


  • Wobbly spool
  • Saltwater damage

Final Verdict

This reel is quite unique. It is incredibly robust and durable while still being comfortable and functional. It is easy to store, move around, and can be used on any waterfront, maintaining that you have to clean it after every use thoroughly.

Before we leave the choices, make sure to also combine your rod with a great-quality rod. You can check out my guide to the best Catfish fishing rods here.

What Type of Catfishing Reel is the Best

There are three types of reels that are used for catfishing; however, only one of them is ideally suited for the sport, which is bait caster reels. The two other types would be spinning reels and spin casters.

Both the spinning reels and the spin casters are, mostly,  ill-suited for catfishing, especially those trophy catfish. They are a little too weak to be used against large catfish, plus they don’t feature technologies and options that are needed by catfishing anglers. However, some of them, namely spinning reels, can be used for small catfish.

How to Pick a Catfish Reel

We have shown you our top six catfish reels and explained why each one of them deserves its place on our list. Now, we will walk you through some features and options that are extremely helpful for catfishing; consequently, you ought to keep them in mind while conducting your search for the best catfishing reel.

1. Structure 

Logically, we will start by talking about the construction of the reel itself as catfish is mostly a strong swimmer that will put up a considerable fight before tiring out. You will need something extra durable and robust so that it will not break on you.

The three primary materials out of which fishing reels are made are graphite, aluminum, and carbon composite. Graphite is lightweight, flexible, and naturally anti-corrosive; however, it’s not the strongest. Aluminum is the opposite as it is exceptionally durable, but it’s not anti-corrosive and not that versatile. Carbon composite is sort of a middle ground between the two, as it offers both strength and flexibility in addition to lightweight.

Consequently, we would definitely advise you to go for reels that are made out of carbon composite. Plus, a general rule when shopping for fishing equipment is to go for brand names. They will cost you a little bit more; nevertheless, it will be more of a lifetime investment rather than a few weeks. 

Another thing is that when you buy a cheap dupe for fishing equipment, there will be no fixing it as there are no spare parts available for dupes. Shops don’t take them in, so it’s practically throwing your money down the drain.

2. Drag

Drag is an essential part of any reel. It is what keeps your line from going backward, the fish getting away, and your line getting tangled and messed up. Hence, definitely invest in a high-quality drag system. 

Our recommendation for catfishing is a sealed star carbon drag system with oil-felt washers that support the drag system exceptionally. A sealed drag system will extend the life-span of your reel and grant it a lot of tolerance against seawater and the damage that it wreaks on fishing equipment.

3. Ball Bearings

Ball bearings are the wheels turning inside the reel, keeping it moving and working smoothly. Rule of the thumb with ball bearings is that the more, the merrier, so always try to go for a high number of ball bearings. 

Yet high quality is paramount here; a lower number of high-quality ball bearings is ten-times better than a higher number of low-quality ball bearings. Mostly, the best choice with ball bearings is stainless steel. 

One last thing is that some reels are designed with brushers rather than ball bearings, which are never a good choice. Always go for ball bearings rather than brushers.

4. Spool Capacity 

With catfish, you would want a considerable length of line that is on the stronger heavier side as this fish will not go down easily. It will take a lot of back-and-forth for you to tire it out and to reel it back in. The heavier the line is, the thicker it is, which is why you’ll need a lot of space for the needed line. 

Certainly, you wouldn’t want to run out of line or have it snap on you. So, in order to house the needed line, you will need a capacious spool that will not cause bird nests in your line.

5. Bait Clickers

This is an extremely useful option to have on your reel if you can, and generally, new models already have it. Bait clickers or line alarms are devices that start making a clicking sound when the prey catches the bait and starts sprinting away. That’s when you will hear the clicking sound; therefore, you can take quick action not to lose the fish even if it’s a small one.

6. Gear Ratio

Gear ratio is the number of spins that your spool will make per one full crank of the handle. So, it is basically the speed at which you can retrieve your line. With catfish, you would want to get it out of the water as fast as possible just to ensure your victory. 

7. Level Wind

Level wind is a bar that keeps going over your spool as you are reeling in your line. The point of it is that it makes sure that your line is distributed evenly along the spool’s width. Level wind doesn’t only help preserve your line for a longer period; it also makes your fishing process, in general, a lot easier and smoother.

8. Ergonomic Design

Fishing generally takes a lot of time; anglers spend the majority of their day on the waterfront practicing their hobby. So, you must always keep in mind that you will be holding this reel in your hand extensively. Therefore, you have to be completely comfortable with all its aspects. The reel, the rod, the handle, everything must fit perfectly in your hand.

Thereupon, try to go for a reel that’s ergonomically designed so that it is comfortable for you. Try it out and see how it feels in your hand. Go for an EVA handle as they have been proved to be a lot better than other materials.

The knobs on the handle are different from one reel to another in size and design. Try different designs in order to decide whether you are suited for an oversized knob or a small one. In general, be completely comfortable with a reel before you purchase it.

9. Target Fish

Catfish is a varied species; it has really small catfish that you can catch with a spinning reel or a spin caster. While others can be called trophy fish that people go after to make records.

Hence, always know what your target fish will be because, according to that, you will know what water you’ll be fishing in. If you are going to be fishing in saltwater, you will need fishing gear that is sealed entirely and anti-corrosive so that it can take the abuse that the seawater will expose it to. However, fresh and brackish water will be a lot gentler on your fishing equipment, so you might go for something a little less protected.

Final Thoughts

We have reached the end of our article, and to wrap up on the best catfish reels, catfishing is an exciting past time. However, it does need its equipment in order to be enjoyed to the max.

If you prefer spinning reels, believe that baitcasters are way too complicated and that you can’t use them, then there are, of course, options for spinning reels that can be used for catfishing that won’t let you down. Our top pick for such a reel is the KastKing Sharky Baitfeeder III.

If you are on the more experienced side and you can cast using a bait caster without problems, then the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur would suit you excellently.

If you’re not in the mood for pairing up a reel with the rod and you want to skip this whole process, then the Abu Garcia Catfish Commando is undoubtedly the best choice on the market for you.

Helpful Resources

Fishing Reel Care and Maintenance 101 by Jeff Holder

Fishing for Catfish: The Complete Guide for Catching Big Channels, Blues and Flatheads – by Keith Sutton, Keith Sutton

Check out the best Fishing reels For The Money

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