Choosing the Right Panfish Rod

Stuck on the best panfish rod/reel combo? Listen to a pro - Bro.

by Lake-Link Staff

Today's panfish rods come in a lot of lengths, powers, and actions and are designed for specific presentations and techniques.

One angler very keen on this new wave of panfish weaponry is veteran northern Minnesota guide, Brian "Bro" Brosdahl.

"When targeting panfish you want something that isn't too clunky or too light for slinging a weighted bobber. Also remember that crappies have paper-like mouths and you'll have to fight pike and bass in the same panfish areas. So you need a rod that is both supple and has a powerful butt section," offers Bro.

His rods of choice? Any host of the following lengths in St. Croix Rod's Panfish Series, AVID Panfish family, and high-end Legend Elite Panfish line.

Choosing the Right Panfish Rod

Bro Breaks Up Panfish Rods and Reels:

5' rod with a 500-size reel
When using the shortest panfish rods available (besides using an ice fishing rod), Bro likes to pistol-grip and fish right below the sonar transducer.

"Maintaining an ice fishing grip in open water allows quicker reaction times and better for hooksets in deep water," says Bro.

5'4" to 6' rod with 1000-size reel
Bro likes these lengths for jigging under the transducer, drifting, or slow trolling.

"I also use this combo to fish small jigging spoons over brush piles on basins, small blade baits, and ice fishing baits."

The St. Croix Legend Elite Panfish 5'6
The St. Croix Legend Elite Panfish 5'6"
6' 9" with 1000-size reel
When it comes to pitching jigs or jig and spinner combos at the bank or near-shore weed beds, this is Bro's favorite.

"I'll slow-troll a light spinner jig or cast a weighted bobber and jig to cover water with this set-up. it's a good all around rod for weighted or unweighted bobbers and slow-trolling spinner jigs or micro-cranks."

7' with 1000-size reel
For pitching weed edges from a distance or dabbing short distance vegetation, this is Bro's main choice.

"This length is perfect for pitching or dabbing milfoil plumes, weed edges, and vertically fighting panfish over fortresses of vegetation. I like an extra-fast action, too, which helps with pitching and bombing pockets, shoreline features, or fishing the edges of weed mats or lily pads. It's a good all-around set-up for accurately casting panfish-holding features from weeds to brush."

The St. Croix Advid Panfish 7'0
The St. Croix Advid Panfish 7'0"
8' to 9' rods with 2500-size reel
Bro offers that longer rods with a well-balanced, lightweight reel can be fun and efficient to fish because they absorb all the shock that big panfish or bass give out, but are still light and have some finesse.

"With rods in these lengths, you can fish a weighted or unweighted bobber in bulrushes and lift and fight fish on the surface rather than letting them wrap around the stems or vegetation. You also have the backbone to pull fish caked in weeds to the boat. And 8- to 9-footers allow long bombs into areas you wouldn't be able to reach otherwise. For that reason, I up-size to a 2500-size reel at the 8-foot mark with its larger spool for longer casts."

Bro also likes these lengths for anchoring up and precisely dropping lures into lily pad, weed, and brush pockets, tight-lining to where the fish are without spooking them.

10- to 11-foot rods with 2500-size reel
"I love dabbing in the weeds," says Bro.

"When you have to go into the deep jungle to pull fish out like in summertime hard-stem maiden cane, this is the length rod I want. Standing on the bow of the boat you can reach into pockets and the rod acts like a high-lift crane to deliver your bait vertically into thick vegetation, brush piles, and downed trees-no casting required. If you're fishing without a bobber you can bring the lure up to the rod tip and point the tip right into spots."

When using rods in these lengths, Bro ups his line test to 8- or 10-pound fluorocarbon or mono, which is rounder and thicker in diameter to prevent cutting into the bark of branches of the outer shells of the cane, rice, and bulrushes.

"These rods are also great for tight-lining into manmade cribs, emergent vegetation, and milfoil mats. In this situation I will fish 4-, 5-, or 6-pound fluorocarbon underneath a swivel so I can quickly break off the leader and re-tie if I get snagged."

The Okuma Ceymar HD Spinning Reel
The Okuma Ceymar HD Spinning Reel is a great reel for your panfish arsenal.


There are a lot of high-quality, technique-specific rods available to panfish anglers today. Bro has his finger on the pulse and fishes lots of different presentations and rod lengths throughout the year-take a page from his book and match the right rod to how you plan to pursue panfish!

Choosing the Right Panfish Rod

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