5 Best Catfish Reels for a Smooth Drag and Cast

Every catfish anglers know that catfish, from mall bullheads to the big flatheads and blues fight hard. If you are set on bringing home a monster catfish or trophy catfish, these best catfish reels can be just what you need! 

Our list includes the top baitcaster reels and spinning reels for catfish fishing. They are fitted with the best features like stainless steel ball bearings and carbon fiber drag washers for better fish control.

What You Should Consider Before Buying the Best Catfish Reels

If you have fished for catfish before, you know they are very unpredictable – they are wary and put up a good fight. So, the last thing you’d want to have is a catfish reel that will give out in the middle of the battle! 

When shopping for the best catfish spinning reel or a high-quality catfish reel, look for these features:  

Braking System

The most advanced catfish spinning reels use magnetic braking systems rather than a centrifugal brake. It helps reduce the bird’s nest forming when the magnets restrain the spool. Additionally, magnetic brake systems also require minor adjustments to make them efficient.

Drag System

The drag system prevents the line from snapping and helps you control your fishing much better. Moreover, drag is quite essential when catching big catfish. An efficient drag system ensures your fishing experience is smooth, even under tension.

Gear Ratio

The gear ratio in catfish baitcast reels refers to the relationship between the spool and the crank. Additionally, the higher the gearing ratio, the faster your reel will pull in the line. A lower gear ratio is ideal for heavyweight catfish. Most best catfish reels use brass gears. 

Fish Line Capacity

Catfish are pretty heavy and strong, so you will need to have a heavier fishing line like a braided line. Because of their diameter, heavier fishing lines occupy a larger space on the spool. Therefore, you will need to select a reel to accommodate long lines.


The material your reel is made of can affect your casting. Reels are often constructed of aluminum and graphite. Graphite reels are cheaper, lighter and more corrosion resistant but they can break easily. Aluminum is the complete opposite – it’s heavier, more expensive, more durable yet prone to rust.

Line Alarm or Bait Clickers

Line alarms or bait clicker allows the spool to operate freely, creating a clicking noise when the fish starts swimming away from the bait. Bait clickers are used in different catfishing techniques, including slip sink rigs. They are standard features in most standard reels, but the quality will differ depending on the reel’s quality.

What Are the Best Catfish Reels?

There are numerous catfish reels to choose from in the market. Here is a list of the best catfishing reels to help you make an informed decision when purchasing one.

1. Abu Garcia Ambassadeur C3 Catfish Pro Fishing Reel

The Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Catfish Pro Fishing Reel is one of the best catfish reels that you can get in the market today. 

This baitcast reel for catfish fishing includes a six-pin centrifugal braking system with aluminum construction for maximum durability and fishing control even when reeling in feisty big fish like catfish!  Each sides of the reel comes with exceptional spool tensioners which provides a smooth drag – regardless if you are targeting smaller fish or larger fish. You also get stainless steel bearings.

Compared to the other catfish reels, it’s a big investment. But it’s all worth it because what you’ll get is a best catfish reel of excellent quality that can last a lifetime.

Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Catfish Pro Fishing Reel

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2. Shimano Sedona 6000FL Reel

The Shimano Sedona 6000FL Reel is a heavy hitter in the water and one of the best catfish reels that you can get for your money.

It features a smooth, trouble-free 3+1 ball bearing system, giving you a broader range of applications not only for catfish fishing. Moreover, it is excellent for heavy offshore duty and light freshwater fishing.

The Shimano Sedona 6000FL is upgraded with a G-Free body style which gets the center of the reel closer to the rod. What does that mean for you? Well, you can enjoy more time fishing without experiencing immediate fatigue. Plus, better casting!

It also has an improved Magnumlite rotor that provides a lighter startup rotation and inertia. The reel also has a higher gear ratio with increased drag, making it great for catfishing. It also comes with the propulsion line management system designed with a spool lip and line roller with no contact bail arm to improve the distance on your cast.

Shimano Sedona 6000FL

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3. Pflueger Patriarch Spinning Reel

Our best catfish reels review wouldn’t be complete without the Patriarch Spinning Reel from Pflueger – a household name in the fishing community known for their high-quality fishing reels and rods.

Fun Fact: Pflueger has been in the industry for more than 120 years!

Plfueger’s years of experience in crafting top quality reels is clearly seen in their Patriarch Spinning Reel. Despite having a 5.2:1 gear ratio and maximum 5 lbs drag, it still manages to keep the weight to a minimum – as a matter of fact, the reel is only 5.3 oz! This is because Plfueger cleverly used magnesium for the body and rotor and titanium for the shaft.

Even its handle with EVA knob is made from carbon not only for maintaining its light weight, but also to ensure you get fluid casts and retrieves!

Another great thing about this Plfuegar reel is that you get an instant anti-reverse bearing system and corrosion resistant bearings. Moreover, its slow oscillation feature, combined with the titanium-coated line, provided exceptional line management for all types of lines.

The downside? Similar to our top choice, it has a hefty price tag.

Pflueger Patriarch Spinning Reel

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4. PENN Squall II Level Wind Fishing Reel

The PENN Squall II Level Wind Fishing Reel is an affordable spinning reel made from corrosion-resistant materials. It is ideal for kite fishing and is perfect for anglers with excellent knowledge and experience to level the line when retrieving manually.

Fun fact: The Squall Level Wind is the successor to the Penn GT series, used by experienced anglers over the years, and has a proven record on heavy-weight fish.

The PENN Squall II Level Wind Fishing Reel comes with an anti-reverse bearing and improved gearing ratio but in a compact and lighter package.

The bad news is its pinion gears are prone to strip out, leaving the reel dead in the water. Worst, you cannot replace the pinion bearing once it’s out since it is fixed to the side plate; you will have to purchase a new side plate once the pinion gear goes out.

PENN Squall II Level Wind Fishing Reel

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5. Ugly Stik Rod and Spinning Reel Combo

If you are looking for a reel and rod combo for catfish fishing, you should get the Ugly Stik Rod and Spinning Reel Combo. Not only it is the best all-around reel and fishing rod combo, it is also budget-friendly – perfect for beginner anglers that don’t want to make a huge investment.

Plus, it comes in different lengths, weight, and reel size, ranging from 20 to 30 reel size, 4′ 6″ to 7′ and ultra lightweight to medium heavy. Whatever variation you’ll pick for yourself or for your kid, its reel uses a carbon fiber drag system and one ball bearing. It’s not a groundbreaking system but it does provide you with a smooth and powerful drag.

As for the rod, it’s a blend of graphite and fiberglass for the perfect balance of durability, sensitivity, and of course, to keep the weight down.

As mentioned, the Ugly Stik Rod and Spinning Reel Combo is cheap. However, its reel can’t match the durability and performance of other choices in our list.

Ugly Stik Rod and Spinning Reel Combo

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Catch a Catfish With the Best Catfish Reel

Using the best catfish reels will significantly improve your fishing experience. The ideal catfish reels are durable, featuring a high gearing ratio and significant drag. Go for reels from brands with an excellent reputation; even with the significant investment, you are guaranteed its durability. 

Don’t forget to shop for catfish reels that can also handle the fish and, of course, whatever bait and tackle you’ll be using. Happy Fishing!