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7 Best Catfish Reels In The Market

Written by James Schulz

Fishing is one of the most therapeutic and relaxing sports that you can ever try.

Honestly, if you haven’t tried it yet, you are missing out on one of the best experiences you could ever have.

One factor determining whether your escapade into nature turns out amazing is if you have the appropriate gear with you.

One of the essential equipment is a fishing rod and a fishing reel.

While every brand claims they have the best catfish reel, did you know that there are specific reels for specific types of fish?

Well, there are. And if you are on a hunt to find a reel that will let you catch catfish, you have come to the right page.

In this article, we will discuss the best seven catfish spinning reels that you can find in the market, how to select one, and which factors you need to consider. So, let’s start!

At A Glance

  Top 7 Catfish Reels for 2022: Buyers Choice 

1) Best Overall Choice: PENN’s Squall II Catfish Reel

PENN’s Squall II Catfish Reel.jpg

Made from Aluminum, PENN’S Squall II Catfish Reel is the best of the best in catfishing reel category.

It has a hand orientation of Ambidextrous and gives you flexible mobility while you are fishing.

On the other hand, the handle is made of stainless steel and aluminum, whereas the bearings are made from stainless steel.

Overall, the unit’s total weight is less than 1.1 pounds, making it ideal for fishing.

If we talk about the features, the first one that we noticed was a side plate with fast gear access.

Additionally, it has HT-100 drag washers made from carbon fiber.

The unit has a total of four shielded ball bearings to ensure smooth operation.

Shielded bearings prevent large contaminants from entering it and keep the grease inside.

Besides this, the frame and the side plates are made from lightweight graphite, while the spool is made from forged, machined aluminum.

No matter how much we liked this product, there was a flaw that we couldn’t ignore.

The crankshaft displaces slightly when it enters the body of the reel.

The clamp’s bold pattern is too narrow, and you might have to spend extra cash to find the right one.

Pros:

  • Cranks smoothly
  • Has a large handle
  • Has solid built
  • Generous fishing line capacity

Cons:

  • Crankshaft wiggles when inserts on the reel
  • Clamps’ bolt pattern is too narrow

2) Best Premium Option: Abu Garcia’s Ambassadeur Catfish Reel

Abu Garcia’s Ambassadeur Catfish Reel.jpg

Abu Garcia’s Ambassadeur Catfish Teel is perfect for all looking for a right-handed reel.

The unit’s handle is made from aluminum and stainless steel, while the ball bears are stainless steel.

In addition, there are four stainless steel ball bearings and one roller bearing.

The combination of both gives you the ideal friction reduction and also helps to make it easier for you to control the reel.

The drag system of the unit is a carbon matrix that ensures consistent as well as a smooth performance of the reel.

Furthermore, there is a high drag pressure so that you can easily capture even the giant fighting catfishes without any problem.

There is also a six-pin centrifugal brake and the synchronized level wind system, which further improves the performance of the gear.

We were really impressed that the unit featured an extended bent handle that is pretty easy to use and control.

But, overall, the unit honestly has nothing objectifiable except the price.

Hence, this unit might not be ideal for you if you are under a budget constraint.

Pros:

  • Superb quality
  • Features bait clicker
  • Easy to tune
  • The power handle is perfect

Cons:

  • Expensive

3) Best Budget-Friendly: Okuma’s Classic CLX Catfish Reel

Okuma’s Classic CLX Catfish Reel.jpg

Looking to explore your collection of reels but do not really want to spend hundreds of dollars?

We have found just the right product for all those on a budget constraint; the magnificent Okuma’s CLX Catfish Reel.

Made from graphite and stainless steel, the unit is every angler’s dream.

It has a hand orientation of the right hand.

The handle is made of aluminum and can easily handle force put on it.

Furthermore, we particularly loved its frame and side plates; they are lightweight, and the best part is that they have a corrosion-resistant coating.

So, these are ideal for wherever you are thinking of fishing; whether it is freshwater or saltwater, this reel will work flawlessly in each case.

Moreover, the spool is corrosion-resistant.

Made from graphite, the spool can handle splashes from saltwater without rusting.

Hence, while this unit is an affordable option, it is also the most ideal for those thinking of fishing in saltwater.

Unfortunately, while it does an excellent job catching all kinds of catfish, its performance has a minor yet prominent flaw.

We noticed that the casting is not as smooth as some of the competitors offered.

Pros:

  • Premium-quality construction
  • Corrosion-resistant frame, side plates, and spool
  • Affordable
  • Durable

Cons:

  • Casting is not smooth

4) Best for Fishing in Saltwater: PENN’s Spinfisher VI Catfish Reel

PENN’s Spinfisher VI Catfish Reel.jpg

PENN’s Spindisher VI Catfish Reel is a 0.76-pound unit made from stainless steel and carbon fiber. The unit has an IPX5 sealed body as well as a spool design.

IPX is a waterproof rating system of different items for those who do not know.

It gives you an idea of how water resistant the particular product is in quantitative measures.

For example, IPX5 means that this reel can easily resist a low-pressure water spray.

In conclusion, this unit is ideal to be used in saltwater!

PENN uses CNC machinery to construct gears for their reels.

This technology ensures that the gear system is smooth and gives you the ultimate fishing experience.

On the other hand, the drag system is flawless; it is made from HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers.

As a result, it provides easy and smooth line release even under tension.

In total, the unit has six ball bearings, 5 plus 1 sealed ones made from stainless steel.

Lastly, the entire body is made from metal. Combined with the IPX5 waterproofing, the unit will be in good shape for years.

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • IPX5 Waterproof Rating
  • Has 5 plus 1 ball-bearing system
  • Made from carbon fiber and stainless steel
  • Multifilament fishing line

Cons:

  • The paddle is too small

5) Best Value for Money: KastKing’s Rover Round Catfish Reel

KastKing’s Rover Round Catfish Reel.jpg

Made from aluminum and stainless steel, the KastKing’s Rover Round Catfish Reel is for all looking for a right-handed reel.

The reel possesses thicker anodized aluminum side plates, precision-cut brass gears, CNC machined spool, stainless-steel worm gear and shaft, all-alloy level wind, and so much more.

So whatever you want in a reel, this one has it!

We were impressed by how smooth the drag system was.

It is made with premium quality carbon fiber, and in addition to durability, it also offers approximately 30 pounds of smooth and precise drag!

Yes, you heard that right! Thus, this reel is perfect for capturing large and heavy fish.

The ball bearings are also pretty great; it has a combination of 6 plus 1 on a size 40-60 and a combination of 4 plus 1 on a size 70-90.

All the ball bearings are made from stainless steel, double shielded.

Hence, you can expect smooth and easy operation while using this.

Overall, the reel is ideal for bottom fishing, trolling, or any other type of technique you want to try.

Furthermore, you can use this reel in all kinds of waters; whether it is freshwater or saltwater, the unit will provide supreme performance.

The only area of improvement would be the adjustability of the star drag.

Though it works just fine, we would have liked it if it had higher adjustability.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Excellent drag system
  • Durable Construction
  • Ideal for bottom fishing, trolling, and other fishing techniques
  • Can be used in freshwater and saltwater

Cons:

  • The adjustability of star drag should’ve been better

6) Best Versatile Option: Yoshikawa’s Catfish Reel

Yoshikawa’s Catfish Reel.jpg

The Yoshikawa’s catfish reel has a spectacular bait-running system.

It provides a totally free-spool mode by simply switching the little lever on the rear of the reel.

This allows a free-running line without opening the bail and, consequently, makes it simpler to battle giant fish while safeguarding your gear.

Furthermore, it also includes a more significant and more precise drag adjustment.

The unit features Titan graphite side plate, robust anodized Aluminum Spool, Stainless Steel Shaft, and foldable Aluminum handles offering Left-Right interchangeability.

Together, all of these assure smooth operation from whether you are using the reel in freshwater to saltwater.

Also, it sports a smooth multi-disc drag system with premium oiled felt drag washers, and it offers a maximum drag of 28 pounds.

Furthermore, the combination of corrosion-free ball bearings is 10+1.

On the other hand, the gear ratio is 5.5:1, ensuring safe and quick retrieval.

The superb grey finish complements a wide range of popular fishing rods.

More importantly, it works for all kinds of fishing. Surf fishing, saltwater boat fishing, rock fishing, catfishing, and ordinary freshwater fishing in lakes, rivers, canals, and ponds are good options.

In conclusion, its versatility makes it an excellent fishing gift.

Pros:

  • High-quality and durable construction
  • Smooth performance
  • Ultra-smooth bait control operation
  • Waterproof body
  • Versatile

Cons:

  • Slightly heavier than other reels (1.28 pounds)

7) Best Durability: Piscifun’s Chaos XS Catfish Reel

Piscifun's Chaos XS Catfish Reel.jpg

Piscifun’s Chaos XS Catfish Reel is for all those who are looking for a professional-grade unit with stainless steel and aluminum construction.

The unit has a hand orientation of the right hand, and hence it would be easy to use by most people.

The Chaos XS circular baitcasting reel has a CNC concave and an anti-line skip aluminum spool.

These both make fishing and spooling more straightforward for all anglers.

In addition, this conventional reel is designed with 6 + 1 corrosion-resistant bearings, smooth constant drags, and an extended forged handle to suit a range of species and tactics.

Superior casting performance and rock-solid durability are provided by innovative cast technology.

Furthermore, the casting distance increases while backlash is reduced thanks to the new cast technique.

It sports Japanese Haimai-Cut Brass Main Gear, giving you up to 20 pounds of stopping force while pursuing monster fish.

The drag system is made from a premium Carbon Fiber Drag System and ensures smooth operation.

Furthermore, the maximum drag it supports is 20-pounds which is more than enough to catch any catfishes.

Designed to fulfill the most ardent angler’s needs, The Chaos XS round reel’s deep reel foot helps maintain a low profile on the rod, making it simple to palm and throw.

While it is not a significant flaw, including it in the review is essential.

While everything was up to mark, we did notice that the bait alarm was a lot quieter than we would have liked it to be.

Pros:

  • Professional-grade materials used for construction
  • Features CNC concave and anti-line skip aluminum spool
  • Right-hand orientation
  • Superior casting performance
  • Smooth drag system

Cons:

  • Bait clicker is not loud enough

What Is A Catfish Spinning Reel and Why Do You Need It?

As the name suggests, catfish reels are used to catch the specific fish type.

While you can use any reel to catch it, most professionals recommend that you should purchase specialized gear.

The reason is simple; whether you will be able to capture a fish or not depends immensely on your fishing gear.

Hence, you must have a clear understanding of where you will fish and what kind of specie you will be targeting.

For example, if you target one specie of catfish or a mixture of all? Catfishes are feisty, and hence the bigger ones need some strength to catch.

Catfish reels come in all different shapes and sizes so that they can cater to all of these problems.

Hence, you must do your research and find one that fits your requirements the best because the right reel paired with a suitable catfish rod will help you catch plenty of fish and last for many years.

After researching for many days, we have finally come up with a list of the best catfish reels that you can find in the market.

Whether you are after small fishes or the large ones, fishing in freshwater or saltwater, the following seven catfish reels will give you the best experience and smooth operation no matter what.

Buying Guide

Now that we know which the best catfish reels for 2022 are, the next question is, how can you find one which suits best to your needs.

Moreover, how do you even care for a reel?

What should you do?

No matter what your questions are, this section will answer them all.

This section contains all the information you might need regarding catfish reels, from the different kinds of reels to the factors that are the key takeaways when selecting a catfish reel.

What to Consider While Buying a Catfish Reel?

These are the main factors determining the type of reel you need for your use.

While personal preference plays a significant role in the choices, you need to critically assess all of the following factors to find one that fits your requirements ideally.

1) Where You’re Going to Fish

The first thing you need to consider, even before you leave the house, is to think about where you are going to fish.

You can mostly find catfishes in freshwater, although you might be able to find them in saltwater.

But how is this relevant to a reel?

Your environment will play a significant role that you need to consider while you are purchasing your fishing gear.

For example, if you are going to fish a lot in freshwaters, any reel might be suitable.

However, on the other hand, if you are going to fish in saltwater, you need to invest in a reel with properties such as anti-corrosion so that they do not get affected by the salt throughout use.

Furthermore, this feature is important because this will play a major role on whether your unit will have a longer shelf life or not, especially if you are only going to use the reel in oceans and other salty waterbodies.

2) Reel Size

The next factor to consider is the size of the reel, but you need to do this according to the size of the fish.

As you might already know, catfish come in several shapes and sizes; hence not every reel can catch the fish.

Anglers and beginners often use spinning catfish reels to catch small and medium-sized species.

However, even if you target small ones, most professionals will tell you to avoid light freshwater reels since those might be susceptible to damage more easily.

Furthermore, they might not be able to catch the fish sufficiently. Hence, avoid those that have a size small than 4000.

Furthermore, if you are thinking of catching larger and fatter catfishes, you should go for saltwater reels since those are studier than freshwater ones.

They are resilient and will most definitely capture the biggest fish without any problem!

3) Line Capacity of a Reel

The line capacity is the line length that the spool can easily bare without overworking the reel.

One of the most important factors to consider while evaluating line capacity is the diameter of the line.

A rule suggests that as the diameter of the line increases, its strength increases too.

However, a higher test fishing line will take more space as compared to a lower test one on the spool.

For example, a reel with a monofilament line capacity can hold 160 yards of 30-pound test and 120 yards of 40-pound test.

Also, it might be able to hold 100 yards of a 50-pound test.

On the other hand, braided line capacities are considered higher than monofilaments.

The reason behind it is that they are typically made from fibers called Spectra and Dacron which can achieve a higher test even at a small diameter.

Mainly, manufacturers of reels worldwide list the capacities of the line for both monofilament and braided lines.

So, if the above numbers confuse you, then don’t worry.

The reel you are thinking of buying will probably have the concerned information.

When you are choosing a reel, make sure that you match the line capacity with the size of the fish you will be targeting.

This will help you find one that can support the fish’s weight.

4) Ball Bearings

One of the most common misconceptions is that the more ball bearing in the reel, the better it is.

Although, it is not really true. There have been many instances when reels with fewer bearings can perform exceptionally well compared to those with many.

Hence, we can deduce that the main determining point is quality rather than quantity.

So, what exactly do ball bearings do in a reel? Ball bearings not only allow smooth operation but also allow precise casting.

Thus, finding a reel with suitable quality ball bearings is essential for a good fishing experience.

If you are thinking of fishing in saltwater, then try to find ones that are either anti-rust, shielded, or both.

This is imperative because saltwater can get into the ball bearings and cause them to corrode.

5) Drag Systems

In simple words, drag is paired friction plates present within the fishing reel.

If a fish pulls on the fishing line hard, the friction overcomes, and the reel turns backward.

This lets out the line and prevents it from breaking.

So, a drag system is essential if you want to catch a big fish without snapping the line.

A drag system needs to be smooth. Furthermore, the best type of drag system usually has adjustable settings.

An adjustable drag features an adjustment point as well as metal drag washers which are generally divided by felt washers or carbon fibers to decrease friction.

These help you change the amount of force you put on the line before the spool slips and lets out more lines.

Generally, the drag should be set at least 20 or 30 percent of the fishing line’s maximum strength or breaking strength.

This is because the line does not break while you are catching a fish.

So, for instance, for a 20-pound test, you need to set the drag somewhere between four and six pounds.

Furthermore, there are two types of drag systems; front and rear.

However, some provide a combination of both, and honestly, they are the best.

For example, if we talk about rear drag systems, while they are easier to adjust, they have less maximum drag as compared to front ones.

Contrarily, the rear drag is the secondary drag system in the combination systems.

It allows the bait to swim freely. So, when a fish bites the bait, the secondary drag provides considerable resistance.

This will enable you to reengage the main drag and set the hook.

6) Gear Ratios

Gear ratio is the number of times the rotor revolves when the handle is rotated once.

For example, an 8.1:1 gear ratio indicates that the line will wrap approximately 8.1 times when the handle is rotated once.

These figures are important because the gear ratio tells you whether the reel that you have chosen can catch the catfish or not.

Slow reels are not ideal for catfish; hence, you need to look for fast ones that can help you catch a giant fighting catfish.

However, keep in mind that you need to check the gear ratio and the reel’s line speed to determine a good, fast, and efficient reel.

Line speed is measured by the diameter of the spool and the combination of gear ratio.

Mostly, the reels have a ratio between 4.8:1 and 6.2:1, which are ideal if you want to fish many types of species.

However, if you are thinking of using baits and lures, you need to find one with a faster retrieve, such as one with a gear ratio of 8.1:1.

7) Match the Reel to the Rod

If you already own a rod, you need to find a reel that will work flawlessly.

Not all rods work with all types of reels, so this is essential to consider.

However, this is not really a difficult task. Like the reels, the rods are also rated for various line tests.

Using a reel with a higher test line than a rod will not only be detrimental.

The more difference between the test line of the rod and the reel, the more damage the reel will do to the rod.

In the case of spinning rods, they have a pretty flexible rod action.

Furthermore, there is not any force when you are setting the hook.

Contrarily, a baitcasting rod is stiffer. It features a backbone that exerts force when you are setting a hook.

However, just know that the reel and rod combos are according to your style of fishing.

Hence, find one that gives you the most benefits while fishing.

How to Maintain and Care for a Catfish Reel?

Like any other gear you own, your catfish reel will also need constant maintenance checks.

For example, if you are fishing in freshwater, you need to clean it after every five trips.

On the other hand, if you are fishing in salt waters, you need to clean it after every journey.

Things you need:

  • Boat cleaner
  • Toothbrush
  • Screwdrivers; size small
  • Toothpicks
  • Tweezers
  • Cotton swabs
  • Reel oil
  • Blow dryer
  • Container
  • Cloth

Step-by-Step Guide

1) Take apart the reel

Carefully and gently pull the reel apart.

You can use tweezers to take out the wire clips and springs.

Also, make sure to remove the fishing line from the spool.

Some people hesitate in this step because they forget which part goes where when it is time to put everything back together.

So, we have come up with a tip for you.

You can use masking tape or a post-it note to number each part so that you can reassemble easily afterward.

2) Remove the ling from the spool

While doing this, you have two choices.

You can either secure the line with tape before removing the spool or strip the line from the spool.

This is necessary because the line will get stuck between the spook as well as the frame.

3) Wash

Now wash the entire reel with nothing but clean water.

4) Apply the Boat Cleaner

Search for a good quality all-purpose boat cleaner. Then, gently lather it on the reel and clean it.

5) Scrub

Use a toothbrush to scrub the surface of the unit. Get rid of all the dirt and grim on the surface.

6) Rinse again

Rinse the reel thoroughly under the water

7) Pat dry

Make sure that you dry the reel so that it does not rust.

You can also use a dry cleaner to ensure that the water has dissipated from every nook and corner and that the unit is completely dry.

8) Apply grease

Use a toothpick to apply a light coating of grease and oil all over your gears.

Also, put a few drops of oil over the ball bearings.

This step is crucial because it will prevent the unit from corrosion and rust.

9) Reassemble

After oiling, you need to assemble the unit back to how it was. Make sure that all the parts work together harmoniously before taking it out on an adventure.

How to NOT Clean a Reel?

You will find many tips and tricks on the internet that would promise you that their way is the best way to do so.

However, do not believe everything on the internet.

For example, after extensive research and some personal accidents, we discovered that this is how NOT to clean a reel.

  1. Never use lighter fluid or gasoline to clean a fishing reel, especially if it has plastic counterparts.
  2. These products will melt the plastic.
  3. Never soak your reel in any kind of liquid.
  4. Despite it being so popular, excess exposure to water can damage the gear system and render your reel useless.

No matter how expensive and supreme reel you purchase, you won’t be able to use it for a long time if you do not care for it.

So, it would be best to do a regular maintenance check of your gear to perform smoothly whenever you go out to fish.

Conclusion

Catfishing is one of the most fun types of activity you would ever encounter, especially if you love a challenge.

However, catfishes are fast and energetic; hence, they give you a hard time.

Catfishes have many different types, and some are mainly known for their enormous size and aggressive fighting behavior.

Hence, you must have the right gear to catch them. We have found the best seven catfish reels to help you capture all kinds of catfishes.

Make sure to assess your own needs before you purchase a reel.

To evaluate this, make sure you read our buying guide.

Check the gear ratios, drag system, line capacity, and ball bearings of the reel before purchasing it.

Furthermore, just because you have bought a high-quality reel does not mean it would last for a long time.

You must take care of the reel and give it the proper care.

The more you care for it and give it regular maintenance checks, the longer it will last.

In the end, the type of reel you purchase will determine your fishing experience.

So, choose one carefully. Best luck finding the perfect catfish reel!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the difference between spinning, bait caster, and spincast reels?

Let’s break down each time and evaluate the benefits and disadvantages of each in detail.

Spinning Reels

Spinning reels are some of the most popular in the world. People use these because they combine durability and efficiency together and give you the best experience a catfish angler can ask for. You can fish with this reel using many techniques; whether you like to cast or jig, this type gives you the access to try it all.

These usually have an open-faced design and sport a metal bail so that your fishing line does not end up unspooling. Instead, it sits right under the fishing rod. You have to use your fingers to hold the line against the rod to control the bail.

These types of reels are ideal for all those who are looking for versatility and greater control in a reel. The best thing is that no matter your skill levels, you will be able to use and catch fish using this type of reel. However, since you have to hold the line against the rod with your fingers, there is a risk of tangling the cord. Furthermore, these cannot handle heavy lines.

Baitcaster Reels

Baitcasting reels are the ones that sit on the top of the fishing rod. These require your thumb to control the line to avoid it from unspooling continuously. One of the main features that differentiate it from other types is that the spool rotates when the line is being released, so there are no chances of twisting the cable.

Furthermore, the rotation helps to provide you with a greater casting distance making this one the most ideal reel to purchase if you are into casting. These are particularly recommended for those who want greater control over the casting distance.

Moreover, these are ideal if you are casting near shorelines or in weeds. These come in several different shapes and sizes and are usually lightweight. Although, while they perform well, these are more suitable for professionals. You will need time to master it. However, this type of reel will become your favorite once you become familiar!

Spincast Reels

You will love spincast reels if your main focus is casting. These are one of the most accessible reels to control, and you should definitely invest in this one if you are a beginner. As a matter of fact, many anglers learn to fish by using this particular type of reel.

Contrary to the spinning reels, these ones have a closed-cone design, so there is no risk of tangling the line. Furthermore, the button control is fool-proof. All you have to do is press the button on the reel to release the cast. Then remove the button to release the line.

Finally, once you have let out enough, just press the button again. Overall, no matter your skill level, if you are looking for a reel that allows quick, easy, and smooth operation, you should invest in a spincast reel. They are usually the most affordable ones out of all the types. Unfortunately, they are not as durable as the above two types. Furthermore, they do not give you as much casting range as the other reels might provide you.

What is size spinning reel best for catfish?

A spinning reel size 10 or 20 can easily capture a giant catfish, primarily if a professional catfish angler uses it. However, most catfishers prefer to use a spinning reel with a 30/300-size or more significant.

There are two types of spinning reels; Spin-cast and Open-face spinning reels. The first one has a plastic or metal cover over the spool, whereas the latter does not have any cover over the spool, and both have equal probabilities of catching catfishes.

Are bait caster reels good for catfishing?

Yes, bait caster reels are suitable for catfishing. For catfishing, you need a reel that can handle the large diameter of the fishing line and one that holds the cable to practice several different fishing techniques.

Furthermore, you need a reel that can store an extra fishing line so that if it breaks off, you always have extra. Hence, many professionals suggest round baitcasting reels for catching catfish for these reasons.

As a matter of fact, if you noticed, we have also recommended a few bait caster reels that you can use in the reviews above. So, if you are looking for some to use for cats, check those out!

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