People have caught catfish with the most minimal of materials. Heavy thread tied to a hook and milk jug. A stick with fishing line tied to it and a hook with a live shad on it. Most crazily, noodlers crawl into the water and use their fingers to attract bites.
For those who do not wish to go old school, however, the choices can be dizzying. So many reels, rods, rigs, and baits are used to catch Mr. Whiskers. What to buy?
When you are just getting started, I believe in keeping it simple (not tricky gear or knots) while using effective (but not crazy pricey) equipment is the right approach.
Go with a spincast reel and mid-sized rod that will work from the shore or a boat (an 8-foot rod in a small boat is a hassle), and use a Santee rig to bottom fish while keeping the bait a little off the floor and hopefully out of snags.
So here is my list of the stuff you should buy:
1. Bag of bells: http://amzn.to/2wT8noT (so you can hear the bites when they come)
2. Needlenose plyers: http://amzn.to/2gV1ev5 (so you can get the hook from the fish’s mouth)
3. Clippers: http://amzn.to/2jeHxCN (to cut line)
4. Heavy swivel-clips: http://amzn.to/2wT1t2R (to clip your Santee rig to)
5. Circle hooks 4/0: http://amzn.to/2wSMqGg (for 12″-18″ catfish) or Circle hooks 6/0: http://amzn.to/2vO6HKm (for 19″-36″ catfish) Alternatively, this packet of varying sized circle hooks is a good deal: http://amzn.to/2f5twWH
6. 2-oz round, flat sinkers: http://amzn.to/2gWq2mn (tied above the swivel via a Palomar knot)
7. 20-lb braided line: http://amzn.to/2xp9FcI (braid is easier to tie than plasticky monofilament)
8. Rod, 6-foot and medium weight: http://amzn.to/2xYIYIP (those chasing smaller catfish will better feel the hits and land them with a medium weight rod)
9. A wide-mouthed net: http://amzn.to/2h36fBO (For bringing the fish into the boat or onto the dock or shore. Don’t try to jerk them up by the line—they can snap your rigs off!)
10. Santee rigs (red; 3 boxes): http://whiskerseeker.com/catfish-rig-floats-wst-rattlers/