The 8 Best Catfish Reels in 2021 – Catch Big Fish

To the untrained eye, fishing reels might all seem the same. In actuality, there are a ton of different kinds of fishing reels out there that are suited for different purposes and species of fish. A reel that is made for freshwater trout might not be suitable for catching deep=sea flounder, and vice versa.

Catfish can be one of the trickier species of fish to pick a reel for. The main reason is that there are a lot of different kinds of catfish that live at different depths and types of water. Some catfish species live in freshwater at shallow depths while others live in salt or brackish water at medium to high depths.

The type of reel you choose has to be sensitive to the type of catfish you are hunting. Larger species in deep water may require specialized gears or a heavy-duty line capacity while shallow freshwater species may need lighter reels with good casting distances.

That is why we put together this list of the best catfish reels out there. These catfish reels have been selected based on their overall quality, performance, and versatility. Our goal is to have a comprehensive list of the best catfish reels for a variety of conditions.

Ok, not that our boring intro spiel is over, let’s get to the good stuff.

Best Catfish Reels – Comparison

PictureProduct NameGear RatioMaterialPrice
SHIMANO Tekota LineSHIMANO Tekota Line 4.2:1AluminumCheck Latest Price
KastKing Sharky IIIKastKing Sharky III5.2:1Stainless Steel+aluminumCheck Latest Price
Abu Garcia AmbassadeurAbu Garcia Ambassadeur 4.1:1Stainless SteelCheck Latest Price
KastKing Rover BaitcastingKastKing Rover Baitcasting3.6:1 MetalCheck Latest Price
Daiwa BG90 SaltwaterDaiwa BG90 SaltwaterMetalCheck Latest Price
Sougayilang WarriorSougayilang Warrior5.2:1/4.2:1MetalCheck Latest Price
Quantum Fishing AccuristQuantum Fishing Accurist6.3:1AluminumCheck Latest Price
Okuma Avenger ABFOkuma Avenger ABFMaltiAluminumCheck Latest Price

8 Best Catfish Reels for that Perfect Big Catch

Here is our list of the top 8 catfish reels for all kinds of catfish.

1. SHIMANO Tekota Line Counter Baitcasting Reel

SHIMANO Tekota Line Counter Baitcasting Reel

Most catfishing enthusiasts agree that the best reel type for catfish is a baitcasting reel. Baitcasting reels have good line capacity, good gear ratios, are a bit more sturdy than spinning reels, and have sophisticated drag systems, which makes them a popular choice as a versatile reel for catfish.

The Shimano Tekota is a series of baitcasting reels that have features perfect for catfishing, including an aluminum frame, aluminum spool, and good drag options. There are 5 different kinds available, each with a different line capacity.

All Tekota reels have an anodized aluminum frame and side plates which are treated to prevent corrosion and water damage. Aluminum is lightweight and durable, which makes it an excellent material for fishing reels. Coupled with the aluminum spool system, the entire reel is tough, sturdy, and has smooth action so the line doesn’t get tangled.

Each model of the Tekota has a nifty line counter mechanism. Each line counterweights about an ounce and is especially useful for trolling techniques, a mainstay technique of catfishing. The line counter can be reset when finished by pressing a button on the non-handle side plate.

The Tekota also has a drag system made from Dartainium. This is a slightly odd choice considering that carbon fiber has gotten cheaper and makes a better drag system. There are also 3 different types of handles depending on the size of the reel you get. All handles have a non-slip Septon grip which makes reeling easy and comfortable.

As far as performance goes, the Tekota performs very well. The action is smooth and reeling takes relatively little effort thanks to the robust gear system. The only criticism we have is the Dartanium drag system. Dartanium works just fine initially, but it’s prone to breaking down quicker than carbon drags. Carbon drags are cheap to make so it’s not clear why Shimano hasn’t made it yet,

What We Like:

  • Godo performance
  • Durable construction
  • The one-piece design has relatively few moving parts
  • 3+1 ball bearing action
  • Robust large gears make it easy to catch larger fish
  • Dual anti-reverse system

What We Didn’t Like:

  • The relatively higher price point
  • Dartanium drags are not as good as carbon

2. KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel

KastKing Sharky III Spinning Reel

The KastKing Sharky III is a spinning reel, but it has a lot of features of baitcasting reels that make them the favorite for catching catfish. The KastKing III is built for landing trophy fish and is very durable and strong. Designed for both fresh and saltwater, it makes a versatile catfish reel you can use in a wide array of circumstances.

The KastKing has a lightweight reinforced graphite body and fiberglass/carbon fiber gearbox. It has a triple-disc carbon drag system are exceedingly reliable and will help you better make those precision casts and reels.

The Sharky III has a water-resistant design that virtually seals the gearbox and spool rotor from moisture which allows for a longer-lasting reel. The aluminum spool has an extra-wide bail that catches the line to prevent tangling and allowing for better casting at long distances. It has an extremely smooth 10+1 ball bearing system that makes reeling and casting virtually effortless.

One of the more unique features of the KastKing Sharky III is the Braid Ready aluminum spool. The inclusion of this wonderful piece of tech means you don’t have to set a backing line when spooling and it reduces the possibility of tangling.

The KastKing is heavy duty and has some nice features for catching larger species of catfish. The main shaft is oversized which makes it more sturdy and the manganese brass alloy gears are slightly oversized which gives more power when reeling. In other words, the Sharky III can be used for catching fish of any size from small to large.

The only downside we found is that the reel body is a bit bulky compared to a baitcasting reel. It’s pretty common for spinning reels to be a bit longer than baitcasting reels so in itself it’s not a huge issue. The handle also has a problem where it might come loose. It would have been better if the handle ran through the shaft and attached to the other side.

What We Like:

  • Very powerful. Good for larger species of catfish
  • Salt and freshwater ready
  • Lightweight graphite/fiberglass body
  • Extra-wide bail is good for casting and preventing tangles
  • Water-resistant
  • Braid ready design eliminates the need for backing line

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Bulky compared to a baitcasting reel
  • The handle can come unscrewed

3. Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Reel

Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Reel

Abu Garcia is a well-known manufacturer of fishing reels and the Ambassadeur is their specialized baitcasting catfish reel. The Ambassadeur is the reel of choice for expert catfish wranglers the world round and stands apart from the competition due to its blend of power and precision, simple design, and durable construction.

First things first, the Ambassadeur is pretty simple in design. It has relatively few moving parts and it’s not too flashy. The low number of moving parts is a plus as that means there are fewer things that can go wrong. The Ambassadeur comes in several different sizes ranging from 4600 to the larger 7000.

The Ambassadeur features Swedish brass cut gears. These gears are not cast in a mold but cut from a solid block of brass so they fit tightly together and move efficiently. However, not all gears used in the reel are made from brass. The level wind gears are made of plastic that, while it is a high quality, is a bit unrefined all things considered.

The combo of the brass and plastic gears allows for smooth retrieval, however. The only problem with this set up is the relatively slow transition from casting to retrieving mode. The reel has some pretty high cranking power but we noticed it has a tendency to slip when reeled too quickly.

Ambassadeur uses a multi-disc system for drag which delivers great drag performance. The 7000C3 can deliver at least 25 lbs of pressure which is great for catching large catfish.

The defining feature of the Ambassadeur is its simple construction. It has very few moving parts which greatly increases the durability and longevity of the product. With the proper care and maintenance, the Ambassadeur can last you for years. The manufacturer does recommend you give it a thorough cleaning after every session of use.

What We Like:

  • Simple no-frills design
  • Powerful cranking action
  • Solid reliable materials
  • Good for large to small freshwater and saltwater fishing
  • Line out alarm good for trolling
  • Fewer moving parts = fewer chances to break

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Plastic gears are a bit unrefined
  • Spool can slip when cranked too quickly
  • Not a ton of extra features

4. KastKing Rover Baitcasting Reel

KastKing Rover Baitcasting Reel

Up next on our list is another entry from KastKing, this one their Rover Baitcasting reel. The Rover has a lot of great features that make it a good choice for catfish enthusiasts including smooth action, tough construction, and centrifugal breaks. It’s one of the better baitcasting reels out there and has a very reasonable price point.

The side plates of the Rover are made from hard-anodized aluminum that is treated to resist corrosion and rust, The spool is made from the same durable alloy. The body itself is made out of stainless steel which also resists weathering. Thes tough parts make the basic construction of the Rover rock solid.

The Rover has a 5.3:1 gear ratio which allows for relatively quick line retrieval. You don’t want too fast line retrieval for catfish so the 5.3:1 gear ratio falls right in the ideal range. It uses a 6+1 ball bearing system that allows for smooth casting and smoother retrieval. Like most baitcasting reels, it has fewer moving parts than a spinning reel which makes it less prone to mechanical failure.

One thing we really appreciated about the KastKing Rover is how easy it is to use. Casting is precise and the oversized EVA grip on the handle is easy to grasp and gives good stability. It is a versatile reel that works well for deep freshwater fishing and light to medium saltwater fishing. The centrifugal braking system is especially good for trolling and bottom fishing.

All in all, the KastKing Rover is a solid catfish reel that both newbies and more experienced anglers can appreciate. The durable design, low number of moving parts, and excellent drag systems are perfect for medium to large species of catfish.

What We Like:

  • Tough aluminum and stainless steel design
  •  Very versatile reel
  •  Corrosion-resistant parts
  •  6+1 ball bearing system si smooth and reliable
  •  The centrifugal braking system is precise

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Reeling action is somewhat loud
  •  Drag is not as adjustable as some other reels
  •  Mounting tabs are thin

5. Daiwa BG90 Saltwater Spinning Reel

Daiwa BG90 Saltwater Spinning Reel

Daiwa is a well-known maker of fishing reels and the Daiwa BG90 bears the reliable product seal that all Daiwa fishing reels have. This saltwater spinning reel does not disappoint in terms of its quality, performance, and overall value.

The Daiwa has a tough metal construction made from stainless steel. Stainless steel does not rust or corrode which makes the BG90 a perfect reel for saltwater fishing. The rigid metal frame offers little flex so it’s a good powerful reel meant for heavier fish. It can hold up to 275 yards of 25lb rated line and up to 170 yards of 40lb rated line. The handle can be folded out of the way which makes for easy storage and transportation.

One feature you will notice when you pick up the Daiwa is its rugged construction. The reel is a bit weighty as far as spinning reels go but it is well balanced and handles comfortably attached to the right fishing rod. You can tell how hefty and tough this thing is just by turning the handle and cranking the gears.

The BG90 has a 4.3:1 gear ratio which is relatively low. This lower gear ratio makes it better suited for reeling heavier fish but it will work just fine for lighter species too. Along with folding, you can switch the handle to the other side so lefties can use it too. Daiwa does not discriminate against the differently handed.

As far as performance goes the Daiwa is solid. The drag system is made out of stainless steel washers with a Teflon coating so it is both smooth and durable. The only real problem we noticed is that the handle is a bit uncomfortable. The wood finish looks nice but it does not exactly mold to the shape of your hand. The bail is a bit narrower than we’d like as well but it performs well enough with minimal tangling and snagging.

What We Like:

  • Superior construction and durability
  • Adjustable handle for lefties and righties
  • High-performance Teflon drag system
  • Corrosion proof anodized components
  • Powerful reeling action
  • Low gear ratio good for bigger fish

What We Didn’t Like:

  • The handle is a bit uncomfortable
  • Bail mechanism could be a bit wider

6. Sougayilang Warrior Baitcasting Reel

Sougayilang Warrior Baitcasting Reel

Sitting at 6th is this round baitcasting Reel from Sougayilang. Sougayilang is a Chinese manufacturer known for its mid-range fishing equipment options. Its Warrior baitcasting reel is a great choice for catching catfish due to its overall versatility, strong 22lb drag, and ergonomics that make fishing more comfortable. Like most baitcasting reels, it has minimal complex moving parts so it is less prone to mechanical failure.

The Sougayilang is made from a durable anodized metal that resists corrosion and features a tough stainless steel ball bearings systems. Stainless steel is the material of choice for ball bearings as they are very tough and resistant to friction from corrosion. The Sougayilang also has a powerful 22lb carbon fiber drag system, one of the highest drag ratings of a baitcasting reel in its class.

The handle knobs are oversized and covered with a tactile EVA foam that is comfy to grasp and reduces slippage when wet. The aluminum spool has a convenient thumb bar off to the side that you can easily flip to engage free spool mode for casting.

The Sougayilang also has a unique level wind system that gives an even line lay and prevents you from having to realign after use. We especially like the very generous 36-month service warranty. So even if you get unlucky and there are some manufacturer errors, you can get them fixed or replaced at no extra cost.

Overall, the Sougayilang is a powerful baitcasting reel that works equally well in saltwater and freshwater. It has that ideal balance of power and precision that you want out of a solid baitcasting reel and it’s versatile for even the toughest catfish.

What We Like:

  • Excellent/durable construction and materials
  • Very versatile
  • Extra powerful 22lb drag
  • No-slip handle grip
  • Thumb bar spool control makes casting easy
  • Level wind system makes retrieval easy

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Spool tension might be too low for some
  • Brakes may need to be adjusted slightly

7. Quantum Fishing Accurist Baitcasting Reel

Quantum Fishing Accurist Baitcasting Reel

This baitcasting reel from Quantum Fishing is ideal for anglers who need some powerful and sleek. The Accurist is a precision baitcasting reel that has one of the best casting systems of a baitcasting reel we have seen. The Accurist is made in the USA and features premium aluminum components along every inch of its construction. The black finish and white accents give a sophisticated look, not unlike something you’d see in the kit of a professional angler.

The Accurist has a unique centrifugal cast control system that uses a counterbalance to get perfect arcing line casts every time. You can adjust the sensitivity of this system based on the size of the bait and tackle you use. The standard model weighs just over 8 oz. and can fit 123 yards of 12 lbs line.

The Accurist uses a sleek 6+1 ball bearing system that makes every reel as smooth as butter. It has a ceramic drag system and continuous anti-reverse mechanisms. We especially like the titanium coated guideline that is tough and keeps the line from tangling.

One unique feature of the Accurist we really like is the inclusion of a flipping switch. Near the handle. This is a good feature that is not seen in a lot of baitcasting rods nowadays, so it’s nice to see it making a comeback,

Overall the Quantum Fishing Accurist is a reliable, powerful, and affordable baitcasting reel. The solid construction feels sturdy in the hand and the high gear ratio and neat features like a flipping switch make it a great selection for medium size fish. The only con we could find was the handle needs to be a bit longer. The two handle ends are pretty thick and it’s hard to turn it fully without hitting your hand, especially if you have big hands.

What We Like:

  • Powerful aluminum construction
  • Ceramic drag system
  • Looks good
  • Butter smooth 6+1 ball bearing system
  • The flipping switch is a nice addition

What we Didn’t Like:

  • Handle needs to be longer

8. Okuma Avenger ABF

Okuma Avenger ABF

Last on our list is the Avenger ABF, a wonderful bait feeder reel from well-known manufacturer Okuma. The Okuma Avenger is one of the better spinning reels for catfish due to ist smooth bearing action, durable drag system, and reversible retrieve.

The Avenger has a 6+1 ball bearing system that makes each cast glide like a skater on ice. Technically there are 7 ball bearings, 6 for the reel and the 7th for the anti-reverse gear. The Avenger has oil-soaked washers in its drag system which makes it extremely efficient and smooth.

Like most competent spinning reels, the Avenger is sealed at the gearbox to keep water and other debris out. The frame is made from a composite graphite material that has a good mixture of lightness and power.

One thing we really appreciate about the Avenger is the reversible retrieve system. You can switch the reel between left and right-handed mode just by unscrewing the handle and switching sides. The ABF model has a unique on/off switch that lets you change to bait feeding mode on the fly.

What We Like:

  • 6 reel bearing and 1 anti-reverse bearing
  • 2-tone aluminum spool
  • Elliptical gears increase the gear ratio
  • Brass cut gears are precise
  • Graphite body and aluminum spook are resistant to corrosion
  • Reversible retrieve

What We Didn’t Like:

  • A bit bulky for a spinning reel
  • Handle switch would be better if you didn’t have to unscrew it and reattach it


So there you have it, our round-up of the 8 best catfish reels out there. Catfishing is a unique sport and can be approached in a wide variety of styles, which is why our list includes a wide variety of baitcasting, spinning, and bait feeder reels. As long as you know the kind of species of catfish you are pursuing, then making the right decision is just a matter of doing your research.