Best Catfish Reels

Fishing today has become an amalgamation of recreation as well as a way of livelihood for many people around the world. 

There are mainly two types of anglers or fishers, which we usually find- the recreational ones and the more severe game catching type.

Catching game fishes requires more skill and courage, and even after that, if you do not have the correct equipment or reel, you may never end up catching what you started for. With different kinds of equipment for various species of fishes, it becomes essential to have a firm grasp on what kind of reel is the best for which particular fish.

Best Catfish Reels

Catfishes are a broad group of ray-finned fishes that happen to be quite a popular type of game fish. 

This name comes from the fact that their barbels look like a cat’s whiskers, and they vary from one species to another, with the Mekong Giant Catfish being the largest and the candiru being the smallest among the lot.

A catfish doesn’t have scales, and the species have a fair amount of commercial importance based on their use for farming or food. Moreover, several catfishes are nocturnal and are also a significant species for fish keeping or aquarium hobby.

It is essential to understand the nature of catfishes before selecting an appropriate reel. The catfish is quite a challenging fish to catch due to its weight and resistance. To withstand its weight and other features, you need a perfect reel that can perform time and again with almost 100% accuracy.

Hence here we present a comprehensive guide to buying the ideal catfish reel, which will not only save you a lot of time and trouble but also give you an idea of what to look for before buying your next reel.

Top 5 Best Catfish Reels


Abu Garcia C3-6500 Ambassadeur Catfish Special Round Baitcast Fishing Reel

At this point, you may have a fair estimate about how catfishes fight hard and can also bite you while you set upon catching them. If you fail to get the correct equipment, you are surely going to be disappointed. 

To prevent this from happening, we have the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur reel, which not only tops the list for the best catfish reels but also gives you no reason to fear while going out on your next haul.

There is a good reason for the product to be one of your best options out there. With super smooth casts and retrieval, the Swedish company that has made this reel manages to tick all the boxes for the perfect catfish reel. 

Another feature that makes the reel stand out is its magnificent design and incredibly strong drag system.

The buyers who will be most happy with this purchase are the ones looking to spend some extra money to get their hands on a reel that can not only be used to catch game fishes but works equally well for other smaller species too.

While the reel is the ideal candidate out there, that doesn’t mean there is no room for improvement. With the lofty price that the users end up paying, expecting some extra features like a thumb bar and a better gear ratio isn’t unreasonable.


  • It has a very sleek and stylish design
  • Comes with quite a powerful drag system
  • Equipped with comfortable handles


  • Doesn’t have a thumb bar
Abu Garcia C3-6500 Ambassadeur Catfish Special Round Baitcast Fishing Reel
  • Round baitcast reel designed especially for catfish fishing
  • Engineered for smoothness with 3 stainless ball bearings and 1 roller bearing
  • Carbon Matrix drag system provides smooth and consistent drag
  • 6-pin centrifugal brake applies consistent pressure for an exceptionally precise cast
  • Extended bent cranking handles and power knob offer added torque for hard-pulling fish


Shimano Tekota 300 Saltwater Star Drag Reel with Line Counter

This reel bags the runner up position in the hunt for the perfect catfishing reel. In general, the Shimano Tekota 300 is not only the best for catching catfishes but comes in handy with other species of fishes too. It’s resistance to saltwater and the ability to act as a surf reel are some of the key features that make this one of the very best reels out there.

The stand out attraction of the reel lies in its powerful drag systems and equally good major line capacity. If that was not enough, the high-quality die-cast aluminum that it has been built with, make the catfish reel particularly sturdy and durable compared to its competitors.

This reel will be the best buy for those anglers who don’t want to restrict themselves to the only catfish and may wish to explore several other species as well. Its high versatility, combined with the efficient working systems, makes this a powerful competitor in the reel market.


  • This reel is gifted with a high-speed retrieval system
  • It consists of a level wind system
  • Useful for trolling
  • Very smooth casting


  • It weighs quite a lot
Shimano Tekota 300 Saltwater Star Drag Reel with Line Counter
  • The Tekota trolling reel is a great solution for anglers who troll for both fresh and saltwater species by offering great line capacity; construction and advanced features.
  • Constructed into a one-piece die-cast aluminum frame that provides tight tolerances and durability and is built to last season after season.
  • Featuring a unique crossbar-forward design that provides direct access to the spool and a non-disengaging level-wind system with underbrace for better line management.
  • Offers specially treated Anti-Rust Bearings that are at least 10 times more corrosion-resistant than standard stainless steel bearings and promote smooth; even line flow.
  • Max Drag: 18 lbs. / Gear Ratio: 4.2:1. / Weight: 14.3 oz. / Line Retrieve: 25" / Bearings: 3BB + 1RB – PowerPro Line Cap: 30/255; 40/210; 50/205 – Mono Line Cap: 12/275; 14/220; 16/185 – Retrieve: Right.


Okuma MA-30DLXT New Magda Linecounter Reel, Left Hand

This particular reel is made of lightweight corrosion-resistant materials with an advantage of high accuracy and repeatability. Another additional feature here is a mechanical line counter which measures in feet and a stainless steel ball-bearing system.

The Okuma MA-20DLXT New Magda Linecounter Reel is equipped with multi-disc carbonite drag washers aiding in smoother drag range and increasing efficiency. This reel is also equipped with unique features like the self-lubricating gear system and the wide mouth level wind technology.

The LOC pinion gear system that comes along with this reel allows positive engagement at high speed. Certain areas of improvement involve a better line counter and a faster and less stiff free spool feature.


  • Lightweight
  • Corrosion Resistant
  • Durable Machine Cut Brass Bearing
  • Self Lubricating Gear System
  • Wide mouth Level Wind


  • Faulty Line Clicker with a stiff free spool
Okuma MA-30DLXT New Magda Linecounter Reel, Left Hand
  • Made using the highest quality materials
  • Tested for reliability and quality
  • Used by professionals worldwide
  • Country of Origin:China


KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel, Right Handed Fishing Reel,Rover50

This reel has consistently ranked as one of the best reels found out there, and one of the main reasons for this edge over others is its versatility of being able to function in all kinds of water. A major attraction that the KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel possesses is its bulletproof body, thanks to the anodized aluminum side plates it is equipped with.

Adding to its positives is the fact that this particular reel is corrosion resistant due to its stainless steel body, which tends to make the reel long-lasting as well as durable. The KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel also boasts a strong carbon fiber drag system that allows you to catch much larger fishes with relative ease.

Other unique features involve non-slip handles, a thumb bar, and finally, a fairly reasonable price compared to its counterparts.


  • It can be used by beginners
  • Extremely Durable
  • Super smooth casting and retrieval


  • Quite heavy, so not too comfortable on the hands
KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel, Right Handed Fishing Reel,Rover50
  • BULLET PROOF - The hot Rover reel just became hotter. The KastKing Rover round baitcasting reel has been reinforced with thicker hard anodized aluminum side plates, CNC machined spool, precision cut brass gears, all alloy flawless level wind, industry-first stainless steel worm gear, patented metal idle gear, stainless steel shaft and other components for superior durability and corrosion protection.
  • MORE POWERFUL - You will love the stronger, more powerful KastKing Rover round baitcasting reel with a superior carbon fiber drag system. With its newly designed “Cymbal Washer” System, KastKing Rover now offers up to 30LB of smooth drag.
  • SUPER SMOOTH - KastKing Rover reels have premium MaxiDur double shielded stainless steel ball bearings (6 + 1 BBs on Size 40-60, 4 + 1 BBs on 70 - 90) for smooth operation.
  • VERSATILE - KastKing Rover is a perfect conventional reel for trolling, bottom fishing, and other techniques used in freshwater and saltwater (Size 40 – 60 with 2-pin centrifugal brake that is good for casting). The oversized nonslip EVA grips, line out clicker alarm, easy access thumb bar spool release (40-60 sizes) and the classic look are everything you would expect of a round baitcasting fishing reel.
  • FISH INTO THE FUTURE - KastKing Rover conventional reels are built with functionality, quality, and are built to last. KastKing Rover Series deliver fantastic design, power, and performance at an affordable price. Anglers who want an affordable, dependable levelwind round baitcasting reel to add to their trolling reel fishing tackle will appreciate the low price and high quality of a KastKing Rover.


Okuma CLX-300La Classic Levelwind Star Drag Casting Reel, 300 Reel Size, 3.8: 1 Gear Ratio, 24' Retrieve Rate, 17 lb Max Drag, Right Hand

The Okuma Classic CLX Right-handed level wind Star Drag reel is one of the best reels to be found due to its light and sleek design, mainly because of the graphite frame used for constructing it. The stainless steel reel foot prevents corrosion and also increases durability.

The product stands out from many of its competitors, owing to its self-lubricating system, and an auto engages free spool feature that allows you to sit back while the reel does the work for you.

To add on with the features, this reel is equipped with multi-disc carbonite drag washers, which provide excellent drag power and high efficiency. However, the casting and retrieval in the product aren’t as smooth as its competitors, and it also makes quite a lot of noise when in action.

The product also has a great scope of improvement when it comes to design. The reel can have a sturdier design, which would help it to catch larger fish with more ease and comfort.


  • Lightweight Design
  • Corrosion-resistant body
  • Free Spool feature


  • Casting and retrieval are not very smooth and somewhat noisy
Okuma CLX-300La Classic Levelwind Star Drag Casting Reel, 300 Reel Size, 3.8: 1 Gear Ratio, 24" Retrieve Rate, 17 lb Max Drag, Right Hand
  • Lightweight Corrosion Resistant Frame And Side Plates
  • Corrosions Resistant Graphite Spools
  • Stainless Steel Reel Foot
  • Aluminum Power Handle

Best Catfish Reels Buying Guide

The catfish is one particular game fish that is known for its resistance and troubling powers when it comes to catching them. This, coupled with the problem of not having the right equipment for catching a catfish, can certainly end up in a pretty disappointing outing for you.

To prevent such situations, a good grasp of the concepts related to reel characteristics and features becomes essential. It will aid you further in choosing the best reel available out there.

Narrowing down the painstaking process of researching reels all by yourself, here is a comprehensive Catfish Reel Buying Guide, which will enlighten you on which characteristics you must look for in a catfish reel when you step out for your purchase.

To begin with, we must have a fair understanding of the different types of reels present before we find which one will be the best for you. 

The three most popular types of reels in the angling market are the spinning, baitcasting, and spin casting reels.

Spinning Reels

This particular type of reel is straightforward to use and quite useful for many fish species. However, when it comes to the catfish, spinning reels fall short since the catfish can be quite large and heavy and may need a more powerful reel like the bait cast. The line capacity in spinning reels is pretty good, and the drag systems are also quite sophisticated.

Baitcast Reels

These reels are usually much better in terms of power and control when compared to the other options mentioned in the list. Mainly used for trophy fishes by advanced anglers, baitcasting reels are a bit tricky to master and are not recommended for beginners.

Spincast Reels

These are the most basic type of reels you may find and are suitable only for beginners. Due to its lightweight, it can only be used for catching smaller species of the catfish, and it also has a poor line capacity as well as drag power. Spincast reels are a big no if you are planning to get serious with this angling business and don’t want to compromise at all.


Next up are the actual features you must be aware of before buying your next catfish reel.

Line Capacity

The best kinds of catfish reels are the ones that are large and strong enough to hold more extensive diameter fishing lines while also having some extra fishing line in case your original one breaks and falls off. It is recommended not to use a reel with a small spool to prevent continuously replacing your line from time to time. In general, a larger and heavier fishing reel would be ideal for taking down on a catfish.

Braking Systems

The braking mechanism aids in stopping or slowing down the speed of the spool turning. It is an excellent choice to look for reels with the free spool feature, which means that they have no braking system, and hence the spool can rotate freely, allowing for a more comfortable and longer casting distance.

Counter Balance (Spool Tension)

This particular feature allows you to make changes to the rotation of the spool, depending on the weight you need. As a general rule of thumb more the weight on the line, faster will be the spool turning resulting in a better casting process and vice-versa. Hence to remove this weight factor from the picture, adjusting the spool tension makes up for the difference in weight and prevents any significant difference in the casting experience.

Drag Systems

An excellent drag system plays a crucial role in deciding whether you will be able to pull the fish out of the waters or will the fish win by pulling down, causing the line to snap. Drag Washers are the main components of the drag systems, and the best types of drag washers are currently the carbon fiber variants. Look for this particular feature, and rest assured you will have no drag related troubles with your reel.

Gear Ratio

The gear ratio decides how fast the reel turns and the amount of line reeled in per turn of the handle. A higher gear ratio gives you the edge of being able to retrieve the game faster while at the same time maintaining the high power to take on with the heavy species involved. The best gear ratio is currently 6:1, and if that is not available, the 5:1 ratio is also quite useful for dealing with catfishes.

Best Catfish Reels - FAQ's

Are Baitcasters good for catfish?

Yes, baitcasting reels are the best option when it comes to catfishes due to their superior control and power as compared to other types of reels. It also depends on what kind of catfish you are planning to catch and its size. 

For smaller variants, even a spincast reel would work fine, but if you are going for larger types, then a baitcasting reel is recommended.

What is the best gear ratio for Catfishing?

The gear ratio decides how fast and how much amount of line is reeled in per turn of the handle, and the best gear ratio for Catfishing is 6:1, followed by 5:1. 

The main reason for this is that the catfish is usually a large and heavy type of game fish, and the higher gear ratio tends to provide quick retrieval and much higher power. This, in turn, makes it much easier and efficient to catch a catfish finally.

What is the best pound test line for catfish?

Depending upon the size of the catfish, if it is a larger variant, then a 30-pound test line should be apt, whereas, for other smaller types, a 15-25 pound test line should work just fine. The critical takeaway is that the pound test line varies for different species, and you must decide accordingly.

What time of the day is best to catch catfish?

While many people believe Catfishes are nocturnal, this holds for some types of catfishes, but not all. 

However, if this popular notion is to be trusted, then catching a catfish would be the best post-sunset till the morning hours during which it is found to be the most active. Although this may vary from species to species and even with geographical locations, the ideal time window for catching a Catfish remains roughly the same.

Which is the most balanced reel for catfish?

Every user has his or her own choice. We value that. However, if I am asked to answer the question, then that would surely be KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel. Its versatile, smooth and really powerful and all that packed with a $53.99 price tag, make it a real balanced reel with great pricing.


Catching a catfish is not as easy as it looks from the surface, and without the correct equipment, you are bound to meet failure. However, if you keep in mind some of the fundamental concepts like drag systems, gear ratios, and so on, then there isn’t much that could go wrong.

Before buying a reel, it would be best if you have a good idea of what type of species you would want to go after. The next step is to estimate whether that species is light or heavy and then buy a reel that fits that image.

Lastly, you could experiment with different kinds of reels and find what feels comfortable to you and then choose accordingly. Happy Catfishing!