Buyer’s Guide & Information

Best Catfish Rods Reviewed

Hard-fighting fish require a sturdy and reliable rod to get the job done. We have reviewed the best catfish rods and combos for the money.

by Andrew

Buyer’s Guide & Information

Best Catfish Rods Reviewed

Hard-fighting fish require a sturdy and reliable rod to get the job done. We have reviewed the best catfish rods and combos for the money.

by Andrew

by Andrew

Catfish bite at just about anything and taste delicious on the dinner table. Since they put up a fight and live in a variety of habitats, it’s imperative to have the right rod that doesn’t cost a fortune but is still versatile enough to get them out of the water. Read on to get all the details on catfish rods.

Preview

Model

Rod Length

Line Weight

Check Price

Okuma BC-S-802H Battle Spinning Catfish Rod,...

Okuma Battle Cat

8’0”, 10’0”

15 - 60 Lbs.

Ugly Stik Catfish Spinning Combo

Ugly Stik Catfish Combo

7’0”

15 - 30 Lbs.

Championship Catfish Rod: 2 Piece Casting,...

Catfish Sumo Chop Stick

7’6”

10 - 50 Lbs.

Abu Garcia Catfish Commando Fishing Rod and...

Abu Garcia Catfish Commando

7’0”

15 - 30 Lbs.

Ugly Stik Catfish Casting Fishing Rod

Ugly Stik Catfish

7’0”

15 - 30 Lbs.

Berkley Big Game Spinning Fishing Rod, 8'...

Berkley Big Game

8’0”

10 - 30 Lbs.


Why Catfishing Requires a Quality Rod

For catching large targets like blue catfish, anglers will need a rod with enough backbone to haul them out and the right fast-action tip that can set the hook cleanly. To catch smaller channel catfish, the rod should be sensitive enough to feel them nibbling at the bait.

The best catfish rod and reel setup will be impeccably balanced and be comfortable to hold for long periods. That doesn’t just mean the hands. During a fight with an aggressive catfish, the rod should fit under the arm or in the gut for additional leverage over the fish.


Buying Guide: How to Choose a Quality Catfish Rod

Fishing Style & Environment

There are tons of ways to fish for cats, from trolling to float rigs to jig heads. Catfish are found near the shore in the ocean, at the bottom of lakes, near structure, and in the mouths of rivers.

Fishing the muddy waters, cover, and vegetation that catfish love will be most successful with a baitcasting reel that’s dialed in the land the lure right where you want it. For saltwater catfishing, a round reel or a spinning reel might work better. In both cases, a strong rod is necessary to rip through vegetation and to haul in bigger cats.

Catfish Species & Size

There are three major species of catfish in North America. In size from smallest to largest, they are:

  • Channel Catfish
    The smallest type of catfish has a forked tail, brown or blue skin, and sharp spines near their dorsal and pectoral fins.
  • Flathead Catfish
    While these can weigh up to 100 pounds, they are generally more moderately sized. Look for their characteristic flat head in cloudy, deep pools in lakes and rivers.
  • Blue Catfish
    These can grow to be quite large and manage to survive in very cold water. They love gravel and rock rip rap in river channels.

Rod Material

Catfishing rods are built out of graphite, fiberglass, or composite materials. Graphite catfish rods are usually the lightest and the least stiff. Fiberglass rods are heavier, more durable, and stiffer. That also makes them more sensitive.

Composites blend the two for maximum lightness and toughness. Catfishing with circle hooks is best done with a fast action rod that can really set them in the cheek of the target. The best catfish rod for circle hooks should also be flexible enough to handle the weight of the catfish.

Rod Length & Action

Most rods that are tailored to catfishing are longer than standard spinning rods, although many of the least expensive ones are about 7 or 8 feet long. 10 ft catfish rods are great for getting the flex needed if you’re casting into vegetation, cover, or shallows. 12 ft catfish rods are best for surf fishing and casting longer distances in open water.

It’s common for anglers to fixate on fast action rods, but a slower action like a medium or medium-fast will flex lower in the rod to really dig in deep and haul catfish out.

Rod Handling & Power Rating

Fishing rods are built with full grips, pistol grips that look like the butt of a handgun, and split grips that have a space between a foregrip and a rear grip. Good catfish rods have split grips that give anglers ample positions to get good leverage.

The rod should be able to handle lots of weight, which is measured by a power rating. Rods can be Ultralight, light, medium, and heavy powered, with some other ratings in between. A heavy rod may work for huge cats, but a medium should be fine for most others.

Line Weight & Guides

Catfish rods are also rated according to the line they can handle. This is generally a range of weights, like 10 - 40 pounds, for example. Heavier targets call for a more substantial test and a rod that can handle that heavier test.

Line guides keep the line from biting into the rod blank and compromising it. When a catfish is hooked, the weight will bear down on the line guides. Frail guides can snap or bend and lose anglers what would otherwise have been a great catch.

Spinning Reel Seat

When the line is pulled, it also puts weight on the reel. Good catfish rods will have a spinning reel seat that can hold a reel tight enough that it won’t budge even during an attack from a huge cat. There are some rods on the market that have shoddier reel seats that can come loose or be loosened inadvertently by the angler’s misplaced finger, but the catfish rods in this guide all have tough, snug reel seats.

Price & Warranty

Maybe tournament pros can afford to spend two or three hundred dollars on a catfishing rod, but for the rest of us, they must be affordable. Luckily advances in rod material and design technology have allowed many manufacturers to develop heavy duty catfish rods that are every bit as strong and durable as the ones the pros use.

They don't always offer a warranty, but if they do, it's usually a limited warranty that protects against faults from the manufacturing process only. All 6 of the best catfish rods reviewed in this article have good warranties included.


6 Best Catfish Rods Reviewed

1. Okuma Battle Cat

Our Top Pick!

Rod Length

8’0”, 10’0”

Line Weight

15 - 60 Lbs.

Handle Type

Split grip

Material

Fiberglass

Warranty

Limited Lifetime

This line of heavy-duty catfish rods from Okuma is ideal for anglers chasing trophies and those willing to hook on to cats of any size. The blank is a really tough E-Glass that will stand up to the elements and accidents likely to happen on the water.

While the rod is a bit heavy, especially the 10-foot model, that extra weight will be to the angler’s advantage if a sizable cat gets on the line. The line guides are double-welded and work great for keeping weight off the line, and there are 10 of them that cover every pressure point on the rod. Okuma has also blended EVA foam and cork into the rear grip and the foregrip for optimal comfort.

The Battle Cat is a heavy-powered rod that can handle some pretty heavy test. The medium-fast action is perfect for tossing lighter lures but maintains the tip flexibility required to tolerate hard attacks on the lure and whip to set the hook just right.

For additional portability, all the rods in this series disassemble into two pieces. The construction of the rod and the snug fit on the reel seat make it feel like a single-piece rod when it’s in use, though. For anglers who like to chase cats at night, the fluorescent-wrapped tip on this rod will help see what’s going on and doubles as a safety feature.

Pros
  • Portable
  • Durable
  • Powerful
  • Perfect hook-setting action
  • Comfortable mixed-material handle
Cons
  • Heavier rod

2. Ugly Stik Catfish Combo

Best Rod and Reel Combo for Catfish

Rod Length

7’0”

Line Weight

15 - 30 Lbs.

Handle Type

Full grip

Material

Graphite and Fiberglass

Warranty

7-year Limited

Shakespeare Fishing Gear has crafted the best rod and reel combo for big catfish with this Ugly Stik. Tailor-made to suit the needs of catfish anglers, it still has the characteristic unbreakable rod composition that has made Ugly Stik a household name for anglers of all types.

The lightness of graphite and the durability of fiberglass combine to give this rod its durability and the strength anglers need to battle big cats. Medium-heavy power and a fast action should provide plenty of fish-stopping strength and allow for an excellent clean hook set.

This combo comes with a spinning reel that does the job, although, for more precise casting, anglers may prefer to put a baitcasting reel on this powerful rod. Despite that, this is still the best catfish rod and reel combo because it can stand up to big targets and works great for medium-sized catfish as well.

It’s also probably the best rod for channel catfish on the market because it’s light enough at the rod tip to keep bait near the bottom of the water but still has enough sensitivity to feel bites on the end of the line. For all the most common catfish fishing, whether you’re using live bait and a sinker or a hooked lure with a slip bobber rig in shallow water, the Ugly Stik Catfish Combo has it covered.

Pros
  • Incredibly tough
  • Sensitive rod blank
  • Lightweight
  • Great for mid- to large-sized cats
  • Suits various fishing styles
Cons
  • Shorter rod length
  • Spinning reel combo

3. Catfish Sumo Chop Stick

Best Action Rod for Catfish

Rod Length

7’6”

Line Weight

10 - 50 Lbs.

Handle Type

Split grip

Material

Fiberglass

Warranty

Lifetime

Designed by a new up-and-coming manufacturer in the catfish rod market, this Chop Stick has the fast action all good catfish rods need to set a good hook, and the fiberglass blank will transfer small nibbles from channel cats up to the angler no matter how slight they are.

The EVA foam handle is longer than on most other catfish rods, which gives more space for gripping when fighting a target and also makes it easier to hold under an arm or in the gut for extra leverage. It breaks down into two pieces to make it easier to transport, but sturdy line guides and the medium-heavy power make it strong like a single-piece rod.

The backbone on this rod really comes out when you’ve got a fish on. It’s one of the nicer catfish baitcasting rods for throwing larger pieces of live bait because it can also send light lures out a reasonable distance.

Usually, there's a big risk of tangling with catfish rods because they're built like tanks, but that's not the case with the Chop Stick. It may not cast like 12-ft catfish rods do, but it can still cast well. The high-gloss coating makes it easy to clean off after each use and should keep it in working order for a long time.

Pros
  • Longer handle
  • Strong line guides
  • Easy to clean coating
  • Perfect fast catfishing action
  • Two-piece portability
Cons
  • Shorter rod length

4. Abu Garcia Catfish Commando

Top of the Range

Rod Length

7’0”

Line Weight

15 - 30 Lbs.

Handle Type

Full grip

Material

Composite

Warranty

3-Year Limited Rod

 1-Year Limited Reel

This is the best catfish rod and reel combo for anglers who want to chase those huge targets like blue catfish and need a good-sized round reel to do so. They say it’s only rated for up to 30-pound test, but heavier braided line works just fine on this rod too.

The blank is made up of some kind of composite that’s flexible enough to let the catfish take the lure in but has enough backbone to set the hook and fight the target. The Commando has a fantastic balance, which is one of the most significant advantages of going with a catfish rod and reel combo. The stainless steel guides do a fine job of keeping the line off the blank, and the reel seat locks in the 6500-size round reel really tightly. 

The grip is pretty standard EVA foam and could be a little more sophisticated, but it's long enough to get good leverage and comfortable enough to use for long periods, even under the arm. The Commando is one of the better surf rods for catfish and also a fantastic rod for trolling thanks to the huge line capacity of the included reel and the capable line weight rating of the rod.

Pros
  • Saltwater friendly
  • Holds tons of line
  • Flexible & powerful
  • Snug reel seat
  • Very well-balanced
Cons
  • Simple handle design
  • Lower line weight rating

5. Ugly Stik Catfish

Best Catfish Rod Under $50

Rod Length

7’0”

Line Weight

15 - 30 Lbs.

Handle Type

Full grip

Material

Graphite, fiberglass

Warranty

7-Year Limited

Strength is the name of the game with this Ugly Stik Catfish Rod. The combination graphite and fiberglass blank are virtually indestructible, and the line guides are single-piece stainless steel that won't pop out as they tend to on most competing catfish rods at this price point.

Medium-heavy action will wrench even the toughest catfish out of the water with ease. One thing that's really special about Ugly Stiks, in addition to their toughness, is the sensitivity of the rod. Making those difficult hook sets on cats requires the ability to feel what's happening on the hook like this casting rod allows you to do.

The action on this rod is medium-fast, giving a little more bend further down the blank but maintaining the backbone needed to drive the hook in. With the extra flexibility, anglers can handle larger fish, and the fight will be way more fun.

There's also a built-in gimbal that allows this rod to fit better in catfish rod holders or anchor into the soil along a lake or riverbank. The reel seat is relatively standard for Ugly Stik, but it anchors the reel well. The only possible problem with this rod is the length, but it will suit most catfish anglers just fine.

Pros
  • One-piece line guides
  • Built-in gimbal
  • Top-notch line sensitivity
  • Additional flexibility
  • Inexpensive
Cons
  • Short length for catfishing

6. Berkley Big Game

Best Budget Catfish Rod

Rod Length

8’0”

Line Weight

10 - 30 Lbs.

Handle Type

Split grip

Material

Fiberglass

Warranty

Limited Lifetime

The Berkley Big Game Spinning Rod is a classic fiberglass catfishing rod. It has the strength of monster catfish rods and, although it also has the extra weight that goes with it, this rod has the thickness to handle heavier test for larger cats.

While it is designed for spinning reels, it can hold baitcasting reels just as well. Leaders and braided lines do great on this Berkley rod. It may seem impossible to get a quality catfish spinning rod at this low price, but it is indeed possible, and this rod will wow anglers even if they're used to spending five times as much on a rod.

The fiberglass used in this rod blank is tubular fiberglass similar to the blanks Shakespeare classic fiberglass rods are built with. These kinds of fishing rods are well-known for the sensitivity they provide, which makes them strong options for catching smaller channel catfish.

There are fewer line guides on this rod than you might find on some of the competition, but they are very sturdy and don't break down, bend, or pop out their inserts easily. Pair this rod with the right catfish spinning reel, and you'll be ready to rip catfish out of just about any body of water you like.

Pros
  • Tubular fiberglass blank
  • Great sensitivity
  • Strong backbone
  • Super low cost
  • Saltwater friendly
Cons
  • Fewer line guides
  • Heavier rod

Tips for Catfishing Pole Setup

If you’re trying to build the best catfish rod and reel setup possible, you’ll need one of these catfishing rods, a robust reel, and fairly heavy test. There are some rumors about catfish that aren’t true, but one thing that is true is that they love live baits and smelly baits, so the right setup should be capable of casting that kind of bait out into the water. Learning a few key knots is important to rig everything correctly. Practice with some spare fishing line for the best results.


Catfishing Tips and Techniques

Trolling is just one of the ways to hook catfish. Jigs and live baits are also highly successful—catfish love muddy water near runoffs. Channels and blues will most likely be in deep pools where there are rocks. Learning how to cast accurately and rip lures out of dense vegetation will help improve your catfishing immensely.

If you want to catch flatheads, remember that the larger ones typically eat other fish. Try fishing minnows around sunken logs in the daytime. For channel cats, which are often smaller, master finesse techniques like flipping and pitching. Try a slip sinker with a weight attached and make sure your rod is sensitive enough to pick up on nibbles from channel catfish.


Other Essential Gear for Catfishing

Besides the right rod, catfish anglers typically have a few other essentials with them no matter what specific target they have in mind. Among those necessities are the following:

  • Rod holders - Catfish rod holders can be built for a boat or to stick into the dirt on the shore.
  • Waders - Warm, waterproof waders are a must-have for fishing in the shallows.
  • Fishing vest - To keep spare lures and hooks handy, a fishing vest is best.
  • Landing net - For larger cats, a net might be necessary to haul them up out of the water.
  • Lures and baits - If you possibly can, try to bring some live minnows and stinkbaits with you when you go after catfish.
  • Catfish rod racks - Putting out several lines at a time is easy with a rack designed to hold multiple rods.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What line should I use for catfish?

Match it to the target. Heavier test will work for larger flatheads and blues. A fluoro leader on braided line with some swivels and weights is most likely to go where you want it to and bring tantalizing bait up close to the catfish where they can’t resist it.

When is it better to use catfish spinning rods over catfish casting rods?

Spinning rods work better to saltwater environments, so if you like to look for catfish in the shallows near the shore, a spinning model may work better. Baitcasting rods are better for finesse fishing and casting long distances into complex cover and vegetation.

How do I prevent tangling with my catfish rods?

A catfish rod with the right line guides can go a long way, but there are a few other things you can do to prevent tangling with catfish rods. Plastic pieces that cover the hook are widely available. It can also be helpful to spool your line correctly, which would be backwards from the way they come on the factory line spool.

What size rod is the best for catfishing?

12 ft catfish rods are better for casting longer distances and handle fish better when you’re reeling them in. Shore fishing tight against the bank or fishing small rivers will be much more comfortable with a shorter fishing rod. 10 ft catfish rods are a perfect middle ground between the longer rods while still getting the maneuverability of a smaller rod.

What is the best bait for catfish?

It’s often said that catfish will eat anything, but that isn't necessarily true. Larger cats eat vertebrates, and smaller ones will usually respond to worms and creature baits. Live baits with a good fresh scent tend to be more successful across the board.

Do I need to get a license for catfishing?

Fishing licenses don't cost very much, but they aren't always mandatory. Check the website for your state or locality before you start fishing to make sure you aren’t chased down and fined by a game warden. Licenses can be purchased online for a day, a month, or a year in most states.

Where is the best place to buy heavy duty catfish rods and reels?

For the best selection in merchandise and the fairest deal on shipping rates, online stores like Amazon are the best go-to. Fishing brands have their own websites with stores on them, but they aren't always maintained as well as Amazon. In-person comparison at big box stores like Cabelas can be helpful, but unless they're running a sale, their prices will rarely beat online shopping.


Conclusion

Catfishing requires a longer rod that can handle pressure and give anglers the torque they need. That’s exactly what the Okuma Battle Cat catfishing rod has that makes it the best catfish rod. Pair it with the right baitcasting reel, and you'll have the best rod and reel for catfishing in just about any circumstances.

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