The Best Panfish Rods For 2023 | Great Days Outdoors

The Best Panfish Rods For 2023

For some panfishermen, a panfish rod is a panfish rod. However, there are at least seven considerations to evaluate to learn the best rod for you and the tactics you’ll use. Choosing the right length, size, weight and action of panfish rods depends on: what time of year you’ll be fishing; what depth of water; what type and size of panfish you’re trying to catch; whether you prefer to see the bite on your cork, your line or your rod tip; what kind of bottom you’re fishing – a clean bottom or thick cover, whether you’re fishing stained or clear water, and how deep you’re fishing. Panfishing guides like Jonathan Phillips and Tony Adams know the best panfish rods.

The Best Panfish Rods For Each Situation

Jonathan Phillips of Wetumpka, Alabama, has been a crappie fisherman for 36 years and is one of the nation’s top tournament crappie anglers and guides for crappie and bream.

Jonathan says that the crappie rod you need is dependent on your style of crappie fishing. The tips of most crappie rods are soft, so the angler can set the hook in a crappie’s mouth and not tear a hole there that allows the fish to escape. The rod’s tip needs a strong backbone to turn the crappie any way you need to get it up to the boat’s side. You also must have enough muscle in the rod to lift a 2-pound crappie out of the water and into the boat.

ACC Crappie Stix

ACC Crappie Stix

If Jonathan had to pick one crappie rod to fish with, he says he would use a 6-1/2-foot ACC Crappie Stix one-piece casting rod that’s smooth and forgiving. This rod can be used to shoot docks and for several other applications, too. When he is tournament fishing or guiding, he likes to have 10-different rods in three to five various lengths in a day of fishing.

Here are some specifics on crappie tactics and the best panfish rods Jonathon uses for each one.

  • Slip-cork fishing: “I don’t cast overhead like I will if I’m casting a lure. I’ll make an underhanded flip to pitch the slip cork to where the crappie are holding. Any rod 7-1/2 to 10-feet long allows you to flip or pitch your bait and the slip cork easily to a target. My favorite is an 8-foot ACC Crappie Stix rod that enables me to fish any technique.”
  • Prespawn fishing: “I like an 18-foot rod to keep my jig as far away from the boat as possible, but still be able to control the way the jig falls and have plenty of power to set the hook. Although, I’ll fish an ACC 16-footer in the same way, the 16 footer is extremely light, and I can fish with it all day long without tiring.”
  • Fishing open water for suspended crappie not related to structure: “I like the 14, 16 and 18 foot rods to put my crappie jigs on the noses of individual crappie – usually bigger crappie. The only way to know exactly where a crappie I want to catch is located is by using my Garmin LiveScope forward-facing sonar, that enables me to find and catch the big crappie in schools with other sizes of crappie.”
  • Trolling for crappie: “I tell them it’s an obsolete technique for me due to my forward-facing sonar. Trolling covers a vast amount of water to find and hopefully catch open-water crappie. However, with forward-facing sonar, I can spot the crappie I want to catch, go straight to it and catch it. Don’t get me wrong, trolling is still an effective way for open-water crappie. But, with forward-facing sonar, I can use one pole and one jig to catch more and/or bigger crappie than if I’m trolling.”
  • Tournament fishing: “I’ll have 8 to 10 poles in my boat. I only can bring in five to seven crappie to the weigh-in, and whoever has the heaviest bag of crappie in that tournament wins.” 
  • Guiding: “I want my client to use the rod most comfortable for him. With a lady, a child or an older fisherman perhaps with arthritis, I’ll suggest a lighter, smaller rod like the ACC Crappie Stix 12-foot jigging rod.”

So, regardless of where the crappie are located, or how deep they are, Jonathan has a rod to match the situation or the method.

When I’m bream fishing, I like the new, one-piece, 6-1/2 foot ACC Crappie Stix that was just introduced last year. Pound for pound, I believe a bream pulls harder than a crappie. A quality crappie-casting rod can double as a good bream-fishing rod. I match that rod with a Carbon X Piscifun reel that’s extremely light and high-performing. I recommend you buy the best, lightest-weight reel you can afford for bream fishing.

Top Choices For Crappie and Bream Rods

Tony Adams of Eufaula, Alabama has fished for crappie for more than 50 years.

Tony averages guiding for crappie about 200 days a year. He will also fish for bream about 12 to 15 times a year, depending on when the new moon starts all the way up to the full moon. When guiding, Tony generally only fishes for crappie for four hours – early or late – and still almost always can produce a limit of 30 crappie per angler. He has more than 2,000 waypoints marking underwater structure in Lake Eufaula where crappie hold.

best panfish rods
 “When I have a guide trip, I let my customers decide which series and lengths of crappie rods they feel the most comfortable fishing with,” Tony Adams says.

Before he starts fishing, he uses my Humminbird side-scanning sonar to learn how-many crappie are holding on a structure. If those crappie don’t bite, he will move to other spots – perhaps 15 – 20 places – until he finds crappie that want to bite in a four-hour trip.

Tony’s favorite series of rods to fish are the B‘n’M Diamond Series in the 8, 10 and 12 foot lengths, that are extremely sensitive and lightweight, and that my clients love. He says you can pull a 2-pound crappie out of the water and into the boat with these strong rods.


B’n’M Diamond Series

B'n'M Diamond Series best panfish rods

An 8-foot Diamond Series rod, because the crappie may be holding in the shade of the boat during the hot summer months when the sun’s straight up overhead. The 10- and 12-foot Diamond Series rods, if the crappie are spooky, or the water’s very-clear. These rods will get your baits further away from the boat, but you still have the sensitivity and the strength of the 8-foot rods. I prefer these rods when I’m fishing with live minnows.

B’n’M Duck Commander Rods

B'n'M Duck Commander Ultralite 
best panfish rods

The 10-foot B‘n’M Duck Commander rod that I fished with before the Diamond Series came out. This rod features great sensitivity and has plenty of backbone but is somewhat heavier than the Diamond Series. the Duck Commander IM6 rods to fish shallow water for bream because of their sensitivity. Today’s crappie and bream fishing have become almost as sophisticated as bass fishing. The anglers who are passionate about catching panfish every time understand the equipment most effective for weather and water conditions.

B’n’M Buck’s Rods

B'n'M Buck's Rods

The B‘n’M Buck’s 11-foot, two-piece graphite rod because it’s easy to take apart and store. It’s the first graphite rod I ever fished with, although it’s somewhat heavier than the Diamond Series.

Forward Facing Sonar For Panfish

I use my Humminbird Helix 12 to pinpoint brush piles with its side-imaging feature. I’ll use the transducer on my trolling motor for down-imaging to learn how many fish or how big the fish are holding in the structure. I’ll pitch a buoy out to the side of the structure to know exactly where I need to position my boat. Then, all the anglers know that when they drop their minnows or jigs, these baits will be right in front of the crappie’s noses and can catch them.

I also use the Humminbird MEGA Live forward-facing sonar feature, so my angler can pick out one fish he or she’s trying to catch. He can see where his jig needs to be placed in front of that fish and then can watch how the fish reacts to the jig or the minnow. Younger fisherman particularly like this feature that’s much like playing a video game.

Another feature I enjoy using is conjunction with my Helix 12 is the spot-lock feature on my Minn Kota trolling motor to hold the boat in the same  spot where we can continue to catch crappie.

Line for Crappie and Bream Fishing

Jonathan Phillips: “Whether fishing for crappie or bream, if I’m casting, I’ll use 4-pound-test Gamma Copolymer line because I can cast it further. When I’m casting only a jig, I prefer a high-vis line. But when casting a minnow or a jig or bream fishing with a cork, I’ll fish clear line. If I’m vertical fishing for crappie, I’ll fish a braided 14-pound-test main line. In muddy water, I may tie my jig straight to the braid. However, if I’m fishing for finicky fish or in very-clear water, I’ll use 12-pound-test braided line with a 4-pound-test fluorocarbon leader about 3-feet long.”

Tony Adams: “I prefer two different size lines – either 4- or 6-pound-test. If I’m fishing the spawn with the crappie on the banks and shallow, I like 4-pound-test line. However, if I’m fishing brush piles or under structure, I’ll use 6-pound-test line. Crappie holding tight to the structure may run around or over structure when they become hooked. You’ll need that extra strength to pull that crappie out of structure and the water.”

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Panfishing Rod

When selecting a panfishing rod, there are several factors to consider. These include length, power, action, material, and handle.

  • Length: The length of a panfishing rod typically ranges from 5 to 7 feet. Longer rods provide more casting distance, while shorter rods offer better control and accuracy. It is important to consider the type of water you will be fishing in when choosing the length of your rod. Longer rods can be more beneficial when fishing from a kayak whereas shorter rods work well when casting distance is not important but the angler will be dealing with lots of surrounding cover such as creek fishing.
  • Power: Power refers to the amount of force required to bend the rod. For panfishing, a light or ultra-light power rod is recommended. This will allow you to feel the light bites and provide the sensitivity needed to detect the small fish.
  • Action: The action of a rod refers to how it flexes when pressure is applied. For panfishing, a fast or medium-fast action is recommended. This will provide the sensitivity needed to feel the light bites, while still having enough backbone to set the hook.
  • Material: The material of the rod determines its strength, sensitivity, and weight. Graphite is a popular material for panfishing rods as it is lightweight and sensitive.
  • Handle: The handle of the rod should be comfortable and provide a good grip. Cork and foam are popular materials for handles.
best panfish rods
”If I only can choose one rod to fish with, my favorite is the ACC Crappie Stix 6-1/2-foot one-piece casting rod,” Jonathan Phillips says.


How to set up a fishing rod for panfish

Setting up a fishing rod for panfish is a relatively simple process that involves a few key steps. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Select the appropriate reel: For panfishing, a small spinning reel is recommended. Look for a reel that is lightweight and has a high gear ratio to make it easier to retrieve your lure.
  2. Choose the right line: For panfishing, a light monofilament line is recommended. Look for a line with a test strength between 2-6 pounds.
  3. Tie on a small hook: Choose a small, light wire hook that matches the size of the bait you will be using. Tie the hook onto the end of your line using a Palomar knot or another knot that you are comfortable with.
  4. Add a split shot sinker: To help your bait sink to the desired depth, attach a small split shot sinker about 12-18 inches above the hook. Make sure to crimp the sinker onto the line tightly so it doesn’t slide around.
  5. Attach your bait: For panfishing, small live baits such as worms, crickets, and small minnows are recommended. Attach the bait to the hook using a technique that keeps the bait firmly in place, such as a thread or loop knot. Artificial bait is also a viable option for panfish.
  6. Adjust the drag: Before casting, make sure to adjust the drag on your reel to match the weight of your bait. A properly adjusted drag will allow the fish to pull the line from the reel without breaking. A good rule of thumb is to set your drag at 1/3rd of your Lines breaking strength. You can use your common fish scale to test this strength, but make sure to pull from the rods tip, just as if you were fighting a fish.
panfish lure
There are a number of different bait types, both live and artificial, that work well for panfish.

What size fly rod for panfish?

When choosing a fly rod for panfish, the ideal size is typically between 2 and 5 weight. This range provides enough sensitivity to detect the light bites of panfish while still having the backbone to handle larger fish or windy conditions. A 2-weight fly rod is suitable for small panfish such as bluegill and sunfish, while a 3-weight or 4-weight rod is better for larger species such as crappie and perch. A 5-weight fly rod can also be used for panfish but is better suited for larger freshwater species such as bass and trout. It’s important to consider the size of the water you will be fishing when selecting a fly rod. For smaller streams and ponds, a shorter rod between 6 and 8 feet may be more appropriate, while for larger bodies of water, a longer rod between 8 and 9 feet is recommended.

Final Thoughts On The Best Panfish Rods

In conclusion, selecting the right panfishing rod is critical to ensure an enjoyable and successful fishing experience. Each of the rods included in this roundup offers unique advantages and features that cater to a range of fishing styles and preferences, from budget-friendly options to premium models designed for serious anglers. Ultimately, the best panfish rods for 2023 will depend on individual needs and circumstances, such as skill level, fishing location, and budget.

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