With catfish ranging in weights of smaller 3 to 5 lbs channel cats all the way up to monstrous 50 lb flathead, it’s any wonder as to why there is a lot of confusion of what is the best catfishing gear and tackles to use.
Catfish are probably the least understood when it comes to choosing the right tackle than any other freshwater fish in the USA today.
Whilst the worlds of bass angling and fly fishing have thousands of products lines that cover just about any and every conceivable setup, catfish anglers are left with very little off the shelf in terms of specialist catfishing tackle.
However, in recent years companies such as Whisker Seeker and Team Catfish have stepped up to the mark and filled a well-undeserved space the big name brands are lagging far behind.
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Due to their size and power, catfish gear needs to be very robust.
A lightweight graphite rod just won’t cut it and you need a reel that can handle a real beating, not to mention store a lot of heavy lines.
That’s why your decisions as to what catfish gear that you buy should always be based on durability and robustness.
You can get by with some pretty basic setups providing that your gear is up to the job.
Spending time, energy, and money to get to a point where you hook into a huge catfish can all be wasted if they end up snapping off your line or busting your reel.
Catfish Tackle Setup
The best catfish poles need to have a lot of backbone in them. Lightweight rods made from modern graphite or carbon/graphite blends might be all well and good when you are using ultralight techniques for smaller fish species.
But; catfish demand that you use a rod that has enough backbone to haul a large cat out from heavy cover or snags that they like to hide out in.
Fiberglass or a fiberglass carbon fiber blend is the best choice when looking at the right types of materials that a catfish rod should be made from.
Rod length should be 7 feet minimum for smaller cats and 7’4 for larger.
All thing s being equal a longer rod will cast further and will also feel like you have a lot more of a lever to work against big fish.
You will need a rod with a medium or medium/heavy power rating anything that is rated for line in the 20 to 30 lb range.
Action wise a more moderate action is preferred when casting big weights a long distance as it allows you to get more energy into the rod blank than if you were using a rod with fast action.
Your choice of the rod will generally determine what type of reel you should use.
Spinning or baitcaster ?
For smaller bait rigs casting with a spinning rod and reel is just fine but once you move up to larger weights then a casting rod does start to make a lot more sense.
Baitcasting reels will handle heavier lines better than a spinning setup and you will get more control when casting.
Most anglers don’t want to take the time to learn how to use a casting setup for catfish and although there is a little bit of a steep learning curve in the beginning you can pick up the technique pretty quickly.
Size-wise if you are using a spinning reel then a size 4000 at a minimum for smaller cats and a size 5000 for a good baitcaster for larger cats.
Stay away from low-profile baitcaster that are so popular in the bass fishing world. They are not built to handle the types of loads that big catfish will put on a reel.
Instead, stick to the older round style baitcasting reels which are much better suited to the demands of catfishing.
Regardless of the type the best fishing reels for catfish will have a high-quality drag and be capable of holding several hundred yards of 25 lbs monofilament.
The age-old question which is the best line for catfish? Well, the answer is more often than not just regular old monofilament.
Mono has a little bit of inbuilt stretch and is considerably more durable than braid.
A lot of anglers think that they need to use a big breaking strain braid for catfish sometimes up to 100 lbs.
You do not need a line that is this heavy. You can land large cats on nothing more than 20 to 30 lbs mono once you have your reel drag set correctly.
There are two types of hooks commonly used for catfish traditional circle hooks and treble hooks.
Treble hooks allow you to mold a piece of bait over them and actually give great structure to your bait so that they stay on your hook quite well.
And are the best option when using sponge or dip baits. Circle hooks are the ultimate choice once you are using any kind of cut bait.
They also give you the best possible hooking position in the mouth when you strike, this is normally in the side of the mouth and the shape of the hooks means you are less likely to hook a catfish in the throat.
Split shot, flat or no roll sinkers, and slinky weights are the most commonly used in catfishing.
Although they are mostly just pieces of lead the size and shape can have a big impact on how your presentation works especially in moving water where the current can have a big drag on your line.
Always buy quality swivels!
Swivels are one item that a lot of anglers will cheap out on and refuse to buy a decent quality brand.
The chain is only as strong as the weakest link as the saying goes and cheap swivels can and do break quite regularly.
7. Rod Holders
A decent rod holder or multiple rod holders are a must if you are fishing for extended periods with several lines in the water.
Metal is the only way to go and cheap plastic rod holders are not up to the task. You need a holder that you can push at least a foot into the ground at a minimum the deeper the better.
Your rod should be held at a 45-degree angle as this is the best way to get a close eye on your line.
8. Tackle Box
Having a mess of sinkers, hooks, beads, swivels, and lines all jumbled together can make for a very frustrating experience.
But a decent tackle box that has lots of separate storage compartments. Keeping everything separated out will make your life much easier when it comes to tying your rigs so never underestimate the power of good organization with your catfish tackle.