Best Catfish Reels – The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

When fishing, you need a good reel and rod combined to make your day more successful. They work together, and there are different types of reels for different kinds of fishing. This article will focus on catfish reels as they’re the most popular type. Catfish are often found in ponds, rivers, and other bodies of water that have slow-moving currents.

Types of Reels for Catfish

Catfish are a popular freshwater sport fish, holding the title of America’s third most popular freshwater fish. They are common across the country, but their presence is easiest felt in the southeastern part of the US. Various methods can catch catfish, but the most common is baitcasting and spinning tackle. There are two types of reels that catfish anglers use to reel in their catch: spin-casting and baitcasting.

Spincasting Reels

Spincasting reels have proven to be one of the most popular methods of catching catfish because it doesn’t require bait. The spinner works like an anchor on your lure, so when the fish bites down on the hook, they will pull up with the lure attached.

Spincasting is the fastest form of fishing bait retrieval on the market. It’s also prevalent among beginners who want to learn how to cast without buying expensive equipment or investing time learning complicated techniques. Spin casting involves using an inexpensive rod and reel combination.

Baitcasting Reels

Baitcasting Reels are a type of spinning reel that uses a drag system instead of a spring-loaded mechanism for retrieving lines. Baitcasters can be used in both saltwater and freshwater environments. They’re typically smaller than spinning reels but offer more control over their retrieve speed.

Baitcasting reels are ideal for catfish as you need precise control over your retrieve rate. The slower the retrieve, the longer it takes for baitfish to swim into the range where they’ll get hooked by the lure. This is especially important when fishing with live baits such as minnows or worms.

What to Look For in a Catfish Reels

Every angler knows that the right fishing reel can make all the difference in catching fish. Catfish are known to be one of the largest freshwater fish, and they require a reel that is strong enough to withstand their powerful attacks. The best catfish reels are ones that have a good drag system, scales to measure line size, robust construction, and are easy to set up. Read on for more information about what makes a good catfish reel.

Reel Size

There are several factors to consider when selecting the size of your catfish reel. These include the amount of lines you plan to use, the distance you’ll be fishing, and whether you’ll be doing a lot of casting. Catfish are known for being aggressive fighters, so you need a reel with plenty of capacity to handle this type of action. You want your reel to be able to hold at least 50 yards worth of line before breaking down. This will allow you to fight off an attack from a large predator without having to stop fishing or lose any time setting it back up again.

Drag System

The Drag System is the mechanism used in most modern reels to control how much tension there is on the spool when reeling in fish. There are two main types of drag systems; spring-loaded and centrifugal. Spring-loaded drags use springs to pull against one another as they rotate around their axis, creating friction between them. Centrifugal drags have no moving parts but instead rely on spinning inertia to create resistance. Both methods work well for catfishing. This is because they allow you to set the drag force at any level from light to heavy. They also offer great control when fishing in fast-moving water.


The weight of a reel can be an essential factor in your decision-making process, especially if you plan to do some serious casting or long-distance jigging. A heavier reel will provide more power and better balance during high-speed casts. It’s not uncommon to see anglers using reels with weights as much as 50 pounds! If you’re planning to fish offshore, investing in a larger capacity reel with greater strength than one designed for inshore use only may make sense. However, most anglers prefer lighter reels for catfishing applications because they are easier to handle while wading through shallow waters.

Gear ratio

The gear ratio measures how much line (and its speed) goes around whenever you turn the handle. The higher this ratio is (like 6:1), the faster the path moves with each handle turn. This is particularly relevant when pulling in catfish because the faster you reel in, the greater the chance for an unpleasant accident. It is more difficult for you to steadiness yourself with heavier fish.

It would help increase the vibration influence on the spool by choosing higher gear ratios. Naturally, deeper crankbaits go well with lower ratios, whereas jerking jigs or jerk baits would like to have higher ratios.

Line Speed

The speed at which the line is pulled out of the water can impact how the bait sinks into the bottom. Most lines come equipped with either mono or braided construction; both types offer different levels of drag resistance. What is best for catfishing? A monofilament line will be more effective when fishing near shorelines and rocky bottoms with less current flow. Braided lines work better in deeper areas where currents tend to move faster. When choosing between these two options, consider your intended application.

Power Handles

Power handles are elongated knobs on the reel, giving you more control over reel force and more leverage on the upper end of devices. They’re better for targeting larger fish such as catfish. The downside: Power handles can make it challenging to change reels if they get snagged while trying to land a large catch. If you plan to use power handles exclusively, look into purchasing an extra set of spools so that you don’t have to switch out reels during long fishing days.


Catfish reels are generally much cheaper than other fish species such as bass and trout. This makes them a great option if you’re starting. However, they also lack features that make different reel designs easier to use. For example, the spool on most catfish reels doesn’t have an anti-reverse mechanism like those found on many other types of reels. If this isn’t something you need or want, it may not be worth spending extra money on a high-quality model. If possible, try to find items made by companies specializing in this type of fishing.

The Best Reels for Catfishing | Top 10 Fishing Reels Reviews

If you are looking for a top-notch catfish reel, then you have come to the right place. We have compiled a list of the best reels available today. Some make these reels of the leading brands in the industry, and they all offer great features and performance at affordable prices.

1. KastAbu Garcia Ambassadeur Catfish Pro

We use the best-quality cast fishing rods in the business, and it is designed specifically for use with catfish; we believe this to be one of the best catfish baitcasting reels you can buy. It has a Carbon Matrix drag system, stainless steel bearings, and a centrifugal braking system.

It’s essential to consistently use the drag system to catch catfish, a fish whose aggressive nature renders the system critically. The drag system is stable, thus enabling you to target and toss catfish appropriately. The stainless steel ball bearings also ensure a smooth retrieval.

The braking system allows a line to break off the spool simultaneously as the reel turns. It’s very simple to cast long distances. We also appreciate the synchronized level wind mechanism and durable aluminum building.

The elongated format of the bent handle provides a better grip when you’re employing a larger fishing hook to fish catfish. When you’re ready to purchase a new fishing reel – this Abu Garcia is an excellent choice if you’re willing to spend extra. 

2. Penn SQL30LW Squall LevelWind 

This reel is engineered to be strong and dependable in deep-sea waters. It features a machined aluminum spool that’s braid-ready. Easy to use, the line capacity rings indicate 1/3, 2/3, and full capacity that lets you quickly check how many lines you have left. 

There’s a durable stainless steel pinion gear with HT-100 drag washers for smoothness. It features 2+1 shielded stainless steel for bearing and an anti-reverse system. 

A greased HT-100 Versa air system with an 8-inch system over 100 pounds allows multiple drag options for significant drag. The main device is a marine-grade bronze alloy. All the metal is lightweight. Graphite frames and side plates also make the reel more resistant to corrosion.

Choose the length on the Versa-Handle system for your fishing rod. This is an incredibly beneficial reel for catching saltwater catfish, but it is also suitable for freshwater fish and other fish species!

3. KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel

We chose the KastKing Rover series’ best catfish baitcasting reel for the money, as it has excellent features, resembles lightweight models, and has better power and longevity. It is a CNC-machined spool, precision-cut brass gears, and hard anodized aluminum side plates. It also includes a smooth ball-bearing level wind, stainless steel worm gear, and idle metal gear.

As you turn, the carbon fiber drag retains a smooth ride level and maintains a level, thanks to the “Cycbal Washer” design adding as much as 30 pounds of drag. So, if you intend to target catfish weighing approximately 30 pounds, this is very useful. 

Likewise, for smooth performance, MaxiDur ball-bearings secure the reel. There are 4(size 70-90) or six (six 40-60) in terms of how many you get. Simply by using this device, you’ll be able to use your KastKing to troll, fish in coastal waters, and more. Held together with EVA foam, the grip provides considerably more comfort. It has a thumb stack release button and a line-out sound alert.

4. Okuma Classic CLX Levelwind

This Okuma Classic CLX Levelwind is an excellent option for fishing in saltwater because it resists corrosion and has a high graphite content.

The frame and side plates are both corrosion-resistant and lightweight. For strength, there’s a high-strength stainless steel reel foot. The reel also has a multi-disc drag system and self-lubricating system, offering reliable and smooth performance.

The spool is wrapped around the line evenly by a line wind system made of stainless steel. The system for a level wind has an aluminum power handle with T-style knobs instead of ball bearings.

5. Lew’s Speed Cast Reel

This heavy-duty catfish reel is made from aluminum alloy, suitable for handling large catfish. It is made from superior materials to ensure that it will last a long time. The reel’s chassis and side plates are made of brass, so it is a sturdy tool.

The drag system integrated into the carbon fiber offers solid and robust performance, with the highest possible speed for 15 pounds of drag. The reel weighs about 12 ounces and has a 5.3:1 gear ratio. Choose the left or right-hand model for you.

It includes a 5-bearing system with stainless steel bearings and a Zero-Reverse one-way clutch bearing for its anti-reverse system. Therefore, the clutch bearing stops the spool from spinning whenever the spool starts spinning in that direction.

And lastly, we appreciate the oversized EVA handle on the power handle for an excellent grip.

6. CatfHeavyweight Champions Catfish Baitcaster Reel

The Heavyweight Champions upgrade one feature of this badminton reel, making it suitable for great casts. It has centrifugal braking and spindle brakes, which prevent lanyards from entangling. It comes with an anti-reverse system, as well. There’s a carbon disc drag of 20 pounds, and the gears are five.3:1.

For strength, there’s a steel plate and a bolstered aluminum frame. The materials are top-quality, so – as their name implies- it’s designed for attracting monster trophy catfish. Another consideration is how numerous trace lines a reel can hold.

The Heavy Champions Catfish can provide fishing rods for freshwater and saltwater fishing. Its strength makes it suitable for both kinds of fishing.

Catfish surf fishing? It’s so easy to capture catfish when surf fishing, you can find guidelines on avoiding harming them. You’ll need the right reel.

7. Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Blue Yonder

This Abu Garcia round reel may be our last pick in this guide, but it’s not the least. As a round bait caster, it’s more effective for larger fish than a low-profile model. It has an open CT frame, so it’s easy to access the fishing line.

The two stainless steel ball bearings and the single roller bearing are created with ball bearings. A MagTrax brake controller is adjustable and durable for exceptional casting creativity and has Duragear brass machine components.

When reeling in a large catch of any food, you want to drag that’s longer than usual so that you can exert additional leverage. The Carbon Matrix drag system also comes with a torque knob, which allows you to control your angling and the radius you reel in the fish. The anti-reverse bearing is also resistant to corrosion.

8. Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C3 Baitcast Round Fishing Reel

The C3-5500 is the recommended catfish reel for blues and flatheads; therefore, go with this catfish reel if your aim is for small-scale catfish and smaller blues. Virtually every serious catfish angler knows and uses one of these reels, although regular maintenance is required for continued use.

They are your alternative to the following two models in the series. The 5500 can hold 240 yards of fourteen-pound monofilament that is best used if you intend to employ lighter methods, bait rigs, or bobber fishing for catfish.

Using the drag set correctly, you can easily land a 25–30 pound catfish while you’re using a 12-pound line if you happen to be near no snags.

You cannot get dual handles on the 5500 unless you purchase them with the power handles featured on those handles.

A catfish this size cannot be affected by having a smaller Carbon Matrix drag system. This, as well as other features, come on the higher-end models.

9. Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 7000 C Baitcast Round Fishing Reel

If you’ve got dreams of catching a catfish of a lifetime, then the best catfish reel is the Ambassadeur 7000.

Thousands of catfish weighing 0.7 kilograms have been caught because they feature excellent cutting qualities, within the 7000 series of oversized reels.

They have a more extensive line rating and are standard that includes a power manage, making them simpler to operate than conventional models.

A ratio of 4.1:1 and a retrieve rate of 22 inches per crank point to these reels being wholly devoted to pulling big numbers. Brass internal gears that are sharp and a multi-disc drag system are paired with an electric-driven centrifugal braking system to result in a reel that works smoothly and is built to last.

You can also choose a device with a buzzer as a standard feature if you have several lines spread out along a riverbank. The clicker can hold up to 325 yards of 17-pound monofilament or 230 yards of 25-pound monofilament. If you’re spooling braid, the clicker can hold 360 yards of a 50-pound braided fishing line.

10. Abu Garcia C3 Species Special Baitcast Round Fishing Reel

Abu Garcia C3 catfish reels are specialist products because of their well-known and respected C3 series of round baitcasters. The best catfish lure rod for blue-water and flatheads.

Lighter line techniques are usually recommended when caring for channel cats. It won’t be hard for you if you utilize a smaller normal C3-5500.

The 6500 and the 7000 are the two available models, with each getting 3 carbon matrix ball bearings and one roller bearing. The 6-pin brake and synchronized level wind system are both features that are common to all C3 models.

The 6500 can hold up to 320 yards of 12 lb./ft. Monofilament and 225 yards of up to 17 lb./ft. Monofilament. It has a 5.3:1 gear ratio and a max kilogram withdrawal rate of 26″ when the handle is turned on.

The 7000 can hold 325 yards of 17-pound monofilament and 230 yards of 25-pound monofilament. It has a lower height ratio of 4:1 and a retrieval speed of 22 inches per turn of the knob.

The C3-7000 is targeted toward larger trophy fish than the C3-6500 is much more of a boho reel suitable for most anglers.

Man holding his cafish catch

Frequently Asked Questions about Catfish Reels

You may have noticed that you need more help with catfish reels. Here are some of the questions you might be asking yourself.

What is the best reel type-specific for catfish?

There are three primary types of movie reels, each with its own unique set of pros and cons. Spincast reels are easy to use, relatively inexpensive, and suitable for beginners. However, they don’t make a good selection for heavier catfish, 

If you purchase a rod designed explicitly for catfishing, we’d recommend a traditional baitcasting reel. Many catfish anglers prefer them, as they work well for many catfish species and fishing techniques. And they are also readily available and can be found at several different price points.

They may have to take some time getting used to, but it will surely pay off.

What kind of fishing rod should I use with my catfishing reel?

Many different techniques and setups can be used when it comes to catfishing. In choosing the right fishing rod, you need to understand what you need: what species and sizes of catfish you want to catch and what techniques and setup you want to use. There are different types of catfishing rods and how they are used: casting rods, spinning rods, and trolling rods. As catfishing requires long casting, opt for rods on the long side. 

What is the best gear ratio for catfish?

Catfish require higher gear ratios. These things give you more speed and acceleration. An important range is between 5:1 and 6.5:1. With a ratio in the higher end of the range, you get more line per turn, but you lose some power as a result. Lower ratios give you more power, but less speed.

Do you need a leader for catfish?

Catfish fishing is best accomplished with the use of a leader. Mono or fluorocarbon is the best material to use. With mono, you get more stretch.

It’s easier to unstick an area when there’s a lot of vegetation or obstacles in the area. Fluorocarbon is a popular choice because it’s very resistant to damage incurred from cutting.

The clarity of fluorocarbon, especially when targeting catfish with superb vision (like channel catfish), has an advantage over mono. Fluorocarbon is significantly more expensive than mono. And if you are price conscious, it’s best to start with traditional mono and see what you think.

What bait would be perfect for catfish?

Many different types of bait can be used when fishing for catfish. The recommendations for catfish bait depend significantly on the type of catfish. Flathead catfish and channel catfish both feed on live bait, while blue catfish eat fresh or frozen oily fish. Stink baits are favored among blue catfish. They’ll eat almost anything, including garbage.

Most catfish anglers agree that live minnows are the best bait for most catfish. If you do not have access to minnows, then try using bloodworms or cut-up shrimp.

Also, catfish are bottom feeders. So, if you will use live bait, place it near the bottom where the catfish can find it. This way, your bait won’t float away before the catfish gets to it. If you use artificial lures, make sure they are made of soft plastic. Soft plastics tend to sink faster than hard plastics. Hard plastics tend to hang up on weeds and other objects.

In conclusion, when looking for the best catfish reel, it is essential to consider your budget, the features you need, and the size of the reel. With so many great options on the market, there is sure to be a reel that fits your needs. Be sure to check out our top recommendations for the best catfish reels, and get ready to catch some big ones!

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