Best Catfish Rod and Reel – 9 Options That Never Lets You Down

When it comes to catfish, the perfect rod and reel setup is crucial to increase your chances of successfully catching them.

You generally need heavy gear the catch catfish because these can put up a tough fight. It’s very important not to be under-equipped or you’ll risk losing your catch.

Rods and reels come in different materials, sizes, and features, so it can be overwhelming to choose the one that best suits your needs.

To narrow down your options and help you make the best choice, here’s a compilation of some of the top-rated rods and reels for targeting catfish that are available on the market along with a detailed review of what each model can offer you.

Best Catfish Rods Comparison

Catfish Rod ActionMaterialsHandle
KastKing KatTech Catfish RodMedium, medium-heavy, heavyComposite, 24T Graphite, S-GlassCork
St Croix Mojo Cat RodMedium, medium-heavy, heavy, extra heavyComposite, SCII graphite, S-GlassCork 
Ugly Stik Catfish RodMedium-heavyComposite, Graphite, S-GlassEVA foam
Okuma Battle Cat RodHeavyFiberglassCork, EVA foam
BnM Silver Cat Elite RodMediumFiberglassMetal

Best Catfish Reels Comparison

Catfish ReelTypeBearingsMaterials
Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C3Baitcasting Reel3+1Stainless steel
PENN Slammer IIISpinning Reel7+1Stainless steel
KastKing Sharky IIIBaitcasting Reel10 + 1Fiber infused graphite, Aluminum, Stainless steel
KastKing Rover RoundBaitcasting Reel6 + 1Hard-Anodized Aluminum, Carbon fiber, stainless steel

List of The Best Catfish Rods in 2021

1. Best Overall – KastKing KatTech Catfish Rod

The top recommendation on our list is the KatTech catfish rods from Kastking. It’s available with multiple options for powers like medium, medium-heavy or heavy.

The rod is made from a composite of 24T Graphite and linear S-Glass which increases the rod’s strength and flexibility. It’s also very light in weight for its length.

It’s designed with a bright chartreuse strike tip which offers high levels of sensitivity allowing you to detect the lightest bites from catfish. You can also easily see it in low-light conditions.

It features heavy-duty Fuji double-footed guides and SiC rings that are able to withstand heavy braided lines which makes it perfect for reeling in large catfish.

It also features a reinforced Fuji DPS reel seat which works perfectly with both casting and spinning reels.

The handle is made of cork which makes it slip-resistant and comfortable. It also comes with a large fore-grip for added leverage when fighting large catfish.

Pros Vs Cons

The Pros

  • It’s made from durable composite materials
  • It’s highly sensitive to bites
  • It’s available in a range of powers
  • It features a bright tip that’s visible in low light conditions
  • It’s strong and light in weight
  • It works with casting and spinning reels
  • It features a comfortable non-slip cork handle

The Cons

  • The cork handle can be hard to clean

Bottom line

The KastKing KatTech Catfish Rod is the best option for you if you’re looking for a highly sensitive rod that’s light and comfortable to handle.

2. Second Runner – St Croix Mojo Cat Rod

Another top-rated rod is the Mojo Cat from St Croix. It’s built specifically with catfishing in mind.

It comes with a five-year warranty and it’s available with multiple options for powers like medium, medium-heavy, heavy, or extra heavy.

It’s built from fine SCII graphite available blended with linear S-Glass to enhance strength and flexibility. It also has two layers of Flex-Coat slow cure finish to enhance durability.

It has fast action and high levels of sensitivity which makes it easier to detect bites from catfish.

It features Kigan Master 3D guides with slim, strong aluminum-oxide rings and black frames that can withstand heavyweight.

It also features a Fuji ECS reel seat that works for both spinning and casting reels, a Kigan hook-keeper, and a premium-grade cork handle.

Pros Vs Cons

The Pros

  • It’s built from strong graphite and glass materials
  • It comes with a 5-year warranty
  • It’s highly durable and flexible
  • It has fast action with high levels of sensitivity
  • It’s available in a range of powers
  • It comes with strong guides that can withstand heavyweight
  • It works with both spinning and baitcasting reels
  • It features a hook keeper and a cork handle

The Cons

  • The cork handle can be hard to clean
  • It’s slightly more expensive compared to other rods

Bottom line

The St Croix Mojo Cat Rod is the best option if you’re looking for a premium fast-action catfishing rod that offers high levels of strength, durability, sensitivity, and flexibility.

3. Best On a Budget – Ugly Stik Catfish Rod

This Ugly Stik Catfish Rod is popular with many anglers, especially if you’re on a budget or a beginner at catfishing.

This rod comes with a 7-year warranty and offers very good value at a reasonable price.

It’s a medium-heavy power rod that works best with a spinning reel. It is sensitive and allows you to cast for longer distances.

It’s built from high-quality graphite and glass composite materials which makes the rod light in weight yet extremely strong and flexible.

It has a clear tip design and a durable EVA foam handle. It also features one-piece stainless steel guides that can withstand a decent amount of weight.

Pros Vs Cons

The Pros

  • It comes with a 7-year warranty
  • It’s built from high-quality composite materials
  • It’s strong and light in weight
  • It has high flexibility and sensitivity
  • It has excellent casting abilities
  • It comes with a durable Eva foam handle

The Cons

  • The material of the guides is not very durable
  • It has a limited range of power options

Bottom line

Ugly Stik Catfish Rod is the best choice for you if you’re a beginner looking for a budget-friendly catfishing rod without sacrificing efficiency or durability.

4. Okuma Battle Cat Rod

This traditional Battle Cat rod from Okuma is the best fiberglass rod for catching catfish. It has many great qualities and comes with a lifetime warranty.

It’s fully built from S-Glass material which makes the rod extremely strong and durable.

This heavy action rod offers high levels of sensitivity at the tip section allowing you to detect catfish bites a lot quicker and it comes with a fluorescent wrapped bite indicator on the tip of the rod which allows you more visibility at night or in low light situations.

It features a graphite pipe reel seat with an anodized aluminum hood. It works well with both spinning and casting reels. It also features heavy-duty double-footed stainless steel guides and a hook keeper.

The handle is made from a non-skid cork material while the foregrip is made from a high-quality EVA foam which enhances your comfort when fighting strong catfish.

Pros Vs Cons

The Pros

  • It’s made from strong fiberglass material
  • It offers high levels of sensitivity
  • It’s suitable for use in low light conditions
  • It comes with a bite indicator at the tip
  • It works with both spinning reels and casting reels
  • It features a non-skid comfortable handle

The Cons

  • It’s heavier in weight compared to other rods

Bottom line

The Okuma Battle Cat Rod is the perfect choice for you if you’re looking for a fiberglass rod with extremely high sensitivity.

5. BnM Silver Cat Elite Rod

The Silver Cat Elite rod from BnM is designed specifically for catching large trophy catfish.

It’s a medium-action rod with heavy power which allows you to cast the rod further and with more accuracy.

It’s made from a fiberglass material called S-Glass which increases the strength and durability of the rod.

It’s designed an aircraft-aluminum double-nut locking reel seat that maintains its tight reel-to-rod connection while fighting large catfish. It works best when paired with a spinning reel.

It features a highly sensitive hi-vis rod tip which will allow you to clearly see the bend at the end of the rod when a catfish takes the bait even in low light conditions.

It also features a high-quality X-Grip handle that ensures you maintain your grip in slippery conditions.

Pros Vs Cons

The Pros

  • It’s made from a strong fiberglass material
  • It has a tight reel-to-rod connection
  • It allows you to cast for longer distances
  • It features a highly sensitive tip
  • It’s suitable for use in low light conditions
  • It comes with a high quality non-slip handle

The Cons

  • It’s available in one power and action only

Bottom line

The BnM Silver Cat Elite Rod is the perfect choice for you if you’re looking for a specialized catfishing rod that will guarantee you bigger catches

For more options, you can check my guide to the best Catfish Rods here where I discuss more options and talk at length about how to choose the best rods for catfish.

List of The Best Catfish Reels in 2021

1. Best Overall – Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C3 Catfish Bitcast Reel

The Abu Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C3 is one of the top-rated catfishing reels on the market.

It’s designed with a Carbon Matrix drag system that provides smooth and consistent drag.

It features 3+1 stainless steel ball bearings and can withstand heavy lines and lures.

It also features a six-pin centrifugal brake system that applies constant pressure which allows for better casting accuracy.

It’s light in weight with a large ergonomic handle design that allows you more control over your reel when targeting catfish.

Pros Vs Cons

The Pros

  • It features a smooth operating drag system
  • It can withstand heavy lines and lures
  • It provides high casting accuracy
  • It’s light in weight
  • It comes with a large ergonomic handle

The Cons

  • It only has 3+1 ball bearings

Bottom line

Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C3 Catfish Bitcast Reel is the best choice if you’re looking for an all-around quality reel that offers smooth operation, strength, and precision.

2. Second Runner – PENN Slammer III Spinning Reel

The PENN Slammer III is one of the best spinning reels for targeting catfish.

It’s designed with a fully metal IP6 sealed body which keeps water out of the gearbox and drag system.

The gears are CNC cut and the drag system utilizes PENN’s specialized Dura-Drag material that enhances the performance of the reel.

It’s light in weight and features a 7+1 stainless steel bearing system that increases the strength of the reel.

The reel handle position allows for easy use whether you’re right-handed or left-handed. It’s available with multiple options for gear ratio and works for saltwater or freshwater fishing.

Pros Vs Cons

The Pros

  • It features a full metal sealed body gear housing
  • It’s available with multiple gear ratios
  • It can be used with a right hand or left hand
  • It has a high-quality drag system
  • It’s light in weight and easy to use
  • It features a 7+1 bearings system

The Cons

  • It’s expensive compared to other reels

Bottom line

The PENN Slammer III Spinning Reel is the best option for you if you’re looking for a high-end spinning reel that combines good quality and performance.

3. Best On a Budget – KastKing Sharky III Fishing Reel

The KastKing Sharky III Fishing Reel is another excellent baitcasting reel for targeting catfish, especially if you’re on a budget.

The body is built from fiber-infused graphite materials which enhances its strength and durability while maintaining its lightweight.

It’s designed with KastKing’s unique water-resistant intrusion shield system which is infused with layers of coating to keep water and dirt out of the reel’s body, spool, and rotor.

It features a stainless-steel main shaft, mesh manganese brass pinion gears, and triple disk carbon fiber drag system which provides more power and allows for more precision when casting.

It features an aluminum spool which won’t require you to use a backing line when spooling a braided line. The spool can also handle a higher line capacity.

It has an aluminum handle and 10 + 1 high-quality corrosion-resistant double-shielded stainless steel ball bearings.

Pros Vs Cons

The Pros

  • It’s made from a blend of highly durable materials
  • It features a reliable drag system
  • It’s very light and easy to handle
  • It’s suitable for use in saltwater
  • It has 10+1 corrosion resistant ball bearings
  • It has a strong spool with a high line capacity

The Cons

  • It’s not ideal when using light fishing lines

Bottom line

The KastKing Sharky III Fishing Reel is the best option for you if you’re looking for a reel that offers quality and durability at a budget-friendly price.

4. KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel

The KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel is another budget-friendly option for targeting catfish. It delivers great quality and performance at an affordable price.

The reel is built with reinforced hard anodized aluminum side plates with a CNC machined spool and precision cut brass gears.

All inner components are made from high-quality materials that provide superior durability and corrosion protection.

It’s available with multiple options for gear ratios and works well with many fishing techniques used in freshwater and saltwater like trolling or bottom fishing

It features a stainless steel internal shaft and carbon fiber drag system that allows for smoother operation.

It also features premium MaxiDur double-shielded stainless steel 6 + 1 ball bearings.

Pros vs Cons

The Pros

  • It’s made from durable corrosion-resistant materials
  • It has a smoothly operated drag system
  • It works for various fishing techniques and water conditions
  • It features 6 + 1 ball bearings
  • It’s light and weight and easy to use
  • It’s available with multiple gear ratios

The Cons

  • It’s not as precise when casting lighter lines

Bottom line

The KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel is the best option for you if you’re looking for a reliable and versatile catfishing reel that comes at an affordable price

Are you looking for more reel options? Check out my comprehensive guide to catfish reels here that discusses catfish reels in more depth and detail and will greatly help you choose the right reel for you.

How to Choose the Best Rod and Reel Setup for Catfish?

catfish swimming to show the best catfish rod and reel

There are a lot of factors you need to keep in mind when you’re choosing a rod and reel for catfishing. Let’s break down these factors in detail.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Rod

Material

Choosing the best rod materials can have a huge impact on your performance and fishing success.

Fishing rods are typically made out of fiberglass, graphite, or composite materials. Each material has some benefits and drawbacks.

Fiberglass rods are strong and durable. They’re easy to make which makes them relatively cheaper. However, they are not the best when it comes to feedback, which makes it harder to detect lighter bites. They’re also heavy which can be inconvenient if you’re fighting fish for a long time.

Graphite rods, on the other hand, are more sensitive and allow you to easily detect bites. They’re lighter in weight which makes handling and casting them easier.

Their drawback is that they’re stiffer so they can be more brittle. They’re also much more expensive compared to fiberglass rods.

Finally, there are composite rods which are basically a mix between graphite and fiberglass. They’re versatile as they offer you excellent flexibility without adding much weight or sacrificing sensitivity. However, they’re the most expensive of all types of rods.

Length

It’ length of your rod affects how far you can cast, so it’s important to match your rod length with your fishing technique.

Longer rods allow you to cast further, but they’re much harder to control and maneuver.

Shorter rods, on the other hand, offer more control, but they’re limited when it comes to how far you can cast your line. They are also more powerful which makes them ideal for targeting large fish.

Action

Action is one of the key performance components of a fishing rod. It refers to how much your rod will bend and where. It also refers to the speed at which the rod can return back to its original position.

It mainly depends on the shape of the rod and its material, and it has a great effect on how you handle your rod as well as the kind of fish you can land with it.

There are three main rod actions:

Fast (Heavy) Action

Fast action rods bend at the uppermost part of the rod, right below the tip. They can snap back to their original position very quickly.

They are great for targeting larger fish and they work very well with single hooks. They are also very sensitive as they send vibrations straight to your hand even with the lightest of nibbles.

Medium Action

Medium action rods bend in the top half of the rod and move a little slower than fast action rods. They allow you to cast further and provide good feedback capabilities as well.

These rods are versatile which means you can use them to catch big and small fish. They also work well with multiple-hook setups which give the fish more time to bite.

Slow (Light) Action

Slow action rods bend all the way to the bottom of the rod.

They allow you to cast the furthest. You just need to match the size of the lure to the rod when you’re casting. It’s usually recommended to use smaller lures for better casts.

Power

Power is another key performance component of a fishing rod. It refers to the rod’s capability to withstand pressure.

Rod powers range from Ultra-Light, Light, to Medium, Medium Heavy, to Heavy and Ultra Heavy.

Typically, heavier rods are better for targeting larger fish, while lighter rods work better for targeting smaller fish.

Guides (Eyelets)

You need to choose a rod with a large number of guides to increase its strength. That is because the more guides you have on your rod, the more evenly the weight of a fish will be distributed along its length.

You also need to choose a rod with a ceramic coating on the inside of the eyelets to reduce friction on the line and allow it to move smoothly.

Handle

Rod handles come in two main shapes which are the pistol grip and the trigger stick.

The pistol grip is a short contoured handle with a hook for your index finger. This type of handle provides better casting accuracy and more precise movements.

The trigger stick is a longer handle which means you can cast using both hands. This type of handle allows you to cast further than the pistol grip and is generally more suited for targeting larger fish.

Rod handles also come in two main materials which are cork or EVA foam.

Cork handles are more comfortable as they offer more cushioning and warmth. They are also more sensitive than foam handles. However, they’re less durable foam as it is harder to clean and gets dented easily

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Reel

Type

There are two main types of reels – baitcasting and spinning.

Baitcasters are designed with a rotating spool attached to the top of the fishing rod. With spinning reels, the spool is attached to the bottom of a fishing rod, and it doesn’t rotate.

Baitcasters are more durable and lighter in weight compared to spinning reels. They have a higher casting accuracy and they can cast for further distances. They also have a higher line capacity and withstand heavy lines and lures.

However, they are more expensive and need more skills to use without experiencing backlash.

Spinning Reels, on the other hand, are cheaper which makes them less durable, they are easier to use as they are less prone to backlash. They’re also more suited for lighter lines and lures.

You can learn more about spinning reels in this Spinning reels vs spincasters comparison, or check out the best spinning reels here.

Frame Material

Most reels are made from graphite, aluminum, or composite materials

Graphite frames are cheaper and not very durable. While aluminum and composite frames are usually more expensive but higher in quality and more durable.

Round Profile Vs Low Profile

Low-profile reels are lighter and more mobile than round-profile reels. They’re good for covering a lot of water and casting your line more quickly.

Gear Ratio

The gear ratio determines how fast you can reel the line back in from the cast. It’s important to choose a reel with a gear ration that’s suitable for the kind of fish you’re targeting.

Spool Size

In general, the larger the spool on your reel is, the more line it can hold and the further you can cast.

Bearings

In general, the more bearings a reel has, the more effective its performance will be.

Drag System

The drag system of a reel determines how much line can be spooled when you hook fish that’s putting up a hard fight.

This helps in preventing the tension from increasing which can result in the line breaking and losing both your catch and lure

Brake System

The brake system adjusts and slows down the rotation of the spool when you’re casting. Setting it too high can lead to a lot of backlashes while setting them too low can lead to overcasting. So, you need to find the right balance.

What Is the Best Rod and Reel Setup for Catfish?

For fishing rods, it’s recommended to use a heavy-powered medium-action rod that’s at least 7 feet in length. That is because it will provide more sensitivity when casting and will allow you to cast your bait further out into the lake or river where bigger catfish tend to hide.

When it comes to fishing reels, it’s recommended to go for a baitcasting reel spooled with a thick 20-40 lbs. test monofilament or a braided fishing line to be able to withstand the weight of larger catfish.

What You Need to Know About Catfish

To increase your chances of catching more catfish, you need to learn some basic facts about them.

What Do Catfish Feed On?

Catfish diets mostly consist of include shad, yellow perch, bluegills, minnows, trout, and shiners. They’re omnivores which means that they feed by sucking and gulping their food rather than using their teeth to bite or chew.

Where Can You Find Catfish?

Catfish spend most of the day in deeper areas of the water in lakes, rivers, or streams. By late afternoon, they usually move to shallow water. So, you can easily intercept them in the areas where they head to and from shallow water.

Catfish also prefer muddy areas of water as it allows them to hide from their predators and gives them an advantage over their prey.

In large lakes, you are likely to find catfish near the mouths of creeks dumping into the lake and at the base of fingers at a reservoir.

While in rivers, you are likely to find them downstream where a small river or creek dumps into the main river.

In muddy streams, you are likely to find them in the main channel or off to the side where the water would be clearer and slower.

You a big have a chance to find catfish hovering near thick cover. So, try to focus on areas close to logs, lily pads, boulders, or weeds.

When Is the Best Time to Catch Catfish?

Catfish can be very sensitive to weather and water temperature.

The best time of the year for catfish would be during the month of March, April, and early May.

The best time of the day to catch catfish would be the middle of the day or late in the day. That is because the water will get warmer and the catfish will become more and more active.

You can also catch them around nighttime since catfish don’t need to rely on their vision to find and catch their food.

Which Baits Are Best When Catching catfish?

The most recommend baits to use for catfishing are cut baits shad, perch eyes, bream, chicken parts, and shrimp.

You can use live bait such as bluegill, frogs, shiners, earthworms, minnows, crayfish, and salamanders. You can also use homemade baits such as dough baits, dip baits, and punch baits.

Additional Tips for Catching Catfish

  • Fish slow and be more patient. Try to give the catfish enough time to locate your bait.
  • If you don’t get any bites within the first 15 minutes, it’s recommended to move to another spot in order not to waste your time fishing at areas of water that don’t have any catfish.
  • Use scent attractants to help increase your chances of getting more catfish to bite.
  • Get a fish finder to help you locate catfish when moving from deep to shallow water. A fish finder will also tell you the temperature of the water.
  • Avoid using stink baits because catfish mostly prefer more natural baits that look and smell healthy.
  • Set up as many fishing rods as possible when fishing for catfish to cover more areas of water. However, make sure your state doesn’t have a limit on the number of fishing rods you’re allowed to use.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Reel Is Good for Beginners?

Spinning reels are generally considered a good option for beginners. They’re cheaper and easier to use. They’re also less prone to backlashing and tangling. However, they’re not the best when it comes to casting accuracy and they’re less durable.

Do Fishing Rods Wear Out?

Yes, fishing rods do wear out after a certain period because of corrosion or rust. Some fishing rods can last for almost 20-30 years. It depends mostly on the material used to make the fishing rod and how you store it.

How to Store Fishing Rods?

The best way to store fishing rods is by using fishing rod racks that are designed to keep the rods upright to maintain their shape. The racks can be mounted on a wall at your home or garage. Another way is to use rod sleeves or tubes, which are humid resistant and more portable.

Are Catfish Aggressive?

No, catfish are not aggressive in their nature. Most of the time, catfish will just mind their own business. However, if they feel threatened, they can release the poison to defend themselves. While the catfish venom is not lethal to humans, it causes a lot of pain and can lead to swelling around the area of the injury.

How to Remove a Hook from a Catfish?

To remove a hook from a catfish, you need to pick the fish up by gripping it behind its spines. Next, you need to grip the eye of the hook using pliers then roll it towards the hook’s point. When your hook starts to yank the fish’s mouth, twist the hook’s point and carefully pull it out of the catfish’s lip.

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