Catfish Gear and Setup Recommendations

Catfish Setup Options | Best Catfishing Gear

Catfish are one of the most sought after gamefish in North America. The popularity of the species is well deserved, catfish do well in a variety of waters and conditions, they grow to impressive sizes, and are efficiently managed by wildlife and fisheries biologists. Fishing for catfish offers anglers a variety of options with many proven techniques, baits, and with a variety of equipment. Plentiful in most waters, it’s easy to see why so many fishing enthusiasts pursue catfish each year.

Catfish are strong, tough, and hard fighters especially when hooked on the end of a fishing line. Equally good as table fare as they are a sporting fish, anglers seek out catfish both for food and for sport. You can expect successful fishing in shallow muddy waters, along clear and deep rocky banks, in turbulent rivers, fishing from the bank, or fishing from a boat. Hooking up with a large catfish in a lake, reservoir, river, or stream can really put your gear to the test. Catfish are known for their strength, stamina, and rolling fighting style on the end of a line. Here are some considerations when you are putting together gear for pursuing catfish, and rigging up your catfishing setup.

Catfish Rod Requirements

While catfish can be caught on most any rod, including cane poles and bank lines, fishermen have a variety of excellent options available today when it comes to catfishing poles. There are a variety of rods suited perfectly to fishing for and catching catfish available to anglers. There are a few details to keep in mind when you are gearing up the right rod for catfish.

A catfishing rod should be heavy at the butt, balanced in the hand, and made from a rugged material. It’s important to use a heavy rod for strength when turning and fighting catfish, but sensitivity is also important. Choose a rod with some flex and feel in the tip, with large smooth eyelets, and a medium to medium heavy action.

Fiberglass rods really shine when it comes to catfishing. Although they are on the heavy side for casting and jigging, most catfishing techniques require little casting. Fiberglass rods offer plenty of backbone for fighting large fish while still providing plenty of sensitivity for detecting bites. Look for a rod between 5’6” and 7’ long, paired with either your favorite spinning or spin cast reel, and you will be on your way to a stringer full of catfish.

A few excellent rod choices include:

Zebco 33 ZR combo

The Zebco 33 combo is a great all around rod & reel combo pairing a sturdy fiberglass rod with the famous Zebco 33 workhorse reel.


Ugly Stick Catfish Casting Combo

Ugly Stick rods are a catfishing standard. They are built tough as nails, with a strong backbone without compromising tip sensitivity.


Shakespeare Wildcat Casting and Spinning Rods

Shakespeare has a long history of quality fishing products and their Wildcat rods are no exception. These rods are built tough with the catfishing angler in mind.

Catfishing Reel

Catfish have a reputation for putting gear to the test. They fight hard, roll, and run into cover if they can. It’s a good idea to lean on the heavy side for gear when it comes to catfishing, and the reel on your rod is no exception.

Look for a reel with plenty of line capacity that is well constructed from quality materials. Both casting and spinning reels will work well for catfishing, it comes down to personal preference. Spinning reels are easier to cast when you are throwing larger baits and heavy sinkers, while casting reels offer sensitivity for detecting bites and some offer a bait clicker to detect runs if that is important to your style of fishing.

Some excellent Catfishing Reels Include:

Penn Battle II Spinning Reel

The Penn Battle II has a full metal body paired with stainless steel bearings. Built to spool over 100 yards of 20 lb. test monofilament, the PennBattle II is ready to tangle with Mr. Whiskers.


Zebco 33 Spincast Rod & Reel Combo

Zebco has been in the rod & reel business for generations, and the Zebco 33 is a standby. The model 33 is built with all metal gears, easy to use drag, and an audible bait clicker to catch those finicky bites.


Zebco 202 Spincast Reel

A workhorse for everyday fisherman, Zebco has built the classic 202 ready to go to work. At home on the boat or from the bank, the Zebco 202 comes spooled ready to fight with 10 lb. test monofilament.

Best Bait and Tackle for Catfish

Known for their fight, and ability to test tackle, catfish will put your gear to the test. Keep in mind their brute strength and fighting ability when you are putting together a tackle box with catfish in mind. From hooks to sinkers to fishing line, don’t be afraid to lean on the heavy side. There are some fantastic choices on the market today when it comes to catching catfish. Fishermen use straight single hooks, circle hooks, and treble hooks in pursuit of catfish. Catfish are typically caught on or near the bottom, making the right choice in sinkers critical. Here are some terrific options to put in your tackle box.

Fishing Line for Catfish

Spiderwire Stealth Camo Braid

Spiderwire offers anglers a tough lightweight line with zero stretch. Made from Dyneema, the world’s strongest fiber, and offered in test strength up to 30 lb. you can be sure you’ve got enough line power when you’re spooled with Spiderwire.


Berkley Trilene Big Cat

Berkley and Trilene are long time names in the fishing line industry, and they know a thing or two about constructing great fishing line for today’s anglers. The Big Cat line is made to be abrasion resistant, and high visibility for low light fishing. Spooled up at 20 lb, 30 lb, or 40 lb test; it is just the ticket.


Stren Catfish Mono

A no nonsense, tough as nails fishing line is the perfect match for catfishing. Stren has just the ticket in their Catfish Mono. Offered from 10 lb. to 30 lb. test; catfishermen can count on the muscle of this dependable line to get the job done.

Hooks for Catfish

Team Catfish Jackhammer Offset Hook

Catfish are known for their tough hide and tough mouth. They will put your hooks to the test. These heavy duty hooks by Team Catfish are made from forged steel and honed to a razor point for perfect hook sets, and plenty of fighting power.


Gamakatsu Catfish Rig Circle Hook

Circle hooks are a great tool to use for catching catfish. Designed to decrease fish swallowing the hook, circle hooks are made to hook fish in the corner of the mouth. Perfect for big baits, and big fish, these hooks are premade with 50 lb. test leaders and ready to hook up! It’s important to not “set the hook” with circle hooks, but simply reel and keep the line tight for a hookup.


Magic Bait Dough Holder Treble Hooks

Catfish, especially channel and blue cats are known to readily bite on pasteor dough baits. While paste baits are a great choice for attracting catfish, especially in warm water, keeping it on the hook can be another story. Using a treble hook helps keep the bait together, and hooks with bait holders like springs, string, rubber tubes, or sponges go a long way to keep the bait on the hook and ready for a strike.

Sinkers or Weights for Catfish: 

Team Catfish Smooth Operator Snagless Sinker

Big catfish like to make their homes in dark nasty snags along river banks and riffles. These areas are known for hanging fishermen up and losing tackle as well as big fish. Along comes Team Catfish with an innovative sinker designed for working rough spots, brush, and drift fishing for big cats.

Bullet Weight Cat Pack Flat Weights

The rivers, streams, and creeks of North America are full of catfish ready for a fight! Fishing back currents, eddies, and below riffles poses a challenge to fishermen trying to keep their bait in the zone. These flat weights hold to the bottom better than round or barrel weights that tend to roll.


Bullet Bank Sinkers

Catching big catfish sometimes takes a big bait. All species of catfish are known for their fondness of big shad, sun perch, and creek chubs. Keeping large and lively bait in place takes a hefty sinker. These bank sinkers are just the ticket for fishing big baits.

Bait for Catfish

There are many methods and baits that are productive for catching catfish. Many anglers have closely guarded secret recipes for their favorite catfish bait, while many anglers are happy to use commercially available baits on their hooks. On the market today are dough and dip baits with names like: Sudden ImpactCatfish Charlie, and Secret Seven. Catfish readily bite live bait, worms, cut bait, chicken livers, and even hot dogs too!

With so many tackle, rod and reel, and bait options out there for catfishing; there are no excuses for not getting out and wetting a line. Catfish are one of the most sought after fish in North America, if you haven’t yet, try your hand at it! Catfish are plentiful, fun to catch, and great to eat. Rig up a heavy action rod, tie on a sinker, a stout hook, and go catch a catfish or two!


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