20 Best Fishing Reels for Catfish In 2020

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Catfish offers some of the greatest battles that you can face in freshwater. They are massive, strong, and have lots of energy. Thus, you better prepare, or you will lose the cat of a lifetime. 

A good reel is among the many things that you must gather before fighting these creatures. Sadly, with so many options, finding the best fishing reel for catfish might take a while. Luckily for you, we are here to help. Here you have 20 of the best reels for catfish that money can buy.

5 Best Reels For Catfish Comparison Table

TypeGear ratioMaximum drag (Pounds)Mono Line Capacity (yd/lb)
Abu Garcia C3Baitcasting5.3 and 4.1:1Up to 20 Up to 325/17
KastKing Rover Baitcasting5.3 and 3.6:1Up to 30Up to 750/16
Penn Squall LevelWindBaitcasting4.9:115Up to 415/17
Penn Spinfisher VI Spinning4.2 to 6.2:1Up to  50Up to 490/10
Sougayilang WarriorBaitcasting4.2 and 5.2:1Up to 22Up to 250/16

10 Best Reels For Catfish Reviews In 2020

1. Best Fishing Reel for Catfish

Abu Garcia C3 Species Special Baitcast Round Fishing Reel

  • Aluminum spool
  • Carbon drag system
  • Gear ratio: 5.3:1 (6500 model) and 4.1:1 (7000 model)
  • Maximum drag: 15 (6500 model) and 20 (7000 model)
  • IPT: 26 (6500 model) and 22 (7000 model)
  • Ball bearings: 4(6500 model) and 3 (7000 model)
  • Line capacity (yd/lb): 390/10 (6500 model) and 325/17 (7000 model)
  • Oversized handle and knob
  • Star drag dial

4.8

4.8/5

If you are looking for a long-lasting and reliable reel for catfish, the Abu Garcia C3 catfish series is the one. It is not cheap, though. So, you should also be willing to pay top dollar for such a reel. 

There are two sizes available: 6500 and 7000. The main difference between them, besides line capacity, is the gear ratio, maximum drag, and recovery rate. Naturally, the 7000 is more powerful. It has a 4.1:1 gear ratio, 20-pound maximum drag, and retrieves 22 inches per crank. In contrast, the 6500 model has a 5.3:1 gear ratio, 15-pound drag, and 26 inches recovery rate.

There is also a price gap between both models. The 6500, for instance, is cheaper. We recommend going for it if you are looking for an all-around catfish reel. In contrast, the 7000 is more suitable for monster catfish. 

The Abu Garcia C3 baitcasting reel for catfish features an aluminum spool, a carbon drag system with star drag dial, oversized handle and knob, and a 6-pin centrifugal dag for a smooth casting experience. Furthermore, the synchronized level wind system ensures an even line retrieval. Overall, the reel has a sturdy build and looks like it can handle abuse without breaking a sweat. 

The Good
The Not-So-Good
2. Best Value for You Money

KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel

  • CNC aluminum spool
  • Carbon drag system
  • Gear ratio: from 5.3:1 to 3.6:1 depending on the model
  • Maximum drag: 15 to 30 pounds 
  • IPT: 26 to 25
  • Ball bearings: 7 (40 to 60 models) and 6 (70 to 90 models)
  • Line capacity (yd/lb): 200/12 to 750/16
  • Oversized handle and knob
  • Line clicker alarm 
  • All-metal construction

4.6

4.6/5

Somehow, Kastking always manages to get a top-notch product inside all fishing niches. But what’s amazing is that they are, most times, more affordable than any other brand. The Rover round baitcasting reel for catfish is not an exception. 

There are six models available. Each one has a unique gear ratio, maximum drag, ball-bearing count, line capacity, and inches per turn (IPT) combination. The larger reels hold more lines, have a higher maximum drag, fewer ball bearings, and lower gear ratio and IPT. Therefore, they are more suitable for larger catfish. In contrast, the smaller models are ideal for anglers who aren’t looking for monsters. 

All models have an all-metal construction. The reel features thick anodized aluminum side plates, CNC machined aluminum spool, brass gears, alloy level wind, and stainless steel shafts. The result is a reel that you can use in fresh and saltwater alike. 

The main difference, construction-wise, between models is that the larger reels (70 to 90) feature a larger single-knob handle with a counter-weight. It delivers more torque, making things easier when fighting against a monster catfish. 

All models come with a centrifugal braking system that ensures even pressure on all casts. In other words, say goodbye to birds’ nets! Plus, the carbon drag system yields outstanding performance even with the toughest of catches. 

The Good
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3. Slow But Powerful

Penn SQL20LW Squall LevelWind

  • Aluminum spool

  • Graphite body

  • Carbon drag system

  • Gear ratio: 4.9:1

  • Maximum drag: 15 pounds 

  • IPT: 28

  • Ball bearings: 3

  • Line capacity (yd/lb): 415/17, 315/20, and 290/25

4.6

4.6/5

The LevelWind is among the most-trusted baitcasting reels you can find. It is powerful enough to land trophy-sized fish, including catfish.

The Penn Squall LevelWind has a unique graphite body, which keeps weight down. Therefore, it is an ideal option for those anglers looking for a light, but strong, reel for catfish. The downside is that carbon fiber is not as rigid as aluminum. Hence, beware of tension built-up. 

The reel features 3 bearings and bronze main gear with stainless steel pinions. The system keeps the reel working smoothly, even under pressure. As expected, the Squall LevelWind comes with a winding system that distributes the line evenly around the spool as you retrieve it.  

The HT-100 carbon fiber drag system applies up to 15 pounds of pressure, which is more than enough for most game fish. However, beginners might need more to cope with such fishes. 

The aluminum spool can handle up to 415 yards of a 17-pound test monofilament line. You are unlikely to run out of line with the Squall LevelWind. The spool comes with three marks that show 1/3, 2/3, and full capacity. 

The 4.9:1 gear ratio and 28 inches retrieval per crank yield extraordinary power to muscle big fish to the shore. The small handle is the main problem that we have with this amazing reel for catfish.  

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4. Best spinning reel for catfish

Penn Spinfisher VI Spinning Fishing Reel

  • Full aluminum frame
  • Carbon drag system
  • Massive EVA knob.
  • Gear ratio: 4.2:1, 4.7:1, 5.6:1, and 6.2:1
  • Maximum drag (Pounds): 15 to 50 depending on the model
  • IPT: up to 40 inches depending on the model. 
  • Ball bearings: 6
  • Line capacity: Up to 490 yards of mono and 845 of braid
  • IPX5 rating

4.8

4.8/5

Although anglers don’t usually use spinning reels for catfish fishing, some models can cope with the struggle. Prove of this is the Penn Spinfisher VI. 

Penn created the Spinfisher with the saltwater angler in mind. It features an all-metal frame and side plates. Naturally, the entire construction is resistant to corrosion. The thick anodized aluminum bail wire is strong enough to keep the line in place. 

On the other hand, the CNC gears and the five stainless steel ball bearings ensure an even line retrieval. Plus, the entire reel has an IPX5 rating. Thus, neither water nor dust will get inside it. This increases the reel life spawn while reducing the need for maintenance. 

The anodized aluminum spool comes with a rubber backing if you wish to use a braid fishing line instead of a monofilament line. It holds up to 490 yards of monofilament fishing line depending on the model and test strength. The important thing is that it is enough line for catfish fishing.

The multi-disc carbon fiber drag system yields up to 50 pounds of even, constant pressure. Use the front dial to set the drag to your liking. 

The Good
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5. Affordable round baitcasting reel for catfish

Sougayilang Fishing Reels Round Baitcasting Reel

  • Aluminum spool and frame
  • Carbon drag system
  • Gear ratio: 5.2:1 (4000 and 5000 models) and 4.2:1 (6000)
  • Maximum drag: 17 to 22 depending on the model
  • Ball bearings: 7
  • Line capacity (yd/lb): 200/12, 200/16, and 250/16 depending on the model
  • EVA foam handles 
  • Brass gears

4.2

4.2/5

Going back to more affordable reels for catfish, we find the Warrior baitcasting reel by Sougayilang. It is available in three different sizes: 4000, 5000, and 6000, and it is suitable for both fresh and saltwater angling. 

The reel features a machined aluminum frame with a high-strength spool. The CNC brass gears and stainless steel ball bearings keep everything running smoothly regardless of the situation. On the other hand, the centrifugal brake system ensures even casts all the time.

The multi-disc carbon drag system yields up to 22 pounds of pressure depending on the model. Plus, the 6+1 ball bearing ensures an even and constant line retrieval under heavy load. Furthermore, the 5.2:1 or 4.2:1 gear ratio yields exceptional torque for reeling big fishes. 

The Warrior comes with a 4.33 inches-long handle with soft EVA foam knobs. They keep the reel comfortable even after long sessions. Next to it, you will find the classic start drag dial. Setting the drag is a little awkward. But you will get used to it in time. 

Like most baitcasting reels for catfish, the Warrior comes with a level wind system with zirconium inlets to reduce friction and distribute the line evenly around the spool. 

The Good
The Not-So-Good
6. Compact and strong

Lew’s Speed Cast 5.3:1 Right Hand Casting Reel

  • Aluminum spool
  • Carbon drag system
  • Gear ratio: 5.3:1
  • Maximum drag (pounds): 15 
  • IPT: 23
  • Ball bearings: 5
  • Line capacity (yd/lb): 300/15
  • Brass gears and crankshaft 
  • Audible Clicker

4.7

4.7/5

Small but strong, Lew’s Speed Cast reel came into our list as the best compact baitcasting reel for catfish. 

The small anodized aluminum frame and side plates ensure that the reel won’t flex under heavy load. Plus, the 15 pounds drag will keep the line tight as you fight against the catfish. Sure, it might not be enough for huge fish. But it is quite a lot considering the small footprint. You can easily choose the amount of drag by using the sensible star dial that is next to the handle. 

The anodized aluminum spool holds up to 300 yards or a 15-pound monofilament line. The wind level makes sure that the line wraps evenly around it, keeping it from getting tangled. The spool connects to an audible clicker that will alert you of any movement.

The brass gear and crankshaft do a superb job transferring the energy from the handle to the spool. In addition, five stainless steel ball bearings keep things running smoothly and prevent the spool from spinning in the opposite direction. With a 5.3:1 gear ratio and 23 inches per turn, you have enough power to muscle a sizable catfish to the shore. 

The Good
The Not-So-Good
7. Tailor made for catfishing

Catfish Pro Tournament Series Round Baitcasting Fishing Reel

  • All-aluminum construction
  • Gear ratio: 5.3:1
  • Maximum drag (Pounds): 19
  • Line capacity (yd/lb): Up to 250/16
  • Brass gears 
  • Multi-disc carbon drag system
  • 6+1 stainless steel ball bearings 
  • Line clicker 

4.5

4.5/5

The Catfish Pro Tournament Series looks like a vintage reel. However, only modern and top-quality materials are used in its construction. 

The Catfish Pro Tournament Series has an anodized aluminum frame with thick side plates. You can expect no bend from this bad boy. The aluminum spool holds up to 250 yards of a 16-pound monofilament fishing line. As you can see, it sits on the low side of the spectrum. 

The internals consist of a centrifugal brake system, 6+1 stainless steel ball bearings, brass gears, and a multi-disc carbon drag arrangement. The product is a reel with a 5.3:1 gear ratio and 19 pounds of maximum drag. The reeling process is very smooth. Plus, the level wind lever does a super job wrapping the line around the spool. 

On the opposite side to where the handle is, you have a line out clicker. It will help you when something is taking the line out of the reel. 

The Good
The Not-So-Good
8. Best reel for fresh and saltwater anglers

Piscifun Torrent Baitcasting Rod

  • Graphite frame and side plates
  • Machined Aluminum spool
  • Gear ratio: from 6.2:1 
  • Maximum drag (Pounds): 26 (3000) to 37 (5000)
  • Ball bearings: 7
  • Line capacity: up to 490 depending on the model and test-strength
  • Line clicker alarm 
  • Brass gears

4.4

4.4/5

Are you going after some massive catfish? If so, Piscifun Salis X is a great option for the price. There are two models available for both left and right-hand anglers. 

As you lay an eye on it, you will notice that this is a top-quality reel. It has a light graphite frame and side plates, a machined aluminum spool, and stainless steel oversized handle. Hence, you can use it for fresh and saltwater angling. 

The reel also features stainless steel strap rings. Use them to lower the tension on your arms while fighting a massive catfish.

Internally, Salis X has CNC brass gears and seven stainless steel ball bearings. Delivering a 6.2:1 gear ratio, this is one of the fastest baitcasting reels for catfish on this list. Plus, with a 39 or 49 IPT, you will be getting the fish out of the water in no time. 

The multi-disc carbon fiber drag system yields up to 37 pounds of drag depending on the model. Use the carbon fiber star dial to set it, and take advantage of the line release switch to quickly engage and disengage the reel. 

Like if it wasn’t enough, the Salis X features a quick line wind system, which offers a smooth line release and retrieves. The plastic line guide is the main drawback here.

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9. Best affordable reel for catfish

Okuma Classic CLX Right handedlevelwind Star Drag reels

  • Graphite frame, side plates, and spool
  • Gear ratio: 3.6:1
  • Maximum drag: 13
  • IPT: 24
  • Line capacity (yd/lb): 420/20
  • Oversized aluminum handle 
  • Star drag dial
  • Stainless steel gear
  • Self-lubricating system

4.5

4.5/5

Okuma always manages to cut the prices down and still offer quality products. Like the CLX baitcasting reel for catfish. 

The reel features a light graphite frame, side plates, and spool. The all-black exterior matches perfectly with the aluminum power handle and stainless steel line guide. The result is a reel that looks good and performs even better. 

Near the handle, you will find the on and off engage switch and drag dial. The multi-disc carbon drag washers deliver a decent 13-pound maximum drag. Furthermore, the self-lubrication stainless steel gear systems ensure a smooth operation in any condition. 

Sadly, the drag is something that holds the Okuma CLX back. While it might be enough in the hands of seasoned anglers, beginners might have a hard time landing trophy size catfish. Still, given its price, we think that it is a superb option for beginners. 

The Levelwind mouth is wide for bulky knots to pass through. No need to replace the whole line if a section happens to snap. On the other hand, the spool holds up to 420 yards of 20-pound test monofilament line. 

In terms of gear ratio and IPT, you get 3.8:1 and 24, respectively. It is more than enough power to land some sizable fish. Plus, the oversized handle enhances torque, which translates into a more efficient power transmission. 

The Good
The Not-So-Good
10. Budget spinning reel for catfish

KastKing Sharky III Fishing Reel

  • Graphite body and rotor 
  • Gear ratio: 5.2:1
  • Maximum drag: 13
  • IPT: 27.8 to 33.8 depending on the model
  • Line capacity (yd/lb): up to 160/16
  • Brass pinion gear 
  • Carbon drag system 
  • Water-tight interior 
  • 10 stainless steel ball bearings 

4.6

4.6/5

Are you looking for a versatile reel that you can use on several fish, including catfish? If so, the KastKing Sharky III offers you great value for your money. 

The Sharky III has a reinforced graphite body and rotor with an aluminum spool. It copes with salt and freshwater alike. Plus, KastKing’s intrusion shield blocks the water and dirt. Naturally, this keeps the internal mechanism working as smoothly as the first day. 

Internally, it features a large brass pinion gear, stainless steel main shaft, 10 ball bearings, and zinc alloy drive gear. In combination with the triple carbon disc, the Sharky III delivers up to 40 pounds of drag and a 5.2:1 gear ratio. More than enough power to handle catfish. 

Depending on the model you end up buying, you can wind up to 160 yards of 16-pound test monofilament line. The spool needs no backing if you want to use a braid fishing line as it already comes with a rubber coating. 

The Good
The Not-So-Good

Our Top Pick: Abu Garcia C3

Well, it is no surprise that the best fishing reel for catfish is from the baitcasting family. They are more than capable of handling big fish. Plus, their sturdy built guarantees years and years of servitude. Among all baitcasting reels we’ve reviewed, the Abu Garcia C3 is one the best for sure. 

First, the operation is smoother than on any other reel. Plus, the oversized power handle yields enough torque to land a massive catfish. The best thing is that all models come with one. 

Sure, the KastKing Rover comes at half the price. But the Abu Garcia C3 is easier to maintain and use. Plus, it has a superior built quality with a sealed interior. Thus, neither water nor dirt will find a way inside.  In short, it is a long-lasting investment that will pay itself with massive, trophy-winning catfish. 

But if you are tight on budget, then we suggest getting the KastKing Rover as it offers the best value for your money. 

More Reviews

Daiwa BG Spinning Reel

Features:

  • Aluminum construction 
  • Gear ratio: 5.7:1, 5.6:1, and 5.3:1 depending on the model
  • Maximum drag (pounds): up to 33
  • IPT: up to 55.3
  • Line capacity (yd/lb): up to 550/20
  • Carbon drag system 
  • Water-tight interior 
  • 6 stainless steel ball bearings 

Daiwa BG is another option for the spinning reel and catfish enthusiast. It is not cheap, though. So, skip it if you are on a tight budget. 

The Daiwa BG features an anodized aluminum body. Therefore, you can use it for saltwater angling too. The spool also has an aluminum construction with an ABS coating. It allows you to spool it with braid line without adding a monofilament backing. We do recommend using braid, as the line capacity is not this reel’s strongest point. 

Like most saltwater spinning reels, the Daiwa BG features a seal that prevents water from getting inside the reel and temper with the movement of the 6 ball bearings and oversized gears. The result is an even line retrieve regardless of the situation. 

Only a handful of reels offer a solid screw-in handle. This minimizes the play between the main gear and the handle. Hence, it increases the effectiveness of power transmission. Furthermore, each gear features larger teeth, enhancing durability. 

The multi-disc carbon fiber drag system delivers up to 33 pounds of drag. This depends on the model you purchase. For instance, both the 8000 and 6500 come with such drag. But 1500 and 2000 models have a 4.4-pound maximum drag. We highly recommend getting from the BG4000 onwards for catfish fishing. 

Pros:

  • Smooth drag
  • Superb drag power (large models only) 
  • Marine-proof
  • No play, effective use of your strength

Cons:

  • Only the larger models are suitable for catfish
  • You must purchase the larger models if you want all the premium features which are also more expensive 

KastKing ReKon Line Counter/Level Wind Baitcasting Reel

Features:

  • Graphite frame
  • Aluminum handle and spool
  • Gear ratio: 5.1:1
  • Maximum drag: 30
  • IPT: 33.5
  • Line capacity: From 330 to 420 depending on the line
  • Stainless steel pinion gear
  • Brass drive gear 
  • Multi-disc carbon drag system

Ok, this is starting to look like a KastKing catalog. But it is not our fault. They have been producing reliable fishing gear since their conception. This time we will take some time to check the ReKon baitcaster for catfish. 

The Rekon features a single-piece graphite frame. Hence, its neat black exterior. Both the spool and handle have an aluminum construction. Naturally, both are resistant to corrosion. If you want, you can also get the reel with a line counter. It will show how many feet of line you have out.  

At the end of the oversized red handle, you get a huge EVA foam knob. It lowers the tension on your hands, making them less likely to hurt after a long battle. On the other hand, the aluminum spool holds up to 420 yards of 20-pound test monofilament. So, don’t worry. You will never run out of line with the ReKon baitcasting reel. You may spool thicker lines, of course. But keep in mind that they take more space. Hence, you will be able to wrap fewer yards.

Now, the interior is just as good as the exterior. The Rekon features stainless steel pinion gear, brass drive gear, and three double-shielded ball bearings. Plus, an instant anti-reverse bearing. The drag system comprises three carbon discs. It delivers up to 30 pounds of raw pressure into the line, more than enough for catfish fishing. In fact, it is enough drag for almost any application. 

Pros:

  • Offers a lot for a low price 
  • Versatile reel 
  • Comfortable and large handle

Cons:

  • Although nice to have, the line counter is unreliable
  • It is not as smooth as other baitcasting reels

Sougayilang Rover Round Baitcasting Reel for Catfish

Features:

  • Aluminum frame and spool
  • Gear ratio: from 5.3:1 
  • Maximum drag (Pounds): 22
  • Ball bearings: 7
  • Line capacity: up to 320
  • Line clicker alarm 
  • Brass gears 

The budget-conscious anglers will be glad to read about this baitcasting reel by Sougayilang. There are three models available. The line capacity is the only difference between them. But the best part is that all models retail for less than 60 bucks!

Like most baitcasting reels for catfish, this one features an anodized aluminum spool and side plates. Both are thick and strong to cope with the strain of massive fishes. On the other hand, the brass gears and six ball bearings yield superior corrosion resistance while transferring all the power from the handle to the line. Plus, an extra roller bearing ensures that the spool doesn’t release the line. 

All Rover models feature a 5.3:1 gear ratio and 22 pounds of maximum drag. Hence, extra line capacity is the only valid reason to go for the bigger models. For instance, the 600 version holds up to 320 yards of 0.35 mm line. 

The thumb bar and centrifugal brake make casting much easier. Nevertheless, we found out that this reel doesn’t perform as well as high-end models. Keep in mind, however, that this is one of the most affordable reels for catfish fishing that you can find. 

The handle is large enough to increase torque on each crank. Plus, the star dial drag works fairly well for the price. It might need lubrication from time to time, especially after sea fishing. 

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Saltwater compatible 
  • Left and right-hand models available

Cons:

  • Makes noise when casting
  • Not suitable for long casting

Yoshikawa Baitfeeder Spinning Reel

Features:

  • Graphite body 
  • Anodized aluminum spool and handle
  • Gear ratio: 5.5:1
  • Maximum drag (Pounds): 18 to 28 pounds
  • Line capacity (yd/lb): 222/16
  • Stainless steel gear 
  • Multi-disc carbon drag system
  • 10+1 stainless steel ball bearings
  • Baitfeeder drag system

As spinning reels go, the Baitfeeder by Yoshikawa is a suitable candidate for those anglers looking to land monsters. 

The graphite core and side plates keep the reel light but strong. Try your best to avoid hitting it, though. Carbon fiber is not as sturdy as other metals. Yoshikawa used anodized aluminum for both the spool and handle. As you can see, you can use this reel for both saltwater and freshwater angling. 

You will get a different line capacity and maximum drag configuration. Naturally, both increase as you move from the 3000 version to 6000. For instance, the first one holds up to 200 yards of an 8-pound test line and has 18 pounds of drag. In contrast, 6000 holds up to 220 yards of 16-pounds and delivers 28-pounds of drag. 

It might not look like a lot of drag. But this reel comes with two separate systems: A classic front drag plus a rear dial. The first one works the same as in any reel. But the rear drag is quite different. You can engage or disengage them by using the lever. When it is up (on position), the front drag doesn’t do anything, but the rear system does. As it has less power, the fish can take the bait and swim with it without putting too much pressure into the reel. 

The internals consist of a set of carbon drag washers, stainless steel gears, and 10 ball bearings for smooth operation. 

Pros:

  • The baitfeeder drag is perfect for tiring aggressive fishes 
  • Water-tight 
  • Even line flow for casting 
  • Rear drag eases the tension into the reel

Cons:

  • Hard to use
  • Needs constant maintenance to keep working 

Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Round Baitcast Fishing Reel for Catfish

Features:

  • All-aluminum construction
  • Gear ratio: 5.1:1
  • Maximum drag (Pounds): 11 
  • Line capacity (yd/lb): 230/14 to 255/17 depending on the model
  • Multi-disc drag system
  • 2 stainless steel ball bearings
  • Plastic wide-mouth level wind system 

The Ambassadeur S round baitcasting reel is a more affordable option than the previous Abu Garcia reel for catfish. There are two models available for both right and left-handed anglers.

The reel has a solid anodized aluminum frame, side plates, spool, and handle. There is a switch on either side of the reel. The one closest to the handle releases the line, while the other engaged or disengaged the drag. Lastly, the plastic level wind system guarantees an even line distribution. Plus, the mouth is wide enough for knots to pass without hitting the sides.

Internally, the reel is nothing extraordinary: 2 stainless steel ball bearings, multi-disc drag, a 4-pin centrifugal brake. The Ambassadeur S only delivers 11 pounds of maximum drag regardless of the model. Therefore, it is only suitable for mid-sized fishes. Similarly, both models have the same IPT and gear ratio, 25 inches, and 5.2:1, respectively. 

Pros:

  • Good value for your money
  • Simple construction; perfect for beginners 
  • Durable all-aluminum construction

Cons:

  • Not the smoothest of reels 
  • Only suitable for medium-sized fishes due to low drag drag 

Okuma Magda Pro Trolling Reel with Counter for Catfish

Features:

  • Graphite body with stainless steel side plates
  • Aluminum spool
  • Gear ratio: 5.1:1 and 4:1
  • Maximum drag (Pounds): up to 18 depending on the model
  • Line capacity (yd/lb): up 430/25 depending on the model 
  • Brass gears
  • 2 stainless steel ball bearings

Are you looking for a baitcasting reel with a line counter for catfish? If so, you ought to check the Okuma Magda Pro. 

It has a graphite frame and spool with stainless steel side plates. Therefore, you can take this reel for your saltwater fishing trips without worrying about corrosion. The stainless steel level wind features the classic Okuma wide-mouth. It ensures knot clearance, which translates into a smooth reeling and casting. 

Inside the reel, you have a series of carbon discs that act as the drag system delivering up to 18 pounds of pressure. The brass gears and two stainless steel ball bearings are responsible for keeping the spool moving. The reel features self-lubricating reels, which means that they release oil as the load increases. Hence, keeping the gears cool and preventing excessive friction.

As the title suggested, the Okuma Magda Pro comes with a mechanical line counter. It is not the best. Nevertheless, it gives you a fairly good estimation of how much line is out in the water. 

There are four different models available. Each one has a different gear ratio, IPT, and maximum drag. The great news is that all versions come for both right and left-handed anglers. 

Pros: 

  • Budget-friendly
  • Easy to use 
  • Comes with a line counter 

Cons:

  • The frame has shows some flex
  • The handle is quite uncomfortable 
  • Not enough drag for big catfish

Piscifun Chaos XS Round Baitcasting Fishing Reel for Catfish

Features:

  • All-aluminum exterior
  • Gear ratio: 5.3:1 
  • Maximum drag (Pounds): up to 222 depending on the model
  • Ball bearings: 7
  • Line capacity: up to 305 depending on the model and test-strength
  • Line clicker alarm 
  • Brass gears 

The Chaos XS comes at a more affordable price than the last Piscifun reel for catfish we reviewed. It lacks some of the high-end features of the previous model. However, the Chaos XS has its own aces in the sleeve. 

The whole construction is marine-rated. Therefore, you can use this reel for trolling in the sea as well. It has an aluminum body, side plates, handles, and spool. The level wind system has two shafts instead of one. It increases the support and keeps the line from twisting as you cast or reel it. 

Line capacity changes depending on the model you purchase. It starts at 180yd/14lb for the 40 version up to 305yd/15lb for the largest model. On the opposite side to where the handle is, you will find the line clicker. It is so sensitive that it will instantly alert you as soon as a fish gets hooked. 

Under the hood, you have a set of carbon and stainless steel drag washers. Depending on the model, they deliver up to 22 pounds of maximum drag. On the other hand, the brass gears and 6+1 anti-corrosion ball bearings keep the reel moving, delivering a 5.3:1 gear ratio with 24.8 IPT. Internally, the reel works great. It is smooth. Plus, the line wraps evenly around the spool and it casts with ease. 

Pros:

  • Durable aluminum exterior
  • Suitable for saltwater 
  • The concave holes in the spool keep the line from slipping
  • Good casting

Cons:

  • The level wind eye tends to fall off 
  • The drag takes some time to engage 

Okuma Avenger ABF Baitfeeder Reel for Catfish

Features:

  • Graphite frame
  • Anodized aluminum spool
  • Gear ratio: 5.0:1 and 4.5:1
  • Maximum drag (Pounds): up to 24
  • Ball bearings: 7
  • Line capacity: up to 320 yards depending on the model and test-strength
  • Brass gears 
  • Multi-disc felt drag system

We bring another option for the spinning reel lovers. It is the Avenger ABF by Okuma. There are six models available. Each one has a different IPT, maximum drag, and gear ratio setting. However, for catfish fishing, we highly recommend going with the ABF-4000 or larger. 

The Avenger ABF features a light graphite frame and an anodized aluminum spool. It holds up to 320 yards of the fishing line depending on the model and test-strength. It is more than enough for medium to large catfish. 

As the name suggests, the Avenger ABF comes with a baitfeeder drag system. Such reels have a dual drag arrangement. The one at the front does the heavy lifting, yielding up to 24 pounds of maximum drag. The one at the rear works as you engage the baitfeeder lever. It will put a subtle amount of pressure into the line, so the catfish can engulf the bait without noticing the tension. This way, you have a higher chance of setting the hook right.

The Avenger ABF spinning reel for catfish features a sealed interior. Thus, neither water nor dirt will damage the brass gears, seven stainless steel ball bearings, and multi-disc felt drag system found inside the reel. 

Pros:

  • Light, great for long fishing sessions 
  • Comes with one year warranty
  • Great capacity for a spinning reel

Cons:

  • Large models are bulky and might have issues with some rod holders 
  • Delicate baitfeeder switch 

SHIMANO TEKOTA LevelWind Reel for Catfish

Features:

  • All-aluminum construction
  • Gear ratio: 4.2:1
  • Maximum drag (Pounds): up to 24
  • Ball bearings: 4
  • Line capacity: up to 410 yards depending on the model and test-strength
  • Multi-disc Dartanium drag system
  • Line Counter

Skip this option if you are not willing to pay top dollar for a baitcasting reel for catfish. The SHIMANO TEKOTA is the most expensive reel in this guide. Therefore, we only recommend it if you a hardcore angler who fishes constantly. 

This premium reel features a hard die-cast aluminum frame, handles, and spool. The TEKOTA holds up to 410 yards of a 25-pound test mono fishing line. It is much more than you will ever need. Plus, the mechanical line counter will give you a fairly accurate reading of how much line is out. 

SHIMANO doesn’t offer too much information about what’s inside the reel. But we can tell you that it features four ball bearings treated with an anti-rust coating and Dartanium drag discs. The gears do a great job smoothly transferring the power from the handle to the line. Depending on the model you buy, you can get up to 24 pounds of drag, 33 IPT, and a 4.2:1 gear ratio. As you can see, this reel was meant for huge fish. 

Pros:

  • Strong gears 
  • Powerful reel
  • Ideal for long casting
  • Huge line capacity 
  • The line counter works great

Cons:

  • Heavy 
  • Pricey

PENN Warfare Level Wind Catfish Fishing Reel

Features:

  • Graphite body and side plates 
  • HT-100 carbon drag system
  • Gear ratio: 5.1:1
  • Maximum drag (Pounds): 15
  • Ball bearings: 3
  • Line capacity (yd/lb): up to 475/15 depending on the model
  • IPT: 29
  • Large aluminum handle
  • Line counter
  • Bait clicker
  • Brass gears 

Wrapping things up, we bring the Warfare Level Wind round reel by PENN. There are three different sizes, and you can choose them with or without a line counter and right/left handle.

The graphite body makes the Warfare Level Wind remarkably light. Moreover, the machined aluminum spool is braid-ready and needs no backing. It holds up to 475 yards of 15-pound test monofilament fishing line. Both models come with the same oversized aluminum handle with a huge single knob. 

The internals consist of HT-100 carbon drag discs, machined brass main and pinion gears, and three stainless steel shielded ball bearings. All sizes come with the same 5.1:1 gear ratio, 15 pounds of maximum drag, and 29 IPT. Line capacity is the only thing that changes between them. Naturally, the biggest reel, the WAR30, has the largest line capacity. Thus, it is more suitable for trolling and deep-water fishing. 

Pros:

  • Very compact
  • Easy casting
  • Large and comfortable handle

Cons:

  • Imprecise line counter 
  • Drag washers need constant maintenance
  • Free-spool lever gets stuck at times 

Best Reel for Catfish: What You Should Know

Fishing reels for catfish have the same parts as regular reels. However, as catfish are massive fishes that lurk the depths, you need a strong reel with a good drag and enough line for the battle ahead. In this section, we will talk about relevant features that you should look into when choosing the best fishing reel for catfish. 

Budget 

Like with everything, you get what you pay. You will find a wide variety of options in the market. Each one has a unique price. Thus, before searching, you should set your budget. There is no point in falling in love with a 150 dollars reel if you are only willing to spend 75.  

Naturally, things get hard with a tight budget. The reel will have a lesser capacity. The drag won’t be enough for huge catfish, or the internal will get stuck at times. Either way, this doesn’t mean that you must pay top dollar to fish for catfish. You merely need to understand that you are getting what you pay and acknowledge what you can and can’t do with it.

What Kind of Reel for Catfish?

There are basically three types of reels: Spinning, baitcasting, and spincast reels. We only recommend the first two. Let’s understand why.

Spinning Reel for Catfish

Most anglers know how to use a spinning reel. Some even take their first steps into the angling world with one of these. Spinning reels are easy to use and versatile. They are compatible with a wide variety of fishing styles and targets. 

Only certain models are suitable for catfish fishing. Typically, saltwater spinning reels are the ones to go for in this situation. Not because they are resistant to corrosion. But because you can even land a shark with them. So, saltwater spinning reels are more than capable of landing a massive catfish. 

Another advantage of saltwater spinning reels is that they come with more drag and carry more lines. So, if you are thinking about getting a spinning reel for catfishing, go with one of these. 

Baitcasting Reel for Catfish

Baitcasting reels are the way to go for catfish fishing. They are compatible with thicker lines. Plus, they can hold lots of it. Additionally, their gear ratios and IPT match the ones needed to fish these monsters. 

The construction is more durable also. For instance, round baitcasting reels distribute the tension better. Besides, their sturdy construction makes them capable of handling the biggest of catches. They are compatible with most catfish fishing rods available, whereas spinning reels don’t. 

The main problem with baitcasting fishing reels is that they are much harder to use than spinning reels. Bird nests are quite common, especially for the inexperienced. It will take you some time to master the technique. But everything should go fine once you do. 

Spincast Reel for Catfish

Spincast reels are a no go for catfish fishing. They lack the drag, capacity, strength, and gear ratio needed to land a cat. However, some people might use them when targeting smaller catfish. Still, we don’t recommend going for a spincast reel for catfish fishing.

Construction

Most fishing reels for catfish either have an aluminum or graphite construction. The first one is stronger but prone to corrosion. Plus, it adds more weight to the reel. In contrast, graphite is lighter and more resistant to the elements. Nevertheless, graphite is fragile and shows more flex than aluminum.

Internally, stainless steel or brass gears are the most common. Both work well, and they easily cope with corrosion. Stainless steel ball bearings are the only ones you should consider. 

Drag

A reliable drag system is crucial for fishing. It will prevent the line from snapping. To simply put it, the drag is the pressure that the reel puts on the line. More pressure means that the fish need to fight harder to take the line out of the spool. Hence, getting tired in the process. Naturally, you should always set the drag according to the line’s test strength. It has to be always lower. It will snap otherwise. 

You can set the drag by using the star dial next to the handle in any baitcasting reel. If you have a spinning reel, you will find the dial in the front. Knowing how to set the drag is a vital skill. For instance, if you set less drag than needed, the fish will take more line out of the spool. Conversely, using more drag will make the line more likely to snap. 

All baitcasting reels, and some spinning models, have something known as baitfeeder or bait runner. It is a secondary drag system that puts a subtle amount of pressure into the line. This way, the line won’t snap if the fish takes a sudden dive and allows the fish to engulf the bait without noticing the line. The result is a better hook set and fewer snaps. Another advantage of baitfeeeders is that they make a sound as soon as a fish takes the bait. 

Go for a fishing reel for catfish that has a smooth, sensible drag system. If possible, choose one with carbon drag washers. 

Line Capacity

The title is self-explanatory. It represents how much fishing line the reel can hold. For catfish fishing, you want a reel with a tremendous line capacity. First, if the line breaks, you won’t need to re-spool the reel. Additionally, several tactics require lots of fishing line. 

Beware, line capacity changes depending on the line thickness. Thicker lines take more space. Hence, the less line you can spool. Therefore, make sure to check the test strength before making any decisions. 

Gear Ratio

It might sound complicated. But gear ratio means the number of spins the spools do per handle crank. Most reels come with an X:1 label, where X is a number. It means that the spool spins X times per handle crank. Therefore, a 5:1 gear ratio means 5 spins per handle crank, and so on. 

Higher gear ratios translate into a faster line retrieve. But less torque. In contrast, lower ratios yield more power at the expense of speed. 

The retrieval rate, commonly known as inches per turn (IPT), is closely related to this feature. Typically, fast reels have a higher IPT.

Handle

The handle is often an overlooked feature by most beginners. It shouldn’t be as it plays a vital role. All spinning reels come with the same handle. The only thing that changes is the size and knob. But baitcasting reels might come with two different handles, one known as power handle and another double-knob standard handle. 

There are two main differences between them. For instance, the first one is larger, comes with a single knob, and has a counterweight at the opposite end. A large handle yields more torque with less effort, easing the fight against a big catfish. Most heavy-duty fishing reels for catfishing feature a power handle.

What People Commonly Ask 

What is the best gear ratio for catfish?

Many beginners don’t realize how important the gear ratio is. For instance, slow reels are ideal for battle against massive fishes. Why? Well, slower reels typically have bigger gears. Hence, they produce more torque, which means less effort on your part. 

Most fishing reels for catfish have a gear ratio around 5:1. Therefore, spinning reels are typically faster, while baitcasting reels are slower. So, there is not much room for error here. 

What is a bait clicker? 

A bait clicker, also known as the line out an alarm, is an audible alarm that lets you know when a fish is pulling the line. Most baitcasting and some spinning reels come equipped with one.

How do you reel a catfish? 

Reeling a catfish is no different from reeling any other large fish. It all comes down to use the reel and rod to your advantage. So, setting the drag is the most important step. Most anglers set the drag as a fraction of the line’s breaking strength. 

As soon as you get a good hook set, it is time to let the catfish swim at drag with the bait. Naturally, keep it away from weeds or any other structure. The drag will maintain the line tight while tiring the fish at the same time.

Now, it is time to start reeling the line. The best way is to pull the rod up. Then, reel the line as fast as you can while lowering the tip of the rod. It is important not to let the line slack. The catfish can spit the hook if you do this. Repeat this process as many times as you need to land the fish. Keep in mind that you might need to let the catfish swim away with some line between repetitions. Remember, fishing is not about speed. It is about endurance. Tree stumps, rocks, and weeds are huge red flags. Keep the fish aways from them. 

Are baitcasters any good for catfish?

Yes, they absolutely are. Most catfish anglers only use baitcaster fishing reels, particularly the round one. They are stronger, with larger capacity, more than enough drag, and more durable than most spinning reels. So, it is not a surprise that most reels for large fish, including massive cats, are of the baitcasting type. 

What does level wind reel mean?

The level wind is simply a line guide that has the responsibility of distributing the line in the spool as evenly as possible while you reel it.

Most round baitcasting reels come with a little line guide at the front. One or two shafts support it and provide a rail where the line guide moves. This side-to-side movement is the feature that assures a good line distribution. 

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Hi! I’m Steven!

I am an avid life long fisherman, having caught over 25,000 fish over the years. My life-long passion for fishing began when my father taught me how to fish at the age of ten. I started luremefish.com to share my extensive knowledge of all things fishing.

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