Fishing for catfish is just plain fun. It’s how many young anglers get started fishing, and, for some of us, it’s become a lifelong hobby.
Gearing up for a catfishing trip can be as simple as grabbing any old rod and some chicken livers and heading out the door. You’ll pick up a few catfish and have a good time doing it.
But if you want to take your catfishing game to the next level, collecting a small set of catfish-specific rods and practicing proven techniques is a good way to do it.
Sometimes it’s that first step, acquiring a couple of good catfishing poles, that gives fishermen trouble. There are so many catfish rods on the market, it’s hard to wade through all the choices and figure out which one to buy.
In this article, we’ll give you all the information you need to choose the right catfish rod.
Top 10 Best Catfish Rods
Berkley Glowstik Casting Rod
Are you hunting for one of the best catfish baitcasting rods on the market? If so, then look no further. The Berkley Glowstik Casting Rod lets you take your night fishing game to the next level. It has a one-touch, battery-operated, red LED that’s installed with a fiber optic cable, making the rod tip glow.
Rugged, fiberglass blank construction makes this durable rod extremely strong and sensitive, while its long, rubberized handle gives you increased leverage.
Grab the 7′, medium-heavy version of this rod, and head out into the dark of night to hunt for hungry cats.
Eagle Claw Catclaw Casting Rod
The Eagle Claw Catclaw Casting rod is a powerful fiberglass rod that’s also very sensitive and has the perfect action for lobbing large, heavy bait rigs.
This Eagle Claw catfish rod is tailor-made for catching big blues and flatheads. You’ll be able to make long accurate casts with this 8′, medium-heavy rod.
A sturdy graphite reel seat, aluminum oxide guides, and a comfortable EVA foam handle fill out the feature list of this awesome, value-priced catfish rod.
Okuma Battle Cat Spinning Rod
Our premium recommendation is for anglers seeking trophy catfish. The Battle Cat Catfish Spinning Rod is made from high-quality fiberglass and has double-foot welded stainless-steel guides. It features an EVA fore grip to give you something comfortable top grab on to, but the rear grip is cork, so it won’t bind in your rod holders.
You can buy this rod in an 8′, heavyweight model, or add a couple of feet and go for the 10′ bruiser. If you get into a group of monster blues or flatheads, you’ll be glad you have an Okuma Battle Cat rod in your hand.
Though this is a 2-piece rod, it is butted in the handle. As a result, it feels just like a one-piece rod and the strength doesn’t suffice. This makes the Okuma Battle Cat a versatile and compact rod that you can easily bring on the road.
A fluorescent tip grants you visibility if you’re hunting cats in the night.
Constructed from 100% fiberglass, KastKing KastKat rods offer amazing performance, strength, and power. This rod features double-footed, stainless-steel guides that can handle any line type you use. A solid, nylon-reinforced reel seat means you can confidently attach your favorite reel and know it’s not going anywhere.
The handle of this rod is covered with slip-resistant rubber cross wraps on top of a comfortable EVA core. Plus, there’s a large fighting butt that ensures a solid grip when there’s action.
Like some of our other recommendations, the KastKing KastKat Catfish Rod offers a little help for night fishermen—a bright, fluorescent orange tip makes it easy to see strikes in the dark. If you’re looking for a midrange catfish rod that’s moderately priced, you can’t go wrong with a KastKing KastKat Catfish Rod.
The rod is available in both a casting and spinning version. Whatever floats your boat will do the job.
American Premier Pro Nite Stick
The American Premier Pro Nite Stick Catfish Rod was professionally designed and engineered for serious catfish anglers. It’s made with a graphite composite blank that gives it incredible flexibility and durability. There’s a fluorescent glow tip to help you see strikes on those dark nights.
Tough stainless-steel guides, a solid graphite reel seat, and a premium-grade cork handle round out the feature list on the awesome piece of catfish tackle. If you’re after big channel cats or blues, you can’t go wrong with the 8′ model of the American Premier Pro Nite Stick Catfish Rod.
B'n'M Silver Cat Magnum Casting Rod
Nobody knows what catfish anglers need in a rod like the guys at B’n’M. Their Silver Cat Magnum Casting Rod is made of 100% fiberglass, has aluminum oxide guides with ceramic inserts and features a no-slip, nylon cord grip.
A cool thing about this rod is the glow-in-the-dark tip. You can relax in the dark while waiting for a strike, then you’ll see the glowing tip start to dance, and the real fun starts.
This 7’5″, medium weight rod is made from a combination of carbon and fiberglass, giving it the strength and sensitivity that’s just right for targeting small- to medium-size channel cats.
Shakespeare Ugly Stik Catfish Casting Rod
The Ugly Stik Catfish Casting Rod is made with what the manufacturer refers to as Ugly Tech construction. It’s a fantastic combination of graphite and fiberglass that results in a very strong, sensitive rod.
The rod is equipped with one-piece stainless-steel guides, a comfortable EVA grip, and an ultra-sensitive tip that will help you detect light strikes.
This rod was designed specifically for catfish. Pick up an Ugly Stik Catfish Casting Rod, (the 7′, medium-heavy model), and you have no trouble putting more catfish in your cooler.
Berkley Cherrywood HD Casting Rod
The Berkley Cherrywood HD Casting Rod features through-handle construction, which means the blank extends all the way through the handle to the butt. This gives the rod a solid feeling in your hand and has a big impact on power and sensitivity.
A through-handle design is just one of the high-end features you’ll find in this value-priced rod. Tough guides with stainless steel inserts and a premium cork grip are also included.
It’s no secret that this is a very versatile casting rod. We also included it in our guide covering the best rods for bass fishing.
The Berkley Cherrywood HD Casting Rod is available in a 7′, medium-heavy model that would be ideal for battling larger channel cats.
Shimano Stimula Spinning Rod
We’re not sure how Shimano can create such a high-quality rod for such a low price, but their Stimula Spinning Rod is one heck of a bargain.
This tough catfish spinning rod is constructed using a durable graphite composite blank and is available with the right length, weight, and action for catfishing.
The Stimula Spinning Rod is a good choice if you’re looking for the best catfish rod for the money. It includes some features you see on more expensive rods, like aluminum oxide guides that will last forever and minimize line friction.
For all fishermen who are looking for a great catfish rod but don’t want to break the bank, the Shimano’s Stimula Spinning Rod is a good choice.
Zebco Graphex Casting Rod
The Graphex Casting Rod from Zebco is a low-cost rod that performs like a much more expensive piece of tackle.
To make this rod, they bond graphite with EX-Fiber, giving it remarkable strength and sensitivity. With aluminum-oxide guides, there’s minimal line friction, regardless of the type of line you use.
The Graphex Casting Rod has a cork handle and a rock-solid reel seat that allows you to securely attach your favorite casting reel.
If you’re into catfishing with casting gear, pick up the 7′, medium-heavy version of this rod. You won’t be disappointed.
What Makes a Good Catfish Rod?
A “good rod” for one catfishing technique might not be very suitable for other methods of catfish fishing. Finding the right catfish rod requires first answering a few questions:
- What type of catfish are you after?
- How big are the fish you’re trying to catch?
- What techniques do you plan to use?
- How much money do you have to spend?
With answers to these questions, you’ll be able to eliminate some of the noise by excluding rods that won’t serve your needs, and focusing only on the ones that will. When you look at the wide range of rod lengths, weights, and actions, you’ll know exactly which catfish fishing poles match up with the kind of angling you have in mind.
This section explains the criteria we used in coming up with our recommendations.
Read on to find out about how the type of catfish you’re after can greatly impact which rod you should buy. We also cover catfish rod length, weight, and action, plus give you needed information about common rod construction materials.
Types of Catfish
There are three species of catfish you’re likely to catch when fishing in the United States. While there are techniques that will fool all three varieties of catfish, you can fine-tune your approach by knowing a little bit about the kind of catfish you’re targeting. When you zero in on the species you want to catch and the technique you’ll be using, the decision about what kind of rod to buy will become extremely easy. There are three catfish species commonly found in the US:
- Channel catfish—The most widespread variety, the channel catfish is also the most commonly caught type in much of the country. Most channel cats you pull in will weigh between 1 and 5 pounds, 10 pounders are fairly common, and they can grow to over 25 pounds. That might sound big, but wait till you here about the other two types!
- Flathead catfish— Found in most parts of the US, flathead catfish are popular with anglers seeking a trophy-class fish. Many that you catch will be around 50 pounds; they can reach lengths of three to four feet and weigh over 100 pounds.
- Blue catfish—Of these three catfish species, blue catfish are the largest. Like flatheads, a commonly caught weight is 50 pounds, but blues can get truly enormous, with some exceeding five feet in length and 150 pounds!
Let’s discuss the techniques that work best for these three kinds of catfish. The technique you’ll be using has a lot to do with the kind of catfish rod you’ll need.
Channel catfish feed partly by sight, but the smell is usually what brings them in from a distance and convinces them to eat your bait. They can be reliably caught using stink bait, chicken livers, shrimp, or cut bait. In some cases, live bait like suckers, shiners, and crayfish will be more productive, but you can usually get away with not using live bait. Channel cats like a stationary bait, often move into shallow water to feed, and run on the small side, so a good rod to use when targeting this species would be a 7′ graphite, medium-weight rod with a moderate action.
More aggressive predators than channel catfish, blues tend to feed on other fish, with live prey being the preferred forage. Most fishermen go after blue catfish with either live or cut fish, and they find that oily baitfish are the best choice. Blue cats like to hang out in deeper water, either on the bottom or suspended. That fact, along with their massive potential size and preference for live bait, means that a heavy-duty catfish rod is called for. A good rod for blues would be a 7′-7’6″ fiberglass rod that has a medium or medium-heavy weight and a moderate action.
Flatheads are largely nocturnal, and they are able hunters. If you show them a chicken liver or a chunk of dead fish, they’ll likely turn their nose up at it. They want something that’s alive and kicking! If you’re going to be able to present the size baitfish that blues are used to eating—a two-pound sucker or an extra-large shiner, for example—you’ll need a seriously hefty rod. And don’t forget, when you hook up with a blue, you might have a 130-pound bruiser at the end of your line. A good rod to be holding would be 8′ long, medium-heavy weight rod that’s made of fiberglass, with a moderate action.
Casting or Spinning Rod?
Fishing rods are available in two styles, casting, and spinning. When it comes to choosing a good rod for catfishing, both types work equally well, so the question of casting vs. spinning will come down to personal preference.
You can get both kinds of rods with any level of strength and flexibility you want, so, this “personal preference” we’re referring to is actually about which reel type you feel more comfortable with. A casting rod calls for a casting reel—it looks like a small winch mounted to the rod.
Spinning rods have an underslung, open-faced spinning reel that features a revolving bail to wind the line. In the size class that’s suitable for catfishing, either type of rig will be capable of slinging your heavy bait into position and battling lunker catfish. That gives you the freedom to go with what you know. If you like spinning gear, select a beefy spinning rod for catfishing. If casting gear is your thing, go for a hefty casting rig for tackling hungry cats.
Rod length is the most critical factor when selecting your catfishing rods. Catfish fishing calls for a long rod. Here are some of the benefits of using big catfish rods:
Here is why a long rod is the best choice for catfishing:
- You’ll be throwing heavy baits using an arching lob cast, so a rod with long blank will load up better than a short one would.
- A long rod is more sensitive.You need the rod to tell you when you have a fish on, and longer rods tend to offer the needed tip action and sensitivity that’s called for when you’re trying to detect a catfish strike.
- A long rod gives you more leverage.When you’re battling a large catfish, you need to be able to steer him away from cover. If they beat you to it, you’ll need to muscle your fish out of whatever tree or grass bed they ran into. Having a long rod in your hand will give you the advantage
So, how long a rod are we talking about here?
A rod in the 7-foot range is a great place to start, as that length will apply to many techniques you might choose to employ.
You could get away with a 6’6″ rod if your plan is to stalk from the bank and place your bait carefully into likely spots. A far more common way to catch catfish, however, is to make long casts into open water and leave it there until the action starts. Those long casts are exactly why you need a long rod.
If you’re targeting very large catfish, you may opt for the type of long rod that’s commonly used in surf fishing. They are usually 10-12′ in length and are fantastic at covering a lot of water with long casts. But they’re not all that sensitive. Rigs like that are great if you’re going after huge blues or flatheads, but would be terrible for targeting small- to medium-size channel cats. They simply don’t have the sensitivity you need for smaller fish.
When you’re selecting a catfish rod unless you plan to exclusively target giant fish, buy a rod that’s between 7’6″ and 8′ long. That way, you’ll get the performance you need for smaller fish, and when you do latch into a really big one, you’ll have a good, long rod in your hand to show that fish who’s boss.
Rod Weight & Action
When discussing fishing rods, the terms weight and action are easily confused. Here’s a good way to remember the difference:
- Weight (or power) describes how easily a rod bends.
- Action describes the location in the rod’s length where the bend occurs.
When you’re selecting a catfish rod and focusing on its weight, you should consider the fact that fishing for different species of catfish requires different techniques, and each technique works best with a certain rod weight.
If you’re fishing for channel catfish, in most cases, a medium or medium-heavy weight rod will be best. However, if you’re going after blue and flathead catfish, you should stick to medium-heavy rods.
When you are trying to decide on the right action for your catfish rod, just be sure you stay clear of rods with very fast action.
A fast action rod bends in only the top third of the blank, a moderate action bends in the top half, and the bend of slow action rod begins in the lower third of the blank. The best action for catfish rods is a moderate action.
Action/weight and power go hand in hand.
When catfishing, a moderate action rod will help you cast heavy bait rigs. Also, the gradual bend in the rod helps with those do-nothing hooksets most catfish anglers employ. When a catfish swims off with your bait, the rod will load up nice and slow, allowing the hook to dig deep in the fish’s jaw and stay there.
So, where did we land on rod weight and action for catfishing?
Although you may want to go for heavier tackle if you know you’ll be targeting larger fish, or size down your tackle if you’re looking to fill the cooler with 1-pounders, taking a middle-of-the-road approach when it comes to rod weight and action is a smart thing to do.
A medium or medium-heavy, moderate action rod is the perfect compromise between the sensitivity needed for catching smaller fish and the brute force needed for hauling in giant cats.
Many of the best catfish rods are made from graphite or fiberglass, with some being constructed of several materials in combination, including graphite, fiberglass, and carbon fiber. Most of the affordable, work-horse rods you’ll want to focus on will be constructed using 100% fiberglass or graphite blanks.
Catfish rods made from 100% fiberglass are very popular because the material is strong and stands up to rough use. Historically, they’ve been a little heavier than graphite rods, but modern fiberglass manufacturing techniques have almost completely eliminated that difference.
While fiberglass blanks are tailor-made for the sort of moderate action you want in a catfish rod, they’re not quite as sensitive graphite blanks.
When you’re applying catfishing techniques that require more sensitivity, go for graphite. It might not be quite as durable as fiberglass, but graphite lets you feel more than fiberglass.
So, the bottom line is, like so many other decision points in catfish rod selection, the best rod material depends on what kind of fish you’re targeting.
If you’re after small channel catfish, graphite would be a good choice. When fishing for big channel cats, blues, and flatheads, on the other hand, a fiberglass rod is going to be the best choice.
Most of the rods we reviewed here sit right in the middle of the catfish rod price range. I wouldn’t call them “cheap catfish rods” because that implies low quality. The fact is, for $50 or less, it’s easy to find a high-quality catfish rod.
So, the “price” question shifts from, “which rod should I buy?” to “which rods should I buy?”
It’s an extremely common catfishing strategy to set out anywhere from 2 to 5 rods. You bait them all up at once, make a series of perfect lob casts, sit down next to the fire in your lawn chair, and wait for the action to start.
Man, that sounds like fun!
To make that scenario a reality, consider picking up two or three good catfish poles. You could get a couple 7′ graphite models—those will help fill your cooler with channel cats. Add a single, extra-long fiberglass rig in case one of the larger species wanders by, and you’re all set!
So that’s three rods at about fifty bucks each—you can be in catfishing heaven after spending only $150 on rods! Considering the countless nights of fun you’ll enjoy, that seems like a fair trade!
Catfish Rod Selection – It Depends on Species & Technique
As we’ve shown in this article, picking the best catfish rod means carefully examining your catfishing goals and knowing which rod characteristics match up with those goals.
Which species of catfish you’re after, how big those fish are, and how you plan to fish for them are all factors that should contribute to your rod buying decision. If you focus on all those factors, when you’re shopping for a catfish rod, you’ll end up with a rod that’s ideal for your style of fishing.
If you haven't done already, it may be a good idea to check out our guide on the best catfish reels so you have a perfect setup for your next catfishing trip.
Also check out our guide on "how to catch catfish for beginners" to make sure you get off to the perfect start.