Catfish make for some of the best eating freshwater fish available in the USA and catching them sure is a heck of a lot of fun.
Choosing the best catfish rod really means understanding how the size of the cats that you are most likely to target on a regular basis affects your rod and then matching you gear to suit.
Although a smaller 3lb or under channel cat can be caught on just about any rod and reel setup really big cats do require that you invest in a really good catfish rod.
For mid-range to large cats you'll need a catfish pole that has a tonne of backbone and can stand up to the beating that these powerful fish dole out.
For a beginner I would almost always recommend a spinning rod for catfish particularly if you are just starting out fishing for the first time.
If you are a bit more experienced then I would strongly urge you to make the move to a baitcasting setup as you will have a much bigger range of catfish rods available to you an also a larger choice of more suitable catfish reels.
If you are used to fishing for bass or trout then the majority of the rods you have probably used will be made from graphite or some form of graphite blend.
But it is the more traditional S-Glass rods that make the best catfish poles as graphite are to light and are prone to breaking far to easily when out catfishing.
Best Rods for Channel Catfish
Blue and Channel catfish are larger and fight a whole lot harder so it stands to reason that a beefy blue or channel that weighs in 30 plus pounds will require a much more stout setup than what you would get away with for channels.
Best Rods for Blue & Flathead Catfish
So ultimately the type, length, power and action of the catfish pole that you buy depends largely on how big a fish you are planning ion catching.
Best Catfish Rods
- KastKing KatTech
- Ugly Stik Catfish Spinning Rods
- St Croix Mojo Cat
- Okuma Battle Cat
- BnM Silver Cat
Available in both a spinning and a casting variation and a wide range of lengths and power ratings.
The KatTech Catfish Rods from KastKing became a surprise hit in the catfishing world since it's launch.
The rod blank is built from a composite graphite/S-Glass blend which gives you the best of both worlds; light enough for all day use but with lots of backbone and durability.
24T Graphite and linear S-Glass mix gives a lot of sensitivity through the rod tip yet still retains the lifting power of more conventional full S-Glass blanks.
They come heavy duty Fuji double footed guides and SiC rings that can stand up to big loads and the use of heavy braided line.
A reinforced Fuji DPS reel seat keeps you reel firmly in place and the handles are finished off in a custom rubber cork large fore-grip and oversized butt for added leverage for when fighting large fish.
They are finished with a nice bright chartreuse strike tip that really pops off of the black rod blanks and is easy to see in low light conditions.
If you are only targeting channel cats on lighter line then you don't need a highly specialized cat fish rod that is built to handle massive flatheads in heavy cover.
Are they the right fit for large cats on big rivers with strong currents? No but they are a excellent choice for lighter work and can handle fish up to 30 lbs.
Add 15 lbs mono and a high quality spinning reel and you've got yourself a pretty good setup with on of these rods.
At 7' feet long and a medium/heavy power rating you can throw quite a few different rig and weight combinations without the need for an expensive pole.
The Ugly Stik Catfish poles offer extremely good value for money and have the legendary Ugly Stik durability.
These rods can take a lot of abuse for the money!
Another graphite/glass composite rod blank making them both light and strong.
I keep one of these in my truck for sneaky after work fishing and it has stood up well to being thrown around a lot.
An excellent choice for a beginner or anyone on a budget.
St Croix have built some of the finest graphite rods available with their SCII graphite technologies, for the Mojo Cat they have blended it with S-Glass to better suit the demands of catfishing rods.
The rods are finished to a very high standard with Kigan Master 3D guides, aluminum oxide inserts, a Fuji ECS reel seat, two coats of Flex-Coat slow cure finish, Kigan hook-keeper and a premium grade cork handle.
The Battle Cat from Okuma is built on a more traditional full S-Glass blank so they will feel somewhat heavier than the graphite/glass blended rods above.
However, that full glass construction does give them one hell of a backbone.
Even though the blank is full S-Glass the tip section is quite sensitive and you can really set a circle hook quite quickly with one of these catfishing poles.
There is also a fluorescent wrapped bite indicator on the tip for night use and other low light situations.
A nice design addition is the split grip material types between the butt section and the fore grip.
The butt section is high quality cork which is always better in a rod holder and the fore grip is made from EVA foam so it's quite comfortable to hold when fighting a large catfish.
It has heavy duty double footed guides and although they are advertised as two piece rods the butt section is one piece and the rest of the rod is the second much longer piece.
With this configuration you actually get the feel of a one-piece rod.
The Silver Cat Elite rods are built for big catfishing.
An extremely heavy duty rod they are built on old style E-Glass rod blanks and have a on-parabolic bend throughout the blank.
A one piece rod with a tremendous amount of backbone and still have a soft enough tip for detecting bites particularly when anchoring.
The reel seat is probably one of the most solid things about these rods and is made from aircraft grade aluminum with a double locking design.
They have big double foot stainless steel line guides and also come with a high-viz tip for night fishing.
These rods are aimed at casting big heavy weights and for fighting trophy catfish.
Although we briefly mentions all of the specifications that go into a choosing a good catfish rod it might be worth familiarizing yourself with what the specifications on a rod really mean.
Rod power and action are probably the two most confused terms in fishing and anglers will mistakenly use them in the wrong way all their life.
Rod action defines at what point in the rod blank will the natural bend in the rod start to form when the line is weighted.
A moderate action will start to bend in the middle one third of the rod.
Moderate actions are better for casting big weights long distances. They give the rod a feel of having a lot more 'backbone' and will also help to delay the strike in comparison to a fast action.
More moderate actions are best suited to use heavier bait rigs such as when targetting blues and flatheads.
A fast action will start to bend in the top one third of the rod closer to the rod tip.
Fast action rods have a lot more sensitivity in the rod tip and they also allow you to set the hook much quicker as less of the energy that you put into your strike is lost to the bend in the rod.
Power defines how heavy a lure or line that the rod blank is rated for.
In other words how 'strong' the rod is and what type of gear and line that it is best suited for.
Heavy rated rods will have a much stronger backbone than a light rated rod and are suitable for bigger fish.
An ultralight rod is rated for line in the 2 to 6 lbs range whereas a heavy rated rod is rated for line in the 30 to 60 lbs range depending on the type of rod and the manufacturer.
For smaller catfish a rod with a medium power rating is fine but for mush larger catfishing you should be using a medium/heavy rated rod.
Catfish Pole Length
A longer catfish pole has a lot more advantages when targeting big cats as it gives you a much bigger lever to work with in terms of both casting and fighting the catfish once hooked.
Even 6" in the difference between two rods can feel like night and day when it comes to rod performance.
For smaller cats 7' is a usable length but a more suitable length is 7'4" or longer especially if you are choosing an all round catfish rod that can work for various sizes and locations.
As we mentioned earlier a spinning rod for catfish is okay if you are targeting smaller channel cats but on anything larger it really pays to use a good baitcaster combo.
The main problem with using a baitcasting rod is that you have to use a baitcaster reel and there a little bit of a steep learning curve if you have never used one.
Taking the time to learn how to cast with these reels can really transform your fishing and a lot of anglers will never bother instead they stick to a spinning combo for life.
Most modern high performance rods will be made from graphite or a graphite/carbon composite.
The major drawback with these materials is that they are very brittle and are prone to breaking when put under a lot of pressure.
Older style glass rods are much stronger and can take a lot more abuse.
The only problem is that the older generation of E-Glass rods is that they were very heavy and had very little feel or feedback from them.
More modern S-glass composite rods have revolutionized these types of rods and have now combined all of the best attributes of glass rods with a more modern feel and performance.
So without doubt S-Glass or an S-Glass composite makes for the best catfish rod material.