Best Catfish Reels of 2021: Buyer Guide

Geoff Stadnyk in Reels on

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Let’s start this post with a short story. I, the author, am from the UK. We don’t catch many catfish in the UK. I now live in Thailand where there are dozens of species of catfish. You see that picture below and to the right? That’s me. Actually, all the pictures on this page are me. That striped catfish took me an hour to land. I was using a 12 foot Shakespeare Cypry carp rod with a 2.5lb test curve.

A Shakespeare Omni Freespool 60 reel loaded with 20lb Berkley Trilene Big Game mono, straight through to a cage feeder and a size 6 hook. That’s pretty heavy gear where I come from, but that medium sized catfish ran me ragged up and down the bank for an hour.

So when I say that for catching large catfish, you need something more heavy duty than your average big carp or pike tackle, you can believe me. We need to look at some reels that make good catfish reels in this post. And there are actually some pretty good options. I’ll split this post in to two parts. Reels for bottom fishing for big catfish, and reels for lure fishing for big catfish.

Table of Contents

Catfish Reels for Bottom Fishing

Shimano Medium Baitrunner CI4 XTR-A Longcast

81+YF-lqafL._SL1500_This is the big daddy of the Shimano Baitrunner freshwater lineup. It might not be much to look at, but there is a reason for this. It’s a very low tech fishing reel. It won’t break under pressure, and it has an extremely powerful drag. Both very important things when thinking about catfish reels.

This baitrunner comes in two smaller sizes, the 8000 and the 6000. Steer clear of those for catfish fishing. The 10000 allows you to load a high yardage of heavy line. Catfish can run 30 to 50 yards if they have the room, and you can’t stop them, you can only wait for them to get tired. That extra yardage can mean the difference between seeing a big catfish on the bank, or an empty spool on your reel. It’s an expensive baitrunner at around $230, buy worth every dollar.

2 pcs. DAM Quick HRX 630 FS (double pack), Baitrunner reel

71R3YpEoupL._SL1500_This is another high capacity, tough freespool reel, this time from DAM. It was included in this list of catfish reels due to the excellent gearing and the very powerful drag.

The main shaft is made from stainless steel, so it’s unlikely to warp if a catfish makes a power run, and the drag doesn’t slip soon enough. The rotor has also been completely balanced, which makes it a very smooth reel to use despite its size. Again, this is an expensive reel, coming in at $230, but worth it.

Pro Carp-GBR-F 6PiF – Big Pit Carp

JpegNot every fisherman can afford to pay $200 or more for a catfish reel. So we have included the Pro Carp as a lower budget choice. At just over $100, this is a bargain. It comes with similar features to both the Shimano and the DAM, but at less than half the price.

Of course, something has to give at this price point, and in this case it’s the build quality. That being said, it’s still a very capable freespool reel. Line capacity is also very good with this reel from Pro Carp.

Stingray Tackle Company Aqua 40 Bait Runner Reel

Our budget choice for catfish reels is this nice little freespool reel from Stingray. We especially like the single piece aluminum body with this one. It’s tough and capable. The jumbo crank handle is also a big bonus for catfish.

At less than $100, this might not be the perfect reel for catching catfish on the bottom, but its great value, and entirely capable of getting the job done.

Catfish Reels for Lure Fishing

DAM Quick Royal FD – Big Pit and Catfish

This is our only open faced spinning reel included in the lure fishing category. But for good reason, this is an absolute monster of a spinning reel. For just over $200 this reel is equally at home lure fishing for big catfish or casting floating bread for shy carp.

10 bearings make this an extremely smooth fixed spool spinning reel, even at this size. We also like the styling of this reel, it simply looks great. The only thing we could ask for is a larger bail roller. The current one might be prone to line jump under extreme pressure.

Abu Garcia 6500 C3 Catfish Special Round Reel

11016572_730555300375878_384058672_nThis is probably the best value of all the catfish reels we have looked at in this post. Abu Garcia have done something special with this $129 baitcaster. Its retro design screams power. It looks more like a trolling multiplier than a lure fishing reel!

The carbon limited drag is both powerful and smooth, and this offers some great benefits for catching large catfish, as the feedback through this reel will be excellent. Add to this a centrifugal brake, and you have a long casting baitrunner with enough power to handle even the largest catfish.

Ming Yang CL60L Orange Baitcast Conventional Fishing Reel Lefthanded Left Catfish

We included this reel on the list, simply because it offers many of the features of the Abu Garcia 6500, but at half the price. Of course, the build quality is not going to be as good, but unless you are going to be fishing every day, then it should last quite some time.

Not much else to say about this catfish reel from Ming Yang, its dirt cheap and will do the job well, but likely not forever.

Daiwa Round Profile Millionaire Classic Baitcast Reel

Another beefy, heavy duty baitcaster reel, this time from Daiwa. Despite the looks, this is actually one of the most popular baitcaster reels with professional fishermen, and there is a good reason for this. It is durable and dependable. Just what we need for large catfish.

It is actually a very versatile baitcaster, it’s rated all the way up to heavy use for freshwater fishing, which is why it made our list of reels for catching large catfish in the first place. It’s also rated up to medium use for sea fishing, so in theory it could even be used as a light boat reel.

That’s it, that’s our list of good catfish reels, for both bottom fishing and lure fishing. There should be something on this list to suit everybody’s budget, and help them to land those big catfish.

Geoff Stadnyk

Geoff started fishing as a child in the gorgeous lakes of Mammoth, while on family vacations. His fishing experience includes the use of fly rod and reel. Guided trips along the Madison and Gallatin rivers in Montana, the Frying Pan and Animus in Colorado, and the Deschutes river in Oregon have all paid off and helped make Geoff the angler and writer that he is today.