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More weight on the line requires increasing the spool tension and less weight requires decreases. Drag affects your line when you start reeling it in. It allows the fish to be able to pull freely on the line, allowing you to land that big one. Drag is what makes it possible to land that pounds catch on pound test line and also helps to tire fish out so you can reel them in more easily.
Drag is what happens when you get that big catch to the side of the boat and it makes a hard run and starts stripping line. Almost every modern reel comes equipped with a star drag system which allows you to easily make adjustments when necessary. Getting a reel with a good quality drag system and learning to properly set and use it is one of the most important things you can learn about fishing. The larger the catfish are that you target or catch the more important this becomes.
Retrieve or gear ratio determines how fast and how much line is reeled in per turn of the handle. Reeling in large amounts of line and pulling in larger catfish requires a faster retrieve ratio. Most of the large round bait casters will have appropriate gear ratios for catfishing. Bait clickers also referred to as line alarms allow the spool to operate in free spool and creates a clicking noise when the fish starts swimming away with your bait.
When a fish comes along and takes a bite it can run freely with the line and the clicking sound will alert you to the activity. Bait clickers are used in many applications and catfishing techniques but especially when anchored with slip sinker rigs or other similar catfish rigs. When you look at the specifications of fishing reels the number of bearings will be listed. Like everything else, quality matters also. Two good quality bearings will outperform four cheap bearings of low quality in most cases.
The general rule of thumb is to choose bearings over bushings and the more bearings there are the better the reel will perform. There are two basic options when it comes to round baitcasting reels, with and without level wind.
Level wind reels have a mechanism that moves back and forth across the reel as the spool turn s. When retrieving the fishing line and turning the handle of the fishing reel a level wind moves back and forth and distributes the line on the spool evenly while you retrieve. Reels that lack the level wind function require the angler to guide the line back on the spool while retrieving. This is typically done with the thumb while reeling. Most reels in the suggested size for catfish will have level wind functions and all of our suggested models are level wind reels.
Level wind reels are typically preferred for catfish. Reels without the level wind function are typically used for heavier saltwater fishing or surf fishing. Large heavier reels that are often used exclusively for trophy cats typically come equipped with power handles.
Medium duty reels like the Abu Garcia series usually come equipped with traditional handles. The type of handle really boils down to personal preference. Some anglers prefer the larger power handles for trophy catfish as it feels more comfortable to them and gives the feeling that they have more cranking power. There are others that use the standard handles and catch tons of monster cats with them and never think twice about using or needing anything different.
In the end, you just need to determine what feels best to you. The Abu series is the most popular catfish reel among catfishing circles and comes equipped with a standard handle. You can order power handles direct from Abu Garcia to replace standard handles on many of the popular catfishing models. There are other options available but Abu Garcia Ambassadeur reels are used by more catfish anglers than any other reel. The Ambassadeur reels will last a lifetime. How long that takes depends a lot on how much you use them but I often hear about cheap fishing reels breaking within the first six months with minimal use.
If you plan on fishing for larger channel catfish then the Abu Garcia C3 or something in the series will be a better fit these are the same reels suggested for blues and flatheads, so keep reading. An alternative to the C3 for targeting smaller channel catfish is a low profile bait cast reel like those commonly used for freshwater fishing for bass.
The Abu Garcia C3 , C4 , or something in the series is the best choice for more catfish anglers. All reels in the series will be the same size with equal line capacities. Variations in model numbers represent different features like more bearings, different colors, or features like a thumb bar line release instead of a push button.
For example, the C3 and C4 models differ in the number of bearings. The C3 has three ball bearings and the C4 has four. If your plan is to target larger trophy-class cats exclusively then the reels in the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Series are a good option.
The series reels are more than capable of the task of handling big cats. All of the above mentioned Abu Garcia Ambassadeur reels are available at most sporting goods retailers and big box stores. Some catfish anglers have a few line counter fishing reels in their arsenal. A line counter reel has a device built into the reel that measures the amount of fishing line released when the reel is disengaged.
Rather than guessing how much fishing line has been released, you have an exact measurement. Anglers would simply determine the amount of line that was released from the reel with one full revolution of the level wind and then count from there. The innovations in sonar fish finders have made a big impact on catfishing in recent years allowing anglers to locate catfish with pinpoint accuracy down to a matter of feet. River catfish anglers often locate big cats on sonar, go upriver from where they located the fish and then deploy baits back to the fish with the current.
Sonar allows them to pinpoint how far the boat is from the catfish that were located and the line counter reel allows them to get the baits in that area with pinpoint accuracy. As an alternative, you can use an external line counter that clamps on the fishing rod and counts fishing line released just like those that are built into reels.
Most sporting goods stores are going to sell all of the models mentioned or at least most of them. Each of these retailers will pay us a small commission on any purchases you make through these links it helps us pay the bills and keep the servers going. Bass Pro Shops. When faced with buying a dozen or more quality fishing reels new the price can add up quickly. This is the point that many anglers defer to shopping for the inferior knock off junk.
A little boat rash never hurt anyone. I rarely buy used reels anymore, but have bought many used reels on eBay in the past and have gotten some awesome buys. There has been an occasional reel I have had to pick up a part or two for and repair but even in those instances I still came out ahead. Many shoppers default to the most popular models because and shy away from alternatives because of lack of knowledge. Part numbers that end in a one are the indicator that Abu Garcia uses for left-handed models.
Craigslist can at times be a hotbed for stolen merchandise, however, so use some caution and common sense when shopping here. Look for warning signs that someone is peddling stolen goods like ridiculously low prices, urgency in getting rid of it, limited knowledge of what they are selling, etc. If you do buy on Craigslist always meet in a public place that has a lot of traffic like a gas station or fast-food restaurant. My standing order is if they say Abu Garcia on them and are round reels to buy them on the spot.
I pick them up from the garage sale shoppers and reimburse them. Keep your eyes open. The downside of buying from pawnshops is pawnbrokers understand the value of everything they sell. Haggle a bit with the pawnshop and you can get some good deals.
Try to fund multiple reels in one store and bundle them together in one purchase also. This is a great strategy for buying at pawn shops. Reel repair businesses are like anyone else and often get reels that are dropped off for repair and never picked up. These reels are often sold at a deep discount to cover the costs of repair and parts or cleaning. Find these repair shops in your area and reach out to them.
Again, understand supply and demand and shop when times are slow for these types of businesses, not during peak seasons like Spring and Summer. The Ambassadeur S reel is similar in size and features to the previously mentioned Abu Garcia models but is more of a consumer-grade model built for lighter recreational use. Many retailers offer extended warranties and replacement programs on reels and this would definitely be a good option for these purchases.
Choosing the right tool is a big step towards success but simply having the right tool is only half the battle. You need to know how to use the tool the right way to close the deal and help put more catfish on the end of the line. Understanding how your catfish reel works will not only help you catch more fish but will make your fishing experience much more enjoyable. The drag is one of the most important parts of any fishing reel and becomes even more important when catfishing because of the opportunity to catch BIG catfish.
The drag is set and used properly can make or break you when attempting to land a trophy catfish. The drag often referred to as a star drag is controlled by the star-shaped knob that is on the reel just inside the handle. When the star is turned clockwise it tightens and when it is turned counterclockwise it loosens. When the drag is tightened, it applies more pressure to the drag washers. When it is loosened, it applies less pressure to the washers.
This is what compensates for the difference between the break strength of the fishing line and the actual amount of pull being applied to the fishing line. If you are using 20 pound test line and catch a 1 pound catfish, the setting is not so important. Monofilament fishing line in 20 to pound test is popular for catfish anglers. Proper drag settings and proper technique are what make it possible to land fish that are heavier than the break strength of the fishing line.
Every Texas state record flathead catfish caught has been caught by a crappie fisherman. Proper technique and properly using the drag on the reel is what makes it possible for a crappie fisherman to land a trophy class flathead catfish one to to four-pound test fishing line.
Technically, the proper way to set the drag on a bait cast reel is to spool the reel with line, attach the reel to the rod, run the line through the line guides and then tie a small loop at the end of the fishing line where the hook would normally go.
One person holds the rod, and the loop tied in the fishing line is then attached to a digital fish scale and the rod is held at a forty-five-degree angle. The drag is adjusted and the person holding the rod and reel pulls back against the line again attached to the scale.
The drag should slip at approximately 25 to 35 percent of the unknotted line strength for the fishing line. The process is to adjust the drag, pull against the scale, notify the person holding the scale when the drag slips then check reading on the scale, and rinse and repeat until you get it right.
The maximum amount of drag applied on a properly functioning Abu Garcia Ambasadeur C3 reel is 15 pounds. Knowing that the max amount of drag applied is fifteen pounds you can estimate pretty easily how many rotations of the drag washer will get you within the range needed of properly set drag. If the drag is too loose, when you set the hook and begin your retrieve with the reel you are not going to gain any ground at all on the fish, the handle will turn but the spool will not.
You only have one shot at getting this correct though and if it is set too tight too much drag you will NOT get a second chance. When I hook a big catfish, I start my retrieve or watch my clients watch the drag, getting a sense of what is taking place. Even properly set drags using the most technical process get changed. Reels get bumped, clothes snag on the star drag, the list goes on and on. You can make adjustments on the fly and increase or decrease one-quarter turn at a time until it looks or feels right.
You should never have to back off or decrease drag while reeling in a fish. Always lean towards having them too loose rather than too tight. I see anglers way too often trying to land big catfish, or any size fish for that matter and fishing with the drag set way too tight and losing fish.
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