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Published Apr. 19, 2022

A reliable catfish rod is well-balanced, strong, and suited for the type of species you plan to pursue. Other factors like materials, length, action, and build will impact the overall construction and performance of the rod. Pairing your catfish rod with an appropriate size reel is going to ensure the best possible setup for catfishing. We sifted through an array of choices to find the best catfish rods on the market today, and this is what we came up with. 

Things to Consider Before Buying a Catfish Rod

Before you spend your hard-earned money, it’s important to know your target species. This will help you determine the best catfish rods for your type of fishing. You don’t need a spinning rod and reel designed for surf fishing to tangle with 3-pound pond cats. And if you’re heading to the river for blues or flatheads, a budget-model combo won’t stand up to the task. The right rod can make all the difference.

Length

Longer rods may seem unwieldy but they give you leverage when battling big fish. You may think that a stout, short rod that hardly bends under pressure would cause a big catfish to quickly tap out. But a longer rod may be better for drifting or anchoring over deep spots. The leverage to fight a fish, especially in current, is a plus. It doesn’t tire out the angler as quickly, either. Shorter rods offer more accuracy for casting baits, such as stinkbait, livers, or nightcrawlers, and for situations such as farm ponds or creeks.

Materials

Fiberglass is flexible. Graphite is tough. One or the other will work, but if you can find rods made with both materials then you may get the best of both worlds. Fiberglass rods have been used for decades for all species, from freshwater to saltwater to fly fishing. Graphite added another wrinkle in the mix, and once rod-makers began seeing the benefits of both, anglers reaped the rewards. Catmen across the country have been enjoying reeling in flatheads and blues on tough, durable, and limber rods ever since.

Action and Components

Medium-heavy and heavy-action rods typically are best for catfishing. These designations mean it takes more weight (a bigger fish) to bend the rod. They’re sensitive enough to give you a tipoff when you get a bite, yet aren’t too stout to cause a catfish to give up the bait. If they want it, they’ll likely take it and your tell-tale bump of the rod tip means it’s time to get ready for action. For average- and small-sized fish, like channel cats or bullheads in ponds or small lakes, you could get by with medium-action rods. Also, consider all the components in the rod based on your budget considerations. For a few casual, fun outings a less expensive model might work fine. If you want better quality or are getting serious about catfishing, look for stainless steel components, a reel lockup that holds tight, EVA or cork handles, and overall design. Catfish rods may take a beating against big fish and with heavy lead sinkers. You want something that will last.

Target species

As with any fishing tackle, you should know what you’re going after before investing in the gear. My catfishing setups are older Abu Garcia C-series reels with Berkley E-Cat telescopic rods made of E-glass. They have quality components, cork handles, feel, and I can use them at the pond for fun fish or on bigger waters. I also have some older Shakespeare Ugly Stik spinning combos that I could take to the beach for saltwater fish or any river or lake for giant catfish. But those are overkill for farm pond fish that fit in a cooler. Know what you’re going after before buying, and it’ll help you narrow the field to get the best rod for catfishing.

Best Overall: Ugly Stik Catfish Rod

Ugly Stik

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Why It Made the Cut

I’ve used Ugly Stik rods for many different species over the year, and they’ve never let me down. Tough, rugged, durable, stands up to abuse and accidents—plus they catch fish.

Key Features

  • Legendary graphite-fiberglass construction that lasts
  • Medium-heavy action is great for battling medium to heavy cats
  • Available for casting or spinning, in 7- and 8-foot sizes

Pros

  • Super value for the price
  • If you break it you probably could smash rocks, too
  • Warranty is great, as is the history of the brand

Cons

  • Not many options for length

The Ugly Stick Catfish Rods are designed to be ultra-reliable and able to take a beating from novice and experienced anglers alike. Like other Ugly Stik rods, the Catfish Rod blanks are made with a blend of graphite and fiberglass. The result is an incredibly tough, durable rod that shines on the Big Muddy or in your back-pasture farm pond. Other great touches include stainless steel guides, EVA handles, and sharp design. Who doesn’t want to be stylish while holding a 38-pound blue cat?

Best for Big Fish: B’n’M Poles Silver Cat Elite

B’n’M

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Why It Made the Cut

B’n’M Poles are known for its crappie rods, but the catfish lineup is solid. Angling for medium- and large-sized fish on legendary waters has proven it time and again.

Key Features

  • 7 ½-foot long, just right for powering big fish
  • Handles up to 50-pound test line
  • Stainless steel components

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Strong and durable
  • Heavy action

Cons

  • Lacking diversity in rod options

When you’re anchoring to drop big baits or casually drifting along for a big bite, a powerful rod with backbone and strength is necessary. Tangle with giant blues or flatheads, or channel cats, and you don’t want any hiccups. B’n’M Poles’ Silver Cat Elite gives you that at a very reasonable price point.

The Silver Cat Elite, like the Ugly Stik and most catfish gear, is built to be ultra-tough. But what this rod gives you is the ability to haul in big fish. First, it’s a one-piece rod. While that may be an issue if you’re light on storage, at 7 1/2 feet long, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. And what that one piece gives you is great durability. The E-glass blank can stand up to big, ornery cats, and the aircraft-grade aluminum double-nut locking reel seat gives you a sturdy reel-to-rod connection. The rod can handle up to 50-pound test line, and it has a non-parabolic mag-moderate action. That mag-moderate action helps this rod stand out. Along with the medium-heavy power, you get a rod with some backbone, as well as a fast-action tip to help you recognize smaller bites quicker and more easily.

Best Spinning Rod: Team Catfish Thunder Cat

Team Catfish

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Why It Made the Cut

Team Catfish offers high-quality products designed by tournament anglers and veteran guides. If they stand up to the rigors of daily guiding and tournament action, they’ll work anywhere.

Key Features

  • Long EVA non-slip handles
  • E-Glass blanks
  • Stainless steel guides 

Pros

  • Good selection diversity
  • Saltwater-grade reel seat 
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Wouldn’t mind seeing 6 ½-foot and 7-foot models

It’s tough to argue against rods designed based on recommendations of guides and tournament anglers. When a guide is on the water for multiple months of the year, in all kinds of weather conditions, they find out quickly what gear works and what doesn’t. 

Team Catfish’s product line, including the spinning and casting rods, is built from this intel. Take the reel seat, for example; it’s a saltwater-grade lockup that should hold your spinning reel securely under the toughest stress and pressure from a big blue or flathead. And you’ve got the stainless guides and tip, so you don’t need to worry about your line carving through anything or snapping due to a nick. The rod lengths and actions are super for targeting big cats on big water. Go with the 7-foot 6-inch rod in medium-heavy if you want something for smaller water or medium-sized catfish.

Best Combo: Abu Garcia Catfish Commando

Abu Garcia

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Why It Made the Cut

The Catfish Commando from Abu Garcia has quality components and is affordably priced for anglers seeking a good, all-around fishing combo.

Key Features

  • Abu Garcia C6500 baitcasting reel
  • 7-foot medium-heavy rod
  • EVA foam handles
  • Stainless-steel guides 

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Great for variety of situations
  • Full rod handle with EVA foam

Cons

  • Available only in one size and rod power

Abu Garcia has a long history of helping anglers catch more fish and nowhere is that more apparent than in their combo offerings, including the Catfish Commando. Reasonably priced and available at plenty of retailers, this combo gets you catching catfish as soon as possible.

The Catfish Commando is a nice setup with the legendary C6500 series reel, which has Abu’s Carbon Matrix hybrid drag system and two stainless-steel bearings. I have multiple versions of the reel on my catfish rods and have found them to be reliable. Fishing combos often get short shrift from some anglers who might sneer about them being cheap or poorly made. Some are, but this combo is not. The Catfish Commando can handle up to 350 yards of 30-pound braid and 250 yards of 17-pound test mono. Your heavy sinkers and baits will flitter and flutter to entice catfish. This 7-foot medium-heavy one-piece rod is designed to fight medium- to large-sized fish.

Best 10-Foot Rod: B’n’M Poles Silver Cat Magnum 10-Foot

B’n’M

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Why It Made the Cut

If you’re anchored and dropping baits for big fish, you need a sensitive yet strong rod. The Silver Cat Magnum checks off both boxes.

Key Features

  • Fiberglass and graphite blend
  • Heavy action 
  • Comfortable handle and foregrip 

Pros

  • Wrapped nylon cord grip
  • Heavy action with more backbone
  • Can handle 25- 50-pound test

Cons

  • Lacking a medium-heavy action choice 

Anglers often associate 10-foot fishing rods with saltwater anglers heaving something into the surf for striped bass, or fly-fishing anglers laying down a streamer for big trout or salmon. But for catfish? Yes, you can, and probably should, use a 10-foot rod for doing battle with big cats.  

A 10-foot rod, such as the Silver Cat Magnum from B’n’M Poles, gives you more leverage to fight the fish. Thanks to the flexible yet tough heavy action, you can put pressure on the big blue or flathead to get it off the bottom or out of its hidey-hole. Then once you have it on the way to the boat, that leverage of a 10-foot rod helps with control. B’n’M Poles are known for its superb crappie rods, but their catfishing gear is tough as nails. The rod is a 90 percent fiberglass and 10 percent carbon composite blend, making for a tough rod at a reasonable price. Great touches, such as the nylon cord grip, stainless components, and hybrid fiberglass-graphite construction, aren’t just for show, and altogether they amount to a great rod.

How We Made Our Picks

I’ve fished for catfish for more than 40 years in ponds, creeks, lakes, and on the mighty Mississippi and Tennessee rivers with top guides. Some were sponsored by companies; some were just good ol’ boy catmen. I’ve used and tested a plethora of catfish rods in my day and all of the ones recommended in this story will hold up on the water. 

FAQs

Q: What rod is best for catfish?

The best rod for catfish is the one designed for the task at hand, so it depends on what you’re trying to catch. Shorter rods with lighter action may work best for smaller catfish in farm ponds and small water. Longer rods with sturdier components and heavier actions are best for medium- and large-size catfish, such as blues and flatheads.

Q: How much do catfish rods cost?

Quality catfish rods typically cost between $50 and $120, with some possibly costing more, though everything in this list comes in under $120. A good rod-reel combo may cost $120 or more. The Abu Garcia combo here sells for around $150, and considering the convenience of a combo, it’s not a bad deal at all. Inexpensive combos can be found for $40-50 but probably won’t hold up against big fish or have a long lifespan.

Q: What kind of rod do you use for catfish?

The best rod for catfish will have quality components including a good reel seat and locking system, stainless steel guides, and a length between 7 and 10 feet (or more). Combine all these things into a rod with a medium-heavy or heavy action, and it should be fine for most catfishing situations.

Final Thoughts

Anglers today are seeking consistency, strength, and durability in the best catfish rods. Even with lower price points, having a rod and reel that stands up to weekend action is desirable. When we’re seeking bigger fish, or are jumping into a tournament to go after giants, the best is a necessity. Catfishing creates laughs, memories, and special moments. Make sure your rod, and the rest of your tackle, don’t let you down.

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