Best Catfish Spinning Reels Reviewed For 2022

We hope you love the products we recommend. Just so you know, OnTrack Fishing may earn an affiliate commission from the links on this page, at no extra cost to you.

When it comes to catfishing, everyone has an opinion. Die-hard catfishers will often balk at the idea of using a spinning reel for catching cats.

However, technology has created a huge boom in the fishing industry. Spin reels have been around for many years, but they have come a long way since they were first introduced.

Spinning reels are now made with technology that can catch catfish

This article will show why spinning products are the best option when it comes to catching catfish. I will also give you some tips on what line to use and how you can improve your chances of landing more catfish.

Best Catfish Spinning Reels 2022

Before we go any further here are my top picks for catfish spinning reels.

PENN 1481260 Spinfisher VI Spinning Saltwater Reel, 2500 Reel Size, 6.2: 1 Gear Ratio, 33' Retrieve Rate, 6 Bearings, Ambidextrous
PENN 1481260 Spinfisher VI Spinning Saltwater Reel, 2500 Reel Size, 6.2: 1 Gear Ratio, 33" Retrieve Rate, 6 Bearings, Ambidextrous
IPX5 sealed body and spool design; CNC gear technology; Ht-100 carbon fiber drag washers; 5 plus 1 sealed stainless-steel ball bearing System
PENN Fierce III Reel, Red, Black, 4000 - Plastic Clam
PENN Fierce III Reel, Red, Black, 4000 - Plastic Clam
Full metal body and sideplate keep precise gear alignment under heavy loads; Techno balanced rotor gives smooth retrieves.
Pflueger Patriarch Spinning Reel, Left/Right
Pflueger Patriarch Spinning Reel, Left/Right
REEL SIZE 25; GEAR RATIO: 5.2:1; MAX DRAG LB: 5lb - 2.3kg; MONO CAPACITY YD/LB: 230/2 110/4 90/6

Last update on 2022-09-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

What to Consider Before Buying a Catfish Spinning Reel

The right gear is really important when getting into a new hobby or upgrading for an existing hobby. 

When it comes to catfishing though, you’ll need equipment that is big enough, durable enough, and tough enough to pursue these big fish.

The reel is the most important piece of equipment when discussing any type of fishing. But, they are especially important when pursuing cats.

To give you an idea of how big these fish are, here are some common catfish species and their sizes. 

  • Blue Catfish – Average 20-40 pounds, but it’s not uncommon for them to get as large as 100 pounds. 
  • Channel Catfish – The average channel catfish will come in at around 30 pounds.
  • Flathead Catfish – You’ve probably seen them in the fish tank at Basspro Shops or Cabelas. They are monstrous fish that can even get up to over 100 pounds. 

Catfish are big, strong fish. In addition to their sheer size, catfish are fighters.

Although you may not see them leaping out of the water trying to release themselves from the hook, they will pull, spin, and fight hard to free themselves from the hook.

It is possible to catch catfish on inferior tackle, but it is not preferred. You could end up fighting with the catfish for hours.

In my experience, after hooking one channel using cheap gear, you’ll never do it again.

Why Choose a Spin Product?

Before we start to talk about the best catfish spinning reels, it is important you to know a little bit more about the spinning reel. 

The spinning reel is the most common product you see out there today. Easy to use for beginners, but reliable enough for the advanced angler.

The basic parts of a spinning reel are the bail, which releases the line. Spool, which holds the line. The handle, which brings in the line. 

They usually have a dial to adjust the drag. The drag components are really what separates the okay choices from the great ones.

In years past you would rarely see an experienced fishing angler using a spinning reel.

Now you can compete with a spin product and hold your own. Many advanced anglers prefer spin products to their baitcaster counterparts.

What Is The Best Reel Type for Catfish? Spin Reels vs Baitcasting Reels

When it comes to catfishing, most people flock to the baitcasting options. Some actually do not believe you can catch catfish on a spinning reel, which is false. 

Baitcasting options are very good for catching catfish. A lot of anglers prefer them and say they can cast further and with pinpoint accuracy.

However, there is more of a learning curve when using baitcasting reels, which can scare off new anglers.

Personally, I prefer the spin options. They are perfect for the weekend warrior and the casual fisher. But, they also work well for experienced anglers competing.

I have never had an issue with any spin product and don’t see the need to move on to baitcasting brands.

The Benefits of a Catfish Spinning Reel

I like spinning reels for catfishing because they are reliable, durable, and user friendly. 

Many anglers, like myself, enjoy the ease and straightforward nature of the spinning reel. 

If you are new to fishing, or catfishing techniques, casting is a lot easier to teach with a spinning reel. Overall, people feel more comfortable using a spin option when fishing.

Additionally, you may be an experienced angler, but new to catfishing. If this is the case, why buy a whole new setup? It is pointless.

I will use myself as an example here. I often like to fly fish. I only go after catfish 2-3 times per year. When I am not fly fishing I am using a spin option to go after bass, walleye, perch, and saltwater fish.

I do not have a ton of time to become proficient in the many different baitcasting choices, so I will continue to use my spinning reels to catch catfish. This is my number one reason for using a spin option.

You can make adjustments to the spinning brands you already have and boom, you can be heading out the door for channel catfish. 

Even if I was to pursue catfish more often, I would still use a spinning product. I find them to be more comfortable and user friendly.

Versatility Of A Catfish Reel

The spinning reel is like the shotgun of the fishing world. It works for every type of game you can imagine.

I take a minimalist approach to fishing. I do not like to have a ton of gear, especially gear that I will not use regularly.

So, I have a couple of rods and reels that will work on numerous species of fish. I can catch trout on a Monday, and go after catfish on Tuesday using the same combo, just by switching up a few things.

How To Customize Your Spin Reel To Catch Different Catfish Species

There are a few ways to customize your spinning reel to catch different species of fish or even different species of catfish. 

For example, if you are fishing for catfish in a clear area where you do not worry about snags or abrasions, then you may want to use a braided line.

However, you might be pursuing catfish the next day in a rocky area, where the braided line can easily be cut and snapped. 

In this case, you can re-spool your line from braided to mono. Some companies even sell replacement spools, which allows you to have a preloaded spool with different lines. This is what I do.

I have a handful of spools, which I have preloaded with braided and monofilament lines. Each spool has a purpose.

For example, I have a braided line with 20lb test, which is good for catfish in an area where there are no rocks or worries about snagging my line. 

Then I have another spool with a monofilament that is great for those rocky areas where I think braided line might snap.

I also have a spool with a five-pound monofilament line, which is good if I find a small stream holding brook trout. 

You can also make adjustments to your drag based on the fish you are pursuing. 

Now, is this the best option for somebody who is competing in tournaments or for a living? No, of course not.

But, for a working man, raising a family, who squeezes in fishing trips whenever he can, it works pretty damn well.

How To Shop For a Catfish Reel

When shopping for catfish reels there are a few things you want to pay attention to. 

  • Size
  • Line Capacity
  • Line
  • Gear Ratio
  • Drag

There are other things as well, such as materials, ball bearings, and blah blah blah. Listen, if you find an option that meets the requirements above then you will probably be fine.

What Size?

Spinning reel brands come in different sizes, which uses a number system. They range from 1000-10000.

The lower the number, the smaller the fish. For example, a 2000 series will be good for perch, while a 10000 series will be ideal for large fish or saltwater fish. 

Look for something in the 4000-6000 range, depending on where you live and how big the catfish you plan on catching might be.

Line Capacity

The line capacity is the amount of line a reel can hold. Line capacity changes with the size of the fishing line you have chosen.

For example, you may have 200 yards of 20lb test monofilament line in your reel. If you change to a 40lb test line, then you will only be able to get 100-120 yards of line on the same spool. 

Catfish get up there in size, so you will want to look for a line that is strong enough to hold a monster fish. So look for a product that can hold a good amount of strong line. 

Again, the line you pick will depend on the type of catfish you are pursuing and where you are fishing. Don’t automatically assume every catfish will look like a flathead catfish. 

Line

This article is about the best spin options, but the line goes hand and hand with the reel. The proper line depends on the type of catfish you are pursuing.

If you are fishing for some channel cats, then you may get by on 10lb test. If you go up to some monster fish you will want to look at 40lb test or more. 

The monofilament line has been a staple for catfishers for years. It’s cheap, dependable, and easy to find. Bonus, it holds up to abrasions. 

However, the braided line has its place in the catfish community.

It’s strong, with a little stretch, so you get amazing hook sets. However, it will not hold up to abrasions, snags, and rocks. 

I fished both and like both. It really comes down to personal preference and the waters in which you fish. 

Bottom line, look for a good line that will cover the fish you are pursuing. If you are unsure what species of fish are in a body of water, Google it, and use that as your guide. 

Gear Ratio

The gear ratio is how fast you can wheel in a certain amount of line with each turn of the handle. 

The higher the ratio, the faster it turns and vice versa. 

With catfishing, you want a low gear ratio. You will have lots of line in the water and be battling with some epic-sized fish. 

So when you are vigorously reeling in that line you’ll want it to come in a hurry, but more importantly, you will want some power behind the product you choose.

Look for a product that has a ratio of 3:1 to 6:1 as this will be the best for catching catfish. These products have decent power and speed.

Drag

Drag is what allows the fish to pull the line out of your reel. If your drag system isn’t working or you have it set up incorrectly, then a fish, especially a large catfish, will snap your line the second (s)he starts to fight. 

Drag will also tire out the fish, which makes it easier to land. 

You will want to look for an option that has a good quality drag system. 

What Are The Best Spinning Reels For Catfishing

Let’s take a look at some of the top catfish reel options and why they are good for catfishing.

Abu Garcia Elite Max

I’ve reviewed a lot of fishing reels over the years, and the Elite Max is one of the top choices on the market. It has several features that make it stand out from other fishing products. 

It’s a stainless steel and aluminum product, which is ambidextrous. It works with braided or mono lines. 

It comes in sizes from 1000-6000 and gear ratios of 6.2:1 and 5.6:1. The drag is rated high, and many anglers have commented on how smooth it is. 

It comes with the trademarked HPCR bearings and Rocket Spool Lip Design.

This is a solid product from Abu Garcia.

Pros:

  • Relatively affordable with a smooth and compact performance

Cons:

  • A few people have reported that the product broke within a couple of uses.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Abu Garcia X REVO2X10

The Abu Garcia Revo X is an excellent choice for anglers of all skill levels. It features a lightweight design and premium components that make it very easy to use.

The REVO can also hold braided, mono, or fluorocarbon lines. It has a gear ratio of 6.2:1. They range from 6000-10000. 

Again, the drag was considered to be very smooth. This product also comes with the trademarked HPCR bearings and Rocket Spool Lip Design.

Pros:

  • The smoothness of this reel and the quality of the price are the biggest selling points.

Cons:

  • Some people felt the paint design on the drag was not the best.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

PENN Spinfisher VI

I am a PENN fan and user, so I can attest to how good these products are for all types of angling.

The Penn Spinfisher VI is a great choice if you’re looking for a high-quality option that offers all of the features and performance you need for catfishing.

They range in size from 2500-10500. It will take a mono or braided line. The drag system is great and people comment how well it handles large fish.

The design of the Spinfisher VI keeps saltwater and other debris out of the gearbox and drag system. It comes with carbon fiber drag washers, line capacity rings, and a 5 +1 stainless steel ball system.

This is a great product for anglers and PENN is a company that you can’t go wrong with. You can check out my full review of the Penn Spinfisher VI here.

Pros:

  • Penn has quality products, very durable, and easy to use.

Cons:

  • Customers report the reel will “lock-up” on occasion (however I suspect this could be a user error). Others commented on how it makes a rattling sound when using large lures.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

PENN Fierce III

Again, we are talking about PENN, a great company. The Penn Fierce III is an excellent choice for anglers who are looking for an affordable spinning product that can handle most fish.  

The Peen Fierce will take braided or a mono line.  It comes in sizes ranging from 1000-8000. The entire body is metal, keeping gear alignment precise.

It has a gear ratio of 5.2:1 or 6.2:1 and it also has an amazing drag system. This too comes with the PENN HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers. It also sports a 4 +1 shielded stainless ball bearing system. 

Pros:

  • Price. This is a quality budget reel for catching catfish. It has all the features that make a PENN, a PENN. 

Cons:

  •  I read a lot of feedback on this product, on multiple sites, and have not found many cons about it.  One person did state the line would lock up when reeling in. 

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

***Side note about PENN and why I like them. They are easy to find at tackle shops, which means if it breaks or you lose a piece mid fishing trip, you should be able to find a replacement part without breaking the bank or ruining your trip***

Pflueger Patriarch 

The Pflueger Patriarch is a very popular spin product.  It can handle braided or mono lines. It has a 5.2:1 gear ratio. The drag system will definitely stop big fish in their tracks.

It has a magnesium body, rotor, and sideplate, which make it durable, lightweight, and corrosion resistant.

It has an aircraft-grade aluminum spool and carbon handle. XCR shielded stainless steel ball bearings. Instant anti-reverse and SMARTretrieve Technology assists in line control.

Pros:

  • A quality product with a lot of unique features. It’s lightweight, durable, and corrosion resistant, making this a great fresh or saltwater reel. 

Cons:

  • This product starts to get up there in price. I also had a hard time finding this product in a size over 3500, this could be because it is popular.
  • Additionally, I have never seen a Pflueger product in a tackle shop near my home, this could be an isolated incident and they could be everywhere, but I haven’t been able to find them.
  • This may not be a con to other anglers as it can be purchased online.

>>Check Price on Amazon<<

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use a spinning reel for catfish?

Yes. you can use a spinning reel for catfish. I have been using spin products for years and have used them successfully to catch catfish.

Additionally, I have used spin options exclusively when surf fishing. I have caught lots of massive saltwater fish with spinning reels.

Spinning reel vs baitcaster for catfish?

Baitcasters are great for catfish. However, there is a learning curve with using baitcasters.

That frustration can often chase away potential anglers. So, if you are a beginner and looking to get into catfishing then using a spin reel might be the best option to enjoy the sport. 

If you don’t like catfishing, well you can still use it for walleye, bass, or saltwater fish.

Where To Buy The Best Catfish Options?

I personally like to shop for catfish gear at tackle shops near the area in which I plan on fishing the majority of my time.

The reason being Murphy’s Law, when you reel and rod combo breaks, you can hopefully find a replacement at the shop that sells the brand name of the gear you own.

You can also find good gear at online shops like Amazon and Tackle Direct.

What Should I Look For in a Good Reel For Catfish?

When it comes to choosing a good reel for catfish you want to look at the gear ratio, size, line capacity, and overall build quality of the product.

Is Catfishing Gear Expensive?

Yes and no. You can get inferior gear for a fraction of the price. But, you’ll be buying that same gear every year. I personally like to buy quality and maintain it. 

I have had the same fly rod and reels and spin products for over 10 years. With a little maintenance and practice, you can make them last a lifetime. 

These Reels are Expensive, Can I Only Use Them for Catfishing?

No. These choices are versatile, which is why I like them. You can use a catfishing reel, to go after any fish you desire. I would just recommend changing things like the line and adjusting the drag. 

What Line Should I Use For Catfishing? Braided or Monoline?

It depends. I personally use mono more because the areas I fish are usually rocky. But, I know a lot of catfishers swear by braided. 

If you are unsure what the waters are like, use mono and upgrade to braided if you think you’re in the clear.

Why is Catfishing So Popular?

There are a variety of reasons it is so popular. In parts of the country, these fish are fairly common, making them a popular fish to pursue. 

Or maybe because they are great table fare. But, probably because they are so much fun to catch.

Wrap-up

Catfishing is good old fashion fun. You don’t need to run out and buy all sorts of specialty gear when taking up catfishing. Just choose the right baits and go out there and give it a try.

Sharing is caring!

Sean Ward

Sean Ward

Hey there, my name is Sean – OnTrack Fishing is my site. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch bass in the States, barramundi in Australia, trout here at home, and carp on the Danube delta. If I’m not fishing, or talking about fishing, then….I’m probably asleep.

Follow

Join our Angling Community

Subscribe today to get the latest Hacks and to be notified of the Best Prices on Angling Equipment