Best Catfish Rod and Reel Setup Buyer’s Guide

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Catfish are giant fish that most anglers want to catch. However, many of them go out fishing underequipped and leave frustrated. There are reels and rods designed explicitly for catfish fishing, and you should always consider buying such dedicated gears. 

However, there are many catfish setups, and you may end up choosing the wrong ones if you are not careful. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the choices and pick an undeserving setup. That’s why it is crucial to conduct some research before settling on any setup. 

What to Lookout for When Purchasing a Catfish Rod and Reel Setup 

Sometimes the options can be too much, and you may be tempted to use your reel and rod to catch catfish. If the rod is not strong enough, please don’t do that. You will end up regretting it. You must always be willing to invest some extra cash if you plan to catch catfish and enjoy the fishing experience.

Catfish grow really big, some of them weighing up to 20 pounds. If your fishing reel or rod cannot hold up to 20 pounds, you shouldn’t use it for catfish. Purchase a setup dedicated to catfish fishing, and be sure to look out for the following features.

Rod Versatility and Size 

The rod size usually determines the precision of the cast. The longer the rod, the better the accuracy will probably be. However, some rods are too long that they become stressful to carry around. Therefore, if you plan to go out with your fishing gear, you might want to consider a more packable rod.

That said, you will want to purchase a longer fishing rod to catch catfish with ease. Ideally, you should purchase a fishing rod measuring at least six feet long. A longer fishing rod will give you more control when reeling in the fish. Ideally, the larger the catfish you plan to catch, the longer the rod should be.

Reel Type 

There are various types of reels for catfish. However, the most common are spinning and baitcasting reels. Most experienced anglers use baitcasting reels to catch catfish, but that does not mean spinning reels cannot get the job done.

It is easier to master how to cast a spinning reel than a baitcaster reel. However, once you get used to a baitcaster, you will realize it offers more precision and power. Some baitcasters are easy to cast, but I would recommend spinning reels for beginners. I will discuss more about the reel types later in the guide.


The factor applies to both the reel and rod. In most cases, the material on the rod determines its durability. Generally, materials used on dedicated catfish fishing rods are strong and durable. The most common materials you should consider durable include graphite, fiberglass, and composite. Graphite is usually considered the best of them all. 


There is no point in buying a high-quality fishing rod and reel, but you are not comfortable using it. The fishing rod should be comfortable, such that you can hold it almost all day and not get tired. If you are buying online, be sure to read reviews about the comfort of the fishing rod. If you are buying in a store, test before purchasing the rod. 

Skill Level 

You also need to consider how good you are at casting before purchasing a reel. If you are new to it, go for a basic catfish reel and rod setup. Some setups are designed for more experienced anglers, and if you purchase one as a beginner, you will probably have a very hard time learning how to cast. Always look if the setup is beginner-friendly before purchasing. 

Bonus Factors to Consider 

The above factors are the basic ones you should always consider before purchasing a catfish rod and reel setup. However, should it come to a situation where you are torn between two or more setups, here are some bonus features you should consider.

Extended Warranties 

Most fishing gears come with warranties, but some are longer than others are. For example, some brands provide a 3-year warranty for their fishing gears, while others offer a 1-year warranty.

A warranty means that you can return an item to the manufacturer should it develop a problem within the warranted period. That means if the fishing reel/rod has a 3-year warranty, you can return it and get a replacement, should it develop a manufacturer’s fault problem within three years. That said, you should always go for the item with the longest warranties. 

Magnetic Braking System on the Fishing Reel 

If you plan to purchase a baitcaster, it is crucial to consider the type of braking system it comes with. Baitcasting reels are prone to backlashes, and the braking systems help prevent the backlashes as much as possible.

Backlashes happen when the lure hits the target, but the spool continues to release the fishing line. This action leads to birdnesting. The bird-nest messes the line big time and causes a user a lot of stress to untangle the line. Sometimes you may have to replace the line.  

The braking system slows down the spool when it nears the end of the cast. There are several braking systems for baitcaster, but magnetic braking systems are simply the beginner’s best choice. It is effective and easy to use.  

Other types of braking systems include centrifugal and manual. Centrifugal is usually very effective, but it is not recommended for beginners. For the manual brakes, every angler needs to learn how to use this braking system. When you know how to use manual brakes, the risk of a backlash decreases drastically.


Branding has become really important in recent years. When a company creates a trustworthy brand, it is easy for consumers to buy their products even if expensive. For example, people always buy Apple products despite being more expensive. The reason for that is that people love being associated with the brand. 

Similarly, in the fishing industry, things are not so different. Some companies have developed trust with users since they always come up with excellent fishing tools.

You can trust some brands for fishing rods, including Ugly Stik, Daiwa, St. Croix, Fenwick, and KastKing. For fishing reels, excellent brands include Shimano, Abu Garcia, Lew’s, Penn, and Pflueger. You can always count on such companies for quality fishing gears.

If the Setup Comes with Extra Tips on How to Cast 

Learning how to cast is never an easy job, and you need all the help you can get. Some companies usually include tips on casting and setting up the fishing gear the right way while shipping. You can find most of this information on YouTube and other platforms. However, getting it from the company is slightly better since they know their gear better. 

Not many companies include these tips, but if you find one that includes and you are torn between it and another reel, you can use that factor to choose one. 

Catfish Reels: Everything You Need to Know 

Choosing the right reel will depend on your preferences. You can go for baitcasting reels or spinning reels. Either way, you will need to get the right size and power to catch catfish with ease. 

Baitcaster Reels 

Baitcasters are usually the better choice when it comes to big fish like catfish. You can use this type of reel in both freshwater and saltwater bodies. Baitcasters can deal with big fish’ heavy forces, and they are a bit more precise than spinning reels due to their design.

However, it is usually a hill to learn how to cast with baitcasters. Some people have been using them for years, and they still can’t claim that they are pros. If you choose a baitcaster, be sure to invest your time to practice how to cast. Also, purchase beginner-friendly baitcaster reels. 

Spinning Reels 

Spinning reels are also great, but more so for smaller fish. They are not very accurate while casting heavier lures. That’s why many expert anglers usually recommend using spinning reels for smaller fish like trout. Spinning reels do an excellent job and are more accurate with lighter lures needed to catch these small fish. 

With a baitcaster, there is a minimum weight required to get the spool running while casting. Minimum weight is not required for spinning reels, making it easy to cast even the lightest lures with them. However, you do not need light lures to catch catfish.

The upside of spinning reels is you can still use one to land catfish. It is also easier to learn how to use a spinning reel. With several hours or days of practice in the backyard, you can take your boat out to catch some catfish. 

Regardless of the choice you make, be sure to pair the fishing reel with an excellent rod. If the rod is not strong enough, it will break even if the reel is of the highest quality. When you choose a spinning reel, be sure to buy a spinning rod. If you use a spinning reel on a baitcasting rod, you will cause a lot of friction, and the fishing experience will not be as fun as it should be.  

What is the Right Reel Size for Catfish?

Catfish are giant fish, so it is only right to choose the right reel size. There are various reel sizes, some numbered with two-digit numbers, while others are numbered with four-digit numbers. For example, some fishing reels range from 10, while others range from 1,000. In most cases, a size 10 is almost the same size as 1,000.  

That said, if you are to choose a spinning reel to catch catfish, be sure to choose from 4,000. If you are to choose a baitcaster reel, the minimum size of the reel should be 5,000. The smaller fishing reel will not do an excellent job when fishing large fish like catfish. Large fish usually require a long line, and a smaller reel will have a small spool that cannot take up to 60 pounds of braided line.

The Best Gear Ratio for Catfishing

The gear ratio is simply the number of times the spool turns when you turn the handle. For catfish, you will probably need a fishing reel with a higher gear ratio. That’s because the higher the gear ratio, the higher the retrieval speed will be. You will need the best retrieval speed to catch large fish like catfish. 

Ideally, a gear ratio between 5:3:1 and 6:1 should be enough to land catfishes with ease. Such a gear ratio will give you a decent retrieval speed as well as enough torque. It is worth noting that a higher gear ratio will allow you to pick up more line each time you turn the handle. However, it does that at the expense of power. 

A lower gear ratio will allow you to put a lot of power through the fishing reel, but it will be a bit slower while retrieving. A higher gear ratio will allow you to retrieve the lure faster, but the power through the reel will be lower.

Catfishing Spool 

The spool is the literal store of the fishing line. For smaller fish like trout, you can use any type of line without worrying; the fish will break it. However, for catfish, you will need a braided line since it is stronger.

Stronger lines are usually thick and require more space for storage (spool). That means you will require a deeper or larger spool to store enough fishing line to catch catfish. Also, a larger spool makes your fishing line less prone to tangles and twists. That said, you should always go for a fishing reel with a larger spool.  

Catfishing Drag 

While catching smaller fish, the drag is not something you should always consider. However, for larger fish like catfish, the drag will be the first thing that breaks if it is not of good quality. Luckily, most dedicated catfish drags come with high-quality drags, meaning you won’t need to do any tests on the quality of drags if you choose a dedicated catfishing reel. 

Best Catfish Rod and Reel Setups for the Money 

Now that you know what to consider, allow me to dive into the best rod and reel setup worth your money. 

KastKing Sharky III Fishing Reel 

KastKing is one of the most established fishing gear companies. They have provided us with some fine rods and reels, and they don’t disappoint with this one. It comes with a 39.5 lbs. carbon fiber drag, meaning it is strong enough to battle even large catfish. The reel is available in different sizes, from 1,000 to 5,000. You can use a braided line, and its stainless steel ball bearings provide a smooth experience.


KastKing is known for its high-quality products, and this one is up there with the others. It comes with the following features.  

High-Density EVA Grips

The reel comes with high-quality EVA grips to provide you with slip-free control of your reel even during the wettest conditions. 

Braid Ready Spool 

The spool’s design ensures that you will not need to back your monofilament line. Also, you can be sure your braided line will not slip. 

Super Smooth 

The retrieval of the KastKing Sharky III is one of its strong suits. The aluminum spool ensures your line will not slip, and the 10+1 high-quality ball bearings that come with it ensure a smooth performance. It also has an anti-reverse switch, hence fewer line tangles. The spool has a large capacity, so you will always have enough lines.  

KastKing Intrusion Shield System 

The spinning reel comes with an exceptional protection feature that keeps the water and dirt out of the reel. You will always have an easy time cleaning your fishing reel. 

Specifications (Size 3000)

  • Weight: 0.39 kg 
  • Warranty: 1 year 
  • Material: Aluminum 
  • Suggested Users: Men 


If you are looking for a spinning reel for catfishing, the KastKing Sharky III should be your first consideration. The reel is strong, easy to use, flexible, and durable. It is also relatively affordable, and it will provide you with a smooth fishing experience. I recommend it to all anglers.

KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel 

KastKing is back again with this versatile catfishing baitcaster. The reel has received a lot of love from users, and it’s because of the great features that come with it. The reel is exceptional in both fresh and saltwater. Its superior drag allows you to catch even the largest catfish.


KastKing Rover Round baitcasting reel comes with some fine features, which include:

Powerful Carbon Fiber Drag 

The superior carbon fiber drag that comes with this baitcaster provides you with enough power incomparable to most baitcasting reels from other brands. You can be sure to catch even the largest catfish in the open sea.


KastKing Rover is one of the most versatile baitcasters you will find out there. You can use it in both salt and freshwater. Additionally, you can use it for bottom fishing, trolling, and other techniques you might want to use. Its oversized EVA grips provide a non-slip grip even during wet conditions. 

Hard-Anodized Aluminum Side Plates

The baitcaster is designed to last for many years with aluminum anodized plates, CNC machined spool, and stainless steel worm gear. The metal gear is corrosion-resistant, making it even more durable.


  • Weight: 0.59 kg
  • Material: Aluminum, Stainless Steel 
  • Brand name: KastKing 
  • Number of ball bearings: 4+1 for size 40, 6+1 for size 60
  • Gear ratio: 3:6:1 


If you want to use a baitcaster to land some catfish, the KastKing Rover is a worthy consideration. It has a powerful drag, and you can use it in both fresh and saltwater. It is relatively affordable and provides you the value for your money. One problem pointed out with this baitcaster is it is not that great with monofilament lines. Still, it’s a great baitcaster for all anglers.

KastKing Brutus Spinning Rods and Casting Rods 

If you choose to purchase a KastKing reel, it will be better if you pair it with a KastKing rod. The Brutus series provides some fine casting and spinning rods, and you will definitely find a fantastic one to pair your reel with. They provide you with enough power to fight catfish and can be used with all types of fishing lines. 


The Brutus casting and spinning rods come with some excellent features, which include:

Comfortable EVA Handles 

It is crucial to ensure that the handles of a fishing rod are as comfortable as possible. EVA handles provide a comfortable and non-slip grip. You can fish all day without feeling too tired. 

Strike Tip 

The Strike Tip design from KastKing ensures you get early detection once the catfish takes the bait. The design is in both the spinning and casting design. 

Braid Ready Line Guides 

The KastKing Brutus fishing rods come with high-quality stainless steel rod guides that are corrosion-resistant and can last for a long time. The inserts (rings) are made of Zirconium Oxide, one of the smoothest materials for rod inserts. Zirconium Oxide is perfect with fluorocarbon, monofilament, and braided lines.

Specs (Spinning Rod 8’0” Heavy-Fast)

  • Weight: 1.16 kg 
  • Brand name: KastKing
  • Length: 8’0”
  • Material: Stainless Steel, Fiberglass 


These KastKing rods are as good as advertised. They are strong, comfortable, and durable. KastKing Brutus rods come in different sizes, but they are all made of the same material and quality. Choose a casting rod for a baitcaster and spinning rod for a spinning reel. They complement KastKing fishing reels excellently.

Taking Care of Catfishing Rod and Reel 

Now that you know what to look for while purchasing a catfish rod and reel setup, it is paramount to know how to care for your gears once you purchase. Be sure to follow the following tips:

Store Your Fishing Gear Properly 

Everything has a unique way of how one should store it. For example, you should store meat in a refrigerator if you don’t want it spoiled. Similarly, you should store your fishing reel and rod correctly if you want it to last for long. 

Store the fishing rod vertically if you are not using it anytime soon, and be sure to put it in a rod sleeve. Also, don’t store the fishing reel and rod in a hot place like in the trunk. 

Clean Your Fishing Gear 

Keeping your fishing gears clean prolongs their lifespan. Soak a piece of cotton cloth in alcohol and rub the rod handle down. Cleaning the handles with some alcohol leaves them looking as good as new and extends its lifespan. 

Pro tips: Be sure to clean a new spinning rod once you buy it. There is a possibility that there could be some dirt or debris on the new handle. 

Additionally, you should always ensure that the handles are as clean as possible. As you fish, grass and minerals start to build-up on the guides, which leads to quicker breakdown. I understand it may not be fun to clean the guides, but you should try as much as possible to keep them clean. 

I know it is tedious work, but if you want your fishing reel to last for a long time, you should make it a habit to clean the guides regularly. Get yourself a Q-Tip, soak it in alcohol, and use it to clean the guides. After fishing, dump some water into the guides and dry it with a piece of cloth. 

Keep Your Fishing Gear Looking Good 

You should always try to keep your fishing gear looking good and make it last longer. One of the best ways to keep your gear looking great is by using a safe cleaner to wipe off the blanks occasionally. 

Avoid Water 

I understand fishing happens in water, but that does not mean the gear should always be in the water. After you are done fishing, you should always make sure to let the tackle air box out so it can dry out to avoid mildew. You can maybe use a blow dryer on low heat to dry out the gear completely. 

Know When to Replace the Equipment 

The fishing rods and reels are not meant to last forever. There comes a time when you have to replace some parts or the entire reel. Therefore, after several years, replace the gear or reel with a better option. You will know the right time to replace it when it comes.

Wrapping Up 

In summary, be sure to choose the right reel size (from 4,000) and sturdier fishing rods. Generally, dedicated Catfishing rods are sturdy and strong enough. You should also consider the spool size since you will most probably need a braided line to catch catfish. Finally, the gear ratio should be between 5:3:1 and 6:1.

In addition, If you love to catch big salmon, just have a look at our guide on quality rod and reel combos for catching giant salmons.

Hopefully, you will find a fantastic fishing rod and reel.

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