7 Best Catfish Rods (2021)
Catfishing is one of the most fun activities anglers participate in. Catfish are responsible for numerous interesting duels because they are hard fighting and can attain impressive trophy sizes. 30-pound kitties are a common freshwater and occasionally brackish water feature.
Besides being prize game fish, they make a mean meal. These powerful swimmers can, however, completely wreck your tackle if you challenge them unprepared. A seasoned catfish angler knows this and often has special gear set aside for hunting monster catfish.
Because they are the tackle foundation, we will review some of the best catfish rod options currently available on the market today. We will establish the role fishing rods play in capturing the attention of trophy cats, how they are primed to weather the ensuing combat, and the unique features that make them effective catfish rods.
Best Catfish Rods – Winners
Check out our quick recommendations here, or keep scrolling for detailed reviews:
- Best Overall Catfish Rod: PENN Squall II Level Wind Combo
- Most Durable Catfish Rod: Okuma Battle Cat Catfish Spinning Rod
- Best Catfish Rod for Night Fishing: B’n’M Silver Cat Elite Spinning Rod
- Best Catfish Rod for Portability: Team Catfish Rods Thunder Cat Spinning Rods
- Best Budget Catfish Rod: Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod
- Best Catfish Rod for Beginners: Championship Catfish Rod
- Best Catfish Rod for Kids: PLUSSINO Kids Fishing Pole
Best Overall Catfish Rod
- Excellent tackle synergy between compatible parts
- Heavy-duty yet lightweight construction
- Ability to support diverse angling methods
- Can be excessive if you already own a catfishing reel
PENN went ahead and created the perfect catfish tackle by pairing their Squall II Level Wind rod and reel, whose features complement each other so well that the rod and reel combo made it to the top of this list.
The rod is a 6-foot 6-inch one-piece tubular fiberglass blank with a solid tip. It has a fast action rating, a medium-heavy power rating, and a 20 to 50 lbs line rating. It comes with rubber shrink tube handles for a stable grip.
Its aluminum gimbal with a cover lets you secure the rod in a rod holder and prevent it from moving as you reel in your large fish. It is adorned with 8 PENN Dura line guides designed to be durable and easy on your lines.
The Pac Bay graphite reel seat is a 4.9:1 gear ratio reel that recovers 35 inches per turn with high torque, making the stubborn channel cats less taxing to reel in. The size 30 reel has enough capacity to house up to 495 yards of 80-pound test braid and 275 yards of 40-pound mono.
This is enough heavy-duty line to let the trophy cats run or drop a jig down to the waterbed. Your options are extensive. The star drag with HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers can pull a maximum drag of 33 lbs.
Most Durable Catfish Rod
- Butted in handle gives it a one-piece rod strength
- Moldable E-Glass fiber construction baring sustained abuse
- Covered by a lifetime warranty
- Durable graphite reel seat
- Unable to make long casts
The two-piece rod blanks are made of abuse-resistant E-Glass fiber and will give you a reasonable service life. In addition, the tip is visible at night thanks to fluorescent wrapping, so you can fish when the weather is cool, and there is less competition.
The double-foot welded stainless steel guides are durable and line-friendly, and they are assisted in line management by a heavy-duty stainless steel hook keeper to secure the line when you are not casting.
It has a comfortable EVA foregrip and a cork rear grip which reduces binding in rod holders. Combined with durable non-skid rubber gimbals, your rod will stay put no matter how aggressive the water is.
They come with a durable, lightweight graphite pipe reel seat with oversized aluminum hoods which can accommodate a high capacity reel. A limited lifetime warranty insures them for added peace of mind.
Best Catfish Rod for Night Fishing
- Composite E-Glass blank is durable and sensitive
- Secured aircraft-grade aluminum reel seat
- Hi-vis tip for night fishing
- Non-slip X-Grip handle
- A bit heavyset
The composite E-Glass single blank combines the E-Glass tolerance to withstand catfish abuse with an acquired non-parabolic fast action for extra sensitivity. As a result, you can easily drop a jig to the waterbed and hold it until you get a bite or throw deep crankbaits and keep baits in the strike zone longer so as not to spook the overly sensitive kitties.
They come with an aircraft-grade aluminum reel seat locked with double nuts to secure the reel tighter to the rod for seamless casting and retrieval. They also feature an X-Grip handle for a non-slip grip.
Their hi-vis tip ensures you will see where your rod is pointed in poor lighting so you can fish at night or early in the morning when there is less competition, and the scorching sun is not in your face.
Best Catfish Rod for Portability
- Collapsible into smaller, portable units
- Long ergonomic handles
- Well balanced E-Glass blanks
- Durable pressed-in line guides
- A bit pricey
Their long, lightweight EVA anti-slip Power Foam handles with inlaid contouring groves for maximum gripping exposure provide adequate space to use both hands for better casting leverage. Next to them, you will find heavy-duty saltwater grade aluminum reel seats enforced with dual locking nuts.
They come with 7’6” two-piece E-Glass blanks in sleek hi-vis white with medium-heavy power, which are adequate for various catfishing approaches. These are fitted with heavy-duty stainless steel pressed-in guides, enforced for both braid and monofilament threading. They also feature oversized stainless steel snake guide hook keepers for better line management.
Best Budget Catfish Rod
- Lightweight and rigid construction
- Clear Tip for extra sensitivity
- Exposed blank reel seat enhances feeling
- Will not hold up against monster blues
This is a 6-inch long 2-piece, fast action, and medium power rod that has just enough strength and sensitivity to tackle your regular catfish. It has been molded with Ugly Tech construction technology, which increases graphite levels, resulting in a lightweight blank that retains all the rugged toughness. It has Ugly Stik’s patented Clear Tip design for extra strength and sensitivity.
It is fitted with 7 Ugly Tuff one-piece stainless steel guides, which are extra durable and eliminate line pop-outs. The exposed blank reel seats ensure extra sensitivity, and they have cushioned stainless steel hoods. The handle is a premium cork grip on which Ugly Stik has proudly etched its logo. As an added gesture of ownership, the rods come with a 7-year warranty.
Best Catfish Rod for Beginners
- Covered by a lifetime warranty
- Collapsible for easy transportation and storage
- Supports multiple fishing techniques
- Fluorescent tip for direction in poor lighting
- The reel seat is loose fitting
This is a two-piece 7’6” fiberglass rod with medium-heavy power that is sufficient to handle the rigors of catfishing. It is easily collapsible for transport and storage. The combination of flexibility and sensitivity enables anglers of all skill levels to enjoy casting with it.
The florescent tip enables you to see bites in low visibility. It comes with eight double-footed stainless steel line guides that have been designed to be low-profile so that the rod and line move as a unit. They can support thick braided lines without getting damaged or fraying the lines.
It comes with an EVA foam grip that is non-slip, comfortable, and easy to clean. The medium-fast action allows even a novice catfish angler to get up to speed without losing out on hooksets entirely. It has a 13-inch handle for better management when casting wide and battling heavy fish and a hard rubber butt so you can fish from anywhere without damaging the rod. It comes with a lifetime warranty.
Best Catfish Rod for Kids
- Complete fishing package in one
- Customized for kids
- Lightweight and portable
- Barbed hooks pose a danger to the younger kids
This rod comes as a full tackle combo specialized to address every kid’s needs while catfishing. The telescopic fishing rod is lightweight and comes in 2 sizes to accommodate more kids; there is a 3.9’ and a 4.9’ rod.
It comes with a Spincast reel, a fishing line, an assortment of lures, a tackle box, and a travel bag to fit them all in. The telescopic rod also compresses into the travel bag for easy transportation.
All components have been customized to work with a young angler. It is a great set for grooming your future catfish fishing partner.
What is a Catfish Rod?
A catfish rod is a medium-to-heavy power, medium-to-fast action rod with a high strain rate capable of casting heavy bait and hauling the fast and furious kitties on a reel without losing the hookset. It also can secure a catfish reel with enough heavy-duty line to get the job done. The specific rod that will land your catfish will depend on your particular circumstances.
Types of Catfish Rods
These are high-sensitivity lightweight rods with fast action and high power, so most experienced anglers prefer them. The rigid nature of graphite allows them to create longer rods than fiberglass with better reach and accuracy. They are recommended for the largest catfish.
Though it toughs it out under extreme duress, it is better utilized by skilled anglers accustomed to fast action. Timing is everything, as there is a small window to hook your catch. The little flexibility also makes graphite brittle, and your rod is susceptible to snapping in unfavorable conditions.
If you hit it against a hard surface, or your tackle gets snagged in cover or the waterbed, you might find yourself in the market for a replacement. You will shell out a good buck for a replacement which is why beginners shy away from them
E-Glass and S-Glass Rods
These are both durable fiberglass rods but less stiff, with a slower action than graphite rods. They are great when combating large fish after the bite as they allow extra drag, which allows the hook to set firmly while protecting the rod from snapping.
They can’t achieve the large casting distances of graphite rods but will enable precision casting over smaller distances. They are suitable for all skill levels because they can accommodate trial and error and are also lightweight.
Being cost-effective does not mean you should go for the cheapest fiberglass rod, however. High-quality fiberglass will regulate the high flexibility and slow action while providing more sensitivity and improving casting accuracy and distance.
The two common fiberglass rod materials are the E- and S-Glass fibers. E-Glass derives its name from the electrical application for which it was initially built, while S-Glass represents strength.
- E-Glass has a high damage tolerance, is moldable, low cost, and is mostly used to make light fishing rods. However, reinforcing E-Glass is inefficient as it adds resin load to the material, making it heavy and beats the purpose.
- S-Glass has a higher tensile strength and modulus than E-Glass, making it stiffer and stronger. It is also lightweight, which makes it ideal for fishing rods that require power without compromising maneuverability.
These are made from a combination of fiberglass, graphite, and occasionally other materials. They combine the best features of all these materials and address their shortcomings for enhanced integrity.
The ratios of the two materials in a composite rod determine its flexibility, power rating, and functionality. Some will flex close to the butt, while others will have a higher rigidity. The combination of flexibility and sensitivity makes composite rods extremely versatile at a lower cost than graphite rods.
They are easier to use than fiberglass and graphite, making them ideal for beginners and anglers using multiple fishing techniques. They are less brittle than graphite and more sturdy than fiberglass. Look for the balance between sensitivity and action that suits your fishing style.
What Makes a Good Catfish Rod?
Type of Catfish
Three main types of catfish keep anglers on the water: blue catfish, channel catfish, and flathead catfish. The blue catfish weigh an average of between 30 to 40 pounds but have been known to exceed 100 pounds.
Flathead catfish are up next in the monster cat list and surpass the 100 lbs. mark on occasion. These are both strong and determined fighters and often give long struggles. Channel catfish hardly exceed 30 lbs. but they are the fiercest fighters of the three breeds.
A catfish pole should have an above-average strain rate to bear the weight of these big cats who are never cooperative. Stiff rods will help you get faster hooksets and pull bottom feeders out from under obstacles. In contrast, less stiff rods allow some slack for aggressive catfish to tug the line when priorities change from hook penetration to keeping tension on the already hooked fish.
Long rods produce longer casts than shorter rods with the same power and action ratings because they take up more lines while swinging and cover a wider arc. This allows the hookset more leverage. Shorter rods, on the other hand, are more accurate and practical when fishing in dingy, dirty water or under cover.
You should also factor in your personal comfort; the prescribed rod length may not suit your body structure. An 8-foot pitcher may not work for an angler with a petite body frame as it would for a taller person with upper body strength. Therefore, the appropriate length is a factor of the type of fishing you intend to engage in and your comfort.
The material influences how flexible the rod can be without breaking, how rigid it will be when required, its weight and durability. All these play into the effectiveness of your catfishing tackle, so you should pay close attention to what constitutes the rod and its properties.
Most modern rods are made from graphite or fiberglass. The carbon matrix determines the quality of your graphite rod, while fiberglass has classes – S-class fiber being superior to E-class fiber.
Graphite is lighter, more sensitive, and stronger and is often chosen over fiberglass. However, fiberglass is less costly and has the unique parabolic bend required for medium to light action rods. This applies when you don’t want the rod to be so stiff that it rips through the fish’s soft mouth.
Some premium composite rods are a combination of both technologies. The more aggressively you intend to fish and the larger the fish species, the tougher your rod material should be.
Rod handle materials are diverse and are usually a reflection of the angler’s preference. Before settling on one, you should also think about what you need for your grip and if the material serves the purpose.
Don’t be afraid to combine materials if that is how it gets done. They are designed for lightness, traction, durability, and ease of grip. The most popular ones are cork, cork tape, cork rings, wood, Hypalon, EVA, and shrink tube.
- Cork rings have a stylish look, are lightweight, and can be sanded to customize the grip.
- Cork tape is pocket-friendly and easy to apply; it has a soft feel and retains traction even while wet; it is, however, not as durable as the rest and will need replacement with time.
- Shrinkwrap is easily installed over other grips to give the rods a sleek look. It is very durable and is available in various colors that can be used to style the rod.
- EVA foam is comfortable, dense, and lightweight. It can be shaped by sandpaper for a customized ergonomic grip. However, it has little stretch, and you should confirm if its inner diameter fits your blank’s diameter.
- Hypalon is an extremely durable extruded rubber material that can take the punishment from rod holders. It can stretch, which makes it easier to install than an EVA grip.
- Cord is also extremely durable and offers the most traction for slimy hands. It is, however, heavier than the previous handle materials
Rod handles have different designs where these materials are applied: full grip, pistol grip, and split grip. Full grip handles are suitable for long-distance casting and when you are using heavy bait because they provide sufficient space to use both hands to balance the weight. Pistol grips and split grips have gaps between the handle material.
Consequently, less material is used, making them lighter than full grip rods. The gaps between handle materials in these rods enable the angler to have direct contact with the blank, making them more sensitive. They work well with close target casting and lighter lures
The longer the handle, the longer the rod should be to accommodate it, the heftier it will be. Length and weight affect your casting efficiency depending on your skill level and body build. Heavy-duty rods require longer handle lengths because they allow you to use both hands, providing better leverage when setting the hook and fighting fish.
This also enables you to generate more force as you cast to accommodate heavyweight lures on longer casts. Short handles stay out of the way for effective roll casting or one-handed casting when using lighter baits. Catfishing requires heavy-duty rods, and you should go for the longest handles that you can handle comfortably.
If the power is too light, it affects your casting distance as it will not store enough momentum to hurl the lure. If it’s too heavy, it might cause backlash issues and reduce efficiency. Catfish are heavy, strong fish, and the power rating should be between medium and heavy, depending on the size of the catfish you are targeting.
As much as they will easily overpower and snap a light rod, sometimes it takes a bit of flexibility to keep them interested in the lure, so a balance should be struck.
You should strike a balance between casting ability and fighting catfish when considering the kind of action you need on your catfishing rod. Action influences casting distance and accuracy, rod sensitivity, and how fast the hookset is transferred to the bait at the end of the line.
Lighter and slower action rods cast light baits, while heavy fast-action rods are ideal for heavy baits. Setting the hook with a fast-action rod is easier than a slow-action rod when the fish strikes. However, slow and light action allows some slack to prevent the hook from pulling free once the cat is hooked.
The optimum action rating will therefore depend on the type of fishing. When using treble-hooked baits, slower action lets you lean into the strike, so the catfish maintains the bite. Fast action, on the other hand, enables you to drive the hook into the fish’s mouth and is applicable where strong hook sets are needed, ideally for most single-hook baits like jigs and spinnerbait.
This is the most critical consideration for a catfishing rod as it determines how much of all these features you can afford. The aim is to optimize returns from your investment. If you don’t have bottomless pockets, you should get the best balance between personal preference, durability, functionality, and adaptation to landing big catfish. Unfortunately, there is no single catfishing rod that can handle different catfish species in all situations.
If you are going for one rod, customize the features to fit your current fishing environment so you can maximize utility. If you can afford it, a better approach is to get a couple of rods with different specializations that will complement each other. You also don’t have to go for high-end rods all the time as you may not need all the features, and it will take away from the savings you have to complete the tackle.
On the other hand, cheap rods are not durable, and you might find yourself spending extra replacing them or reinforcing them to handle your game fish. It is good to have a checklist with your priorities mapped out to avoid falling for marketing gimmicks and throwing your hard-earned investment down the drain.
Because you are now equipped to get your own fishing rod, here is a step-by-step video showing a simple way to rig a catfish rod for capturing big fish.