Channel catfish rods need to be light and sensitive to these fish in most bodies of water across the United States.
There are instances where a heavier rod could be needed but for the channel catfish that most anglers are going to target lighter more sensitive gear is going to be best.
Most anglers tend to lean towards “catfish” rods or fishing rods that say catfish on them somewhere and this is NOT when you need when it comes to channel catfish.
These rods are marketed by tackle companies towards catfish anglers and I will be the first to say that most tackle manufacturers don’t have the slightest clue what catfish anglers need or what works best for them.
I often refer to these types of rods as “broomstick” rods because they are thick and heavy like a broomstick and they lack sensitivity.
Holding The Rod Catches More Channel Catfish
Every single technique I use for channel catfish involves holding the fishing rod.
I believe 100% that if you hold the rod when fishing for channel catfish you will catch more fish and a more sensitive fishing rod will help you catch even more fish.
My focus when fishing for channel catfish is on catching numbers not size and I use what I refer to as finesse fishing techniques using a product I called the Secret Catfish Rig to help detect what is an often ultra light bite of channel catfish.
In most lakes and rivers in the United States this is the best approach to fishing for channel catfish. In most waters fish from 1-5 lbs are going to be common and the most abundant fish available.
There are very few waters in the United States that consistently produce “trophy channel catfish” so lighter gear is going to be a good fit for 99% of the anglers out there.
Truth is, when it comes to channel catfish you can use most “any old” fishing gear but there are a couple of fishing rods I really like.
What To Look For In A Channel Catfish Rod
Here are some of the features to look for in a good channel catfish rod.
- Power – A medium (M) or medium light (ML)
- Length – At least 7 feet long but I really like a 7’6” length rod
- Handle – A good long handle that is easy to manage and comfortable
- Material – I like a graphite rod or a sensitive e-glass rod
Top Picks For Channel Catfish Rods
Ugly Stik CAL1100 – 7’6 ML Action
Ugly Stik is a not a glamorous fishing rod you’ll see anglers using on the pro bass fishing circuits but they build a good quality fishing rod and sell them for an affordable price.
Ugly Stik rods are hard to beat when it comes to a no frills fishing rod that will last a long time. They are rock solid and have one of the best warranties in the business.
I have about a ten of these Ugly Stik CAL1100 7’6 ML (medium light) rods that I have been using for well over 10 years and while they show some wear, they are still in great shape and still get used heavily. I cannot begin to tell you how many tens of thousands of channel catfish I have caught on these rods.
These rods cost anywhere from $25 to $35 depending on where you buy them and I highly recommend them for fishing rods for channel catfish.
Tournament Choice Black – 7’0 Medium Action Rod
My clients broke a few of my Ugly Stik Rods over the years and on a tackle run to Academy Sporting Goods one day I found a rod in the store that during a sale was about $6, regular price was around $10 or $12 each.
After some inspection I decided it was worth a try and bought several of them.
After using these “bargain bin” fishing rods for about a month I decided they were well worth the money I spent on them and that I would have gladly paid at least $20 each for them. This was after catching about one thousand fish with them during the peak of my channel catfish fishing season.
I’m not as fond of these rods as my Ugly Stik CAL1100 ML rods but for a $6 fishing rod, who can complain?. Bottom line is they do the job.
Now, Academy Sporting Goods is a big chain but they don’t have stores all over the country.
There is nothing special about this fishing rod, it’s only an example.
It’s an example that you can get an excellent fishing rod for channel catfish for less than $15 to $20 (or even less than $10).
I put more time on the water with clients in a month or two than most people will in an entire year and a simple fishing rod I picked up for less than $10 has lasted through almost two full years of fishing
Contrary to what tackle manufacturers want you to believe you don’t need some really expensive rods to catch catfish.
If you don’t have an Academy in your area, then go to your local sporting goods retailer and pick up an Ugly Stik CAL1100 7’6 ML rod or look for a fishing rod that is 7’0 or 7’6” in length that is a medium (M) or medium light (ML) power.
I’ve been in very few major retail chains over the years that did not have some sort of comparable model that would meet these requirements.
The Ugly Stik CAL1100 7’6 ML is by far the most readily available and easiest to find is an excellent fishing rod for channel catfish.
Get More On Channel Catfish Rods
If you are fishing for channel catfish give some lighter more sensitive catfish rods a try on your next fishing trip in combination with holding the fishing rod, you might be surprised with how many more fish you catch.
This article in the catfish rods series is an excerpt from the FREE eBook Catfish Gear 101: Catfish Rods and Reels. This free Catfish Gear 101 eBook covers everything you need to know about choosing rods and reels for catfish and getting them setup for success.
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