Best Catfish Reels in 2022

PENN Spinfisher V Spinning Fishing Reel

PENN Squall II Level Wind Conventional Fishing Reel

Abu Garcia C3 Species Special Baitcast Round Fishing Reel

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Best Catfish Reels Review

Fishermen love to target catfish, whether if for a nice meal or a huge price. But catfish are quite hard to catch due to their size and strength, catfish are feisty and tend to put up a fight, but they are usually eager to go after bait which makes them fun and interesting to fish for whether you’re on th shore or a boat. There are lots of catfish species, up to 3000, and they all have different sizes and temperaments; some grow to reach monstrous sizes, so you’ll need the right gear and tackle to make a successful catch. However, you may need specialized fishing gear such as heavy-duty catfish reels to handle the strength of the more giant-sized catfish.

For instance, small catfish can weigh 1 pound, while larger catfishes can reach weights of up to 100+ pounds. A good catfish reel combined with a sturdy catfish rod will improve your fishing techniques to help you successfully catch a catfish. There are different types of catfish reels; there is the baitcaster reel, which is ideal for heavier fishing lines, or the catfish spinning reels, which help you cast further. It doesn’t matter the catfish reel you choose; it has to be reliable and durable. Once you have the best catfish reel, you’ll have the proper gear needed to target and catch different catfish species.

In this article, we will be exploring the best catfish reels, what’s suitable for saltwater fishing, and so on. We’ll also be providing you with a buyer’s guide and frequently asked question section.


When it concerns angling, there are three famous reel styles that are available on the market. They can all be used for catfishing, but some have a few more advantages over others.

Spinning Reel

These reels are the most commonly used reels in the angling community due to their effectiveness and how easy they are to use. But they are not the most popular for catfishing because anglers tend to choose baitcasting reels for their power. Heavier spinning reels may limit your choice of rods, but they are effective. They are easy to use, come with high-tech drag systems, and hold a sufficient amount of line.

Baitcast Reel

Baitcast reels are the most common choice for anglers fishing for catfish, thanks to their control and power. They are well known for their large line capacities and high-tech drag systems that are built to tackle trophy fish. But these reels are usually used by advanced anglers as the reel needs a bit of experience to fully master its usage.


These reels are the most basic type of catfish reels; they are used mainly by beginners or when fishing for smaller fishes. They are quite easy to handle but have a limited capacity and low-quality drag systems. They would be great for teaching children how to fish for catfish as they is reduced the risk of the line getting tangled.


When you’re shopping for a catfish reel, you need to note what model would be durable, smooth, reliable, and strong. A high quality catfish reel should have high performance and be made from high quality materials. We’ll be listing out the factors/features that make up the best catfish reels.

The Type Of Fish You Intend On Targeting

It might seem odd to note the type of fish you would be targeting, but it’s important to take it into mind as it will help you choose the best reel to handle the task at hand. If you intend on fishing for moderately sized species of fish, you can opt for the standard reel, but if you want trophy fishes, you’ll need a reel that can handle a fight.

Required Features

There are some features that a reel may have that would be helpful in your fight against a massive catfish. Usually, an angler would prefer to buy a reel with a strong drag. Before going through different reels, make sure you know the features you would need in a reel to help you narrow down your choices.

Reel Type

As we mentioned above, there are three main types of reels, spinning, baitcasting, and spin cast. They all have their advantages and disadvantages. Spincast reels are easy to use, which makes them great for beginners. They are also the most affordable type of reel, but you would be missing out on casting distance and accuracy.

Spinning reels are the most popular type of reels, and they are easy to cast; they’re also very accurate. But they do not pair well with heavier lines. Baitcasting reels, on the other hand, are made for people with more experience. They offer great accuracy, power, and distance, making them suitable for dealing with larger and stronger fish.

Line Capacity

The line capacity of a reel refers to how many lines the spool can hold at a time. For catfishing, you’ll need a reel that offers a large line capacity. It’s better because you would need to depend on a heavier fishing line to tackle catfish. Line capacity is measured in yards, but it also depends on the weight. A line capacity of 12/196 means that your fishing reel can hold up to 196 yards of fishing line weighing 12 pounds. If you prefer the braided line, keep in mind that it is thinner and less flexible compared to the monofilament option. Most fishing reel manufacturers do not give specs for fishing lines, but you can go through reviews to find the most suitable option.

The majority of anglers prefer having a large line capacity as it is helpful in situations when the line tangles, breaks or when a catfish takes the line. Baitcaster reels for catfish have a larger line capacity than catfish spinning reels. Having a large line capacity allows you to perform a variety of catfishing techniques; it’ll also allow you to make long casts and fish in deep waters where catfish usually reside.

Drag System

A high-quality catfish reel should feature an adjustable drag system that can be fine-tuned to help in reeling in a catch. When fishing for catfish, having the right drag adjustment means the difference between catching a catfish and coming up empty-handed. The drag system helps you tire out large catfishes while you’re slowly and continuously reeling them in. a proper drag system prevents the line and other pieces that aid tackling from breaking. Every good quality reel comes with a drag system, but the cheapest option usually isn’t sufficient. If you intend to target large catfish, you should invest in a good quality reel with a proper drag system that includes the drag washer, and they should be made from metal and not plastic to improve their durability.

Catfishing reels come with their drag adjustments located in varying areas. Some are front-mounted or spool mounted, which usually have a knob at the top of the reel. While the rear-mounted drag system has the knob located at the bottom of the reel. A baitcaster reel for catfish also has a drag feature known as a bait clicker or bait runner. This feature allows your spool to spin freely, which lets the catfish run with the bait. Once you begin reeling in the catch, the feature disengages and reverts to its basic drag function.

A bait clicker or runner is helpful for two reasons. The first reason being that it makes a loud clicking sound that alerts the fisher that they have caught a fish. The second reason is that it reduces the tension on the line as the fish swims to the bottom, which means there would be fewer broken lines. Lots of updated spinning reels for catfish have this feature, and this makes them a strong contender.

Gear Ratio

The gear ratio determines how much line revolves around the spool and its speed when the handle is turned. Having a huge ratio such as 6:1 allows you to retrieve more lines faster which each turn of the handle. This is vital when you’re tackling a large catfish, especially if you cast a long distance and have a lot of lines to reel back in. a gear ratio of 5.2:1 means the spool makes 5.2 revelations for every complete turn of the handle. It’s important to note the gear ratio in relation to the types of lures or the bait you intend on using. A deep water crankbait will require a reel with a lower gear ratio, while jigs need a high gear ratio. The most suitable gear ratio for catching catfish is between 4 or 5 to 1 because these fishes put up a fight. Also, the spool tension should be increased.


The size of the catfishing reel you choose will be related to the line capacity of the model. If the catfishing reel has an extensive line capacity, then it would have an overall large size. Smaller line capacity means smaller reels. The size of a reel is usually measured in thousands, with 1000 being the smallest size available for sale. The best size for a standard catfish reel would be 4000 to 5000.

Ball Bearings

High-quality reels come with sealed ball bearings on the rotating parts; they offer a smoother and sturdier performance, but keep in mind that stainless steel is the best material. Much cheaper reels tend to use bushings because they are cheap and easy to produce. If you prioritize quality over price, then always opt for a reel with ball bearings. A high-quality catfish reel will feature a substantial number of ball bearings. The general rule is, the more, the better, except they are of low quality.

Counter Balance

The best catfish reels always have proper counterbalance with the catfish rod. The reel should allow comfortable sit on the rod without placing so much weight forward or backward. Check the reel’s line capacity as it also affects the weight and determines how it may or may not affect the rod’s counterbalance. While you may be able to fish with an unbalanced rod, it would be an uncomfortable and exhausting experience, which is why it is better to use a rod with the proper counterbalance setup.


The weight of the reel you choose is a vital buying trait, whether or not you’re fishing for catfish. If you’re targeting large catfish, a heavier reel would be able to support the weight of the fish. The size of the reel should match that of the rod; balance is vital. If you get a large reel with a light and short rod, you wouldn’t be very successful in catching catfish. Choose your rod and reels size/weight based on the size of the catfish you intend on going after.


High-quality catfish reels should have a durable build and made from quality materials. Catfish are incredibly strong and can place a lot of pressure on the rod and reel. A top-notch catfish reel shouldn’t malfunction or break under the strong pull of a struggling catfish. Catfish reels should also be corrosion resistant and watertight. It doesn’t matter whether you’re fishing in freshwater or saltwater; exposure to water will cause the reel’s materials to eventually break down. Catfishing reels should be made from materials resistant to damage from regular exposure to water. You can avoid water, so make sure you choose a rod and reel that is made out of durable materials. The most common materials used in making reels include aluminum, stainless steel, and graphite. The most suitable material for reels includes carbon fiber and stainless steel.

Metals such as aluminum and stainless steel have the advantage of being stronger, but they tend to corrode more easily. Graphite is more suitable for saltwater fishing, and it’s also more affordable. However, stainless steel is the best option for ball bearings.

Power Handle

Power handles are large knobs placed on the reel; they are becoming a standard for catfishing reels. They provide more leverage when pulling in a large fish. The large surface of the of the power handle offers a secure grip and increased surface area for improved torque. Choosing to use a power handle depends on your preference; some anglers prefer having a larger knob while others like the standard handle. However, if you intend on fishing for large catfish, these handles would be worth noting. These types of handles can be found on some fishing reels such as the Lew’s Speed Cast Reel, but they have to be bought separately most times.


The spool is what holds the fishing line; it’s also part of what you turn when trying to reel in a catch. When the handle is turned, you’ll either be winding or unwinding the fishing line from the spool. When casting your fish hook and line, you are unwinding the fishing line from the spool. A good quality spool should have a large line capacity so you’ll be able to cast faster. Also, spools should provide smooth turns and remain loop-free.


The brake slows down the speed of the spool turns, and some catfishing reels now feature one. A brake can stop the spool from turning entirely; it’s a feature that prevents a backlash situation when the line’s speed spins faster than the spool as you cast the line. However, a free spool doesn’t come with a brake, which means you can cast easier and further.

After going through the buying guide, it should be easier to find the best catfish reel to start your fishing adventure. To make things much easier, we have compiled a list of the best catfish reels available in the market. Let’s take a look at the list.

The Best Catfish Reels Are Reviewed Below

Below is a detailed review of the best catfish reels; it provides information on each product. Having the right information will help you make the best choice.


PENN Spinfisher V Spinning Fishing Reel

The Penn Spin fisher V spinning catfish reel is suitable for use in saltwater and sandy areas. It has a durable build with a dependable performance. The spinning reel has a full metal body, rotor, and side plate to help prevent corrosive damage. The reel is durable and watertight; it also uses heavy-duty aluminum bail wire to improve line security and safety. It features a sealed HT-100 slammer drag system that’s robust and provides a friction-free and silky smooth feel, making it great at casting far.

This reel also makes use of five shielded stainless steel ball bearings for smooth cranking. It also comes with an anti-reverse bearing which ensures that you don’t lose a catch due to confusion or stumbling. It has a strong stopping power which means you can target and tackle larger fish. The CNC gear of the reel features a precise alignment that helps manage heavy loads better. For added comfort and convenience, the reel doesn’t need any backing and comes braid-ready, so you can start fishing faster.

Key Features:

  • Watertight
  • Sealed HT-100 slammer drag
  • Five shielded stainless steel ball bearings
  • Superline spool
  • Heavy-duty aluminum bail wire


  • Brand: Penn
  • Model: Spinfisher V
  • Weight: 2 Pounds
  • Dimensions: 8 * 6 * 5 inches
  • Material: stainless steel and aluminum
  • Gear ratio: 6.2:1
  • Braid line capacity: 240/10* 220/15 16-/20
  • Bearing count: 6
  • Monoline capacity: 255/6, 175/8, 140/10
  • Maximum drag: 15 Pounds
  • Inches per turn: 33
  • Watertight build
  • Suitable for sandy and saltwater environments
  • Prevents corrosive damage
  • Suitable for catching coastal catfish
  • It comes with a full metal body
  • Reliable performance
  • Features an anti-reverse bearing
  • Friction-free
  • Braid ready
  • Features five stainless steel ball bearings
  • Features a CNC gear system for precise alignment
  • The handle may seem lost in some instances


PENN Squall II Level Wind Conventional Fishing Reel

This catfish reel from Penn is made to withstand the harsh conditions of saltwater. It comes with a forged aluminum spool that’s braid-ready. To see how many lines you have left, you can simply check the line capacity rings that mark 1/3, 2/3, and total capacity. It comes with a HT-100 drag washer and a stainless steel pinion gear. The reel also comes with bearings and an anti-reverse system. The anti-reverse and bearing system are made from shielded stainless steel.

To achieve a great drag, there is a greased HT-100 Versa system that offers multiple drag settings. The main gear in this reel is made from marine-grade bronze alloy. Even though this reel is made from a lot of metal, it is still lightweight due to its graphite frame and side plates that help improve the reel’s ability to resist corrosion. This reel is a great option for powerful saltwater catfish, but it also works for freshwater catfish and other fish species.

Key Features:

  • 3+1 shielded stainless steel ball bearings
  • Fast gear access side plate
  • HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers
  • Forged/ machined aluminum spool
  • Graphite frame and side plates


  • Brand: Penn
  • Model: Squall II (SQLII15LW)
  • Weight: 1.54 Pounds
  • Dimensions: 6.69 * 5.11 * 3.54 inches
  • Material: Aluminum and stainless steel
  • Color: Black Gold
  • Its durable
  • It’s lightweight and easy to use
  • Ideal for anglers
  • It offers free spool tension
  • Some users complained about the level wind gear failing after a few uses


Abu Garcia C3 Species Special Baitcast Round Fishing Reel

This reel from Abu Garcia provides smooth cats and retrieval; Abu Garcia is a Sweden-based company known for its top-notch material and reliability. It has a powerful drag system and a beautiful look. This reel stands out among others with its bright orange color laid against a sleek black finishing. It has an incredibly effective drag system and a high-quality braking system for added control. The reel is an ideal option for anglers with a bit more money to spend and those looking for an upgrade from a small spinning reel. Overall, this reel is a great spinning reel that makes catfishing fun and interesting.

Key Features:

  • Carbon matrix drag system
  • Three stainless steel ball bearings
  • One roller bearing
  • Extended bent handle
  • 6 pin centrifugal brake


  • Brand: Abu Garcia
  • Model: C3 species bait cast reel
  • Color: Black and Gold
  • Material: Aluminium and stainless steel
  • It has a stylish and sleek design
  • It comes with an ergonomically comfortable handle
  • It has a powerful drag system
  • It is explicitly designed for catfishing
  • The brake system aids casting and retrieval
  • It has no thumb bar
  • It doesn’t have the best gear ratio
  • It emits a bit of rattle


KastKing Sharky III Fishing Reel

The KastKing Sharky III Reel is designed to handle trophy fish, making it ideal for big game anglers. The reel is incredibly versatile as it’s safe to use in saltwater and freshwater bodies. The reel is lightweight, comes with a fiber-reinforced graphite body and a rotor that offers power. It also features the best-in-class triple disc carbon/fiber drag systems, making it reliable for reeling in a catch. It has an oversized stainless steel main shaft that offers improved precision casting.

The reel is sealed with a KISS, which refers to a specific and unique water-resistant design that keeps the spool, rotor, and body-safe. By preventing water and dirt from entering, you’ll get improved functioning and a long-lasting catfish reel. The reel provides a smooth and quiet retrieve which makes reeling in a catch effortless. The aluminum spool comes braid ready, so it doesn’t require a backing line when spooling, which reduces tangles. The KastKing Sharky also features 10+1 stainless steel ball bearings, an aluminum handle, and an instant anti-reverse lock; you get all the best features in one reel.

Key Features:

  • KISS unique water-resistant design
  • Shark fin braid ready aluminum spool
  • Fiber-reinforced graphite body and rotor


  • Brand: KastKing
  • Model: Sharky III
  • Weight: 13.1 Ounces
  • Dimensions:
  • Material: Graphite, stainless steel, and carbon fiber
  • Color: Black and Red
  • Guides: Fuji O-ring
  • Handle: High-density EVA
  • Blank Technology: 24 ton KastFlex
  • Lightweight
  • Fiber-reinforced graphite body
  • Durable
  • It can handle trophy fishes
  • Safe for use in freshwater and saltwater
  • Incredibly powerful
  • It comes braid ready
  • It offers better precision casting
  • Ideal for catfishing
  • Water resistant design
  • If not handled properly, the reel could break



The Shimano Tekota 300 is resistant to saltwater and also has a great performance as a surf reel. It has a powerful drag system and a large line capacity. It is made from high quality diecast aluminum which makes it durable. This reel is ideal for anglers who prefer a bit more versatility in their tool. Most other catfishing reels are better suited for hunting catfish and nothing else, but this reel is effective in catching a variety of fish, ranging from freshwater lake fishing to ocean fishing.

However great this reel is, it could benefit from having a smoother retrieval system and a higher gear ratio. The Shimano Tekota is an ideal reel for well-rounded anglers; it offers versatility, so you don’t have to worry.

Key Features:

  • One-piece diecast aluminum frame
  • Unique crossbar forward design
  • Specially treated anti-rust bearings
  • Level wind system


  • Brand: Shimano
  • Model: Tekota Levelwind
  • Maximum drag: 24 Pounds
  • Dimensions: 5 * 5 * 5 inches
  • Color: Green and Yellow
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Line capacity: 25/410, 30/350, 40/290, 65/570
  • It provides fast retrievals
  • It offers smooth casting
  • It has a level wind system
  • Its is corrosion resistant
  • It can be used for trolling
  • Its quite bulky
  • Its level wind system is quite flimsy
  • The retrieval could be better

Buying Guide Questions

Below are answers to some commonly asked questions regarding catfish reels.

What weight rod should I use for catfish?

When fishing for catfish, a medium or medium heavy action rod would be suitable for channel catfish. However, a medium heavy action rod is better for blue and flathead catfish.

What size hooks should I use for catfish?

The right sizes of treble hooks for catching channel catfish are sizes 2, 4, 6, and 8. The smaller numbers represent the larger hooks, meaning a size 2 hook is larger than a size 8 hook. The best overall hook size is size 6, as it makes fishing for channel catfish easy.

What is anti-reverse on a spinning reel?

Anti-reverse is a feature located at the bottom of the spinning reel, and it’s quite helpful when fighting fish. The switch lets you reel in reverse or back-reel instead of relying solely on the drag system for line tension.

What is the best gear ratio for catfishing?

Gear ratios features on most bait cast reels range from 5.0:1 to 9.1:1. The professionals use high-speed models ranging from 7.1:1 to 9.1:1 because it’s easier to slow down the retrieve with a fast reel than to reel faster with a low-speed option.

Are expensive reels worth it?

The more expensive reels are worth their price as they are lighter, have more features, including a drag system, and balance well with high-end rods. The expensive options allow you to enjoy your time fishing on the water and catch fishes that a lesser quality reel would have lost.

Do professionals use spinning reels?

Professional fishermen use spinning reels when they need to toss a small crankbait, a light jerk bait, or a beetle spin. A baitcasting reel can’t reach the distance that’s needed when using small or light lures.

What is the best bait for blue catfish?

When fishing for blue catfish, you’ll need a bit that stinks a lot, such as mud shad, cut herring, or menhaden. Some anglers use commercially made stink baits, while others prefer to use chicken livers.


It doesn’t matter if you’re targeting small catfish or the larger species; you will need a good reel. There are a lot of options to choose from, and it can feel stressful especially choosing between spinning and baitcasting reels. However, we feel baitcasting reels are better suited due to their versatility, but spinning reels work great as well.

In order to choose the best catfish reel that would suit your needs, remember to be aware of the buying guide. If you’re going for smaller fish, a spinning reel with a light rod would be suitable. No matter the species or technique you intend on using, there is an ideal reel.