Best Rods and Reels for Panfishing

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Looking at the Best Rods and Reels for Panfishing

Best Rods and Reels for Panfishing

The beautiful thing about fishing is that no matter what you’re catching, it can be exciting. Whether you’re just getting started with fishing or you’re an experienced angler looking for an easy-but-busy day on the water, hauling in a dozen panfish is always going to be a good time.

Sure, panfish come in different species, shapes, sizes and colors. But they get that classification for a reason: when filleted, they are the perfect size (and taste) for the frying pan!

These fish can be extremely delicious, especially when cooked up with a little bit of oil and lightly breaded for a nice, flaky crunch. When prepared right, panfish are sure to please any angler’s palate.

Some of the more popular species of panfish include crappie, yellow perch, bluegill and other sunfish. We are big advocates of catch and release here at Premier Angler; however, every once in a while, there are also times when it just makes sense to have yourself a nice fish fry.

Either way, we have compiled our list of the best rod and reel combos of panfish. We have broken them down into three categories because going fishing doesn’t mean you have to go broke:

Economy Rod and Reel Combos for Panfising: A quality setup for under $100!

Mid-Range Rod and Reel Panfishing Combos: Our top pick for catching panfish for under $200!

High-End Panfish Rod and Reel Combos: For advanced anglers — one of the best panfishing combos money can buy!

These combos will work whether you only go pan fishing twice a year or you’re fishing five days per week.

The Best Rod and Reel Combos for Catching Panfish

Economy Combo: How to Catch Panfish on a Budget

Shimano Sienna 2500 FEC Spin Clam Reel with Okuma Celilo Spinning Rod

Reel: Shimano Sienna 2500 FEC Spin Clam

This is a solid reel for the price. It is strong while remaining surprisingly lightweight and should last as long or longer than many reels at a similar price point. This workhorse offers Shimano’s Propulsion, Paladin, and Aero Wrap II systems along with a magnesium frame and aluminum rotor.

Usually ranging between $27-$36, this is a great reel for beginning panfish anglers or serves as a reliable backup for anglers with an established collection.

Reel Specifications

  • Maximum Drag: 7 lbs.
  • Gear Ratio: 5.2:1
  • Weight: 9.0 oz.
  • Line Capacity: 6/200, 8/140, 10/120

Rod: Okuma Celilo Spinning Rod

Pair the Okuma Celilo with the Sienna 2500 and you will have yourself a quality panfish rod and reel combo for well under a hundred bucks. This ultra light rod comes with stainless steel hooded reel seats, aluminum oxide guide inserts, and sensitive graphite composite blanks.

The price will vary depending on which length you prefer, usually ranging between $25-$38. If you purchase the Celilo spinning rod from the link above, Okuma will also offer a 1-year warranty.

Rod Specifications

  • Length: 5.5-8.5 ft.
  • Line weight: 2-6 lbs.
  • Power: Ultra Light, Light, Medium Light, Medium
  • Action: Moderate

Mid-Range Combo: An Investment in Your Pan Fishing Game

Slip Bobber Rigged_Extended with Reel
Our personal favorite rod and reel rig for crappie and other panfish (Photo via Christian Schultz/Premier Angler)

Shimano Sedona FL Spinning Reel with St Croix Panfish Series Spinning Rod

Reel: Shimano Sedona FL Spinning Reel

For a mid-range panfish reel, Shimano doesn’t disappoint with the Sedona series. Available with gear ratios of both 5.0:1 and 6.2:1, the Sedona offers a particularly smooth retrieval and effortless long-distance casting for a spinning reel.

Shimano loads the Sedona with numerous features like it’s trademark HAGANE gearing, an advanced drag system, and the Propulsion Line Management that are usually reserved for higher-end models.

Retailing at around $70-80, this would be an excellent primary reel for recreational anglers or a great addition to an existing pan fishing arsenal.

Reel Specifications

  • Maximum Drag: 7-24 lbs.
  • Gear Ratio: 5.0:1, 6.2:1
  • Weight: 6.3-10.6 oz.
  • Line Retrieve: 26-41 in.

Rod: St. Croix Panfish Spinning Rods

St. Croix brands its products “the best rods on earth” and you won’t find us disagreeing any time soon.

The Pac Bay Minima reel seat and guides, paired with its high end graphite and premium cork handles, help to offer excellent strength, balance, and sensitivity. The series also offers an array of lengths to give anglers the perfect blend of action and power for a variety of fishing styles.

The St. Croix Panfish Spinning Rods will start around $100 for shorter (5.5 feet) models with the 9 foot rod costing around $150-160. For most anglers, pairing this with the Shimano Sedona FL Spinning Reel will be a worthwhile investment of roughly $200.

  • Length: 5.5-9 feet
  • Power: Ultra Light, Light
  • Action: Moderate, Moderate Fast, Fast, Extra Fast
  • Line Weight: 2-6 lbs, 4-8 lbs.

Admittedly, this is my absolutely go-to when fishing for panfish – including crappie. We’ve pulled numerous 2+ pound crappie into our boat over the past two seasons, and several were caught on this setup (including the one below).

High-End Combo: Money Can’t Buy Happiness, but it Can Help You Catch Panfish

Pfleuger Supreme XT Spinning Reel with G.Loomis Classic Trout and Panfish Spinning Rod

Reel: Pfleuger Supreme XT Spinning Reel

Pfleuger has some terrific models in its catalog, but this is one of the best. For starters, you can’t go wrong with 9 corrosion resistant, stainless steel ball bearings, magnesium body/side plate/rotor, and braid-ready aluminum spool.

Lightweight and durable, this reel is perfect for catching panfish. It is also approved for saltwater use. Often carrying a price tag around $140-$150, the Pfleuger Supreme XT Spinning Reel is definitely an investment. That said, it will makes for an excellent first-class or tournament reel. 

Reel Specifications

  • Maximum Drag: 8-14 lbs.
  • Recovery: 22.8-38.6 in. (per turn)
  • Gear Ratio: 5.2:1, 6.2:1
  • Weight: 6.0-8.7 oz.

Rod: G. Loomis Classic Trout and Panfish Spinning Rod

G. Loomis has some of the top trout fishing rods on the market. This particular model happens to be fantastic for landing panfish. Lightweight and versatile, anglers can work small crankbaits, spinners, and jigs and live baits with this spinning rod. G. Loomis’ cork handle offers top-quality comfort, balance, and control of presentation.

Running between $200-330, the Classic Trout and Panfish Spinning Rod will likely be the most expensive in many anglers’ arsenal. Pairing this with Pfleuger’s Supreme XT Spinning Reel will set you back at least $350, but you can hit the water knowing you’ve got one of the best pan fishing setups that money can buy.

  • Length: 5-7 feet
  • Power: Ultra Light, Light
  • Action: Moderate, Moderate Fast, Fast
  • Line Weight: 1-4 lbs, 2-6 lbs, 4-8 lbs

Final Thoughts

Most experienced anglers will tell you that panfish are among the easiest species to catch. If you are targeting bluegill or other sunfish, the cheapest rod-and-reel combo you can find at your local big-box store will do the trick.

That said, if you want to become a more competent angler – in this case, fishing for the season, intentionally working structure, feeding patterns, etc., all while adapting to the bite, then having the right setup is especially helpful. If you are venturing into crappie fishing, the nuances become considerably greater.

Fortunately, you can experiment with some affordable gear and work your way up the cost catalog if panfishing becomes a passion.

Have a great panfish rod and reel combo that works for you? Let us know in the comments section below!

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