My catfish rods are Sportex 12ft 2 1/2lb test curve made to my own specification by Alan Young. Unlike most recommended rods they have a semi-through action, which will allow me to cast a 3oz lead and a substantial live bait without the risk of the rod breaking. But for the beginner, a through-action rod is better as they absorb the lunges from the fish, even if you have to play them hard. Most catfishing in the UK is done on small waters and in the margin with relatively small baits. The maximum you will likely to be fishing is about 50 yards so you will not need a very powerful “Casting Machine”. A rod of the 2lb test is ample for all but the biggest waters.
Any reel that will hold at least 200 yards of the 12-15lb line will be sufficient; it will surprise you how far the catfish will run. A bait-runner facility is handy when setting up, but you will not usually be using the bait-runner during fishing. The open-bale arm is the best as it gives the least resistance to a taking fish. Make sure that the line on your reels does not bed-in, as this will cut down your casting distance and worst still may result in a dropped run as the catfish may feel the resistance. My reels are Shimano U.S.A 4500 bait runners, which I load with 15lb Power Plus and 25lb Big game.