9 Best Catfish Spinning Reels in 2021 (Tried & Tested)

Kenneth ReavesEdited by: Kenneth Reaves
Michael DarmontReviewed by: Michael Darmont

Last Update:

The Rundown

Best for Most Anglers: Penn Battle II and III 5000
“You need a powerful spinning reel that can handle huge fighting fish and there’s no better option than the Penn Battle II and III. It’s powerful, durable, and it comes at a very budget-friendly price.”

Best Premium Option: Penn Spinfisher VI 7500
“The Penn Spinfisher VI offers power and extra casting distance – a great combination for a spinning reel. Its durable construction makes it a worthy investment and a fishing partner you can count on.”

Best Power in a Budget Reel: KastKing Sharky III 5000
“Looking for a powerful lightweight reel to handle big catfish? The Kastking Sharky III 5000 has a graphite build and clever design that allows powerful and smooth retrieval, especially for a big catch.”

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When you’re looking to catch big catfish, you want a strong and durable reel that’s easy to use. Good thing the technology for spinning reels has come a long way, making them as strong and durable as any other kinds of reels available.

When it comes to spinning reels for catfish, you want one made with quality materials with a big line capacity so you can use heavier lines. You also want to get one with a significant amount of drag power so you can keep the catfish from running into holes or under snags.

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Best for Most Anglers
Best Premium Option
Best Power in a Budget Reel
Our ranking
Ranked #1
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Ranked #3
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PENN 1338220 Battle II 5000 Spinning Fishing Reel
PENN 1481262 Spinfisher VI Spinning Saltwater Reel, 4500 Reel Size, 6.2: 1 Gear Ratio, 40" Retrieve Rate, 6 Bearings, Ambidextrous
KastKing Sharky III Spinning Fishing Reel,Size 5000
Our grade
Our Rating 97/100
Our Rating 95/100
Our Rating 94/100
Feature 1
Full metal aluminum body with stainless steel bearings
35-pound max drag and 40-inch retrieval
39 pounds of max drag on carbon drag washers
Feature 2
Carbon fiber drag sealed with rubber gasket
Fully sealed metal body
190 yards of 40-pound braid
Best for Most Anglers
Our ranking
Ranked #1
Thumbnail
PENN 1338220 Battle II 5000 Spinning Fishing Reel
Our grade
Our Rating 97/100
Feature 1
Full metal aluminum body with stainless steel bearings
Feature 2
Carbon fiber drag sealed with rubber gasket
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Custom Button
Best Premium Option
Our ranking
Ranked #2
Thumbnail
PENN 1481262 Spinfisher VI Spinning Saltwater Reel, 4500 Reel Size, 6.2: 1 Gear Ratio, 40" Retrieve Rate, 6 Bearings, Ambidextrous
Our grade
Our Rating 95/100
Feature 1
35-pound max drag and 40-inch retrieval
Feature 2
Fully sealed metal body
Buy Now Button
Custom Button
Best Power in a Budget Reel
Our ranking
Ranked #3
Thumbnail
KastKing Sharky III Spinning Fishing Reel,Size 5000
Our grade
Our Rating 94/100
Feature 1
39 pounds of max drag on carbon drag washers
Feature 2
190 yards of 40-pound braid
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Best Catfish Spinning Reels

Here are 9 of the best spinning reels you can use to catch catfish:

1. Penn Battle II and III 5000

Best Catfish Spinning Reel for Most Anglers

PENN 1338220 Battle II 5000 Spinning Fishing Reel
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KEY FEATURES

  • Braid ready
  • Full metal aluminum body with stainless steel bearings
  • Carbon fiber drag sealed with rubber gasket
  • Anti-reverse bearing stops reverse reeling

The Penn Battle II is a great saltwater reel that is made to last and handle huge fighting fish. Paired with the right rod and line, it’ll easily pull in catfish well over fifty pounds. This reel is best for fishermen catching catfish under 100 pounds who want a reasonably priced reel to last a long time.

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Reel Specs

The Battle II and III 5000 are fully made out of metal, meaning the drag systems and washers inside the reel won’t be cheap plastic. It has an aluminum body that resists rust, and the reel contains six sealed stainless steel ball bearings. While you can still flood the reel by dropping it into the water, splashes won’t get water inside of it. 

The reel has a large line capacity, over 200 yards of thirty-pound SpiderWire will fit on it. It also features capacity rings to show when you’re down to two-thirds and one-third. The reel has a rubber band around it allowing you to use braided lines without using a backing of monofilament.

The 5000 also has 25 pounds of drag at its maximum, meaning you’ll be able to stop most catfish from running into holes or under snags. 

What to Expect

While not a cheap reel, the Battle II is a mid-priced reel that is both durable and strong. Its full metal body means it will wear out much slower and can’t shear its plastic gears. Once paired with a good catfish rod and heavy enough line, it’ll handle big channel cats with ease.

2. Penn Spinfisher VI 7500

Best Premium Option For Big Catfish

PENN 1481262 Spinfisher VI Spinning Saltwater Reel, 4500 Reel Size, 6.2: 1 Gear Ratio, 40' Retrieve Rate, 6 Bearings, Ambidextrous
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KEY FEATURES

  • 35-pound max drag and 40-inch retrieval
  • Fully sealed metal body
  • CNC machined for precision
  • Known for stopping power

The Penn Spinfisher is one of the best saltwater reels on the market. It’s fully sealed, meaning water won’t be getting inside the reel unless it gets completely submerged, and is made of CNC machined metal throughout. Spinfishers are best for fishermen looking to catch the biggest catfish and fishermen who want to buy a reel and have it last for years.

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Reel Specs

With a 35-pound max drag on the 7500, the Spinfisher VI will stop big catfish from running into holes and tire them out quickly. It has a huge amount of power that complements its smooth retrieval.

The interior parts are CNC machined to fit together precisely, and the body is fully metal. It has stainless steel ball bearings, and both the bearings and body are fully sealed. Spinfishers also have optional long cast and live-liner options for extra casting distances and live-baiting big cats. 

What to Expect

Buying a Spinfisher is an investment, but the reel will last for years and has plenty of power for big fish. It’s sealed, fully non-corrosive metal, and has a high retrieval rate. Smaller and larger versions of the reel are available, but a 7500 will handle any catfish you hook into.

3. KastKing Sharky III 5000

Best Power in a Budget Spinning Reel

KastKing Sharky III Spinning Fishing Reel,Size 5000
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KEY FEATURES

  • 39 pounds of max drag on carbon drag washers
  • 10 +1 stainless steel ball bearings and anti-reverse
  • 190 yards of 40-pound braid
  • Aluminum spool and handle, graphite body

KastKing's Sharky III brings a ton of power at a pretty cheap price. This reel works best for fishermen looking for a powerful reel for big catfish at a low price.

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Reel Specs

The Sharky III gets its power from its triple-disc carbon drag and brass pinion gear. It has a body made mostly out of graphite, with an aluminum spool and handles that helps reduce its weight as well.

It has 10 + 1 double-shielded stainless steel bearings to help give the reel a smooth retrieval. It also has an anti-reverse gear that keeps you from turning the handle the wrong way. Its line capacity allows plenty of heavy lines to combine with the reel’s power for big catfish.

What to Expect

The Sharky III is a powerful lightweight reel made of rust-resistant materials. You should expect it to handle big catfish with relative ease, but longevity isn’t its strong suit.

4. Piscifun Viper X 5000

Best Budget Option Catfish Spinning Reel

Piscifun Viper X Spinning Fishing Reel 5000-5.2:1 High Speed Fishing Reel, 10+1BB, Lightweight Ultra Smooth Spin Reels, Carbon Fiber 33 LB Max Drag
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KEY FEATURES

  • 2 gear ratio retrieval
  • Shielded bearings
  • Zinc alloy driveshaft
  • CNC cut braid-ready spool

A budget option that won’t leave you lacking in power is the Piscifun Viper X with its 33 pounds of drag. Using carbon drag washers and a zinc alloy drive gear gives it plenty of power at a lightweight. The Viper X is best for fishermen looking to get into catfishing at a lower cost or deal mostly with smaller catfish under 30 pounds. 

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Reel Specs

The Viper X’s 10 + 1 stainless steel bearings give it a smooth rotation and are sealed inside of the reel. The zinc alloy drive gear and stainless steel drive shaft will resist corrosion in salt or freshwater. 

The 5000 version has a retrieval rate of 36 inches per full rotation, and it has two gear ratios: a 6.2:1 for more power and a 5.2:1 when you need less pressure on the line. Smaller sizes of the reel will work great for small lake catfish, while the larger versions like the 5000 will handle bigger fish.

What to Expect

The Viper X won’t have any problems from being dropped into the water. Its seals and materials do well to resist corrosion so it won’t rust shut. Even though it’s a budget reel, it doesn’t skimp out and put plastic gears in its reel, so you won’t have to worry about shearing. This should be a great budget option for fishermen starting to get into bigger catfish, but probably isn’t the best option for massive channel cats.

5. Yoshikawa Baitfeeder Spinning Reel 6000

Best Budget Live Bait Spinning Reel

Yoshikawa Baitfeeder Spinning Reel Saltwater Fishing 6000 5.5:1 11 High Power Ball Bearings28Lb Drags Surf Fishing Catfish Carp Reel Left Right Handle Stainless Steel Shaft
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KEY FEATURES

  • Large line capacity, 140 yards of 24-pound monofilament
  • 28-pound maximum drag
  • Front and rear drag
  • Rear drag allows free-lining live baits

Sometimes catfish will bite best on small live baits that float across their faces. The Yoshikawa Baitfeeder is best for fishermen looking to use live baits or freeline baits in rivers. The rear drag allows you to free-line baits without worrying about sharp hits to the interior parts of the reel on strikes.

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Reel Specs

The Baitfeeder boasts a respectable 28 pounds of drag, and both a front and rear drag system. The front drag works like a normal spinning reel drag, while the rear drag is used when free-spooling baits. When the handle is turned, the free-spool lever and rear drag disengage, protecting the drag and gears from harsh strikes.

It features a brass pinion and stainless steel main shaft that are corrosion resistant. The side plates, housing, and reel leg are all made of graphite, keeping it light and strong.

What to Expect

The Baitfeeder works brilliantly for free-spooling live or dead baits in rivers. The reel has enough power to handle larger catfish as well and is resistant to rust if you get it wet. It should last a reasonable amount of time and catch plenty of fish for you.

6. Shimano Stradic FL Spinning Reel

Best Mid-Sized Spinning Reel

SHIMANO Stradic 5000FL XG Spinning Fishing Reel, Left/Right Hand Retrieve
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KEY FEATURES

  • A rigid metal body keeps it from flexing
  • Sealed bearings and precision alignment
  • Wide range of drag settings
  • Increased comfort due to closer center of gravity

Shimano Stradic is well known for its comfort and reliability. The reels focus on conserving angler energy and increasing performance in casting and power. This reel is best for fishermen who plan on casting and fighting big fish quite often.

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Reel Specs

The Stradic features a center of gravity closer to the rod, making it more comfortable to cast and feel lighter. It has a rigid metal body that eliminates flexing in the reel body and transfers all of that force to cranking power by the angler.

The drag system on the 5000 has a mac drag of 24 pounds, with the retrieval of 40 inches per crank. The reel spool can hold 185 yards of 40-pound braid, and the 6 + 1 bearings are sealed against sand and salt.

CrossCarbon Drag systems give a wider range of settings. You can give slightly more or less pressure, depending on the fish.

What to Expect 

The Stradic is a very reliable and durable reel, but it may not have the power needed to handle big channel cats. Expect it to perform wonderfully with any fish under 50 pounds, and be plenty comfortable when casting a lot is required.

7. Daiwa BG3500 BG Saltwater Spinning Reel

Best Aluminum Body Spinning Reel

Daiwa BG3500 BG Saltwater Spinning Reel, 3500, 5.7: 1 Gear Ratio, 6+1 Bearings, 38.50' Retrieve Rate, 17.60 lb Max Drag
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KEY FEATURES

  • Anodized aluminum housing and spool
  • Dual anti-reverse
  • Waterproof drag system
  • Oversized gear for longevity

The Daiwa Spinning Reel is a lightweight aluminum spinning reel built to last. While not the best option for big catfish due to its drag power, it will work well for fishermen looking for small catfish in lakes.

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Reel Specs

The reel holds 150 yards of 40-pound braid and has a retrieval rate of 38.5 inches per turn. Unfortunately, it only has around 20 pounds of drag.

Its air rotor cuts out a lot of weight, keeping the reel light. It features an oversized gear with an increased number of teeth, which also helps with the reel’s smoothness and longevity. The aluminum majority of the reel is corrosion resistant and will hold up well even if it gets dropped in the water. 

What to Expect

This Daiwa reel should hold up well on small catfish and has the possibility of doing well on bigger ones. It should last a reasonably long time as well.

8. Dr. Fish Saltwater Spinning Reel 12000

Highest Drag Spinning Reel

Dr.Fish Saltwater 10000 Spinning Reel for Surf Fishing, 13+1 BBS, 40LB Max Drag, Ultra High Capacity, Heavy Duty Long Casting Offshore Big Game Fishing Reel Halibut Bullhead Mackerel
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KEY FEATURES

  • 48 pounds at max drag
  • Stainless steel bearings at 13 +1
  • Huge aluminum spool for high weight lines
  • Slow gear ratio at 3.9:1

If you’re looking for the most drag weight on the market then the Dr. Fish Saltwater Spinning Reel is the best reel you can get. High line capacity and a huge drag weight mean it’s built for big fish, and perfect for fishermen looking for huge catfish.

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Reel Specs

This reel stands out most with its 48-pound drag weight and big spool for heavy lines. This lets you target huge catfish since it’s built for big saltwater fish.

The spool is CNC aluminum, and the rest of the body is made of stainless steel. It will be very corrosive resistant and should hold up well fighting against giants. 

It also has a slow retrieval ratio, to let your handle cranks put pressure on the fish. Its stainless steel ball bearings are sealed inside the reel to prevent them from rusting or getting sand inside them as with most saltwater reels.

What to Expect

You should expect this reel to perform incredibly well against huge catfish. It will put out all the power that you’re able to use yourself, making it perfect for big fish. The metal body should hold up well against tough fights, making it a great reel for prolonged use.

9. Quantum Reliance 55

Best Warranty on a Spinning Reel

Quantum Reliance Spinning Fishing Reel, Size 55 Reel, Changeable Right- or Left-Hand Retrieve, Anti-Corrosive Bearings, Water-Tight Seal, Saltguard Protection, Silver/Black
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KEY FEATURES

  • 5.6:1 gear ratio
  • Watertight body seal
  • 5-year warranty on defects and materials
  • Mostly aluminum bodies

The Quantum Reliance is backed by a great warranty on defects and materials, up to five years from purchase date, and has most of the features you should be looking for in a good catfish spinning reel. This reel is best for any fishermen looking for a quality product with a manufacturer guarantee.

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Reel Specs

Its 5.6:1 gear ratio is a medium speed, allowing swift retrieval and strong power. It also has 5 +1 anti-corrosion bearings to keep it spinning smoothly.

Both the spool and reel body are made of high-quality aluminum, and the handle is made out of one piece to avoid breaks at joints. The handle is interchangeable between left and right-handed styles as well. 

The reel is fully sealed, with the goal of being maintenance-free. It should keep water out of its interior in rain or after being splashed consistently.

What to Expect

The biggest standout part of this reel is its warranty. Any defects on parts or materials are covered for five years from the purchase date of the reel by the manufacturer.

You should expect strong performances from this reel, and a long lifetime of use. The bigger sizes like the 55 shouldn’t have any issues handling big catfish, and the smaller sizes are strong and dependable.


Things to Consider When Buying Your Next Catfish Spinning Reel 

There are generally a few things you’ll want to look for when you’re buying a spinning reel to go catch catfish. The most important things to consider before buying are the size of the catfish you’ll be fishing for, the line capacity, reel retrieval, how the reel is made, the handle, and the gear ratio.

Size of Fish

You need to consider the size of fish you’re targeting, and the size of catfish in the area, to determine the reel you need.

You don’t want to go fish a spot that consistently has catfish over 100 pounds with a reel that isn’t built for it. You’ll just fry the reel and lose the fish. You need a reel with enough power and enough line capacity to catch the fish.

Line Capacity

Speaking of line capacity, you want to look for a high line capacity to make sure you can use a heavy line weight.

Catfish aren’t like saltwater fish, they won’t run a ton of line off your reel when they run off, at least normally. But the high line capacity lets you use a much heavier line, something like a 40-pound braid, to let you exert force onto the fish. 

The heavier lines are also less likely to snap when fighting a big fish. Compare the size of the catfish you’re fishing for to the line weight you’ll need, and try to get a reel that holds around 200 yards of that size line weight.

Draw

The draw, or retrieval rate of the line, determines how many revolutions the spool makes per handle turn. 

Fast retrieval rates, above 6:1 ratios, allow you to set hooks faster, and reel up the slack line quickly. The retrieval rate matters most in the presentation of lures, with a slow rate being favorable for bottom bumping lures and faster ones working well on jigs.

Quite simply, a higher retrieval rate reels in faster, and helps you get the fish to you faster, but it puts more strain on the gears in the reel. You’ll normally want a medium retrieval rate, around 5:1 or 6:1, to balance out the speed and stress.

Construction

Consider the materials the reel is made of before buying, and lean towards reels that are hard metals inside and sealed well.

Stainless steel is one of the better materials to look for since it resists rust incredibly well and lasts a long time. If you go for an aluminum reel, check to see if it is anodized or what parts are aluminum before buying.

If gears inside the reel aren’t metal do not buy the reel. Plastic gears shear quickly when using the drag on any size fish and make the reel worthless. The best bet is to buy full metal bodies that are sealed well, to get the longest life out of your reel.

Handle

Handles are where you’ll be cranking the fish up to you, so you need to make sure it is comfortable.

The best option is to go into a store and get your hands on the reel. If the handle isn’t comfortable in the store, it won’t be comfortable to fish with.

Graphite isn’t a bad thing, but metal handlebars will bend and break less frequently. Make sure the actual handle is soft and fits your hand well to avoid blisters or hurting your hands.


Benefits of Catfish Spinning Reels 

The biggest benefit of using a spinning reel for catfishing is the ease of use. Spinning reels use a flipping bail to cast a line that is held by the fisherman’s finger. For inexperienced fishermen or those uncomfortable with bait casters, spinning reels are a better option.

While some people think spinning reels are smaller or weaker than other reels, this isn’t the case. Many saltwater spinning reels have more power and line capacity than bait casters, making them able to use heavier lines and exert more force on big catfish.

Spinning reels are also easy to maintain and can take a beating. There are fewer moving parts to a spinning reel, and many can be maintained simply by removing the spool. Spinning reels have the advantage in longevity, as any issues with them can usually be taken care of a lot easier than with other reel types.


Questions & Answers

What is the best gear ratio for catfishing?

The best gear ratio for catfishing is going to be around 5:1 or 6:1. This is a medium speed, but it allows you to retrieve your line quickly for hookups and put power onto the catfish without stressing your gears too much. 

What is the best spinning reel for catfish

The best spinning reel for catfish depends on the size of catfish you are going for. If big catfish are on the menu, using the Penn Spinfisher VI 7500 is your best option, as it has the most power and durability on this list. For smaller catfish, you can get away with a smaller size Spinfisher, such as the 4500 or 5500.

The best budget option for a spinning reel is going to be the Piscifun Viper X. It’s sealed well and has plenty of power and line capacity to get the job done.

What type of catfishing reel is the best?

Historically, conventional or bait caster reels are the best for catfishing. If you’re hooking into monster catfish well over 100 pounds then a conventional reel is right for you since you’ll need the heaviest lines you can get. Outside of this though, the real best catfishing reel is whatever is most comfortable for you to cast and use.


Conclusion

When it comes to spinning reels, you get what you pay for. You don’t need to spend a fortune but it’s pretty common for the cheaper reels to be of cheaper quality. Don’t let that discourage you though, you can get plenty of fishing done with as well.

Look for a high line capacity and a drag weight in at least the upper 20s to get the most out of a spinning reel for catfishing. Sealed bodies will help prevent rust and extend the life of your reel as well.

If you’ve ever doubted spinning reels, now is the best time to try them since they’ve caught up with other models power-wise. If you’re a fisherman who doesn’t like bait caster or conventional reels, spinning reels are probably for you. They’re an easy-to-cast, strong, and durable option for catching catfish.