The key to all catfishing tackle is reliable and strong. The Wels catfish is very powerful and will test all of your gear to its limit. When hooked they will either surge off on a seemingly unstoppable run that will have your reel screaming or hug the bottom refusing to move and the rod will be hooped over to the butt as you apply more and more pressure trying to get the fish to move off the bottom. A 20lb catfish will fight every bit as hard as a 40lb carp and a 50 or 60lb fish will fight unbelievably hard. So just what gear should you be using to stand the best chance of landing these leviathans?
Rods need to be strong and yet at the same time forgiving. A good through action rod is far better than a stiff poker of a casting rod. Catfish are often lost just as the approach the net, just as you think they are beaten and you are drawing the fish over the waiting landing net they will surge off on another run or dive down to the bottom again. A stiff rod cannot absorb this and the result is often a hook pull. There are several good specialist catfish rods available on the market and, if you are going to target the Wels catfish with any regularity, it is worth investing in a set. For UK fishing a rod of about 4lb test curve as about right. This may seem like a very beefy rod but it is in no way over the top. Even a 5lb rod is not over doing it for particularly big UK fish or when targeting a snaggy venue. When fishing in a relatively open, snag free water you may get away with a lighter rod but surely it is better to err on the side of caution. The rods I use in the UK are Catfish Pro Persuaders with a 4lb test curve. If you do not want to invest in a specialist set of rods then the next best option would be a heavy pike deadbait rod of 3.5 lb. These rods tend to be soft enough in there action to absorb the lunges of a catfish however at 3.5lb they do have their limitations.
There are some anglers who use carp rods for their catfishing and there are some rods that will do the job. The Century rods for example will bend all the way through to the butt without locking up. However there are many carp rods on the market that are simply either not powerful enough or are too stiff. Some anglers, including experienced catfish anglers use spod rods of up to 5lb test curve for their catfishing, I I used to use these rods myself, however, in my opinion, they are not as good as a rod that is designed for the job.
The other consideration when selecting a rod is the amount of eyes on it. A decent sized catfish will put a serious bend in your rod and therefore you want plenty of eyes on it so that the line follows closely to the curve of the rod. The drawback of the vast majority of carp rods is that they tend to have only 6 or 7 rings and therefore when bend right through the line comes off at some alarming angles. Try to select a rod with 9, 10 or even 11 rings if possible.
There are some inline rods available on the market where the line actually travels through the centre of the rod and exits out through the top. These rods obviously give the perfect curve. A good friend of mine uses these rods and has caught many good UK fish to over 60lb on them. However they are very much an acquired taste especially as the rods are very soft and do not the sufficient ‘backbone’ for my liking.
Reels and Line
Reels also obviously need to be up to the job. The reels has a tremendous amount of pressure exerted on it when playing a large catfish and so need to be able to cope. Many reels designed for carp fishing are simply not strong enough for the rigours of catfishing. I have witnessed the gears being stripped out of a decent carp reel when playing a catfish. There was nothing wrong with the reel it was simply being asked to do a job it was not designed for. The ‘classic’ catfish reels are the Shimano B baitrunners in 4500 and 6500 sizes, and also the Shimano ‘Big Blue’ M. However, Shimano have launched the D series reels and the 12000 model is getting very favourable reviews. Another reel worth looking at is the Penn Liveliner Slammer series.
Whatever reels you choose they have to have a good capacity spool, as it will be loaded with heavy line, a smooth reliable front drag system and be able to cope with a serious amount of pressure. This is particularly true if using a braided mainline as the use of braid puts a lot of pressure on the drag and shaft systems. A good reliable free-spool mechanism is also very useful. Some anglers prefer to fish for the Wels using an open bail arm due to the fishes dislike of resistance, I personally have always got on fine using a ‘baitrunner’.
A good quality line is also very important, it needs to be strong and abrasion resistant. I would recommend at least 20lb b.s. for mono and 60lb for braid. In terms of mono lines I have no hesitation in recommending P-Line CX Premium, GLT Pro-Tough or Nash Bullet, the Bullet is actually rated at 18lb but breaks at around 24lb. A new line which looks very good is P-Line CXX Extra Strong. If you are on a budget then Daiwa Sensor is also worth consideration. It is a bit springy but it is strong and abrasion resistant. It is worth testing the breaking strain of whatever line you use as many break at nowhere near that stated by the manufacturer.