Buyers Guide: Best Catfish Reels

Best Catfish Reels: Fishing for catfish is difficult. While you may be able to hook a 3-pound channel cat with your tackle, it’s possible to catch a flathead of 20 pounds.

This doesn’t mean every rod and reel should be prepared for the trophy blue. However, it does mean that you might have to put your tackle to the ultimate test on any given day.

Catfish Reels: The Ultimate Guide to Catfish Reels

The topic of fishing reels to catch catfish is often a hot topic. This is where new catfish anglers spend the most money. We’ve created this Ultimate Guide To Catfish Reels.

A little knowledge of what is possible will help you to understand.

Features you want in a catfish reel

The reel must be inspected before it can be used.

You’ll be able to save time, money, and headaches over the long-term.

It’s important to have a clear understanding of the catfish species you’ll be targeting and whether you plan on targeting one species of catfish, multiple species, “box fish” (smaller one to ten pound catfish), trophy class fish or a mixture of all of these.

The needs of anglers who fish for channel catfish (one to five pounds) with prepared baits (stinkbaits) are very different from those of anglers who fish exclusively for trophy-class blue catfish and flatheads.

A good catfish rod and reel will allow you to catch more fish.

If you are fishing for trophy-class cats, the wrong gear can give the fish an advantage.

The Ultimate Guide To Catfish Reels contains everything you need about catfish reels For all catfish species, techniques, and circumstances.

To ensure you are choosing the best fishing rods to catfishing, make sure you also check out our Ultimate Guide To Catfish Rods (link at bottom).

Catfish Reels: Types

There are Three types of fishing reels Spin-cast reels, spinning reels and bait-cast reels are all available.

It is very simple. You turn a handle and the fishing line is pulled out.

They are all different beyond the basic.

Use what you already have, but make sure you have the right gear for the future.

Knowing the differences between reels and choosing the one that suits your needs best will allow you to make informed decisions before buying. This will enable you to make the right choice for your fishing technique and target species.

Spincast Reels

The most basic of fishing reels is the spin cast reel. These reels are what almost every fisherman learns to use. There is not much else to know or learn beyond pushing a button.

For spinning reels, they work well. Basic catfishing Smaller fish are best (especially channel catfish), or targeted. You should not do more than drop a bait from the shore or side of the boat. It will likely prove difficult..

Spin cast reels are a great way to get involved in the game. limited line capacity This makes heavier fishing lines more difficult to use. The fishing line of a larger diameter that is commonly used for catfish will quickly fill your reel, limiting the line you have. Casting with heavier lines can also cause performance issues.

Spin-cast reels are generally more reliable than line capacity. Very lightweight fishing reels, not designed for long-term heavy use Fish that are larger than usual.

Other problems include:

  • Poor drag Systems
  • Gear ratios They aren’t designed to catch heavier fish or use long lines of fishing line.
  • Inadequate bait clickers and line alarms Options that are not well-designed
  • Plastic gears and lightweight constructions

For spinning reels, they are great. targeting smaller channel catfish They are the most basic form for catfishing, but they are not recommended for anyone other than a recreational angler.

Over the years, there have been many big fish accidentally caught on them. You’re bringing a knife into a gunfight.

A few large catfish have turned them into a squid. Mess of melted plastic Over the years, I have seen many that had smoke literally coming out of their reels.

They can be used for channel catfish, but you will not have any trouble with them long-term.

They will also be able to l Use the techniques that you have learned. For catching catfish.

Spinning Reels

Spinning reels can be used to make money. Better than spinning cast Reels for catfish, but again If you don’t already have one, don’t buy one.

The top of spinning reels has a wire bale that you can flip up and down when casting. These are popular because anglers feel they can cast more easily with them than a baitcast fishing reel, or simply because they are easier to use.

For anything other than targeting small catfish, lightweight freshwater spinning reels may not be the best choice.

Saltwater spinning reels that are heavier in weight are an excellent fit for many purposes Because they are larger, they can handle heavier fishing line and have better drag systems.

The problem with spinning reels for catfish fishing is that you can’t catch them. Limit your choices of fishing rods As the choices in catfish spinningrods are limited, it is important to act immediately. There are many manufacturers that make spinning rods, but they restrict the models they produce and they will be less easily available at retail outlets.

There are several common complaints about spinning reels that catfish use:

  • Limited selection Catfish rods
  • It is awkward to use rod holders (Reaching down and below the rod).
  • Only a few heavy reels available
  • Long-term durability Problems with reels could be serious
  • Parts availability Problems can arise.
  • Limited selection of bait clickers Reels

Manufacturers have been abandoning spinning rod models for catfish in recent years or at least limiting their selection.

Use what you have, especially if your saltwater spinning reels are heavy. However, a bait-cast fishing reel is a better choice when you need to purchase new catfish reels.

You are wrong if you think spinning reels are the best choice because you can’t cast a fishing rod with bait. You can’t cast a bait-cast fishing reel with a spinning reel.can Cast with an open-faced bait casting reel. You just need to get the reel set up right and practice a bit.

Bait Cast Reels

Most catfish anglers prefer bait cast reels. Most widely used without argument. You can take a look online at catfish anglers or in your local lakes. Keep an eye out for the Guides for catfish Anglers who fish in catfish tournaments will use bait cast fishing reels, but very few of them will be using other methods.

These are the best catfish reels for more experienced anglers.

They can be used for any species of catfish, and all methods. You can use them to finesse fish smaller fish or land trophy-class cats.

You can find them in many price ranges, and even the cheapest models will come with the features you require for catfishing.

A bait cast fishing reel is a great choice for catfish.

  • Good line capacity This can hold large quantities of heavier fishing line
  • Gear ratios You are well-suited for fishing for catfish, and fishing with long lines of fishing line
  • Heavier builds meant for targeting larger fish
  • Line alarms Many catfishing enthusiasts use “bait clickers”, which are also called “bait clickers”. However, this is less important when using circle hooks.
  • For larger fish, sophisticated drag systems are designed to catch them.
  • A wide selection of catfish rods available available for bait cast reels

Bait casting reels can be used The best catfish reels are without a doubt the Best Choice You will be able to land larger fish with the right features and techniques.

For lighter recreational use, there are inexpensive models. However, it is best to purchase brands and models that can withstand long-term abuse. It will last a lifetime.

You get what you pay for

Over fifteen years of experience as a catfish guide, and many years prior as a hardcore catfish angler I have seen the same mistakes made again and again.

You can buy fishing reels for catfish if you are looking to purchase them. Buy high quality fishing reels Reputable manufacturers.

Although there are many options available, you will get exactly what is listed on the website.

Catfish reels that are too expensive won’t last. You probably already know this. Parts won’t be available Repair them if they break (and they will).

Many options are available that may look similar to popular catfish reels. These inexpensive options may look similar to the higher-end catfish reels, but the internal parts are different. It is not even close to the quality.

Every single one of these fishing reels is the same. They will Break with minimal usage They will eventually end up in the trash, so you have no choice but to throw them out.

The catfish reel with the best quality is the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur fishing rod No matter what you might have heard, the cheaper alternatives that claim to be “just as good as” Abu Garcia reels are simply not as good. Cheap reels won’t last and aren’t of the same quality.

The Problem with Cheap Catfish Reels

If you have cheap fishing reels that break, you can take them to the repair shop. They will tell you it is junk and they won’t be able to get any parts so you should throw it away.

If you visit the “big box” store that sold you the reel, they will either tell you it’s out of luck or force you to send it off to be repaired.

Catfish reels are a great investment. Make sure you do it correctly the first time, and invest in high quality fishing reels.

Make sure you get something that will work. Going to the last

Quality Catfish Reels

Here are some things you can expect from a high-quality catfish reel.

  • It will function well under long-term heavy use.
  • It will keep its value for many years.
  • As long as the reel is still in your possession, you can always replace any damaged parts.

The size of the catfish you want to catch will play a major role in choosing the right reel for your setup.

A reel with a poor drag system can be a disaster for larger cats. You may regret not buying decent gear.

All catfish are not created equal.

A lighter spinning setup is fine for smaller channel cats, but a baitcaster is better if you want to target larger blues and flatheads.

However, there are some anglers who will not give up on their pursuit of the cat of their dreams. They still use a large saltwater spinning reel and it works great for them.

What is the difference between a baitcaster and a spinning reel for catfish?

Many anglers begin fishing as children with a spinning set or spincast combo.

Both are simple to learn and require less effort than a baitcaster, especially for young people.

While most anglers will eventually give up the spincast as they age, some will continue to fish with a spinning reel and never learn how to use the baitcaster reel.

If you’re looking to catch trophy catfish, both spinning and baitcaster reels will work well for your catfish reel.

Catfish spinning reels

Most reel manufacturers don’t make freshwater reels capable of withstanding the punishment that large catfish might give to a lightweight spinning reel.

Saltwater spinning reels are more suitable for catfishing, provided that they are properly sized and have a strong enough drag.

Manufacturing companies like Penn, Daiwa, and Shimano are well-known for making high quality spinning reels that can handle a lot of weight.

Catfish Baitcasters

When compared to a good baitcaster, large spinning is a bit limited.

Baitcaster are designed for casting heavy bait rigs a long distance they also have an added advantage in that you will have a much larger choice of catfish rods available to you.

You will be able to fish more if you learn how to use a lurecaster.

Baitcasters have a greater line capacity, a more durable drag system, and a wider range of gear ratios than a spinning reel.

Low-profile baitcasters, which are very popular in bass fishing, are not suitable for catfish reels.

Older style round baitcasters can be tougher and more suitable for hauling stubborn catfish from the depths.

Catfish Reels

As we have discussed, choosing a catfish reel is largely based on your preference for spinning reels or baitcasting.

You will still need a reel that is appropriate in size and with a strong enough drag system to handle large catfish.


Baitasters are considered the best choice for big fish hunting, regardless of whether they’re in saltwater or freshwater.

They can handle heavy forces on the internal gears much better than spinning reels, and this is partly due to their design.

Although spinning reels have their place, they are not the best choice for smaller fish. You will be able to cast more accurately with lighter rigs and even float fishing if you use them.

This is because lighter weight lines will be easier to fall off a spinning reel spool than off a baitcacter.

To cast a baitcaster, the spool must be at least half its weight.

A spinning reel can be used to reduce your weight.

No matter what your preference, you must match your reel and rod to get the best performance.

Always use a spinning reel on a spinning rod.

The line drops off the spools in an irregular fashion, which is why the lower guide lines on a spinning rod have such a wide width.

A spinning reel attached to a casting rod would create friction on the first guide.

Baitcasters generally run in straight lines so the first guide of a casting rod’s casting rod can be smaller and more uniform along the blank.

What size reel is best for catfish?

A size 4000 is the minimum size for a spinning reel to catch catfish. For larger rigs that require heavier line, a size 5000 is the minimum size for a baitcaster.

When fishing for catfish, small reels won’t cut it. For mono, you will need at least 30 lbs and 50-60 lbs for braid.


While a high-quality spool is essential for any reel, it’s even more important when you use a lot of heavy lines. A wide arbor is necessary to allow all the line to fit.

The larger the spool, the less likely your line is to get tangled or become a memory when stored in winter.


Your drag is not important when fishing for crappie and other panfish-sized fish.

Catfishing is a step up from traditional fishing. Your reel, and especially your drag, will need to be excellent.

High quality reels will have a good drag.

It is the drag on lower-priced catfish reels that often breaks under severe pressure.

The size of the catfish you are targeting and the type of spinning or casting reel you choose will ultimately determine which catfish reel you select.

What is the best gear combination for catfish?

For catfish reels, a gear ratio between 5.3:1 to 6:1 is the best. This gives enough torque and a good retrieve rate.

You can pick up more line per handle turn with a higher gear ratio, but this comes at the cost of power.

You can put a lot more power through your reel, but you lose some speed when you reel in fast.

We have the right reel for you if you are looking for a catfish reel.

Here’s a comprehensive buying guide and reviews of some of our favorite catfish reels.

Best spinning reels for catfish

  • Penn Battle II –Best Catfish Spinning Reel
  • Cadence CS8

Best Baitcasting Reels For Catfish

  • KastKing Kapstan Elite– The Best Catfish Baitcasting Reel

Best Conventional Reels for Catfish

  • Penn Squall LevelWind Best Conventional Reel to Catch Trophy Catfish
  • Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C3 –Best Conventional Reel to Catch Average Catfish

Reviewed the Best Catfish Reels

Spinning Reels for Catfish

Penn Battle IIBest spinning reel for catfish

PENN 1338220 Battle II 5000 Spinning Fishing Reel


Penn is a salt-based company that has earned a reputation. If you are primarily a freshwater fisherman, Penn may not be familiar. The Battle II series reels are a reliable choice for surf and inshore anglers. They can also tackle reds and stripers, so you can trust them to handle cats.

We do not recommend that you go smaller than 2500 to protect yourself from a big blue or flathead.

These reels are great for medium to large sizes. As you would expect, the drag is controlled by the knob at the end of each spool. Carbon fiber is the heart of the system, and it holds and releases very well.

Each model’s spools hold quite a lot of line. The larger models are designed for heavyweights. Casting will be affected by heavy monofilament, but some anglers are willing to trade that for the ease of use that a spinning reel provides.

You can also spool on some braid to push the reels to the limit with larger cats. The 6- and 8000 can handle most things with the right rod. This is what many strippers who ended up in the cooler will attest to.

All these reels make it easy to crane.

The Battle II line-up is equipped with an instant antireverse bearing that locks up quickly, encouraging strong hooksets.

The Battle II is a great choice if you don’t like baitcasting reels for cats.

  • Extremely tough
  • Excellent drag
  • Excellent capacity
  • Silky-smooth operation
  • Amazing anti-reverse
  • Capable of handling large-cats
  • Casting will suffer if lines are more than 10 pounds (mono) in diameter. But Penn is not to blame: blame physics!

Cadence CS8

CS8 Spinning Reel,Cadence Ultralight Fast Speed Premium Magnesium Frame Fishing Reel with 10 Low Torque Bearings Super Smooth Powerful Fishing Reel with 36 LBs Max Drag & 6.2:1 Spinning Reel

Drag:16 lbs. Maximum 16 lbs
Ratio of gears: 6.2:1 (32″ per turn)
Line capacity:6/160
Bearings 9 + 1 roller bearing
Weight: 7.3 oz.
Drag:19 lb. Maximum weight
Ratio of gears: 6.2:1 (35″ per turn)
Line capacity:10/150
Bearings 9 + 1 roller bearing
Weight: 7.4 oz.
Drag:Maximum weight: 20 lbs. Maximum weight: 20 lbs
Ratio of gears: 6.2:1 (38″ per turn)
Line capacity:10/220
Bearings 9 + 1 roller bearing
Weight: 8.5 oz.

Cadence is relatively new to the angling industry, but their reels have quickly proven that they are here to stay. The CS8 is a great line-up for catfish anglers. The larger sizes are ideal for medium channel cats as well as small blues and flatheads.

There are four sizes of the CS8 series, but I would not choose the 1000 for catfish. The 2000 is capable of handling channel cats. With a good rod and the right line and a lot of skill, the 3000 and 4000 can be used for cats as large as 50 pounds. This will require you to use a strong braid and a mono-shock leader. However, it is an option that an excellent drag system makes possible.

The drag of the CS8 series is outstanding. It uses a series carbon fiber discs to create tension. The maximum setting is controlled by a knob at the end of each spool. It scales up as the size increases. It’s smooth and reassuringly precise, with no slippage.

The crank is impressive and the bail opens and closes perfectly. For left-handed anglers, the crank position can be reversed.

These reels are a worthy challenger for Penn’s Battle II.

  • Amazing value for the money
  • Excellent drag
  • Excellent capacity
  • Amazing casting
  • Silky-smooth operation
  • Capable of handling large-cats
  • Casting will suffer if lines are more than 10 pounds (mono) in diameter. But that’s not Cadence’s fault. Blame physics!

Baitcasting Reels For Catfish

KastKing Kapstan Elite– The Best Catfish Baitcasting Reel

KastKing Kapstan Elite Baitcasting Fishing Reel,Size 300,Right Handed Reel

Drag:35 lbs. Maximum 35 lbs
Ratio of gears: 5.4:1 (25.31″ per turn)
Line capacity:14/230
Bearings8 + 1
Weight: 10.9 oz.
  • Amazing, heavy drag
  • Solid brass main gear
  • Excellent capacity
  • Very smooth
  • Excellent braking system
  • Big cat capable
  • Due to its large size, the spool is heavy.

KastKing’s Kapstan elite baitcaster is designed to compete with reels such as the Curado K. It is priced very similarly, so this is a true head–to-head fight for the top spot within catfish angling.

What does the Kapstan Elite look like for cats?

This reel is equipped with KastKing’s excellent carbon fiber drag system. It has a powerful max and allows for the controlled release that you desire at lower settings. A 35-pound limit allows you to run braid for catfish. As long as you can tie on a shock leader, you are well-equipped for big fish.

This allows it to outperform the Curado because it can handle a wider variety of species and sizes. Its large spool further reinforces this fact.

The Kapstan Elite’s spool, which is about 200% larger than the Curado’s, is indeed impressive! This is not something you should be ashamed of, as you will need a lot of line if your goal is to catch big fish.

However, this comes at a heavy weight. The Curado K is the Kapstan Elite’s choice if you want a reel that disappears from your rod.

The Kapstan Elite has a solid-brass main drive that allows its teeth to withstand very heavy loads. This reel is a great option for cats, as well as bass.

The KastKing Kapstan Elite’s braking system uses brake shoes similar to the Shimano. Casting is easy for both beginners and professionals.

Conventional Reels for Catfish

Penn Squall LevelWindBest Conventional Reel to Catch Trophy Catfish

PENN Fishing SQL20LWLC Squall LevelWind , Black Gold, 315yd/20Lb

Drag:Maximum weight: 20 lbs. Maximum weight: 20 lbs
Ratio of gears: (30). 4.9:1 (50). 4.0:1
Line capacity:30 — 25/455. 30/370. 40/285. 50 — 40/435. 50 — 40/435. 50/320. 60/285
Bearings2 + 1
Weight: 30 — 20.9 oz., 50 — 24.6 oz.
  • Built for big fish
  • A light body, but still very stiff
  • Smooth cranking
  • Great drag
  • Excellent capacity
  • Equipped with a level wind
  • For anything other than trophies, massively overbuilt

The Penn’s Squall LevelWind series of conventional reels is a great choice for trophy catfish anglers. This reel is built to withstand the stress of fishing monster fish.

Penn’s Squall, a legendary offshore reel, deserves every award it has received. It’s strong, stiff, and has plenty of muscle, making it a formidable reel that can be used for big fights.

The crank’s star-shaped knob controls the drag system of the Squall. Although 20 pounds might not seem like much, mono grips of 60- to 80-pound weight are a great way to get your hands on some serious power!

Although this is a large reel, the Squall’s body and body are made of graphite. It is not as rigid as aluminum but it can withstand years of abuse. It is lightweight, so it can be weighed down to get a level wind reel.

The Squall has proven that graphite can be used as body material in conventional reels. If weight is important to you, it’s a great resource.

You get a lot of line for your ounce from the graphite body or aluminum spool.

The solid brass gears provide smooth turning and a reassuring amount of torque. As has been demonstrated time and again on the water, its teeth can take anything a monster can throw at them. The Squall LevelWind has an instant anti-reverse bearing, which works well and is strong.

As its name implies, the Squall LevelWind comes with one. This helps to distribute line throughout the spool. This is especially important for mono-anglers, as you will notice the difference in each cast.

The Squall LevelWind reel is a great choice for anglers fishing in search of record-setting catfish.

Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C3Best Conventional Reel to Catfish

Abu Garcia C3-6500 Ambassadeur Baitcast Fishing Reel

Drag:Maximum 15 lbs. Maximum 15 lbs
Ratio of gears: 5.3: 1 (26″ per turn)
Line capacity:4600 — 12/160
5500 — 12/240
6500 — 12/320
Weight: 4600 — 9.2 oz.
5500 — 9.9 oz.
6500 — 10.7 oz.
  • Great drag
  • Amazing capacity
  • Very smooth
  • Excellent braking system
  • Big cat capable
  • Even in the largest sizes, the Squall is not as strong as the Squall.

Abu Garcia has a solid reputation and is well-respected by anglers who fish in salt and freshwater. Their so-called “round reels”, or as they are known, are among the most effective in the industry. The C3 range covers everything, from big blues to flatheads, channels, and more.

The C3 range is smaller and lighter than the Squall. The 4600 is the best general-purpose catfish reel. The 5500 is an excellent choice for anglers looking for more capacity. It rivals the KastKing in every aspect. The 6500 is an excellent choice for big-game anglers, but it doesn’t have the same cranking power, gearing or drag as the Squall.

Is that a bad choice?

The 6500 isn’t the monster hunter the Penn Squall is.

I would recommend the 5500 and 4600 with no reservations. However, if you are looking for a trophy reel that is truly unique, the Squall might be the best option.

The C3 series reels are durable and can withstand a beating, but they will still work flawlessly for many years.

The C3 has a star drag that is mounted under the crank. The maximum weight of the C3 is 15 pounds. This allows for plenty of drag to fight big fish and other hard fighting. This is enough for anything other than record-setting kitties.

If you put some braid on, this could be enough to give an 80-to 100-pound catfish a good fight.

The crank and the associated gears provide steady torque when you have a cat on your line. You won’t feel outmatched when you tie into a flathead 50 pounds in weight. Although the KastKing has the edge, I would give the 5500 the advantage. The Kapstan Elite feels a lot more in control of me, but I feel a lot more comfortable with it.

Casting with these reels is easy and you can use the levelwind to ensure that your mono is spooled evenly.

Abu Garcia’s Kapstan Elite is more comfortable than Abu Garcia’s C3. But, it doesn’t really matter if you have a rounder body.

How to Choose a Catfishing Reel

There are many opinions on the best catfish reels.

You’ve likely heard the notion that spinning tackle isn’t tough enough for big cats, or that baitcasters are better for real anglers. These kinds of things are real, and we’ve seen them ourselves.

However, big spinning reels such as Penn’s Battle II are proven to be effective against the most savage fish, and they will be able to withstand the abuse of bull reds or big stripers.

Truth #1: Big catfish can be handled by spinning reels of higher quality and larger sizes.

It is also true that spinning reels will not cast as well as baitcasters if the line is over 10 pounds mono. It’s just physics. On windy days, spinning reels are a great investment, because you won’t encounter any bird’s nests as you cast into the wind.

This is not to say that baitcasters don’t have their merits, but real anglers fish with the best tackle.

Baitcasting vs. Spinning vs. Conventional

When I am looking for a reel for catfish, two things top my mind: Will it hold enough line for me to cut and tie? And how strong is the drag?

A third concern for trophy hunters is: Is my reel strong enough? Will a beast transfer the weight to the spool or body?

Three types of reels are available to anglers who know how to use them. Each one is best suited for the particular circumstances in which they were designed.

Spinning Reels

The spinning reel is a familiar concept to most people. They are a great way to fight the wind and work well in bad weather.

Spinning reels are made for small lines, usually less than 10 pound mono. You can push this limit a little, but casting will be affected.

The line that you wind onto the spool’s lip is retained by the spool, but it creates friction as the line unspools. A smaller diameter line will slip past it easier, and the more you increase your weight and thus your diameter, the more friction there is.

The line creates friction when the lip of a spinning spool spins.

Is that to say spinning reels are not good for catfishing or vice versa?

Not at all!

Some catfishing doesn’t require long casts. Even then, there are differences that won’t ruin your day. For many, the simplicity of using a spinning reel is more important than any performance advantage that a baitcaster offers.

Dan Anderson states that spinning reels are easy to use, durable and forgiving. However, spinning reels are not tough enough to catfish. This is why they are the preferred reel for surfcasting for stripers between 50 and 60 pounds. How is it that so many catfishing guides trust spinning reels with their clients’ success?

Anderson also points out that spinning reels balance naturally better in the hand because the weight is below the rod.


The drag is what I first look at when looking at any reel.

There are two options. The drag knob should be located at the end of your spool so that it can apply pressure directly. The inferior systems place the drag lever at the end of the reel. These are not as effective as the superior system.

I pay attention to the maximum setting for catfish. For situations where I need to chase large fish, I look at the maximum setting of my reel.

I want to find a setting that is in the vicinity of 10 pounds. I will test the drag with a known weight and string some line.

Also, I will reduce the drag to about a third of its maximum and see how easily it allows me to move. I want a steady, smooth release, no jerking, catching or slipping.

Ratio of gears

The reel’s gear ratio is the relationship between the crank, the spool and the crank. It tells you how many turns the crank makes. A gear ratio of 5.2 to 1 means that one crank turn spins the spool 52.2 times.

Our shortlist has plenty of cranking power to support big cats.


The anti-reverse bearing prevents the spool’s from turning backwards when the spool is open. This is important because it affects how quickly the reel applies pressure on the line and hook.

Want better hooksets?

You want a reel that has a solid anti-reverse bearing.


It is important to have a line capacity.

A properly filled spool will ensure that you don’t cast your line too far. Over a day of fishing, however, you may need to cut the line to either reduce abrasion or recover from a poor cast.

Your reel should have enough line to last you the entire day without having to re-spool.

I will be reporting line capacity for monofilament weights. You can change to braid to increase line capacity or to make your spinning tackle punch like a heavyweight.

Baitcasting Reels

Although they are more difficult to cast than spinning reels, baitcasting reels can still cast well with heavier line. The drag action is usually smoother because they have higher quality drag systems.

Are they better than spinning reels for catfish fishing?

They will shine in situations where long casts are necessary. They can hold a lot of lines, which rivals large spinning reels of comparable size and weight.

However, spinning reels are more effective than baitcasters when compared apples to apples. They are also easy to use.

Baitcasting reels are a popular choice for freshwater anglers due to their excellent casting and precise drags. They also have a huge market share in largemouth bass fishing. This reel is smaller than conventional “conventional” ones and can be used to work lures more efficiently.

This is the principle behind most baitcasting reels, but few can compete with catfish.

However, a baitcaster may be a better catfish reel than a conventional one. It all depends on what you are comfortable with and how you fish.


An awesome drag is your best friend when you are fighting a 40-pound blue!

The drag control for baitcasting reels is usually mounted behind the crank and connected to the spool. It can therefore apply very smooth and very powerful pressure.

You should set your drag at 1/3 of your line’s breaking strength. I will check my reels with the line that I plan to use at their maximum and set levels. I don’t like to feel binding or sliding: I want smooth, consistent release.

Amazing casting and great braking

A good baitcasting reel should have a spool that defies physics. The spool should spin as easily as possible and have slick surfaces that allow the line to pass through. To make long casts, it is important to have a proper levelwind design (the piece that guides line on the spool).

Daiwa’s T-wing allows line to fly off the spool.

The smooth operation of the “T-wing” by Daiwa is well-known in fishing circles. However, other top manufacturers also have their own designs.

Long casts can be dangerous if they result in bird nesting backlash. Many rods with higher ends have magnetic brake systems. They apply more pressure to the reel as it slows down, preventing the reel from feeding too much line.

The brake on Shimano’s Curado K is just amazing!

These systems, when designed and implemented by the best, can help you cast light lures and work in the wind to launch your crankbaits into next county.

Ratio of gears

As I have explained, the gear ratio is the number of revolutions that one crank of a handle produces. A gear ratio of 7.5 to 1 means that one turn of your handle spins the spool 75% of the time. The faster the retrieve, the higher the ratio. This speed can also be represented by the number IPT (inches per turn), which is 31. This would mean that each turn of the handle picks-up 31 inches of line.

We recommend the KastKing because it is fast enough for even the largest cats.


Capacity is not something to be proud of, especially if it’s necessary to strip and cut lines while you fish.

Our selection of reels can hold a lot of line and are comparable to all other spinning reels.


Let’s face it, a quality baitcasting reel will cost you more than a comparable spinning model. It’s a fact.

However, beyond a moderate price point, every dollar you spend doesn’t buy you any extra performance.

We have compiled a list mid-range reels to save you money and still amaze you with their performance.

Conventional Reels

Conventional reels can be a lot more difficult than spinning or baitcasting options. Because they will be fighting against large fish, they are built differently and may require some additional features.

They are mechanically similar to baitcasting reels but have bulky, round bodies.

They are ideal for offshore applications, where there will be giant tuna, hungry sharks and lightning-fast sailingfish.

Jeremy Wade captures his River Monsters on a standard reel.


Monstrous fish mean monstrous fights.

A drag system that can hold a heavy line of 100-pound blues or 80-pound flatheads is essential. In a fight like this finesse is more important than strength and endurance. These drag systems will never be able to hold the line down to the single digits.

Instead, think about acceptable maximums and how the drag holds or releases at 1/3 of those numbers.

The drag control is also important.

There are two options: a thumb lever or the standard star-shaped knob. It is up to you which one you prefer, but the thumb levers are easier to use during combat.


You can also add trophy kitties like grouper, monster tuna and sharks to the reel!

Remember that your reel is your line’s anchor to your Rod. While this can be mitigated by your rod’s power and action, line stretch and your drag, every big fight is a test of each component of your reel, from your teeth on the gears to your drag discs to the frame that holds it all together.

A solid metal body is preferred by most trophy anglers. It is stronger, more rigid, and more resistant than graphite. Graphite can cut weight as well as a college wrestler but it cannot offer the same stiffness and durability as machined aluminum.

Plastic gears are not allowed in standard reels. They will break and deform under any load they are required to support. Solid brass and stainless steel are better options.


Garry Brummett explains that level wind reels have a moving guide. This guides the line from the reel to the worm shaft. The pawl runs across the reel and back and forth. The moving line guide distributes the line evenly onto the reel as it is being retrieved. It also ensures that there are no large accumulations of line on any particular spot. The line distribution onto the spool of conventional open-style reels is up to the angler.

Mono is especially prone to bunching and must be avoided. As you retrieve the line, your thumb will direct it with your thumb. This will help to distribute it along the entire length of the spool.

If you do, then bunching can affect casting. Depending on the application, this may not be a problem. However, in extreme cases it can cause the spool to become stuck by direct contact with its body.

Braid is flat and self-distributing well. If this is your main line, then a level wind might not be necessary.

RPT and gear ratio

For big fish that pull like a mules, it is important to know the gear ratio and RPT (retrieve/turn) on a traditional reel.

We recommend the choices that have the gearing, handles and torque you need in tough battles.

Last Thoughts

Catfish fishing is hard on gear. Strong, reliable reels are essential for anyone who wants to fish with them. You’ll be prepared for any day on the river if you have the right gear. And if you do tie into a large fish, your reel will perform its task.

We hope this article helped you make the right decision for yourself.

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