Fishing Equipment / Fishing Tips

Choosing The Best Catfish Reel

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Selecting the best catfishing reel with the correct features is something that will make or break a fishing trip. To be successful catfishing regardless of what species of size catfish you plan to target you need to have the right fishing rod, reel and tackle.

While it is possible to get a good universal fishing reel that is capable of landing the three main species of catfish and catching catfish both big and small many anglers that target one species of size of fish exclusively will tailor their gear to the target size and species.

If you’re using the wrong reels, a big catfish can come along and trash your fishing reel with no warning at all and some of the most effective catfishing techniques require some specific features on the catfish reel that is not available on all fishing reels. Just as it is important to make sure you have a setup capable of handling the big cats, having a reel that is too heavy will make fishing for smaller catfish cumbersome and hinder your technique.

This is a basic guide on what to look for and some of the key features needed to select the best catfish reel:

Spinning Vs Baitcasting

Spinning reels are OK but most lack some of the key features that are needed for more advanced catfishing techniques and most anglers prefer the durability of a baitcasting reel over that of spinning reels. For this reason this article will focus on baitcasting fishing reels as these are generally more widely use and most effective for catfshing.

These are the key features to look for in a baitcasting setup:

1. Line Capacity

Large line capacity is needed for catching catfish as anglers generally use larger size or higher weight monofilament fishing lines and can often fish in very deep waters. Having the ability add a good amount of line that is twenty to thirty pound test or more is key.

2. Retrieve Ratio

This ratio is measure in numbers like 6:1 or 5:1. A reel with a 6:1 ratio will bring in line faster when reeling that a 5:1 ratio. Since anglers who are catfishing often cast long distances, fish deep waters and are not focused on lure presentation during retrieve a higher ratio is generally preferred.

3. Bearings

Bearings affect the ability to cast and the overall smooth operation of the reel. Generally reels with 3 or more bearings are preferred.

4. Line Alarm

A line alarm or bait clicker as some call it is a key feature preferred my most fishermen who target catfish because of the ability to fish the reel in free spool with the clicker engaged with popular rigs like the slip sinker rig or santee rig. This allows the fish to run with the baits and not feel resistance from the catfish reel.

There are hundreds of options available from a variety of manufacturers but most cat-fishermen consider Abu Garcia to be the “gold standard” when it comes to fishing reels for catfish. For channel catfish the 5500 is a good general purpose and lightweight setup. If you plan on targeting some larger fish anything in the Abu Garcia 6000 series is the best catfish reel and has the necessary features. For exclusively chasing after the trophy class fish, the 7000 series is preferred by many.

There are many other factors that affect the performance of your gear but these are some of the key features to look for when you go shopping and some basic models to consider. Having the right gear and the best catfish reel will have dramatic effects on your success when you go on your next fishing trip.

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About The Author

Chad Ferguson is a native Texan who lives in Saginaw Texas. He owns and operates North Texas Catfish Guide Service and runs guided fishing trips for blue, channel and flathead catfish on several lakes in the Dallas / Fort Worth area. Chad also writes a popular blog about catfishing at where he shares catfishing tips, tricks and information to help anglers learn how to catch catfish using the same techniques he uses as a professional catfish guide. He has been featured through numerous outdoor media outlets due to his catfishing expertise including Field and Stream, Outdoor Life, Texas Fish and Game, Texas Sportsmans Journal, Fox Sports, The Mens Channel and Versus. Chad is sponsored by Berkley, Abu Garcia, Ugly Stik, Lowrance, West Boats, Expess Boats, Costa Sunglasses, Digger Anchors, Fitec Cast Nets, and Daiichi Hooks.

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