Last updated on August 17th, 2023
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Finding the best catfish reels is essential for any angler looking to target these elusive and hard-fighting fish. In this guide, we’ll discuss the key features that make a reel suitable for catching catfish, as well as review some of the top models on the market.
We’ll start by examining what to look for in a quality catfish reel, including factors such as the strength of drag, size of the reel, and durability. Next, we’ll delve into different types of catfish reels like spinning reels, baitcasting reels, and fly fishing reels so you can choose one that fits your needs perfectly.
Furthermore, we will discuss various tactics for catching catfish using bottom fishing techniques, float fishing techniques, and jigging techniques. Finally, we will provide insights on where to find these remarkable fish in lakes and rivers, ponds and streams, or estuaries and coastal areas.
By understanding how to select the best catfish reels along with effective strategies tailored specifically towards targeting them in their natural habitats—you’ll be well-equipped to land even those most challenging catches!
Editor’s Picks: Best Catfish Reels for the Money
Best Spinning Reels for Catfish:
Best Baitcasting Reels for Catfish
Table of Contents for Best Catfish Reels for the Money:
- What to Look for in a Catfish Reel
- Types of Catfish Reels
- Best Catfish Reels on the Market
- Tactics for Catching Catfish
- Where to Find Catfish
What to Look for in a Catfish Reel
When shopping for a catfish reel, there are several features to consider. The strength of the drag is one of the most important factors when choosing a reel. A good drag system will allow you to set and maintain tension on your line while fighting larger fish. It should also be able to handle any sudden changes in pressure that may occur during battle with a large fish. Look for reels with adjustable drags that have smooth transitions between settings and can hold up against hard runs from big cats.
The size of the reel is another key factor when selecting the right model for your needs. Reels come in different sizes, ranging from small ultralight models designed for smaller species like panfish all the way up to large heavy-duty models capable of handling monster cats weighing over 50 pounds or more. Choose a size based on what type of fishing you plan on doing and how much weight your rod can comfortably handle without putting too much strain on it or yourself while casting or retrieving lures and baits.
Durability is another important feature when selecting a catfish reel, as these hard-fighting fish put plenty of wear and tear on tackle components over time. Look for reels made out of corrosion-resistant materials such as aluminum, stainless steel, graphite composites, etc., which are designed to stand up against long hours spent battling aggressive catfish strikes and powerful runs through cover-filled waters alike. Additionally, look for sealed bearings which help keep water out so they don’t freeze up after multiple trips into deep muddy holes where catfish often lurk beneath thick mats of vegetation, waiting patiently until something tasty swims by.
Considering factors such as the drag’s strength, reel size, and longevity when picking a catfish spool is essential. Moving on from this topic, let’s take a look at some different types of reels that can be used for catfishing—which will help you pinpoint which of the best catfish reels for the money you should choose.
Key Takeaway: When looking for a catfish reel, consider its drag strength, size, and durability. Choose one that can handle sudden pressure changes from big cats, has an adjustable smooth drag system, and is made of corrosion-resistant materials with sealed bearings to keep out water.
Types of Catfish Reels
When it comes to catfishing, the kind of reel you utilize is just as essential as your tackle and bait. For catfish fishing, the most common types of reels are spinning and baitcasting reels. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to targeting this fish species.
Spinning Reels for Catfish
Spinning reels are one of the most popular ways to target catfish due to their versatility, durability, and ease of use. They are designed to handle the rugged conditions of catfishing and can handle the force exerted by these strong, powerful fish.
One of the critical considerations when selecting a spinning reel for catfish is the size. Catfish are known for their size and strength, so you need a reel that can accommodate large, heavy lines and handle long, hard fights. Typically, a medium to large reel, around 5000 to 8000 series, should suffice for most catfishing scenarios.
The drag system of the reel is another important factor. The drag must be smooth and reliable, allowing you to control and tire out the fish without breaking the line. A reel with a high-quality, strong, and adjustable drag system is crucial when targeting big catfish, as it allows you to manage the powerful runs and sudden lunges typical of these fish.
Another important factor for you to consider when it comes to performance and durability is the material the catfish reel is made of. Catfish reels must be sturdy and corrosion-resistant to withstand the harsh conditions of catfishing, particularly if you’re fishing in saltwater or brackish environments. A reel made of high-quality materials such as aluminum, stainless steel, or carbon fiber can provide the necessary strength and durability.
Baitcasting Reels for Catfish
Baitcasting reels are another excellent choice for catfish angling due to their power, control, and versatility. These reels are especially loved by seasoned anglers for their precision and advanced features.
The size of a baitcasting reel is critical when it comes to catfishing. The reel needs to have the capacity to hold enough heavy lines to handle the fight from a big catfish. Generally, a medium to large baitcasting reel is preferable for catfishing, as it provides the necessary line capacity and cranking power.
The drag system is one of the essential features of a baitcasting reel for catfish. A powerful and smooth drag is necessary to handle the forceful runs and sudden lunges of catfish. The best baitcasting reels offer a reliable, adjustable drag system that allows you to fine-tune the resistance based on the size of the fish and current conditions.
Materials used in the construction of the reel are also crucial. Given that catfishing can often involve dealing with big, powerful fish and potentially harsh environments, the reel needs to be robust and corrosion-resistant. Baitcasting reels made from high-quality materials like aluminum, stainless steel, or carbon composite offer the durability needed for catfishing.
In summary, when choosing a baitcasting reel for catfishing, you should focus on the reel’s size, the quality and power of the drag system, and the materials used in the reel’s construction. A well-selected baitcasting reel can significantly enhance your catfishing experience by providing the power, control, and durability required for these impressive fish.
Best Catfish Reels on the Market
Disclaimer: All products in this article were independently researched and reviewed by our team of experienced anglers. Learn more about our review process here. We use so-called affiliate links in this article. This means that if you click on one of the links provided in this article and end up making a purchase, we might earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products we’ve tested and believe in.
Best Spinning Reels for Catfish
- CNC transmission technology
- Retrieval speed of 120 cm per turn
- Two sturdy cord clips made of metal
- Egg-shaped handle knob
- Tapered flat spool
PENN’s reputation in the fishing gear arena remains unshaken with the introduction of the Affinity III Longcast Fishing Reel. This reel brings together a commendable blend of features that makes it a powerful companion for any serious catfish angler.
The Affinity III Longcast Reel sports a robust body with a spool size of 8000—suitable for handling large game like catfish. Its body and rotor are crafted from lightweight graphite, resulting in a sturdy yet manageable reel.
What shines in this reel is the superb drag system. The HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers offer powerful, smooth drag performance that can handle the most formidable catfish. Coupled with a 4.7:1 gear ratio, you have a perfect tool for a demanding catfish fight.
Casting distance is another area where Affinity III excels. The Longcast spool design enhances casting distance, ensuring you reach those remote catfish hotspots. Also, the manual bail arm closure adds to the overall control and security of your casting and retrieval.
From my personal experience, the PENN Affinity III Longcast Fishing Reel is a fantastic partner in catfish angling. It has delivered a consistent performance in both casting and retrieval. The drag system is impressive, and the longcasting ability has proven invaluable on several occasions.
- Lightweight and Durable: The graphite body provides a perfect balance of durability and weight.
- Powerful Drag System: HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers ensure a smooth and strong drag performance.
- Long Casting: The Longcast spool design is great for reaching distant catfish hangouts.
- Manual Bail Arm Closure: Adds to casting control and prevents premature bail arm closure.
- Pricey: Some might find the PENN Affinity III a bit on the expensive side compared to other reels in the market.
- Lack of Ball Bearings: While the reel performs smoothly, additional ball bearings could have enhanced its overall smoothness and longevity.
In summary, the PENN Affinity III Longcast Fishing Reel is a brilliant piece of angling gear for serious catfish anglers. Its strong drag system, long casting ability, and robust construction make it a worthy investment for those looking to up their catfish game.
- IPX6 waterproofing, EverSeal rubber rings, and Intrusion Shield System
- High braking force, variable max drag (30lbs to 55lbs)
- CNC aluminum frame with carbon fiber/aluminum rotor
- 6 stainless steel ball bearings, polymer roller bearing, and 8-pin one-way bearing
- High-strength alloy pinion gear, manganese brass gear, braid-ready CNC aluminum spool
Hitting the market with an exciting promise of excellence is the KastKing Kapstan Elite Saltwater Spinning Reel. Known for its quality and affordability, KastKing once again delivers an excellent fishing reel with an impressive set of features tailored toward those targeting heavy catfish.
The Kapstan Elite boasts a high-capacity CNC aluminum spool that comfortably accommodates a large amount of fishing line, essential for those long fights with big catfish. It comes in different sizes, with the largest size (6000) being the best suited for heavy-duty catfishing.
A standout feature is the Triple Disc Carbon Drag System which delivers a smooth and robust drag of up to 40lbs, a significant factor when wrangling large catfish. With a 5.2:1 gear ratio, this reel provides a good balance of speed and power during retrieval.
Constructed from graphite and aluminum, the Kapstan Elite assures a lightweight and corrosion-resistant experience. The sealed, stainless steel 10+1 MaxiDur ball bearings offer an incredibly smooth operation, even under heavy loads.
From personal experience, I’ve found the KastKing Kapstan Elite to be a solid performer. Its robust drag system and high line capacity have been instrumental in landing some of the toughest catfish. Plus, the smooth operation and impressive durability have made it a joy to use on numerous trips.
- High Line Capacity: The large CNC aluminum spool allows for plenty of heavy fishing lines.
- Powerful Drag System: The Triple Disc Carbon Drag System offers a smooth and powerful drag.
- Durable and Lightweight: The graphite and aluminum construction ensures a light yet durable reel.
- Smooth Operation: 10+1 MaxiDur ball bearings ensure smooth casting and retrieving.
- Drag Adjustment: Some users might find the drag adjustment a bit tight to operate initially, but it tends to loosen up with use.
- No Anti-Reverse Switch: Anglers who prefer having an anti-reverse switch might miss this feature.
All in all, the KastKing Kapstan Elite Saltwater Spinning Reel presents itself as a robust, reliable, and affordable reel for any catfish enthusiast. It shines in its performance and durability, making it an excellent choice for those looking to level up their catfishing game.
- Black anodized machined aluminum housing with “Hard Bodyz” design and oversized Digigear system
- Solid screw-in handle, lightweight Air Rotor, and Dynamic Cut aluminum ABS spool
- Waterproof drag system with carbon ATD
- Manual return bail (sizes 4500 and larger), 6BB+1RB for smoothness, 5.6:1 gear ratio, and 33lbs maximum drag
- J-BRAID capacity and Anti-Reverse systems
Daiwa has been a stalwart in the fishing industry for years, and the Daiwa BG Spinning Reel is a testament to their reputation for producing quality products. I’ve had the pleasure of using this reel in different catfish angling scenarios, and I must say, it’s been an impressive performer.
The Daiwa BG Spinning Reel comes in various sizes, from the smaller 1500 for lighter game, up to the hefty 8000 for serious catfish and saltwater battles. It features an ‘Air Rotor,’ which reduces weight and distributes stress more evenly throughout the rotor for maximum strength.
One of the main highlights of this reel is the ‘Black Anodized Machined Aluminum Housing’ or the ‘Hard Bodyz Body & Side Cover.’ This provides excellent durability and resistance to wear, ensuring that the reel lasts for a long time, even under heavy use.
The reel features an oversized Digigear system, which significantly increases gear-tooth contact points. This leads to smoother and extended gear life and enhances the reel’s pulling power—perfect for reeling in those heavy catfish. A smooth waterproof drag system, with a maximum drag of 33 lbs on the largest model, provides solid control during fights.
Personally, I’ve found the Daiwa BG Spinning Reel to be a powerhouse. The balance between weight, power, and smooth operation has made it a reliable companion on my catfish angling trips.
- Durable and Robust: The ‘Hard Bodyz Body & Side Cover’ offers excellent durability.
- Smooth and Powerful Drag: The oversized Digigear system and the smooth drag system provide excellent control and power.
- Versatile Size Range: With sizes ranging from 1500 to 8000, you can pick the perfect reel for your specific needs.
- Weight: Some anglers might find the larger models slightly heavy compared to other reels in the same class.
- No Anti-Reverse Switch: Similar to the previous reel, some might miss the lack of an anti-reverse switch.
In conclusion, the Daiwa BG Spinning Reel is an excellent choice for anglers targeting catfish or even larger saltwater species. Its combination of power, durability, and smooth operation sets it apart, making it a worthy addition to any angler’s gear collection.
Best Baitcasting Reels for Catfish
- Thicker aluminum plates, CNC machined spool, brass gears, and stainless steel components
- Superior carbon fiber drag system with up to 30LB of smooth drag
- Premium MaxiDur double-shielded stainless steel ball bearings
- Sizes 40-60 have a 2-pin centrifugal brake, nonslip EVA grips, line-out clicker alarm, and easy-access thumb bar spool release
- Future-ready design
The KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel is a powerful, durable reel that’s perfectly suited for challenging catfish-angling scenarios. Weighing in at around 1.58 pounds, the Rover60 model boasts a solid design and a decent line capacity, ideal for those heavy-duty catfish lines.
The reel comes equipped with key features like an excellent carbon fiber drag system that delivers up to 20 lbs of smooth, consistent drag. This system makes it easy to handle sudden runs and lunges from even the strongest catfish. Moreover, the reel’s high-quality brass gears ensure a smooth retrieve and longevity of the reel.
One standout feature is its all-metal body, anodized aluminum side plates, and CNC machined spool, making it impressively resistant to corrosion and wear, which is invaluable for long-term use in various water conditions. The reel also features non-slip EVA grips, giving it an ergonomic touch and increasing comfort during those long fishing sessions.
In terms of performance, the KastKing Rover has been nothing short of impressive. Its versatility allows for both freshwater and saltwater fishing, making it a solid choice for any catfish angler. The line lay is quite even, and the retrieve is smooth, thanks to the ball bearing system.
- Sturdy and durable construction: The reel is built to last, and it shows in the high-quality materials used.
- Excellent drag system: The carbon fiber drag system offers smooth and consistent performance.
- Versatility: The reel can be used in both fresh and saltwater environments.
- Comfort: The non-slip EVA grips ensure comfortable handling during extended fishing sessions.
- Weight: Some anglers might find the reel slightly heavy, which could affect the balance of lighter rods.
- Learning curve: It can take some time for beginners to get the hang of using this baitcasting reel, especially if they’re transitioning from a spinning reel.
All in all, the KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel is a solid option for any angler looking for a sturdy, reliable reel for catfish angling. Its superior performance, excellent features, and overall durability make it a solid investment for both casual and seasoned catfish anglers.
- 3 stainless steel ball bearings + 1 roller bearing(6500 size)
- 2 stainless steel ball bearings + 1 roller bearing (7000 size)
- Carbon Matrix drag system
- Extended bent handle
- 6-pin centrifugal brake
The Abu Garcia C3 Catfish Special Baitcast Round Fishing Reel is a well-rounded, high-performing piece of equipment designed specifically with the catfish angler in mind. With a weight of 1.5 pounds and 6500 model size, it delivers robust performance without feeling too cumbersome.
One of the key features that makes this reel stand out is its Carbon Matrix drag system, providing smooth and consistent drag pressure across the entire drag range. The power of this system, delivering up to 15lbs of drag, makes it an excellent tool for wrestling with those hard-fighting catfish.
This reel also boasts a 3 stainless steel ball bearing + 1 roller bearing system, resulting in smooth operation and exceptional casting performance. The Duragear brass gear extends the reel’s life while maintaining smooth operation even under pressure.
Abu Garcia’s C3 Catfish Special Reel also features a 6-pin centrifugal brake system that gives anglers complete control over their cast, reducing the risk of backlash significantly. The synchronized level wind system ensures a smooth line lay and even distribution of line across the reel.
As for my personal experience, I’ve found the performance of this reel quite impressive. The drag is silky smooth, the casting distance is excellent, and the cranking power is more than enough for those large catfish.
- Impressive drag system: The Carbon Matrix drag system provides smooth, reliable performance.
- Durable construction: The reel is built to last, thanks to the use of quality materials like Duragear brass gear.
- Excellent control: The 6-pin centrifugal brake system gives excellent casting control, reducing the risk of backlash.
- Smooth operation: The bearing system allows for a smooth and seamless casting and retrieval process.
- Price: Compared to other reels, the Abu Garcia C3 Catfish Special is a bit pricey. However, given its performance and durability, many might see this as a worthwhile investment.
- Lack of line indicator: Some anglers prefer having a line-out alarm or line indicator, which this reel lacks.
In conclusion, the Abu Garcia C3 Catfish Special Baitcast Round Fishing Reel is a top-tier reel that offers outstanding features and performance for serious catfish anglers. Its durability, smooth operation, and excellent drag system make it a reel worth considering for your catfish fishing exploits.
- CNC caved aluminum spool, aircraft grade aluminum frame
- Centrifugal brake
- Recessed reel foot, nonslip rubber grips, clicker alarm, and easy access thumb-bar
- Carbon Fiber Drag and Haimai-Cut brass main gear
- 6+1 double-shielded stainless steel ball bearings
The Piscifun Chaos XS Baitcasting Fishing Reel is a formidable contender in the fishing gear market, especially for catfish anglers. With its compact size (60 model) and solid feel (weighing 1.5 lbs), it strikes a balanced profile.
This reel impresses right from the get-go with its unique graphite side plates and frame that provide significant weight reduction without compromising durability. The reinforced nickel-plated brass gears give it a high-speed 5.3:1 gear ratio, offering an excellent mix of power and speed.
One notable feature is the innovative cast control system that ensures your casts are both smooth and extended. Coupled with a superior carbon fiber drag system offering up to 20 lbs of stopping power, this reel is a real workhorse when it comes to handling big catfish.
The reel’s centrifugal brake system allows for easy adjustments and precision control, enhancing casting performance while minimizing backlash. Furthermore, the comfortable non-slip grip helps you maintain firm control even in wet conditions.
From my personal experience, the Piscifun Chaos XS Baitcasting Reel stands out for its smooth casting and retrieval, excellent drag system, and surprisingly robust construction. It’s definitely given me an edge when dealing with large, stubborn catfish.
- Durable and Lightweight: The graphite construction provides a durable yet lightweight frame.
- Impressive Drag Power: With up to 20 lbs of drag power, you can confidently go after big catfish.
- Excellent Casting Control: The innovative cast control system and centrifugal brake add to the precision and smoothness of your casts.
- Comfortable Grip: The non-slip grip ensures comfortable and secure handling.
- Noise: Some anglers have reported a bit of noise during the casting process.
- Requires Maintenance: To ensure its longevity and consistent performance, regular cleaning and oiling are required.
In conclusion, the Piscifun Chaos XS Baitcasting Fishing Reel is a high-quality and high-performing reel designed to handle the challenges of catfish angling. With its excellent construction, powerful drag, and superior casting control, it offers great value and could be a fantastic addition to any catfish angler’s arsenal.
Tactics for Catching Catfish
Anglers have several strategies they can employ to catch catfish, one of the most popular being bottom fishing. Bottom fishing techniques are often the most popular and effective methods for targeting these bottom-dwelling fish. This technique involves using heavy weights or sinkers to hold your bait in place on the bottom while you wait for a bite. For successful bottom fishing, make sure to use a sinker that is twice the size of your hook for keeping bait close to the seabed. Float fishing techniques are also great for targeting catfish and involve suspending your bait off the bottom with a float. You can set up multiple floats along different depths so you can cover more water and increase your chances of success.
Jigging techniques are another great way to target catfish, especially during warmer months when they’re more active. The key here is to find out what depth they’re feeding at and then drop jigs down into their strike zone until you get a bite. Be sure to keep an eye on your line because catfish will often take off with it once they grab onto the jig. With all these tactics, remember that patience is key—if you don’t have any bites after 30 minutes or so, try moving around until you find some hungry fish.
With the right combination of technique, location, and bait selection, you can be sure to find success when fishing for catfish. Next, we’ll take a look at the typical spots to locate these aquatic creatures in order to devise your next angling expedition.
Where to Find Catfish
Catfish inhabit a variety of habitats, with each providing unique opportunities for anglers. Lakes and rivers are two of the most popular spots to catch catfish, as they provide plenty of cover for these predators to hide in. Lakes and rivers also tend to have higher concentrations of bait fish, which makes them ideal feeding grounds for catfish. When fishing lakes or rivers, look for areas with structures such as rocks or logs that offer shelter from the current. Also, keep an eye out for deep pools where catfish may congregate during warmer months.
Ponds and streams are also great places to find catfish. Ponds typically contain more vegetation than larger bodies of water like lakes or rivers, so it’s important to focus your efforts on areas with lots of aquatic plants and weeds that offer hiding spots for these ambush predators. Streams often have faster currents than ponds or lakes, so you should target deeper holes where there is less flow but still enough oxygenation present in the water column to support life forms like insects and small crustaceans that attract hungry cats looking for a meal.
Key Takeaway: Catfish can be located in aquatic bodies such as lakes, rivers, and ponds with abundant cover for them to lurk. Streams offer a different challenge as anglers should focus their efforts on deep holes with slower currents that still have enough oxygenation present to attract bait fish. All these places are great spots for catfishing if you know what reels work best.
Conclusion on the Best Catfish Reels for the Money
Selecting the ideal catfish reels for your fishing expedition can be an intimidating challenge. There are many factors to consider, from drag strength and size of the reel to tactics for catching these predators. With an informed approach, you can make the most of your purchase and ensure a successful fishing experience. Consider all options available before making a purchase decision so that you get the most value out of your investment in quality catfish reels.
If you’re looking for the best catfish reels and other fishing tackle, lures, techniques, or tips to help you land your next big catch, then look no further. Our comprehensive guide will provide all of the information needed to make sure that every trip out on the water is a successful one!
What type of reel is best for catfish fishing?
When it comes to catfish fishing, many anglers prefer baitcasting reels. Baitcasters offer excellent line control, casting accuracy, and the ability to handle heavy lines and big fish. They provide the necessary power and durability to handle the hard-fighting nature of catfish.
What gear ratio should I look for in a catfish fishing reel?
For catfish fishing, a reel with a gear ratio in the range of 5.3:1 to 6.2:1 is recommended. This gear ratio strikes a good balance between power and speed, allowing you to handle heavy baits and make efficient retrieves when needed.
Are bait clickers important for catfish reels?
Bait clickers, also known as line-out alarms, are highly beneficial for catfish anglers. They provide an audible alert when a catfish takes the bait and starts running with it. This feature allows you to keep your rod in a rod holder and monitor for bites, ensuring that you don’t miss any potential hookups.
Should I choose a reel with a large line capacity for catfish fishing?
Yes, a reel with a large line capacity is advantageous when targeting catfish. Catfish are known for their powerful runs, and having ample line capacity ensures you have enough line to handle their runs and dives. It also allows you to use heavier line, which is often necessary when targeting larger catfish species.
Is a reel with a strong drag system important for catfish fishing?
Yes, a strong and reliable drag system is crucial for catfish fishing. Catfish are powerful fighters, and a smooth and powerful drag helps you control the fish during the battle. Look for reels that offer a strong maximum drag rating and a smooth drag operation to handle the intense runs and surges of catfish.
Should I consider a reel with a level-wind feature for catfish fishing?
While a level-wind feature can be helpful for certain types of fishing, it is not essential for catfish fishing. Catfish are often targeted using bottom fishing techniques, where line distribution is not as critical. A level-wind system can add complexity and potential points of failure, so many catfish anglers prefer reels without this feature.
Can I use a spinning reel for catfish fishing?
Yes, spinning reels can be used for catfish fishing, particularly when targeting smaller catfish species or using lighter tackle. However, baitcasting reels are generally more popular among catfish anglers due to their casting accuracy, power, and ability to handle heavy lines and big fish.
What reel size should I choose for catfish fishing?
The reel size depends on the specific catfish species you’re targeting and the size of the baits you’ll be using. For medium to large catfish, reels in the 3000 to 6000 size range (spinning reels) or low-profile reels (baitcasters) are often suitable. Consider the line capacity, drag power, and overall strength of the reel when making your selection.