Best Catfish Rods of 2021: Top 5 Tested & Reviewed

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

Last Update:

The Rundown

Best Overall: Ugly Stik Catfish Rod (click to view)
“The Ugly Stik features a patented clear tip, providing extra visibility and more power in its tip. It has comfortable EVA handles so fighting big cats won’t strain your hands. Ideal for anglers targeting different sizes of catfish.” 

Best Premium Option: BnM Silver Cat Elite Rod (click to view)
“The Silver Cat Elite Rod features an extra-strong spine and supremely sensitive tip. Ideal for anglers targeting big blue and channel cats, but still works on smaller cats since you can see even the smallest bites.”

Best Budget Option: Berkley Lightning Rod Shock (click to view)
“The Lightning Rod Shock is designed for using braided superlines, perfect for catfish under 20 pounds. It’s a solid choice for anglers on a budget and targeting cats around a lot of grass.”

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Catfish are one of the most fished for freshwater species in the United States. Ranging in size from under five-pound up to hundreds of pounds, it’s no wonder why they’re considered a popular sportfish. To go after them, though, you need to take extra care when selecting the right rod for you.

The biggest thing to consider when purchasing the best catfish rods is the size of the fish you’re targeting. You’ll need to choose different lengths and powers based on the fish and bait’s size. You’ll also want to make sure you’re choosing durable materials, guides that won’t wear out easily, and comfortable handles. 

With so many options available, it can be hard to find exactly what you need for catfishing. We’ve scoured the market to find the best options for catching catfish no matter what size you’re after, so you can make the right decisions when buying one.

Sources researched
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Sources researched
Customer reviews
18,401
Customer reviews
Hours spent testing
26
Hours spent testing
Products tested
5
Products tested

What Is The Best Catfish Rod?

Top 5 Catfish Rods

Best Overall

Ugly Stik Catfish Rod

One-piece, stainless steel guides

Patented clear tip for visibility and strength

Best Premium Option

BnM Silver Cat Elite

One-piece, 7.5-foot rod length is ideal for catfish

Heavy-duty reel seat with a low profile

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Best Budget Option

Berkley Lightning Rod Shock

Shock absorbing rod blank

Strike Amplifying Tip picks up every little tap

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Best Portable

Championship Catfish Rod: 2 Piece Casting, Medium Heavy Chop Stick, Sensitive Tip for Detecting Bites, Heavy Backbone for Hauling in Ugly Monsters, 10-50lb Line, 7'6'

Championship Rod

Hard rubber butt keeps you from digging into yourself during fights

Handles heavy lead weights without you noticing

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Best for Bigger Catfish

Okuma Battle Cat Catfish Spinning Rods (2-Piece)

Okuma Battle Cat Rod

Specifically designed for spinning reels

Ideal for bank fishing and trolling while using rod holders

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Best Catfish Rods In 2021

  1. Best Overall: Ugly Stik Catfish Rod
  2. Best Premium Option: BnM Silver Cat Elite Rod
  3. Best Budget Option: Berkley Lightning Rod Shock
  4. Best for Bigger Catfish: Okuma Battle Cat
  5. Best Portable: Championship Catfish Rod

Ugly Stik Catfish Spinning Rod

Best Overall Catfish Rod: Perfect for anglers and fish that are tough on rods, with unchallenged durability.

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KEY FEATURES

  • One-piece, stainless steel guides
  • Unsurpassed durability
  • Patented clear tip for visibility and strength

Ugly Stik Rods are well known for their toughness, low price point, and quality. Their catfish series of rods combines all of the best features of an Ugly Stik with carefully selected powers and actions for big cats. Overall, an Ugly Stik Catfish rod is an excellent choice for any angler looking after catfish of any size.

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Rod Features

Ugly Stik rods all feature their patented clear tip, which provides extra visibility (especially at night) and more power in the rod’s tip. It also has comfortable EVA handles, so fighting big fish won’t put a strain on your hands. 

More importantly, the line guides are single rings of stainless steel that a braided line can’t cut a groove into, and you don’t have to worry about guide inserts popping out. The rod’s durability comes from its blended construction of fiberglass and graphite, making it nearly indestructible.

Choosing a Model for You

The rod comes in a medium/heavy action and either seven or eight-foot models. Both of them are excellent choices for catfish from the bank, and both can stand up to nearly any size catfish without running into problems. However, if you’re going after fish above fifty pounds, you should opt for the eight-foot rod for extra casting distance and power.

BnM Silver Cat Elite Casting Rod

Best Premium Catfish Rod: Super strong backbone with an extra fast action lets you recognize bites instantly while also giving you the power you need to fight monster cats.

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KEY FEATURES

  • One-piece, 7.5-foot rod length is ideal for catfish
  • X-Grip handles give you a solid grip on the rod even when wet
  • Heavy-duty reel seat with low profile keeps the reel weight balanced

Powerful, seven-foot-plus rods are the best choices for larger cats. This one from BnM may be a bit pricier, but it is a great option thanks to the extra-strong rod spine and supremely sensitive rod tip. It is a better choice for anglers targeting big blue and channel cats, but it will still perform well on smaller cats since you can see even the smallest bites.

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Rod Features

Like the Ugly Stik, the line guides are one piece without inserts for braid to cut into. Where the rod shines is in the blank’s spine, which is extremely stiff and powerful, and when combined with its super-sensitive tip, gives you the edge over bit nibbling cats. 

Its X-Grip handles are comfortable but don’t get slick when they’re wet and always give you an excellent grip for fighting big fish. The reel seat is made from aircraft-grade aluminum and features a low-profile, double knut design that lends the rod power and balance. 

Choosing a Model for You

This rod only comes in one model, a seven and a half foot, heavy-action tip. If you don’t need a ton of casting distance, it’s an ideal rod for big catfish at or above fifty pounds. It’s still a good option for smaller cats, though, thanks to its sensitivity, but you will easily overpower five-pound catfish taking the fun of the fight out of it. 

Berkley Lightning Rod Shock Spinning Rod

Best Budget Catfish Rod: An optimal rod for braid, the strong backbone relieves the stress of using no-stretch lines on the rod blank.

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KEY FEATURES

  • Shock absorbing rod blank
  • Lightweight and incredibly sensitive
  • Strike Amplifying Tip picks up every little tap

This line of rods from Berkley is perfect for catfish under twenty pounds. Coming in both casting and spinning options and designed for using braided superlines, this rod lets you use the gear you’re comfortable with within nearly any fishing situation. It’s a solid choice for anglers on a budget and targeting catfish around a lot of grass.

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Rod Features

The rod is designed to absorb the stress of strikes on braided superlines and be as sensitive as possible. The Strike Amplifying Tip is perfect for smaller catfish since it’ll pick up even the smallest nibble of your bait. In addition, the reel seat is positioned to be able to transfer as much power as efficiently as possible to the line, letting you slice through grass and put torque on the fish you’ve hooked. 

Choosing a Model for You

The rod is almost as light as it possibly can be, making it easy to carry and cast all day. You won’t be handling fifty-pound catfish with it, but it’s designed to handle the shock of big takes on zero-stretch fishing lines. It works best for ten to twenty-pound catfish around grass where using a braided line is essentially necessary not to get hung up.

Okuma Battle Cat Catfish Spinning Rod

Best Rod For Bigger Catfish: The extra length gives you a better casting distance while also allowing you to handle the biggest catfish you can find.

Okuma Battle Cat Catfish Spinning Rods (2-Piece)
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KEY FEATURES

  • Specifically designed for spinning reels
  • The 8-foot glass rod is perfect for giant catfish at and above 50 pounds
  • Ideal for bank fishing and trolling while using rod holders

It wouldn’t be a complete list without including a rod that can handle the biggest monster catfish of your dreams. This one from Okuma is explicitly designed for those fish, with the ability to use super-heavy lines, huge spinning reels, and heavy lead weights and baits. It’s the best option for catfish up to and above fifty pounds.

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Rod Features

The rod is a 2-piece, eight-foot blank with an extra heavy action. Stainless steel guides are double-footed and designed for an easy casting experience with spinning reels. The glass blank is coated for extra durability, and the rod handles are perfect for placing into rod holders for trolling or waiting for a bite on the bank.

Choosing a Model for You

This is the best choice for anglers after huge blues and flatheads. The rod has the power you need to handle those fish, and the extra length gives you a better casting distance and a more efficient torque on the fish. Just keep in mind you’ll need a large spinning reel for those fish, and this rod will take care of the rest.

Championship Catfish Rod

Best Portable Catfish Rod: A 7’6”, 2-piece rod that gives you all the power you need while breaking down to pack away neatly in your trunk.

Championship Catfish Rod: 2 Piece Casting, Medium Heavy Chop Stick, Sensitive Tip for Detecting Bites, Heavy Backbone for Hauling in Ugly Monsters, 10-50lb Line, 7'6'
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KEY FEATURES

  • Hard rubber butt keeps you from digging into yourself during fights
  • Lifetime warranty for rod breaking for any reason
  • Handles heavy lead weights without you noticing

Sometimes you need both portability and power in your rod, and this Championship Catfish Rod delivers both. It also provides great fun on smaller cats, featuring a medium/heavy action instead of the usual super heavy actions. It’s an excellent choice for a weekend trip when you don’t have a ton of storage space and as a solid all-around catfish rod.

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Rod Features

The fiberglass fishing rod is strong enough to handle catfish, even while breaking down into two pieces for better storage and portability options. Stainless steel rod guides are low profile and won’t let braid cut into them.

The rod is a medium/heavy action, so you can still have fun on smaller, eating-size catfish and features an extra-sensitive tip to alert you to small catfish nibbles. The foam handles are washed easily, so you don’t need to worry about slime accumulation, making you lose your grip after catching a few catfish.

Choosing a Model for You

The rod comes in both a spinning and casting model, so you can choose whichever you have a reel ready for it and hit the water. The length gives you solid casting distance and the ability to maneuver around sunken obstructions that can hang you up. Try to target catfish thirty pounds or less with it. After that, you might need something a little bigger.

What To Look For When Buying The Best Catfish Rod

Rod Power

Rod power refers to the amount of force you need to bend the rod at its bend point. Remember that this includes the weight of any lures, baits, and lead weights you attach to it.

For catfish, you want to avoid any ultra-lights, lights, and medium-light rods. 

Choose a rod based on the size of the fish you’re after. Heavy for the biggest catfish, medium-heavy for mid-sized ones, and medium for catfish around five pounds.

Rod Action

Rod action refers to where and how much the rod will bend. The faster the action, As a result, it’s the less of the rod bends, with fast-action rods only really bending around the tip.

For catfish, you want to lean on the faster end of the spectrum. Fast action rods are great for big catfish, while medium action rods are usually the best for everything else. 

Rod Length

The length of a rod directly affects the casting distance of the rod, with longer rods casting farther, getting faster hooksets, and better reach.

A minimum rod length for catfish is typically a seven-foot rod. You want this length because it lets you maneuver around sunken trees and other things that can get you hung up while also offering good casting distance.

Materials

Fiberglass and graphite are usually the two materials used for rods. Fiberglass is stiffer with less sensitivity, while graphite offers more sensitivity at the cost of bending easier. 

Fiberglass is cheaper than graphite, making the rods more affordable. A composite of the two is usually best for catfish since it gives you great sensitivity and all the stiffness you need to fight the bigger fish.

Line Weight

The line weight on rods is a guide for what size lines will slide easily through the rod guides without getting hung up or causing too much friction. Look for rods with a 10-50 pound line weight rating since these are the sizes you’ll be using the most often for catfish. Outside of catfish, this is also the best rating range for most bigger fish when freshwater fishing.

Questions & Answers

What kind of rod is best for catfish?

The best all-around catfish rods are seven-foot, fast action, heavy power, graphite, and fiberglass composites. In addition, most catfish rods have extremely stiff rod spines with an extra sensitive tip, so you don’t miss bites.

What are the best baits for catfish?

Catfish’s favorite foods change depending on their age, size, and species. As a rule of thumb, smaller catfish tend to feed on insects, larvae, and worms, while larger catfish eat smaller fish species and crawfish. Try to use their everyday foods as the best bait options, or try some artificial catfish baits such as blood and stink baits. 

What is the best line for catfish?

Braided superlines are the best option for catfish. They tend to not fray around sunken trees and cut through the grass in the fishing holes catfish tend to hang around. You can also use a heavier line than monofilament lines for the line diameter, and they have nearly zero stretches, making it easier to set your hook in a catfish’s hard mouth.

What is the best reel for catfish?

Catfish are a widespread species in the United States, so they’re a common entry target for beginner anglers. However, as a beginner fisherman, spinning reels are usually your best option because they are easy to learn to use. Also, unlike casting reels, you don’t have to worry about backlash, handedness, or anything else.

For raw power on bigger catfish, saltwater spinning reels and baitcasting reels are the best options since they give you much more drag power and hold larger line weights.

What makes a good catfish rod?

Good catfish rods are stiff, bend very little except near the tip, and are extremely sensitive at the tip so you can see when a fish slightly knocks your bait. A seven-foot length gives you the reach and casting distance you need, and a strong spine provides the rod with the raw power you need to force the fish to the surface.