At some point, nearly every angler is compelled to try catching the catfish living in the local reservoir, river or pond.
But there are different types of catfish and there is more than one way to catch a cat. So it is important to decide what type of technique you enjoy.
For example, many anglers love sitting with nothing fancier than a spinning rod and a pack of hot dogs, trying to catch a stringer full of small channel cats. While others use high-quality rods, catfish reel and a $30,000 boat to wrench 40-pound monsters up from the depths.
And obviously, there is an infinite number of variations between these two extremes.
All of these approaches are fun and no style, technique or gear is intrinsically better than the other. But that doesn’t mean some things – mainly different catfishing rods – aren’t better suited for some situations than others.
The 6 Top Catfish Rods of 2020: Outdoor Empire Reviews
These are our top recommendations for catfish rods of 2020:
- Best spinning: St. Croix Avid Series Spinning
- St. Croix Mojo Cat Spinning Rod
- Best baitcasting: Team Catfish Thunder Cat
- Eagle Claw CatClaw (Read 30+ Amazon reviews)
- Best rod-and-reel combo: Abu Garcia Catfish Commando (Read 80+ Amazon reviews)
- Best affordable: Ugly Stik GX2
*Looking for a specific feature? Check out our quick-reference chart below:
|Line Weight||6 -12||10 - 30||15 - 30||6 - 15|
|Lure Weight||3/16 - 5/8||1 oz - 8 oz||1/2 - 2||1/8 - 5/8 oz|
|Action||Fast||Moderate||Moderate Fast||not specified by manufacturer|
|Power||Medium||Medium Heavy||Medium Heavy||Medium|
|Cost||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
1. Best Catfish Spinning Rods: St. Croix Avid Series Spinning
Spinning setups are a great way for beginning anglers to dip their toe into the sport of catfishing. They are easy to use and there’s a fewer chance of technical problems compared to baitcasting rigs.
The St. Croix Avid Series Spinning is an excellent choice for catfish anglers who prefer to use spinning rather than baitcasting gear.
This series includes rods of different lengths, powers, and actions, but most anglers are well-served by a 7-foot, medium power, fast action model.
- Premium, high-modulus graphite construction ensures you’ll detect the lightest nibbles
- Heavy-duty cork handles provide a comfortable grip and lasts for years
- Incredibly lightweight design (most 7-foot models weigh between 2.6 and 4.3 pounds)
- Double-coated finish ensures the rod will look great for years
- Limited lifetime warranty
2. St. Croix Mojo Cat Spinning Rod
St. Croix is one of the leading manufacturers in the business, so it should be surprising that we’ve selected two of their rods for the “Best Catfish Spinning Rod” category. Whereas the
rods in the Avid Series certainly work well for catfish, they’re designed to be flexible and work for a variety of different gamefish; the St. Croix Mojo Cat Spinning Rod is specifically designed for anglers chasing big cats.
Strong and durable enough to handle big fish, yet sensitive enough that you’ll feed the lightest nibbles, the Mojo Cat is a catfishing angler’s dream come true.
Available in both 7- and 8-foot-long versions, the Mojo Cat is a medium-power rod with a fast-action tip. And because St. Croix backs the rod with a 5-year warranty, you can purchase with confidence.
- Made from a blend of SCII graphite and linear S-glass
- Equipped with Kigan Master Hand 3D guides and a Fuji ECS reel seat.
- A premium-grade cork handle is provided and ensures that you’ll be able to keep a secure grip on the rod.
3. Best Catfish Baitcasting Rods: Team Catfish Thunder Cat 7-6 Medium (2-Piece) Casting
Because they offer superior drag functions, cast farther and hold more line, most serious anglers prefer catfishing with a baitcasting rig rather than a spinning setup.
The Thunder Cat 7-6 Medium Casting is a great option for serious catfish anglers. Although this model is an excellent choice for most situations, Team Catfish makes other versions with different lengths and power ratings.
- Fiberglass construction ensures it will last for years of fishing
- EVA anti-slip power foam handles provide comfort during those long battles with giant cats
- Graphite reinforced reel seat for additional durability and strength
- Tapered end cap works well with rod holders and pops out easily
- Great sensitivity ensures you’ll detect every bite
4. Eagle Claw CatClaw
Although Eagle Claw is perhaps best known for their hooks and terminal tackle, they also make a few high-quality rods, including the CatClaw.
Measuring 8-feet-long, this medium-heavy rod provides more than enough power and leverage to bring even the biggest cats to the surface.
Designed for use with 12- to 30-pound-test line and lures weighing between 1.5 and 2.5 ounces, the CatClaw is an all-fiberglass rod that features a graphite reel seat.
The CatClaw is a two-piece rod, which makes it easy to transport and store when you’re not using it to catch flatheads or big blues. Note that these are very big rods, and most anglers will prefer to use them with oversized reels.
- Aluminum oxide line guides will help improve your casting distance and reduce the wear and tear on your line
- EVA foam grips ensure that your hands will remain comfortable and you won’t lose your grip while battling big fish.
5. Best Catfish Rod-and-Reel Combo: Abu Garcia Catfish Commando Cast Combo
If you are new to catfishing and just want to get started without having to go through the trouble of selecting and matching a rod to your reel, it is suggested to purchase a rod-and-reel combo.
Abu Garcia is one of the leading rod manufacturers in the world so it should come as no surprise that they produce a fantastic catfishing combo.
A great option for both new and experienced anglers, the Catfish Commando provides an excellent combination of value and performance.
- Ergonomic reel design, with 2 stainless steel ball bearings for smooth casting and retrieving
- 6-pin centrifugal brake design helps eliminate backlash
- Composite blank construction provides a great mix of durability and sensitivity
- 7’ medium-heavy rod provides all of the power you need
- 5.1:1 gear ratio will help you haul in the biggest cats in the lake
6. Best Affordable Catfish Rod: Ugly Stik GX2
Ugly Stik has made a name for themselves manufacturing quality rods at an affordable price, and the GX2 is another example of their excellence on both fronts. As with most of their rods, the GX2 is constructed using a fiberglass and graphite composite that increases strength, durability and responsiveness.
This will provide the sensitivity needed to detect little bites and the backbone needed haul in the big fish. It is light enough to allow for easy, all-day fishing, and the EVA handle allows for increased comfort while doing it.
- Ugly Tuff and Ugly Tech technology that is trusted by anglers worldwide
- Heavy-duty Ugly Stik plain tip for improved performance
- Fiberglass and graphite composite for increased strength and durability
- Single-piece design makes for harder transportation
Serious catfish enthusiasts will recognize the quality and strength of this rod. It’s combination of features allows this large, heavy-duty rod to tackle big fish while still being light enough for all-day comfort.
Ugly Stik GX2 is also available at:
Important Choosing Factors
Since there is a wide variety of catfish species and techniques to catch them, there are a few “good” or “bad” features that apply universally. You need to consider the type of fishing you want to do so you can select a rod with the features suited for your choice.
Generally speaking, you want a rod between about 7 and 9 feet long to catch the catfish.
You can certainly catch your limit of 1-pound channel cats in a small farm pond with a fishing pole only 6 feet long or so, and some advanced anglers are comfortable using rods up to 10 feet long. However, most anglers find the 7- to 9-foot-range to be ideal.
This is a little longer than many conventional freshwater anglers are used to, but you’ll surely appreciate the additional control and casting distance the longer rod provides.
If you are targeting smaller cats, you can stick to the shorter end of this range. Anglers who aim on hauling out monsters usually want as much length as they can comfortably wield.
Catfishing is usually easier with rods that have a good bit of backbone which is to say that you want a rod that doesn’t flex as easily as a fishing stick used to catch panfish or trout.
Even a 1 pound catfish can exert lots of force on a rod. If you catfish for any length of time at all, you’ll eventually find yourself trying to wrestle a double-digit leviathan from the depths.
In concrete terms, this usually means looking at rods rated medium, medium-heavy or heavy power. Most catfish anglers find that a medium-heavy rod works well enough for catching small cats and the occasional giant.
Just remember that there are no universal standards for these labels, and one manufacturer’s medium may be as reliable as another’s medium-heavy.
Action refers to the amount of a rod that flexes under pressure.
Rods labeled as having slow action, for example, flex along the majority of their length. At the other end of the spectrum, extra-fast action rods only flex at the very tip.
Those falling between these two extremes are often labeled with various versions of fast, medium-fast, medium and so forth.
Your choice of action should be based on personal preference. Most anglers targeting large fish and using heavy weights probably prefer slower actions, while those chasing smaller cats or using finesse-oriented techniques usually prefer faster actions.
You could fill volumes with discussion about fishing rod materials as there are countless variations embraced by different manufacturers. However, most rods are constructed from:
- composite blend of the two materials
Any can work for catfishing, although they exhibit distinct differences in cost and performance.
Fiberglass is undoubtedly the most common material used as it is strong and durable. Most importantly, for many anglers and manufacturers, it is an affordable material.
Graphite rods are a bit stiffer but they transmit vibrations very well, enabling you to detect light nibbles. However, it is more expensive than fiberglass and many catfish anglers do not find the additional expense justified.
Composite rods combine the optimal qualities of both materials but their price puts them out of range for all but the most serious anglers.
There are two basic types of fishing sticks that new anglers use to catch catfish (aside from cane poles, but that is another subject for another time):
- spinning rod
- baitcasting rod
Both styles can perform admirably but spinning gear is usually a better choice for new anglers, while baitcasting rods are more useful for anglers with the skills and experience to use them.
Baitcasting rigs are used with heavier line and lure to target larger fish while spinning gear is suited for lighter tackle and smaller fish. However, there is plenty of overlap between the two. Whichever rod you select, you need to pair it with the same type of reel.
Any of the recommended rods above give you a great chance of hauling in a few whiskered fish. Just remember to select a rod designed for the catfishing technique you intend to do.
Do you have a favorite catfishing rod that you’d like to mention? Let us know in the comments.
To learn more about fishing rods make sure to check our: Choosing The Best Fishing Rod In 2019 & 6 Top Picks Reviewed