The Best Catfish Rods of 2018: The Definitive Guide (In-Depth Reviews)

catfish on grass with rod

To learn more about fishing rods make sure to check our: Choosing The Best Fishing Rod In 2017 & 6 Top Picks Reviewed

Outdoor Empire Recommendations

Are you looking for the…

best spinning catfish rod? St. Croix Avid Series Spinning

best baitcasting catfish rod? Team Catfish Thunder Cat

catfish rod-and-reel combo? Abu Garcia Catfish Commando (Read 15+ Amazon reviews)

best affordable catfish rod? Rippin Lips Super Cat (Read 15+ Amazon reviews)

At some point, nearly every angler is compelled to try catching the catfish living in the local reservoir, river or pond.

But catfishing occurs in different flavors 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 and a $30,000 boat to wrench 40-pound monsters up from the depths.

And obviously, there are 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.


Important Choosing Factors 

Abu Garcia
Abu Garcia – best rod & reel combo

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.



catfish caught on rod

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:

  • fiberglass
  • graphite
  • 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):

  1. spinning rod
  2. 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.


The Top Catfish Rods of 2018: Outdoor Empire Reviews

Product St. Croix Avid Series
St. Croix Avid Series

Team Catfish Thunder Cat
Team Catfish Thunder Cat

Abu Garcia Catfish Commando
Abu Garcia Catfish Commando

Rippin Lips Super Cat
Rippin Lips Super Cat

Rod Length7'7'6"7'7'6"
Line Weight6 -1210 - 30 15 - 3010 - 20
Lure Weight3/16 - 5/81 oz - 8 oz1/2 - 21 oz - 3 oz
ActionFastModerateModerate FastMedium Fast
PowerMediumMedium HeavyMedium HeavyMedium Heavy
CostCheck Price

Check Price

Check Price

Check Price


Best 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.

St. Croix Avid Series Spinning

St. Croix Avid Series spinning

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.

Notable Features

  • 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



Best Baitcasting

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.

Team Catfish Thunder Cat 7-6 Medium (2-Piece) Casting

Team Catfish Thunder Cat

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.

Notable Features

  • 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



Best Rod-and-Reel 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 Catfish Commando Cast Combo

Abu Garcia Catfish Commando

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.

Notable Features

  • 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



Best Affordable 

People have been fishing for catfish with nothing more than a cane pole and a can of worms for years. You certainly don’t have to spend piles of money to get a functional catfish rod that is fun to use.

Rippin Lips Super Cat Casting Rod

Rippin Lips Super Cat

The Super Cat Casting Rod is one of the cheapest catfishing poles on the market. Despite its low price, it still works great and helps you catch one cat after another.

Notable Features

  • Constructed from S-glass fiberglass which is superior to the older E-glass fiberglass and provides better sensitivity
  • Available in both 7’6” medium-heavy and 8’ heavy configurations
  • Chrome-plated, stainless steel guides
  • Glow-in-the-dark tip section makes it great for fishing in low light conditions
  • Epoxy-coated guide wraps



Final Thoughts

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.

Ben Team
Ben writes about outdoor recreation, natural sciences and environmental issues. Read more by Ben at


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