A decent rod and reel are the backbone of any decent fishing setup, especially when fishing for powerful species, like catfish!
They are the main tool of our craft, so we’ll want the best we can get our hands on.
I want to show you 3 quality suggestions of the best catfish rods and reels as a combo and then some other separate offerings that are equally as great.
I’ll include a buying guide and even address some of your FAQ’s.
By the end of this article, you’ll be in the best place to choose the best catfishing setup that is right for you.
Table of Contents
- TOP 9 Best Catfish Rods and Reels in 2023
- Abu Garcia Catfish Commando Rod and Reel Combo
- Shakespeare Wild Cat Spincast Combo
- Penn Squall Level Wind Reel and Rod Combo
- LurEra Catfish Casting Rod
- Okuma Battle Cat Catfish Spinning Rod
- BnM Silver Cat Magnum Cast Rod
- Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Round Baitcast Reel
- Catfish Pro Tournament Series Fishing Reel
- Penn Battle II Spinning Fishing Reel
- Buying Guide to Catfish Rods and Reels
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TOP 9 Best Catfish Rods and Reels in 2023
Buying Guide to Catfish Rods and Reels
If you are anything like me, buying the best rod and reel for catfish is almost as much fun as actually fishing for them. But you need to have a clear idea of what you are wanting to achieve. To help with your choice I’ve made this handy guide.
Read on to see what makes a good catfish rod and reel combination.
Catfish Rod, Catfish Reel or Combo?
Well, the choice is yours. It boils down to experience.
But I’m going to make it simple.
If you haven’t fished before for catfish I would recommend going for a combo. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Firstly, it is much cheaper and cost-effective. When you are new to a sport it makes sense to avoid investing vast sums in something that you can’t be sure will work for you. You’ll see that my suggestions all offer really great value.
And the second reason?
The second reason is that catfishing combos are generally manufactured to work together. You can avoid imbalances, such as having a reel that is too heavy for the rod, or a rod that is too fast for the reel. You are essentially investing in a pre-balanced catfishing set up.
If you have more experience, and know how and where you are going to be fishing you can afford to be a little more specific. You’ll know that you might need a stronger, stiffer rod or a quicker reel, or a mixture of both. By being able to select your rod and reel individually you can ensure that you’ve got the best catfish rod and reel setup, personally suited to you.
How to Choose the Best Gear for Catfishing
Essentially you will need to consider three things when choosing your catfishing rod and reel:
How You Want to Catch Catfish
There are two methods that you can employ, and which method you choose will dictate what kind of setup you need.
What are the two methods?
It’s quite a simple choice, either you can use bait or you can use artificial lures to entice your prey. I’ll talk you through the equipment required very shortly.
Where Do You Catch Catfish?
Your choice of venue will also dictate the type of tackle you need. If you are going to be fishing in an area with strong currents then you will need a rod capable of casting a heavy weight that is capable of holding the bottom.
If you are fishing in a venue which is smaller or more accessible, casting distance may not be a factor. So, you won’t need a rod that is quite as powerful.
If you are struggling for distance, you might want to consider wading, you’ll find a great guide on waders just here.
Fishing for Big or Small Catfish
The size of fish that you are targeting also plays an important part when you are choosing the best catfishing setup. If you are just getting into the sport you will want a good all-round setup that will allow you to find your groove. If you have been doing it a while and are only pursuing trophy fish then you may want something more heavy duty.
All makes sense?
I am now going to talk through some features about rods and reels separately.
The Best Catfishing Rods
The ‘action’ of a rod is a basic measure of how it bends when it is under load. Either from a cast or from a fish. There are various ways to describe the action of a rod. Generally, they will be described as ‘fast’ meaning it bends a lot under load or ‘stiff’ which means it doesn’t flex quite as much.
With it so far?
There are other factors to consider with rod action. It isn’t just about ‘how’ a rod bends. It has a lot to do with ‘where’ it bends. For catfishing you are going to need a rod that has what is called a ‘through’ action. This means that the entire length of the rod flexes to take the strain of the cast or the fish, especially useful when fighting bigger species.
For lure fishing you will want a rod with a quicker action. The reason for this is that lures tend to be a little lighter, so you require some flex to cast effectively. Also on the retrieve, softer rods allow you to impart some life into your lure, increasing your chance of invoking a take.
Rod power and action are used interchangeably and can get a little confusing. To help you out I’ve found a video that explains it all perfectly. Watch this to learn about rod action in more detail.
Catfishing Rod Casting Distance
Big catfish tend to live in big rivers and lakes. You will want to cover as much water as possible so you might be required to cast a long way. Look for features that make this possible.
Ceramic lined rings are always a really great feature to help casting distance. They reduce line friction allowing your bait or lure to travel much further.
Rod length plays a factor as well. As a general rule of thumb, the longer the rod the further you will be able to cast.
Pay attention to the rating of the rod. Normally this will be given in ounces and will tell you how much weight the rod is designed to cast.
If you are fishing right there is a good chance that you will be holding the rod all day. Therefore, you are going to want something that is comfortable to hold. I really love an EVA foam handle on my rods. They tend to last longer than cork and are softer to hold.
The Best Catfishing Reels
If a fishing setup was a car, the rod would be the body and the reel would be the engine. You want the best ‘engine’ for the job.
You’ll generally find three types or reel used for catfishing:
The Spinning Reel
This can also be called a ‘fixed spool reel’. Spinning reels are a good all-rounder and are ideal for beginners due to the ease of maintenance. They also get less tangles.
The downside to fixed spool reels is that you can only cast moderately heavy weights and casting distance can suffer slightly.
If you want to know more and see them in action, see a 3 minute video below on what they look like and how they work.
What features should I look for?
A good retrieval rate is key. When spinning, you want to be able to control the speed of your retrieve. The faster and easier you can bring the lure in, the more casts you can make. And the more casts, the more chance of hooking a fish.
The number of ball bearings is important. More ball bearings ensure a smoother retrieve.
A controllable drag is another thing you will need especially when hunting big fish. You can vary the pressure applied on the line without fear of it snapping.
Size of the reel is important too. As a minimum for catfishing I would recommend a 4000 sized reel. Big specimen hunters might even go all the way up to 6000.
As a final point look for a solid and sturdy handle. This will allow you to fight the fish easily and quickly.
The Baitcasting Reel
Baitcasting reels or ‘round reels’ are a little more advanced. They are generally used with heavy weights and are used for catching bigger species. They are the preferred choice for catfish fishermen.
Baitcasting reels can throw a huge weight a very long way. They generally tend to have really high retrieve ratios and you are able to fit a huge amount of line onto the spool. They are really versatile and allow you to fish any way that you like.
What are the downsides?
Baitcasting reels are prone to tangles and line overruns. Due to the way they are constructed it can be tricky to unpick any tangles, meaning you might have to tackle up from scratch.
What features should I look for?
Most good baitcasters for catfishing will have a braking system for use when casting, this prevents your line from tangling as easily during the cast.
Other really great features are things such as a star drag, that allows you to apply pressure to the line when a fish is hooked.
One really great feature, which you may see in my suggestions, is a level wind. This ensures that the line goes onto the spool in a uniform manner. This means you can fit more line on a spool and also it increases casting distance.
When choosing a reel for catfish the line you choose also plays a big factor. Why not check out my guide to the best fishing lines for catfish, right here.
Here’s a really quick and simple guide on what a baitcasting reel does and how it works.
What is the best rod for catfishing?
Unless you are going to commit to one style, I would suggest that you pick a great all round catfishing rod.
What do I mean by this?
Well, why not have the best of both worlds and choose a rod that is strong enough to throw out a big bait, but also has an action that allows you to fling the occasional lure too?
Any rod with a medium heavy action will fulfil both of these criteria. Shorter rods are better suited for bait fishing, longer rods are more suitable for lures. Go somewhere in between and you’ve got a great setup.
I really love the Okuma Battle Cat rod. It has an excellent blend of power and action making it really versatile and useful, regardless of your style of fishing.
How long should a catfish rod be?
The ideal length is somewhere between 7 feet and 9 feet. You’ll find anglers that are using equipment outside of this range of course, but generally speaking that length will give you the optimum between power and flexibility.
Do longer fishing rods cast further?
Yes and no. As a general rule the longer the rod the more inertia you can generate in your cast. However, it also comes down to the action of the rod. If the rod has a more bendy action then you can expect a little more distance.
Want to see this principle in action? Check this video out.
What is the best reel for catfishing?
You want a reel that holds a fair amount of line, is durable and can handle casting big weights and pulling in big fish. For a beginner, a fixed spool reel would be ideally suited to get you going.
Want something more advanced?
Well if this is the case, a round baitcaster will be better, and probably more suited to cat fishing. It has a steep learning curve but is much more powerful over all. With a little practice you can still cast lures with it too!
A great suggestion would be the Penn Battle series. You’ll be able to cast both lures and bait with ease. It has the power and retrieve ratio to make it a true catfish fighting reel!
What is the best catfish rod and reel combo?
If you are going for a combo then you are going to get a nicely balanced setup ‘out of the box’. And it makes life super easy if you are just getting into the sport.
I really love the Abu Garcia Catfish Commando setup. It is versatile enough to allow me to fish in a variety of situations and venues. For the money it offers really great value too.
You want to fish with confidence when catfishing. The best catfish rods and reels will allow you to do this. It’s that simple.
What’s the biggest catfish you have caught?
Let me know in the comments below.