Best Catfish Rod And Reel Setups – Complete Guide

| Last Updated May 27, 2021

Catfish is one of the most commonly sought-after species.

However, they are quite heavy and can put up a fight, which calls for specialized fishing rod and reel and tact in your fishing technique. The best catfish rod and reel setup consist of a catfish rod and reel fitted with the appropriate lines for catfishing.

This article looks at common catfishing concepts and terminology, different catfish setups, qualities of good catfish rods, reel, and lines. It also answers some catfishing set FAQs.

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Catfish Rod and Reel Setup Terminology and Common Concepts

Before we delve into the particulars of a catfishing reel and rod setup, you must understand the various terms used in catfishing and fishing in general. Below are definitions of some terms that you are likely to come across.

Rod Power

The amount of force that has to be applied to the rod to make it bend. It is determined by the rod's weight such that the heavier the rod, the higher the rod power.

Rod Action

Refers to the extent to which a rod bends and how long it takes to revert to its original shape.

Circle Hooks

They are a type of fishing hooks whose sharp end is curved back towards the shank to form a semi-circle or oval shape. They are preferred because they set in the fish’s mouth naturally by themselves.

Line Guides

Circular parts found on a fishing rod’s blank where the fishing line is threaded.

Braided Line

A type of fishing line that offers high resistance and no stretch.


A type of fishing line that offers flexibility and stretch.

Reel Seat

The butt section of a fishing rod where a reel is mounted.

Gear Ratio

It indicates the number of reel spool rotates with every complete turn of the handle.

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Do I Need a Special Setup for Catfish?

A rod and reel setup is best for catfishing. This is because catfish are tough and strong, and they fight aggressively when being retrieved. While catfish can be found in clear water, they can also be found in environs such as rocky riverbanks, muddy waters, deep-sea waters, or turbulent rivers.

These conditions require a fishing setup that has stamina and sturdiness. Catfishing requires a rod and reel that can withstand heavy fish, aggressive tackle, abuse, and harsh weather conditions.

What Are the Components of a Good Catfish Setup?

A good catfish setup's main components are a good rod, reel, and the appropriate lines. With so many fishing reels, rods, and lines on the market, it can be challenging to determine which ones are the best for catfishing. Below are the key characteristic of a good catfish rod, reel, and line

What Makes a Good Rod for Catfish?

A good rod for catfishing should have the following characteristics:

  • Medium to medium-heavy action with a bit of flex on the tip

  • High Power

  • 6-7 feet long

  • Large and smooth eyelets

  • Rugged, heavy butt with a reel seat

  • Made of fiberglass or graphite as it is sturdy and durable

What Makes a Good Reel for Catfish?

Catfishing will put your reel to the test. You can either go for a casting or spinning reel. The reel should have the following features or specifications:

  • Heavy-duty build with materials such as anodized aluminum

  • Capacity for heavy and long lines

  • Powerful and precise drag

  • 5:1 to 6:5:1 gear ratio

  • Large grips

  • Corrosion-resistant

What Type of Line is Best for Catfish?

There is a debate among seasoned anglers on which is better between braided and monolines for catfishing. Each type presents its pros and cons. It is best to try both out to determine which type works better for you.

Mono lines are affordable and easy to access, but they tend to break easily if put under extreme weight. On the other hand, braided lines have no memory and glide easily through the water. However, braid lines have a small diameter, lack stretch, and are pricier.

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Small catfish go for a 12-25lb line, 30lb for larger ones, and 50-80lb for giant flathead or blue catfish.

Common Catfish Rod and Reel Combinations

The following are some possible rod and reel combinations for catfishing:

1.      Spin casting reel and baitcasting rod

2.      Spinning rod and spinning reel combo

3.      Baitcasting reel and casting rod combo

Spin Casting Reel and Baitcasting Rod

This is the most basic reel-rod combination for catfishing. It is easy to set up and ideal for beginners.

Baitcasting rods used with spin-casting reels have smaller grips and rod guides that work for catching small fish.

While you may find a suitable casting rod to pair with your spin caster, spin casting reels offer limited line capacity, poor drag, and low gear ratio, which might not work for most catfish.

Ugly Stik Catfish Combo

Spinning Rod and Spinning Reel Combo

This setup is a better option than the spin caster-casting rod combo. It is suitable for both beginners and intermediate catfish anglers. The key is to go for a heavier spinning reel designed for saltwater use. It can handle heavier lines and heavier catches than its lighter counterparts.

The challenge with this setup is that there is a limited selection of heavy-duty spinning rods and spinning reels on the market.

Baitcasting Reel and Casting Rod Combo

This is the best combination for catfishing. It is the go-to set up for most seasoned anglers as it offers precise bait or lure presentation. It works well for all types and sizes of catfish and fishing techniques. There is a wide range of heavy-duty baitcasting reels and rods available on the market at different prices to choose from.

A baitcasting reel offers good line capacity, power gear ratio, and sophisticated drag systems. They are also compatible with a wide range of catfish rods. On the downside, bait casters can be challenging to use for novice anglers and more expensive than spinning reels.

Types of Fishing Rods and Reels for Catfishing

Below is a look at the different types of catfishing reels and rods, their pros and cons, and their differences.

Types of Rods for Catfish

The two main types of catfishing rods are spinning rods and bait casting rods. Typically, a casting rod is used with a spin-cast or a baitcasting reel, while a spinning rod is used with a spinning reel.

The main difference between the two is that for a casting rod, the reel is positioned above the rod, and the guides face upwards, while in a spinning rod, the reel is under the rod, and the guides face downwards.

Baitcasting rods are preferred, particularly for big catfish. Since the guides face upwards, when a fish is fighting, the rod bends over, which prevents the eyelets from falling off due to the exerted pressure, as would be the case with spinning rods.

For long casting, go for a baitcasting rod with a long handle. Ideally, a baitcasting rod should have large guides to handle bigger lines. Comparably, spinning rods for catching catfish are about 7 feet long and offer a medium to heavy action.

Types of Reels for Catfish

Spinning reels and baitcasting reels are the top options for catfishing. However, bait casting reels are better preferred for their high gear ratio, better quality build, and power rating.

The main difference between these two types of reels is their position on the fishing rod. A baitcasting reel sits on top of the rod, while a spinning reel is positioned at the bottom. The atop position of baitcasting reels leaves ample space on the handle for a firm grip when retrieving fish.


Whether you catfish for sport, hobby, or commercial purposes, having the right rod, reel, and the line is crucial. The best set up is a baitcasting reel and rod, but a heavy spinning reel and spinning rod set up would work especially for small and medium catfish.

Baitcasters are a bit more complex to set up, but you will get its hang with a little practice. For beginners, a spinning reel and rod combo is the best catfish setup. As for the type of line to use for catfishing, mono is the most praised, but braided lines work well.

People Also Ask

This section answers the most common Catfishing rod and reel questions you may have.

What Are the Best Brands for a Catfish Rod and Reel Setup? 

Some of the best-selling catfish rod and reel combos on Amazon include:

What is the Best Gear Ratio for Catfishing?

Catfishing requires a reel with powerful gear. High gear ratios offer more cranking speed for quick retrieval. On the other hand, a lower gear ratio offers a high cranking power. You want a good balance between cranking power and speed. Therefore, a gear ratio ranging from 5:1 to 6:5:1 is suitable.

How to Care for a Catfish Rod and Reel Setup

A properly cared for and maintained catfish rod and reel would serve you for longer. Some care tips include:

  • Removing any accessories such as line, hooks, and rigs from the rod and reel after you are done fishing

  • Rinsing the rod thoroughly with fresh water and cleaning the reel with lubricant

  • Drying the reel and rod completely with a piece of cloth before storing

  • Putting the rod and reel in the protective casing when transporting and during storage

  • Regularly inspecting the reel and rod for any signs of tear and wear

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How Long Does a Catfish Rod and Reel Setup Last?

A high-quality rod and reel can last up to 4 years with proper maintenance. The most common issue with catfish rods is a broken tip.

Are a Pole and a Rod the Same Thing When Catfishing?

No. A pole is made of natural materials such as wood, cane, reed, or bamboo and does not have a reel seat or guides. Conversely, a rod is made from materials such as graphite, composite, metal, or fiberglass, and it has a reel seat and guides. Rods are recommended for catfishing, while poles are not

How Big of a Catfish Can You Catch With a Rod and Reel?

It depends on your rod and reel capacity. Heavy-duty rods and powerful reels can catch giant catfish such as flatheads and blue catfish.

My name is Caleb and I am obsessed with hunting, fishing, and foraging. To be successful, you have to think like your prey. You have to get into the mind of your target - and understand Big Game Logic. If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at Read more about Big Game Logic.