When many anglers think of fishing for catfish they have visions of someone hanging a bamboo cane pole over the side of the boat next to a Coleman lantern, lazily waiting for a catfish to come along. While this may still be true for some, today’s new breed of catfish angler is using high tech equipment and gear to target catfish. There is little doubt that this gear has done wonders to increase the success of catfish anglers all across the United States.
There are many options to consider when choosing a fishing rod for catfish and much of this depends on the species you plan to target. The best equipment for catching small channel catfish may not necessarily be the most effective gear for targeting trophy class blue catfish. There are many all purpose fishing rods that are capable of handling every fish you might catch, big or small.
Some of the major options to consider include handle length, rod length, material and power.
Most catfish anglers prefer a fishing rod with a longer handle than most traditional fishing rods. Longer handles have several benefits. The primary benefit of a longer handle is additional leverage when fighting and landing a huge fish. In addition to the leverage longer handles are traditionally easier to use when fishing with rod holders. The use of rod holders is a common accepted practice when catfishing.
Most anglers prefer longer fishing rods in lengths of at least 7 foot or longer. Rods up to 8 and 9 feet are most common however. Having a longer fishing rod provides several advantages. Again one of the primary advantages is the additional leverage. This can be essential when fighting and landing big catfish. In addition to leverage a longer fishing rod allows you to easily make longer casts, covering more water. Many catfishing techniques rely on being able to cast baits long distances and cover a variety of places from one location, which would be difficult with a shorter fishing rod.
Drift fishing is a very popular technique commonly used by anglers where the baits are cast a short distance from the boat and slowly dragged across the lake or river. The use of longer fishing rods for drift fishing allows the rods to be extended from the front and back of the boat. This greatly increases the amount of water that is covered in a single drift.
For years it was standard practice for anglers to use rods made from e-glass. These rods were popular because they are inexpensive and very durable, as well as having tremendous power. The disadvantage of them is they are very heavy and lack the sensitivity that a graphite rod has. Graphite fishing rods provide the extra sensitivity but are also much less durable and are prone to breaking much more easily.
Power is frequently referred to as rod weight by many anglers. The power is typically referred to in letters like H (Heavy), MH (Medium Heavy), M (Medium) and ML (Medium Light). This has to do with the point in the fishing rod in which it bends, or how much force has to be applied to load the fishing rod (get it to flex).
Circle hooks are very popular for catfishing and for good reason. These hooks are very effective for catching all species and all sizes of catfish. The flex of a fishing rod has dramatic effects on how well a circle hook works. If a rod is too heavy and will not “flex” the circle hook will not work like it should.
There are varying opinions on action but as a good general rule a M (Medium) or MH (Medium Heavy) action fishing rod will be the best choice.
If you plan to target big catfish exclusively one of the heavier more durable e-glass fishing rods might be a good option for you. These are certainly capable of landing all sizes of catfish, big or small you just lose some of the sensitivity. This is really only a problem if you plan to fish for channel catfish as they often have what is referred to as a “shy” bite.
If you’re more interested in having that added sensitivity and a lighter weight fishing rod, and are willing to sacrifice the durability, a graphite rod is the route to go. There many excellent fishing rods marketed towards salmon and steelhead fishing that eight feet or longer with long handles and a good string backbone. These rods are capable of landing the biggest fish in the waters but still have the sensitivity that is needed to use finesse techniques for smaller fish.
I have been using these salmon and steelhead fishing rods for years and cannot imagine using anything else.