8 Best Catfish Reels [For The Money]

Catfish are known to put up one hell of a fight, but they also are quick to take the bait. For these reasons, catfishing is considered to be among the most fun types of fishing. There are several different catfish species and each of them have their own sizes and temperaments. 

So, when it comes to catching catfish, the type of bait tackle you use will be dependent on the type of catfish you plan on catching.

Our top pick for the best catfish reel is the Penn SQL30LW Squall LevelWind. At just $179, it represents a great value for money considering it’s features and build quality. If you are looking for the best reel for big catfish, then look no further than Lew’s Speed Cast Reel, while the Penn Fishing Spinfisher VI is phenomenal for catching trophy catfish.

 For instance, a small catfish can weigh less than a pound, while large types can weigh more than 100 pounds. So, as you can tell, there is quite a bit of variation here. In this article, we will discuss the 10 best catfish reels. In our comparisons, we will consider value, performance, features, and reliability.

Top Catfish Reels On The Marge

1. Penn SQL30LW Squall LevelWind  – Best Catfish Reel For The Money

This reel is specifically designed to be able to withstand harsh saltwater conditions. It has a strong, machined aluminum spool that’s ready to be braided and it has convenient line capacity rings that, at a glance, show how much line you have left.

This reel has HT-100 drag washers  and a stainless steel pinion gear for increased smoothness. Also, the anti-reverse system and bearings are composed of 2+1 shielded stainless steel.

This reel really has great drag performance. It has a fully greased HT-100 Versa system that features multiple adjustable drag settings. In this reel, the main gear is made of a marine-grade bronze alloy. Even though it’s made of a lot of metal parts, this reel is fairly lightweight and nimble thanks to a graphite side plate and frame.

The great thing about the Versa-Handle system is that the user can choose the length of their handle as they see fit. This reel is a great choice for saltwater catfish, which are known to require quite a bit of strength. If a reel can handle that, then it certainly will do well for freshwater catfish and many other types as well.

2.Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Catfish Pro

This reel lives up to its name as it was specifically engineered for catfish. It’s got all the bells and whistles: a Carbon Matrix drag system, a six-pin centrifugal braking system, and stainless steel bearing

The drag system in this reel is known to be among the most consistent on the market. Also, it supports plenty of range, making this a great reel for just about any situation.

The advanced braking system allows the line to feed off of the spool at the same speed rate as the cast, which is more important than you may realize. This makes it super easy to perform ultra-long-distance casting.

One of the most unique features of this reel is its extended bent handle. This handle provides far better grip when pulling in a large catfish. It’s important to note that if you have more weight on your line, it means that you will need to increase the spool tension on your reel.

3.KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel

This round reel is, in our opinions, the best catfish baitcasting reel you can get, dollar for dollar. It’s got a fantastic design and plenty of power. It helps to know that the KastKing Rover is also highly respected for its world-class durability. Built from only the highest grade components, this reel features precision-cut brass gears, a CNC machined spool, and anodized aluminum side plates.

Also, this reel features an all-alloy level wind that functions as a guide that moves from side to side as you turn. This ensures that your line stays level and all times.


4.Abu Garcia C3 Catfish Special

This Abu Garcia is one of the most popular baitcasting reels for catfish. This is due to how extremely powerful this reel is. If you are after the largest and strongest fish in deep waters, then you are going to want to take a look at the Abu Garcia C3.

This fantastic reel is available in two sizes: 6500 and 7000. If you get the 6500 it comes with three stainless steel ball bearings and one roller bearing. This size has a gear ratio of 5.3:1. The 7000 size, on the other hand, is much more powerful bearing setup and a 4.1:1 gear ratio..

Regardless of the size you choose, both have oversized power knobs and long, bent cranking handles. This setup provides excellent leverage and torque for large fish. Also, it’s got a Carbon Matrix system, making it smooth and dependable.

5.Penn Fishing Spinfisher VI

This reel features a fully IPX5 certified spool design and sealed body. It also is equipped with HT-100 drag washers that are made from high-tech carbon fiber. This entire reel is fully sealed and protected from the ground up.

Depending on the model  chosen, this reel can do anywhere between 15 and 50 pounds.

This reel has a lot to offer. Starting out, it’s got a 5+1 sealed stainless steel ball bearing system that makes everything you do with this reel an ultra-smooth affair. It also has a Superline spool and useful line capacity rings.

If you pick up one with a size of 6500 to 10500, it’s going to have a manual bail trip. On the other hand, if you get one within the 2500 to 5500 size range, it includes an automatic bail trip.

6.Okuma Classic CLX Levelwind

This reel is one of the best reels you can find for less than $100. It features a fully graphite spool that is corrosion resistant, which makes it appropriate for saltwater fishing.

As you would expect in a saltwater reel, its frame and side plates are also lightweight and corrosion-resistant. It has a steel reel foot that gives it a lot of strength. Also, this reel features a self-lubricating gear system and multi-disc drag system that provides smooth and dependable performance.

It features a level wind system which makes the line evenly wrap onto the spool as you reel in. One of our favorite things about this feel is the fact that its handle is an aluminum power handle that has T-style knobs.

7.Lew’s Speed Cast Reel

Lew’s Speed Cast Reel is another heavy-duty catfish reel that is specifically engineered to handle big catfish. So, as you would expect, it’s got a brass crankshaft and main gear. They didn’t skimp on the frame and side plates either, which are composed of anodized aluminum.

It features a carbon fiber drag which provides strong, smooth, and consistent performance. When it comes to drag, you can pull a maximum of 15 pounds with this reel. Weighing in at just 12 ounces, this reel is light, nimble, and highly maneuverable. It’s got a 5.3:1 gear ratio which makes reeling in your line a breeze.

Other great things about this reel are its 5-bearing system, which uses stainless steel bearings and a Zero Reverse one-way clutch bearing in the reel’s anti-reverse system.

Also, it’s got an oversized EVA grip on the power handle, which is not something you usually find on a reel that only costs about $100.

8.Shimano Sedona FI Spinning Reel

This reel is a redesign of the Shimano Sedona, which was already a great reel. Now it’s better. The new model is stronger, lighter, more durable, and a lot faster than the original. It has a lightweight G-free body and a Magnumlite rotor that provides stunningly smooth performance.

This reels frame uses cold-forged Hagene gears for added durability and all size variants other than the 1000 feature a 20-pound drag and a 6.2:1 gear ratio. The 1000 has just a 7-pound drag and a 5.0:1 gear ratio

The one thing that has not changed much is the 3+1 ball bearing system, which is basically the same as the original aside from its better resistance to water damage.

The long list of features and excellent price-point make the Shimano one of the best spinning reels for catfish. It works great for both offshore and inshore fishing.

How Much Do The Best Catfish Reels Cost?

Catfish Reels Price Maximum Drag
Penn SQL30LW Squall LevelWind $179.00 20 lbs
KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel $ 59.99   20 lbs
Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Catfish Pro $229.95 15 lbs
Penn Fishing Spinfisher VI $ 110.33 – $ 369.95  (depending on size) 15 lbs
Okuma Classic CLX Levelwind $ 51.99   17 lbs
Abu Garcia C3 Catfish Special $ 161.87  20 lbs
Lew’s Speed Cast Reel $ 84.40 15 lbs
Shimano Sedona FI Spinning Reel $ 55.00 7 lbs
Catfish Sumo Heavyweight $94.99 42.5 lbs
Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Blue Yonder $149.99 20 lbs

Some Things To Know About The Best Catfish Reels

Before we get started on our list of the best catfish reels, there are some general terms and other things that you should know.

What Size Reel Should I Use For Catfishing?

In most cases, finding the best reel size for your application is as easy as determining the size fishing line you intend to use most often. When it comes to fishing for catfish, most people will prefer a reel size of 30 or larger, but a spinning reel of size 10 or 20 is perfectly capable of landing big catfish.

Are Baitcasters Good For Catfishing?

Yes. Baitcasters are designed for dropping your line in crowded or shallow areas. Also, baitcast reels are specifically engineered for use with heavier lines. So, this means you can cast farther with a baitcaster than with a spinning gear of equal size, which is great for catfishing.

Can You Use A Spinning Reel For Catfish?

Yes but generally speaking, a spinning reel is only going to be good for catching smaller and medium sized catfish. So, it might not be the best type of reel to use when you are targeting bigger types of catfish.

How Much Drag Do I Need For Catfish?

For catching catfish, your reel should have a drag slip of about 20 to 35 percent of the fishing line’s line strength. So, for a 30 lbs line this figure would need to be about 9 lbs.


Catfish can be a real challenge to catch if you don’t have the right setup and everyone fishes a little differently. So, it’s important to make sure you find the best catfish reel for you. The task of finding the best catfish reels can be overwhelming, however, if you are not familiar with any of the many options on the market.

You can’t go wrong with reels like the Penn SQL30LW Squall LevelWind, KastKing Rover Round Baitcasting Reel, Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Catfish Pro, Penn Fishing Spinfisher VI, and Okuma Classic CLX Levelwind. This is because these brands have been making catfish-specific reels for quite some time now. So they know how important it is to include things like corrosion resistance and a high drag strength. Other features like water shedding mechanisms and line straighteners make these reels some of the best catfish reels on the market.

 We hope this article helped you learn more about the best catfish reels and helped you make a more informed purchase. Thanks for reading!

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