Going for the freshwater monsters: Cheap Catfishing Reels

Fans of the show River Monsters should know that most of the true monster fish the host catches are catfish.

The catfish is not a bottom dwelling feeder as most may assume, but in some aquatic environments, the catfish is an apex predator. This means the fish are strong, fast and have the attitude to match. This means anglers who want to battle these big fish need equipment to match. Fortunately, there are some cheap catfishing reels available on the market.

BASICS

Choosing a catfishing reel is not as difficult as choosing a reel for bass, pike or musky fishing. Catfish gear is designed for fighting heavy, large fish in big, slow moving rivers. This means stout rods, lots of heavy test line and reels with smooth drags and high line capacity. Cheap catfishing reels are easy to find to match to the equipment.

SPINCAST REELS

Spincast reels are great choice for new anglers. These stout reels hold enough line to wrestle in nice catfish, and they also have the advantage of no tangles and snarls. Spincast reels are easy to freespool, allowing the line to run free from the reel, and will not backlash or tangle because of it.

The best bet for cheap catfishing reels is to stop thinking catfish. Think about another type of fishing, specifically inshore saltwater, for the best catfishing spincast reels.

The Zebco 808 is a solid choice. The reel comes pre-spooled with 125 yds. of 25 lb. test line and features 2.58:1 retrieve ratios for cranking catfish into the boat.

Zebco 808

zebco 808

zebco 808

The Zebco 733 is another good choice, also from the Zebco line. This reel comes pre-spooled with 95 yds. of 20 lb. test line and is also constructed of aluminum and plastic. The 733 has a two paddle handle and has a 2.6:1 retrieval ratio.

Zebco 733

zebco 733

zebco 733

PROS:

  • Easy to use
  • No backlash problems
  • Bait clicker for fine strikes

CONS:

  • Limited line capacity
  • Drag system substandard compared to other reel types
  • Large body design can be cumbersome in boat or carried on shore

SPINNING REELS

A spinning reel is unlike the other two standard reel types because it lies under the rod instead of above it. There are plenty of makes and models on the market for the angler, and cheap catfishing reels abound. Again, think light saltwater for the best possible reel choices. Here are two solid ones that will make short work of even the biggest catfish in the U.S.

Spinning reels have the advantage over the spincast reels because of line capacity and drag. For catfishing, 20 lb. test line is a minimum. Large spool spinning reels are a must, but many are going to be very expensive. This does not mean good deals do not abound.

Okuma is a Japanese company, and a relative newcomer in the fishing industry. They do make excellent products, and at a price that is affordable. The Trio High Speed reel holds an impressive 200 yds. or 20 lb. test line. This is more than sufficient for the majority of catfishing needs, and the reel will handle medium duty saltwater fishing as well.

The Trio has a smooth drag system and has ambidextrous capabilities like all spinning reels.

Okuma Trio High Speed Reel

Okuma Trio High Speed

Trio High Speed Reel

Diawa’s Opus 5500 is another excellent choice for catfishing. The reel holds a massive 230 yds. of 25 lb. test line, allowing for big cats to take long runs. A smooth drag system and 3.4:1 retrieve ratio round out this reel as an exceptional choice for the price.

Diawa Opus 5500

Daiwa Opus 5500

Diawa Opus 5500

PROS:

  • Huge line capacities
  • Excellent drag systems
  • Versatility

CONS:

  • Underhand spinning is awkward to new users
  • More expensive than the spincast
  • Hard to freespool because of bail system

BAITCASTING

Those who think cheap catfishing reels and want a baitcaster need only consider one choice. The Abu Garcia Ambassadeur line of reels is the hands down best choice. These reels hold lots of line, are easy to cast and free spool and are priced to make an angler’s wallet happy with money left over for bait.

The 5500 is the first. The round body design rests comfortably in the hand, boat or truck, and the reel holds close to 3000 yds. of 14 lb. test line, so it will take 20 lb. test line with no problems. The 5.1:1 retrieve ratio means fast pickup after the catfish takes a sustained run.

Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 5500

Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 5500

Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 5500

 

The 6500 is a step up from the 5500 as evidenced by the line capacity. The 6500 holds 245 yds. of 17 lb. test line, making the reel only slightly more appropriate for the largest catfish. A 5.3:1 retrieve ratio rounds out the reel with excellent reviews and results.

Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 6500

Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 6500

Abu Garcia Ambassadeur 6500

Both of the Ambassadeur reels can take on big catfish, and there are angler reports of landing large tarpon with these reels as well. There is no reason why either of the two reels cannot function perfectly in saltwater conditions.

PROS

  • Line capacity
  • Drag systems
  • Low profiles

CONS

  • Easy to backlash
  • Star drag in awkward location
  • Takes practice to cast

The price ranges on the reels will be less than $100.00 each. This may seem high, but there are other reels in the same manufacturer’s line that will go well past this mark. The lone exception is the spincast reels. Large fish can and will strip the rudimentary drag systems on a spincast reel. Those who are serious about catfishing need to consider the other choices available.

Check out what our friends think of these reels: