Searching for panfish often requires a lot of casting and reeling before you find a biting school. This requires a good, smooth panfish rod that will make it a lot more comfortable for casting all day long.
There are a ton of specifically designed rods for the devoted panfish angler, and we have reviewed and compared the very best ones to make the search smooth sailing. If you're looking for a panfish rod on a budget, or if you'd like a new rod for catching panfish when ice fishing, our list will have you covered.
Why Catching Panfish Requires a Specialty Rod
Catching a pan-sized game fish with a too-small rod will result in snapping due to stress. A rod that’s too big will use only a tenth of its capacity. If you use a specialty rod suited to your needs when pan fishing, you'll have the right power, action, and line capacity.
Understanding the external factors like environments, and baits will help you narrow down your search for the best panfish rod. Continue reading to learn all the need-to-know info before you buy your new rod.
Buying Considerations: What Makes a Good Panfish Rod?
Luckily for you, finding small-sized bass, crappie, bluegill, and more is easy. You can easily find most of these species in your local rivers, streams, lakes, or ponds. You can find popular saltwater panfish in some areas of the States, too. These include bluefish, flounder, striped bass (also found in freshwater), and sea trout. If you decide on fishing in both saltwater and freshwater, be sure to have a rod with anti-corrosion properties.
Rod Type & Material
Most reputable brands creating panfish specific rods are creating them in mostly spinning rods and reels. As panfish are small, they don’t require too much strength, but a lot more sensitivity. So, a spinning or fly fishing rod and reel are better suited for this role. In terms of material, brands tend to stick with graphite blends or materials as they’re great for faster action ratings. This rating works exceptionally well for catching small game fish.
Spinning rods that are made of mainly graphite tend to stay between 5-8.5 feet long. You’ll see for our reviews below that most of them fit this description. If you’re using a baitcasting rod, be prepared for a rod as long as 14 feet. 10-14 feet is very typical if you’re hoping to get a baitcasting panfish rod. As they’re so much longer, they can be hard to use, so we recommend starting with a good spinning rod. Then you can consider moving up in length and styles.
Rod Action, Power & Weight
Rod Handles & Guides
Handles and guides differ from brand to brand. Usually, split grips or full handles are used as they are a lot more comfortable to use all day. Higher priced rods will feature more cork materials, whereas low priced panfish rods tend to be constructed of EVA foam.
The price of the rod will determine the strength of the guides, too. Top-of-the-line models could use titanium for their guides and inserts. Some other materials used for cheaper panfish guides are Silicon carbide (SiC), or stainless steel.
Price & Warranty
Once you read our reviews for the best panfish rods, it will be a lot easier to see what you get for your money. Some light panfish rods start as low as $20. No matter your budget, there’s a panfish rod out there for you. Just know what you need and where you’re usually going to be using it.
Warranties, on the other hand, are often thought about after we choose our favorite models, but some rods have 1-year, 5-year, or lifetime warranties. Think of all of that peace of mind! Be sure to check if your rod is covered and for how long before you make your purchase.
5 Best Panfish Rods Reviewed
1. St.Croix Panfish Series
Our Top pick
Premium-grade cork handle
There’s never a shortage of fun and excitement when St. Croix creates a new rod, and the Panfish Series Spinning rod is no different. Our top pick rod is designed specifically for the devoted panfish angler. St. Croix has created a rod that's technique specific for panfish, but diverse enough to take on lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams.
From the sensitive tip to the premium-grade cork handle, this rod not only performs well, but it looks great, too. St. Croix uses a dynamic blend of SCVI and SCII graphite, so the rod will be extremely responsive to touch and will remain balanced when tackling panfish. The blank is then finished with two coats of Flex-Coat slow cure finish giving it a beautiful, classic look.
Another significant benefit that this rod has over its competitors is its Fortified Resin System (FRS) during production. This simply means that your rod’s overall strength will be 33% stronger than rods built in traditional methods, as FRS helps prevent micro buckling.
There are eight sizes available within this series, all with a great action and power rating to suit its length. The model we’ve picked for the best panfish spinning rod is the 6’4”, light in power, fast in action one-piece. This specific rod worked wonders on the water and showed us that a rod can be light in power and weight while staying high in performance.
2. Cadence CR5-30
Best Ultralight Panfish Rod
Full Cork Handle
Panfish may not be the heaviest or hardest fish to reel in, but with the right rod and location, you may catch and cast a lot. You'll need a rod that's ultralight in sensitivity but still up for the task of fishing all day. The Cadence CR5-30 is your safest bet as many already anglers know, the CR5-30 is light, sensitive but extremely dependable in harsher conditions.
This well-known spinning rod is constructed of High-Quality 30-ton carbon matrix graphite, which is incredibly strong without making it heavy. The blank is then finished wrapped in a carbon veil to enhance durability and longevity. It also features SiC guides with durable stainless steel frames and a highly sensitive Fuji reel seat. You’ll feel every vibration from the line, through the guides, and straight to your fingertips.
Depending on the model you prefer, you may get a carbon split grip handle, or a full grip handle constructed from a premium cork and EVA foam. There are 16 different rods available in this series. And they range in sizes, power, and action and on applications, too. The majority of the rods in this series are panfish approved by Cadence, but the one that stood out for us was the 6’6” light/moderate fast spinner. This model will have you catching bass, walleye, trout, or redfish in a hurry because you just won’t miss a bite. So, try to keep up!
3. St.Croix Custom Ice
best ice rod for panfish
Split Grip, Cork Handle
Devoted anglers who love fishing for panfish all year round will know that fishing in ice is different from sunny riverside fishing. Rods for ice fishing are mainly technique-specific, which may lead to buying 3 or 4 various rods for different species or baits. There is one model out there that’s perfect for most panfish species, and that’s the Tungsten Tamer (CI28MLXF) rod by St. Croix.
This 28”, medium-light, ice fishing panfish rod features a carefully engineered rod blank, made of solid carbon. Some other rods in this series feature Solid Glass, Tubular Carbon, Tubular Carbon / Tubular linear S Glass, and Tubular Carbon Fused to Tubular linear S Glass blanks depending on their uses. This is just one of the many ways St. Croix shows their unrivaled technology and performance, even in construction.
You’ll notice a small, comfortable split-grip handle that is constructed of super-grade cork. We found this handle to be very efficient even when wearing gloves. You’ll also see stunning recoil guides with a black pearl finish that will last years, not seasons. Finish this rod with St. Croix’s 2-layer slow-cure finish for extra protection, and you’ve got yourself a killer ice fishing for panfish.
4. Redington Classic
best fly rod for panfish
Full Handle, Cork
Our next rod on our list is a fly rod that’s suitable for fishing only in freshwater. If you know that seaside shorelines will be explored, then, unfortunately, this rod may not be for you. If you like to search lakes, ponds, or rivers, especially for trout, you’re in luck. The Redington Classic Trout Fly rod could be best to have by your side.
The most defining feature of the Classic Trout, and what makes it ideal for trout fishing and most panfish, is its progressive action. It has a harmonious taper from tip to butt, resulting in the rod bending further down the rod as the angler applies more casting force. Whether it’s a 10-foot or 40-foot cast, this rod can do it with ease.
As it’s a fly rod, there isn’t too much going on aesthetically, but it does have a traditional feel to it, and it comes with a brown blank constructed of a carbon-graphite fiber. The handle is full and consists of premium cork, with a Rosewood reel seat insert sitting above the handle.
This rod is a four-piece rod, making it extremely compatible for traveling anglers. It even comes with a divided brown Ballistic nylon rod tube, and when you’re setting up, there’s no stress. Redington has added alignment dots for a faster and easier setup. You’ll enjoy fly fishing for bass, or trout with this one of a kind, fly fishing rod.
5. KastKing Calamus
best panfish rod for the money
Full EVA Foam Handle
It’s almost impossible to review the best of the best rods for panfish without KastKing making an appearance. This brand is known for their high-quality materials but at an affordable price. The Calamus Ultra-Light Spinning Rod is the perfect balance of sensitivity and durability while keeping the weight below 2.5 oz. Most well-produced and popular models have insane price tags, but not the Calamus series. This rod proves that a high performing rod doesn’t need a high price.
Be ready to catch crappie, trout, panfish, smallmouth bass, and many other warm-water species with this rod. The blank is made of KastKing’s Ultra-Light 30 million moduli, micro polish IM7 graphite material with a strain rate of 650K. Partner this blank with titanium guide frames and rings and weight-reducing, 2-pc graphite reel seat to seep it sensitive and balanced, and you’ll have a spinning rod at the right weight with the most flex.
Even though this rod may have some of the better materials, it’s our top pick as the best panfish rod for the money because they substituted some other premium materials on other areas on the rod, but it didn't affect its performance. For example, most newer rods come with a cork handle, whereas KastKing saved a little by using EVA foam. Of course, they’re not on the same level as cork. Cork tends to feel better and lasts longer, but we still can’t fault this handle. It’s extremely dense, comfortable, and has a split fighting butt for extra protection.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
What are panfish exactly?
A panfish is a freshwater or saltwater species that’s a big enough catch to be legal, but small enough to be cooked in a frying pan. Some commonly caught panfish are:
How do you set up a rod for pan fishing?
Having a good-quality rod and reel setup is crucial. If your rod and reel aren't fully in-line, then you risk your line snapping from the guides. Once you have a compatible rod and reel, you’ll need to add your line.
First, feed the line from the tip of the rod, down through the guides, and onto the reel. Tie the line with a fishing knot and cut off any long, excess line. And then spool the line onto the reel, and you’re all set. If you’re still not getting the hang of it, then consider watching a YouTube tutorial so you can get a good visual representation.
How does a beginner use a panfish fishing rod?
If you’re a beginner, it’s best to master the basic ‘cast and reel’ method. Once you feel comfortable, you can move on to more complex techniques, and it will matter how you hold your rod and reel. Whether you slingshot your line with a short panfish rod, or you practice the figure eight technique in muddy waters. Having the right grip and movement is crucial in casting a winning target.
What are the best panfish fishing rod brands?
There are at least a dozen reputable fishing rod brands on the market in 2020. But only a few pop into our minds for the longest-running and most successful brands. Some of those brands are St Croix, Cadence, Shakespeare, and KastKing.
Are there any care and maintenance steps needed for panfish rods?
Taking good care and maintaining your rod after each use is essential. Be sure to wash your rod with some warm water, and pay special attention to the guides. Check if there are any damaged parts to your rod and reel. If you want to protect your rod from corrosion on future trips, add some reel grease for extra protection. Once it’s washed and dried, be sure to store it correctly in a rack or a fishing rod case.
Where is the best place to find quality panfish fishing rods?
Shopping online is adored by many, and you will be able to experience the thrill if you buy your new rod from Amazon. The customer reviews are extremely helpful and extremely honest. Another option is to buy locally and support your local fish tackle store. Your desired model could be in a store right down the street. So, go check out what they have to offer.
Having the right equipment for any job in life makes everything easier, and it’s no different when it comes to catching panfish. You can’t do any wrong once you have the St.Croix Panfish Series rod in your hand.
It’s comfortable, lightweight, and compatible with a range of lines, lures, and gamefish. If another panfish rod from our reviews seemed better for your needs, then go for it!
We loved every rod we tried, and we’re sure you’d love them, too.