If you are new to catfishing, or are simply looking for a new catfish reel, this article is for you. This article is going to cover catfish spinning reels from top to bottom.
What exactly is a Catfish Spinning Reel?
If you’ve been fishing for a long time, you’ve more than likely caught fish on a variety of rod and reel combinations.
Most of us have a memory of ourselves as a child, reeling in that monster catfish on our Zebco 202 spincast reel with mom or dad standing behind helping hold onto the rod.
Most reels can handle a catfish but how well it handles the fight is what separates a catfish reel from any other fishing reel.
Many catfish spinning reels have catchy names like the Catfish Commando by Abu Garcia. The Catfish Commando might be a quality reel, but don’t be sucked in by spinning reels that have the term “catfish” in the name as a gimmick.
There just might be other options out there that are better for hooking onto that big Channel cat.
What you are looking for in a catfish spinning reel is directly related to the reel’s specifications. Additionally, the species of catfish may have a part to play in your selection as well.
If you are targeting Blue catfish and have the chance of landing a thirty-pound lunker in river waters, you might need to up your catfish spinning reel game.
We will cover some of the specific needs in a catfish spinning reel later on, but as a brief overview, some of the primary qualities of quality catfish reel will be centered around line capacity, drag, and gear ratio.
The Benefits of a Catfish Spinning Reel
Most modern industries in this day are driven by frequent model changes and technological advancements and improvements.
The fishing gear industry is not unique in this capacity, and when it comes to choosing the best catfish reel, there are many considerations that an angler must take into account.
Newer Technology and Better Quality
Catfish spinning reels offer more options and better qualities than in years past. The separation between the spinning reel and baitcasting reel enthusiasts used to be the difference between amateur (or consumer) and professional fisherman. However, with product research and increased reel options and quality, that isn’t necessarily the case anymore.
Spinning Reels Offer Ease of Use and More Features
When it comes to learning curves and ease of use, spinning reels are superior to baitcasting reels and nearly equal with spincast reels.
Many anglers learn how to fish using spinning reels and need little to no additional practice or familiarization to become proficient.
In comparison to spincast reels, catfish spinning reels hold more and use stronger fishing line.
Catfish spinning reels have better drag systems and often have more features that will help land greater quantities of fish as well as larger sized fish.
Spinning Reels Save You Cash
One other benefit to spinning reels, and specifically when choosing a catfish spinning reel, is the affordability. Your money is going to go further when purchasing a catfish spinning reel versus a baitcasting reel.
If you’re choosing a quality baitcasting reel with specifications ideal for catfishing, you will likely be spending far more money than you would have if you had purchased a spinning reel.
Types of Catfish Reels
Regardless of the type, ultimately a fishing reel becomes a catfishing reel when you catch and retrieve a catfish! However, there are many modes of thinking when it comes to what type of fishing reel makes the “best” catfishing reel.
In professional fishing circles, baitcasting reels are often the most highly preferred fishing reels, boasting a wide range of capabilities and casting accuracy.
However, with modern advancements, spinning reels are closing the quality and feature gaps between themselves and baitcasters.
It truly comes down to preference and budget. In many cases, you can purchase two spinning reels for the price of one baitcasting reel.
Even if baitcasters offer the most versatility of all fishing reel types, if you are most comfortable behind the handle of a spinning reel, then that is where you belong.
Catfish Spincast Reels
This is one of the most classic fishing reels you’ll find out there. More than likely it was the fishing reel that you cut your teeth on and have many fond memories with.
Spincast reels pride themselves on being simple to use and excellent for beginning anglers.
The closed bail system contains the spool of fishing line within the fishing reel itself. The line is released by pressing a line release button with your thumb.
To cast, you press and hold the button and sling your bait towards its destination while releasing the button to release the spool of line. You can press the thumb button again, or turn the handle to stop the line from dispensing.
If you’re going to use a spincast reel for catfishing, you will most likely be limited to smaller catfish species due to smaller line capacities and poor drag systems.
Generally speaking, spincast reels will only hold lighter fishing lines, and less of it.
Catfish Spinning Reels
Catfish spinning reels can often be seen as the bridge between spincast and baitcasting reels. Spinning reels often have more features and capabilities than that of a spincast reel.
With increased product development, they are more comparable to baitcasters than ever before.
Unlike spincast reels, spinning reels can hold a stronger line, and in longer length amounts. Additionally, spinning reels are capable of utilizing braided line in addition to monofilament fishing line.
The drag systems on spinning reels have improved over the years, and many spinning reels now feature excellent bait clickers or bait runners.
When it comes to avid spinning reel users, versus baitcasting reel users, there has historically been a large gap in quality and professional use.
That gap has decreased and more often than not, the spinning reels are just as much of an option for catfish as a baitcaster.
Catfish Baitcaster Reels
When used properly, a baitcaster reel can be one of the most effective and best options for catfishing.
Often, baitcasting reels are superior to other reel types due to having the highest line capacities and the best drag systems.
Additionally, baitcaster reels are often lighter weight than their spinning reel counterparts.
On its face, baitcaster reels can appear to be a no-brainer when it comes to choosing the best catfishing reel, but there are some drawbacks to consider.
Baitcasting reels have a much steeper learning curve when first using them.
The spool of fishing line is mounted horizontally and dispenses the line in the same direction as the fishing pool, unlike a spincast or spinning reel.
This allows for a more natural line release, but also contributes to an incredibly frustrating thing called backlash.
When learning how to cast a baitcasting reel, the angler must press the spool release with his or her thumb to slow down the spool as it dispenses the line.
Sometimes the spool will spin faster than the line coming off and create a large mess of fishing line. This is called backlash.
For somebody unfamiliar with baitcasting reels, this could be enough to tempt them to put the baitcaster back in the corner of the garage and pick up their reliable spinning reel and get back to catching some catfish.
What to Consider Before Buying a Catfish Spinning Reel
So you’re ready to close the deal and get a catfish on the other end of your brand new catfish spinning reel.
But before you make a purchase, it is important to do a little bit of research first so that you end up with the best spinning reel for your money.
There are many considerations when researching and purchasing a catfish spinning reel and the topics below should help make your upcoming purchase an easy process.
When it comes to choosing the best catfish spinning reel, one consideration should be line capacity.
Generally speaking, when comparing spinning reels to baitcasting reels, baitcasters will have greater line capacities all around.
When considering line capacity, generally speaking, more is better. If not properly equipped or set up, a catfish spinning reel setup can lose a lot of fishing line due to line breaks.
Additionally, catfish are known for their diving nature and can take a fair amount of line out if you hook onto a lunker. Having a reel with a large line capacity is imperative in these types of situations.
Lastly, it is important to understand what the line capacity specification means when you are researching your reel.
The line capacity of a fishing reel will look something like this: 12/196. This specification simply means that you should be able to fit about 196 yards of 12lb test monofilament fishing line on the reel.
Many anglers who primarily target catfish prefer braided fishing line. Not every fishing reel specification lists the capacity of braided line, but this is something to look for.
Generally, braided line is thinner in diameter but has less flexibility. This truly comes down to preference and budget as braided line is more expensive than its monofilament counterpart.
Good Drag Systems
When catching big fish, and in this case, catfish, you’ll find that setting your drag appropriately means the difference between landing or losing the fish.
When buying your new catfish spinning reel, you’ll need to make sure that you research and compare the drag systems between the spinning reels that you are considering.
There are front mounted or spool mounted drags where you adjust the drag by turning a knob on the top of the spinning reel and there are rear mounted drags where you often find a knob on the bottom of the reel.
The adjustment is the same on the rear mounted drags.
Some newer and more advanced spinning reels feature something called a bait runner or bait clicker.
This feature was historically featured only on baitcasting reels but is now available on many spinning reels, ultimately making them a more viable option.
A bait clicker or bait runner basically works as a secondary drag that can be set at varying strengths to allow the spool to spin freely until you begin reeling in where it would then disengage and then revert to the primary drag setting.
This feature does accomplishes two things. First, it has an audible clicking sound as the line leaves the spool, notifying the angler that they have a fish on the other end of the line.
Secondly, this decreases the immediate tension on the line that a fish can cause by diving deep after taking your bait.
This is especially important when targeting catfish as they are notorious divers and can break your line in a moment if you aren’t paying close attention to your bending rod.
Gear ratio is simply the number of spool turns you get with one turn of your reel’s handle. So if you have a gear ratio of 5.2:1, you are going to get 5.2 revolutions of the spool for one revolution of the reel’s handle.
While gear ratio is important for many different rod and reel setups, it becomes a more important feature to consider when deciding what types of lures you are using.
For example, if you are using a deep water crankbait, you would want a lower gear ratio. Whereas if you are using jerkbaits or jigs, you would prefer a higher gear ratio.
While keeping the above in mind, often times live bait, cut baits, or dough styled baits, are used when aiming to land a big catfish. Gear ratio isn’t as crucial when utilizing live or cut bait on your rod and reel rig.
However, keeping in mind that catfish are strong fish that tend to put up long fights, middle to lower gear ratios are a very good option providing you with good cranking power. Anywhere in the four to five to one gear ratio is going suit your needs when selecting a catfish spinning reel.
Every spinning reel comes in different sizes capable of handling different sizes of fish.
That’s not to say that a smaller spinning reel couldn’t eventually land a large catfish, but an appropriately sized reel will make your catch less stressful, and oftentimes, more enjoyable.
It is also important to understand how your fishing reel will balance on the specific rod that you are going to be using.
One way you can do this is to check the line capacities and recommendations on both the rod and reel. Try to match those up so you have a good balance on your fishing rig.
While counterbalance is an important consideration, you can still catch fish with an unbalanced rod and reel.
If you don’t pay attention to counterbalancing your rod and reel, you’ll ultimately be making your fishing experience more exhausting and less comfortable.
Power handles are essentially larger handled knobs that are sometimes standard on fishing reels, and more often than not, are aftermarket add-ons.
Power handles offer a larger surface for better gripping and due to the larger surface area, help an angler reel in with more torque.
Power handles are again a matter of preference and should be considered on a case by case basis.
If you are choosing between a reel with a power handle and one without, I would first recommend that you try a fishing reel equipped with one before you let that become the decision point.
Overall Construction and the Cost of Buying a Cheap Spinning Reel
When choosing your catfish spinning reel, one of the primary considerations should be the overall build quality and size. This is going to factor into your overall reliability and the term of life that your fishing reel has.
Just like spincast and baitcaster reels, spinning reels come in a variety of sizes. Typically, spinning reel sizes are in measurements of thousands with 1000 model sizes being the smallest.
Some models abbreviate the model sizes with shorter number combinations like 5 or 50. These models would most commonly be equivalent to a 5000 model.
When looking for catfish spinning reels, most anglers find themselves in the 4000 to 5000 range.
Generally, when considering the overall construction, you get what you pay for.
If you are buying a rod and reel combination for fifteen dollars at your local brand name outlet store, you are likely going to have a fishing reel made of mostly cheap plastics.
Although it may work for a time, you’re probably not going to get the long lasting reliability that you will get out of a more expensive name-brand reel.
When reviewing construction materials, look for carbon fiber and various metal-type constructions.
All of these different types of build materials affect the life of the fishing reel as well a the overall weight of the reel.
Another feature that many brands tout is the number of ball bearings. In some cases, this can be an advertising gimmick, but generally, the more bearings, the smoother your reel’s operation will be.
You will likely encounter various bearing types during your research, but stainless steel bearings will be the most common and the most reliable for the cost.
Some fishing reels feature long-lasting ceramic ball bearings but these will likely also sport a higher price tag.
Whether you are operating on a shoestring budget, or you have a bottomless pocket, it is always important to search for a reel that will give you the best performance for the price that you’re willing to pay.
You can buy that fifteen dollar rod and reel combo and still catch fish. The question is, will you be buying that same fifteen dollar rod and reel every year from now on because it just simply didn’t last.
Top-Rated Catfish Spinning Reels
To get you started, I’ve outlined four consistently high rated catfish spinning reels. You might not end up purchasing one of these reels, but this should get you in the ballpark of what to look for. For the sake of consistency, all spinning reels below are 5000 models.
KastKing Sharky III Fishing Reel
The KastKing Sharky III comes in at roughly $60 and has phenomenal reviews.
It features an industry-leading 39.5lbs of drag utilizing a carbon fiber drag system and also features stainless steel main shaft and components.
The KastKing Sharky III has very few poor reviews with them appearing to primarily be lemon units.
One other feature that sets the KastKing Sharky apart from other reels listed is its ability to be braided line ready. The spool does not need any form of backing and prevents braided line from slipping on the spool
For the price, this reel is going to be one of the best in class values for a catfish spinning reel option. If you link up this reel with a monster channel catfish, you shouldn’t be let down.
Team Catfish Gold Ring Spinning Reel touts a handful of excellent options. This catfish spinning reel features a bait clicker system that is sure to fit the needs of a variety of angler types.
If you can picture yourself night-fishing with a few rods resting in rod-holders and the sudden line-zipping bait clicker running out, breaking the silence of the night, then this might be the right choice for you.
The Team Catfish Gold Ring Spinning Reel features a 4.9:1 gear ratio, high strength graphite construction, and a power handle. This reel runs a little more expensive at approximately $100.
Lastly, OKUMA Avenger ABF Graphite Bait Feeder reel is another excellent stopping point for anyone looking for catfish spinning reel. This spinning reel again features a baitfeeder option with a moderate price tag at $55.
The OKUMA has a 4.5:1 gear ratio and 17 pounds of drag. The overall construction of the OKUMA is made of durable materials but does receive a few negative reviews relating to build quality. Overall, reviews are positive at 4.5/5 on Amazon.
This is another excellent reel for the number of features and the given price-tag. If you are looking to try out a solid baitfeeder, this is a good option for anybody trying to find a good catfish spinning reel.
So whether you are new to catfishing or an experienced angler, spinning reels are a solid choice for anybody wanting to catch a catfish.
Spinning reel technology has improved drastically over the history of fishing reels and has proved time and time again to be a viable option for nearly any species of fish.
This extensive review of catfish spinning reels should help those new to the market have a better understanding of what types of products will best suit them and give them the best bang for their buck.
We live in a fishing gear era where paying top dollar for the most complex equipment won’t necessarily make you any more successful but will be certain to decrease the size of your bank account.
If you find yourself with a number of excellent catfish spinners on your list of possible new reels, this review should have helped you weigh the options that will most benefit you while on the water.