Even while fishing reels for bass, walleye and saltwater species continue to evolve, advance and virtually launch into outer space, catfish reels still stake their claim on straightforward descriptors: tough, reliable, simple and powerful. No fuss. No muss. Casts with these reels don’t require the user to read a technical manual. Drags yield line grudgingly, yet smooth as running water. Strap the tool to a favorite rod, load it with line, and simply start catching catfish. Gotta love, too, that some of the best cat reels ever made came into being decades ago; they’re the same ones you rely on after years and even a whole generation of catfish battles.
While we mostly don’t need to heed such technological “advances” as carbonite drags, micro module gears or aerowrap oscillations, some features do give us an edge over our whiskered quarry. Line-counter reels, once primarily the property of bigwater trout and salmon trollers, now offer outstanding advantages for catfish anglers. Imagine marking a hotspot on your GPS, 120 feet behind the boat. With a line-counter reel, you can walk your bait downstream, watching the counter dial up exactly 120 feet, at which point your rod is likely to THUMP from the bite of a big catfish. Even for shore-fishing, a line counter reel offers the advantage of repeatability—placing casts at the exact distance from shore where catfish previously ate your bait. Or imagine similar scenarios for drifting or trolling applications. Line counters equal precision; keeping baits in high percentage spots for extended periods.
And who hasn’t delighted in the music of a bait clicker; that audible reel alarm that alerts anglers that a sizeable cat has seized the bait? Nearly every top cat reel has one—whether it’s a classic Abu Garcia casting reel or a Shimano Baitrunner spinning reel. This key accoutrement has likely lead to millions of fish for America’s 7-million catfish anglers. Simple. Reliable. Tough as nails. Gear that just plain works. It’s all a part of why we love to chase big cats.