Best Catfish Rods Reviewed – Tough, Sensitive, and Capable

It is simple to grasp the excitement and heart-pounding thrill of catfishing. The size of a big blue or flathead catfish can surpass any fish you can catch by line and these river monsters can put up a fight for your life!

In some parts of the country, a night spent pulling channel cats out of the river is considered a right-of-passage. The next day, a fish fry is a next day.

Catfishing can be difficult to tackle. Anglers are often faced with the possibility of a brute taking your rod or sticky baits sticking to everything they touch.

We have the perfect catfish rod for you!

You’ll find reviews and a detailed buying guide below on some of the best catfish rods available.

For Average Cats

  • St. Croix Mojo Cat Spinning –Best Premium Catfish Rod
  • Ugly Stik GX2 spinning
  • Ugly Stik Elite casting –The Best Catfish Rod For the Money
  • Ugly Stik GX2 casting

Trophy Cats

  • Shakespeare Ugly Stik Tiger Casting –The Best Trophy Catfish Rod For the Money
  • Penn International VI INVI305060AR Premium Trophy Catfish Rod

The Best Catfish Rods for Average Cats

St. Croix Mojo Cat Spinning -Best Premium Catfish Rod

St Croix Mojo Cat Spinning Rods

Specifications

Pros

Cons

Length7
Power/ActionMedium/Fast
MaterialComposite S-glass/graphite
GuidesKigan Master Hand 3D Guides with Aluminum-Oxide Inserts
Line weights:10-25 lb
Lure weights 1/2 -3 oz.
Handle: Cork
Pieces1
  • Amazing composite blank
  • Outstanding guides
  • Casts and loads well
  • Excellent handle
  • Great sense of sensitivity
  • Expensive

You’re probably a regular reader who knows that we love St. Croix’s rods.

St. Croix is known for its uncompromising quality and attention to detail. These rods are not cheap, but be aware!

Mojo Cat’s spinning rod is a great “light” catfish rod. It is powered by an s–glass/graphite composite blank and has a lot of backbone. This rod has enough iron to make a big cat proud. Its muscle is located about two feet from its tip.

Although it’s not something I would choose if I was chasing trophy blues line weights between 10 and 25 pounds will allow me to control some serious beasts if my part is done correctly.

The Mojo Cat’s sense of touch is exceptional. You’ll be able to tell when your fish is on whether you’re using a circle hook or stinky treble hook. The tip has enough flexibility to allow for self-setting.

Kigan Masters have a reputation for being among the most reliable guides. Your line will be protected by a fierce fight.

The cork handle is long and continuous, which is beautiful. Even the largest hands will have plenty of room, and you’ll appreciate the handle’s length when you need to leverage your muscles.

This is an extremely, very difficult rod to beat.

Ugly Stik GX2 spinning

Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Rod, Multicolor, 7'

Specifications

Pros

Cons

Length7
Power/ActionMedium/Moderately Fast
MaterialComposite e-glass/graphite
GuidesUgly Tuff stainless Steel
Line weights:6-15 lbs.
Lure weights 1/8 – 5/8 oz.
Handle: EVA foam
Pieces2
  • Extremely, extremely difficult
  • Fantastic composite blank
  • Useful guides
  • Casts and loads well
  • Excellent handle
  • Great sense of sensitivity
  • It is not as sophisticated as the St. Croix

Ugly Stiks are known for their toughness. Shakespeare is one of few companies that still believes in high-quality fiberglass rods and fiberglass composite rods.

The GX2 is therefore no surprise. This rod is made from an e-glass/graphite blank and is tougher than a steak. It has medium power and allows you to bend the rod quite a bit.

This is not a bad thing. You’ll discover the true strength of the GX2 about halfway to the handle. You’ll feel something more like steel than fiberglass at that point and your cat will be alert!

It is sensitive enough to detect light cats and works well with circle hooks.

Ugly Stik’s guides aren’t very attractive, but they work! I tested them in controlled water conditions. They work well! You can expect polished stainless to cushion your lines at a price well beyond this price.

Although the EVA foam handles are not very impressive, they provide a lot of comfort and grip.

Ugly Stik Elite casting -The Best Catfish Rod For the Money

Specifications

Pros

Cons

Length7
Power/Action Medium-heavy/Extra-fast
MaterialComposite e-glass/graphite
GuidesUgly Tuff stainless Steel
Line weights:10-20 lbs.
Lure weights 1/4 – 3/4 oz.
Handle: Cork
Pieces1
  • Extremely, extremely difficult
  • Excellent composite blank
  • Useful guides
  • Casts and loads well
  • Excellent handle
  • Great sense of sensitivity
  • You might be able to punch higher than your weight
  • It is not as sophisticated as the St. Croix
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This rod is mine, and I am now a convert to it.

This rod is better than I expected for the price. Ugly Stik’s graphite/e-glass composite blank has a little more graphite to increase stiffness and sensitivity, without compromising strength or toughness. It’s definitely a step up from the GX2.

This rod is strong, strong, and strong. About a third of the rod’s length from the tip, you will really feel the power and potential of this rod. This rod is suitable for line weights between 10- and 20 pounds. It’s a great rod that will please all catfish anglers.

Although I don’t think this rod is worthy of a trophy, I believe it can be used with a heavy-weight braid and a well-tied shock lead to making this blank a formidable opponent for a beast as large as 50 pounds.

You’d be surprised at how much the Ugly Tuff guides can do. They protected my line like a battalion of marines, according to real-world testing.

The handle is long and the cork is continuous. It is both beautiful and very comfortable.

Ugly Stik GX2 casting

Ugly Stik GX2 Casting Rod, 7', Medium, 2pcs

 

Specifications

Pros

Cons

Length7
Power/ActionMedium/Moderately Fast
MaterialComposite e-glass/graphite
GuidesUgly Tuff stainless Steel
Line weights:8-20 lbs.
Lure weights 1/4 – 5/8 oz.
Handle: EVA foam
Pieces1
  • Extremely, extremely difficult
  • Fantastic composite blank
  • Useful guides
  • Casts and loads well
  • Excellent handle
  • Amazing sensitivity
  • It is not as sophisticated as the St. Croix

It might seem that the GX2 casting rod is the spinning version with a different configuration. But, you would be wrong!

It is shorter than its sibling in length, but it has a heavier blank and is rated to carry heavier line weights. This rod feels almost invisible in the hand. It is slightly stronger than the spinning version with a little more backbone.

This rod is as strong as its kin, regardless of whether it’s true. You can expect a strong blank with a comfortable handle and effective guides.

This pick is a great choice for a casting rod at a very affordable price.

The Best Catfish Rods for Trophy Cats

Shakespeare Ugly Stik Tiger Casting -The Best Trophy Catfish Rod For the Money

Shakespeare Ugly Stik Tiger Casting Rod , 7'

 

Specifications

Pros

Cons

Length7
Power/ActionModerate heavy/Moderate
MaterialComposite e-glass/graphite
GuidesUgly Tuff stainless Steel
Line weights:30-60 lbs.
Lure weights 1-8 oz.
Handle: EVA foam
Pieces1
  • Extremely, extremely difficult
  • Fantastic composite blank
  • Useful guides
  • Casts well and loads well
  • Excellent handle
  • Great sense of sensitivity
  • It is very affordable for such a strong rod
  • It is probably not as strong and as reliable as the Penn

The Ugly Stik Tiger rod is not designed to catch channel cats. You’ll be disappointed if this rod does all-around catfishing duties. You’ve come to the right place if you are looking for a rod that can handle large blues and flatheads.

It’s an understatement to say this rod is tough. It’s made of graphite and e-glass and is medium-heavy. As you would expect, the backbone is important. The tip will hit the real muscle about 2/3rds of the way.

You’ll feel confident in your fight and this rod will give you the edge. It’s as tough as Mr. Olympia and bombproof tough as it sounds.

It is also reasonably sensitive and works well with circle hooks attached to a rod holder.

The single-piece guides of the Tiger are made of high-quality, polished stainless steel. They’ll protect and hold your line. Have faith in them.

The EVA foam handle is longer than you would expect and can be used in long battles with large fish.

Does it have the same strength as Penn International?

It’s not as expensive, but I would say it is!

Penn International VI INVI305060ARBest Premium Trophy Catfish Rod

Specifications

Pros

Cons

Length6
Power/ActionMedium/Fast
Materialtubularfiberglass
Guides4+ 1 Aftco Wind on Roller Guides
Line weights:30-50 lbs.
Lure weightsN/A
Handle: EVA foam
Pieces1
  • Amazingly strong blank
  • Handle long EVA foam
  • Amazing roller guides
  • Expensive

Penn’s International VI is my choice for hunting trophy cats. This rod is expensive, but it’s a great choice for catfish over 100 pounds.

It is made from strong tubular fiberglass and features five Atfco roller guides. This allows it to handle shock leaders and heavy lines without slipping a muscle. Backbone, you ask? It is similar to steel and starts at the tip. The Penn almost guarantees control over even the largest fish. Your back and arms are likely to be the only thing that limits your ability to catch them, and not your rod.

The handle is made of EVA foam and has a long, slick butt that gives you control when you catch big fish.

This rod is designed for large saltwater fish and I would use it if I were angling to catch record-breaking cats.

How to Choose a Catfish Rod?

Do you want a trophy?

You can get the best from our recommendations if you are honest with yourself.

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Do you really hunt trophy cats that weigh 60 lbs or more? Are most fish caught between 3 and 10 lbs?

I am one of these fishermen. If this is you, then you will be much happier with the “average cat” rods we recommend.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t catch large kitties using those rods, especially with the Ugly Stik elite.

There are many trophy hunting catfish anglers who are big. They consider frying-sized cats a nuisance and only want fish they can catch.

We have included some rods to help you get the blue of your dreams.

Are you a spinner or a bait caster?

The first step in choosing a spinning rod or baitcasting rod is to ask yourself if you are more comfortable spinning or baitcasting reels.

Catfish fishing is a unique sport. The techniques used are not dependent on lures and finesse. Casting is not as important, but large spinning reels are a great choice.

However, this does not mean that baitcasting (or conventional) reels are inferior.

However, spinning reels such as Penn’s Battle II are capable enough to take on the catfish world.

Our buying guide will help you choose the best catfish reel or the best fishing line to catch catfish.

Power and Action

The average channel cat may weigh 3 pounds. However, a big or flathead can be 100 pounds and fight like a beast, threatening to destroy anything except the strongest rods.

This is a fact and catfishing tackle must be hard.

However, a rod that feels more like a shovel handle is not necessary.

PowerThis describes the force required to bend a rod. A measure of strength. If all else is equal, a stronger rod will fight heavier or stronger fish. This gives you greater control during a difficult fight.

Take action this describes the point at which a rod will bend under load. Fast action rods bend near the tip and are stiff for most of their length. Slow action rods, on the other hand, bend closer to their handle and reel the seat, and curve over a greater portion of their length.

No matter what species of catfish you’re chasing, be ready for a hard fight. You must also be able to cast a fair distance and have enough tip flexibility to allow the fish to set a circle hook.

Our list of recommendations is dominated by two powers:

Medium Power

Because they are strong enough to muscle large fish, medium-powered rods can be found in saltwater and freshwater. You’ll see them used by anglers to troll for large species such as tuna, wahoos (sailfish), sharks, and other large fish in shorter lengths and tougher materials like fiberglass. Anglers will also be using medium-power rods to catch species such as pike, walleye, bass, and catfish.

This type of rod is best illustrated by Penn International.

They have a substantial backbone that allows you to fight large fish.

Medium rods can be extended to run live bait. They are also able to detect strikes from smaller fish with the same sensitivity.

Medium-Heavy Power

Anglers can muscle huge fish with medium-heavy rods.

They can be made of fiberglass and are very strong, making them popular for offshore fishing as well as for freshwater anglers who want to catch fish like steelhead, pike, lake trout, steelhead, or trophy cats.

Extra-fast and super-fast

Extra-fast rods, regardless of power, retain stiffness for most of their length. This improves the sensitivity of the tip and the performance of circle hooks.

Moderately fast

Moderately fast rods have a little more flexibility than the faster options. This can be a deterrent to anglers from taking a sharp treble-hook out of a fish’s mouth, while still allowing for plenty of sensitivity at its tip.

Moderate

Moderate rods can bend the rod almost in a parabolic fashion, which allows it to be bent over its entire length. This can increase toughness while still allowing enough strength to muscle large fish.

Guides

It is important to have good guide quality on all rods, especially when you are moving up in power.

Guides serve two primary purposes. They protect your line from friction and distribute force along the length of the blank. As more contact reduces stress at each point of the rod and line, it is almost always better to have more. On spinning reels, they help channel line from the spool. This is why most spinning rods have a large “stripper” guide located near the reel.

You should have one guide per rod foot. Quality is not an option.

Guide material

Guides attach to your rod by feet and are secured with adhesives or some other form of wrapping.

These are three crucial things:

  • The guides must be securely fastened
  • The guides must be strong enough for some abuse
  • The guides must be resistant to corrosion.

Stainless steel is a common material for quality guides. It is strong, durable, and resists corrosion.

Insert material

Many guides include inserts.

If a guide does not have an insert, it is typically made of highly polished stainless steel coated in a coating to reduce wear. This is an example of how guides work. I have personally tested the rod and can confirm that it does the job.

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Many high-end guides, such as those made by Fuji, have ceramic inserts. Ceramic inserts reduce friction significantly, making them superior to polished stainless.

This video demonstrates how to best test guide quality. Try sawing the line against a large guide. If the line breaks fast, that’s a sign you should give that rod a pass.

Roller Guides

Sometimes, offshore trolling rods have a special guide style called a “roller guide”. They are designed to support heavy-diameter lines and extreme forces as well as searing friction.

One example is the Aftco Wind on Roller Guides at Penn International.

Material

Modern fishing rods are made of a variety of materials including graphite and carbon fiber. Some fishing rods feature composite construction that uses more than one material as their backbone.

Graphite

Graphite is a common material that can be used as a blank. It provides strength, stiffness, and lightweight all in one package. Fishing blanks with higher modulus numbers, which are usually described by the word “modulus”, are larger in diameter and more flexible than those with smaller numbers.

Graphite is also known for its high sensitivity.

However, graphite is weak because of its brittleness. If pushed too hard, graphite can crack and break. I prefer fiberglass to graphite for trophy-sized cats.

Carbon Fiber

Carbon fiber is space-age technology. It takes everything good about graphite and elevates it to a higher level. It’s extremely stiff, strong, and light so it’s great for blank material to use with lighter fish.

Carbon fiber is very sensitive to impacts. A hard hit on a boat or piling can cause damage. It’s great for bass fishing and any other species that you may be targeting, but it’s not the best choice for catfishing.

Fiberglass

Fiberglass rod technology is old, but it’s still a great rod technology.

Fiberglass rods are heavy, much like fiberglass boats. They’ll be heavier than other options, inch to inch and foot to foot. Fiberglass blanks are extremely flexible, but can also be very tough. They are also very rigid in shorter, tubular lengths making them an excellent choice for trophy hunters.

There are two types of fiberglass: e-glass or s-glass.

  • E-glass is the most common fiberglass that you will find in rods. It’s extremely tough and strong, even though it has been around for a while.
  • S-glass is a significant improvement on e-glass and the “S”, stands for strength. It is used in areas where uncompromising strength and durability are critical, such as airplane bodies.

Composites

Manufacturers of rods often combine different materials to get the best out of each one. A graphite core is one common example. It provides stiffness and strength and is wrapped with fiberglass to give it flexibility and toughness.

These composite rods are very strong when done correctly. They perform better than pure fiberglass, except in cases where absolute strength is crucial.

Length

The length of the rod is important.

The rod’s length will determine how far it can cast. The rod’s length will determine how accurate it casts.

Although fiberglass rods shorter than 7 feet can be as tough as nails, they won’t cast as well as a 7-footer.

I prefer to be able to launch my live bait wherever it is going to do the most good. This can sometimes mean a fair distance, especially if I’m fishing from shore. It’s not possible to launch a rod under 7 feet.

Handle

The decision about which handle you choose is personal. What’s easy for me may not be right for you. You will find two main materials for rod handles: EVA foam and cork.

The length of any catfish rod is important because it will allow you to leverage and use your hands in tough fights. It is a good idea to use continuous handles. Split grips don’t allow for enough space when you have a 70-pound, 50-, or 60-pound cat on the line.

Cork

Cork is a natural material. It’s soft to the touch but firm enough to give you a comfortable grip. Premium-grade cork can withstand a beating, but it is not as attractive as synthetics.

It is relatively simple to remove stinky baits from cork. However, any cat angler who has worked with cats will tell you that some stink as possible.

EVA foam

EVA foam, a synthetic material, provides a soft grip. It’s a bit colder than cork but it’s usually more affordable and lasts longer.

Stale baits can get into the pores of this material so be careful cleaning it.

Last Thoughts

Although we cannot tell you which rod is right for you, if you are honest about your goals, and what you can afford, we can help you find the right rod.

You can rest assured that any of the catfish rods we have on this list will bring a smile to your face and make it a memorable night.

We’d love to hear if you found this article helpful.

Leave a comment below. Check out our top picks to catch catfish with the best bait

Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.