Light Panfish Reels


Notice the headline doesn't read "ultralight." An ultralight reel is too small for most panfishing tasks — even when those tasks involve ultralight lines and lures. The spool is so small that line coming off during a cast interferes with itself, disrupting flow, causing tangles that would defy the best efforts of the best engineers on earth.


Ultralight reels are great for vertical fishing and especially nice for ice-fishing applications. But the spools are too small for casting or pitching, creating a high loops-per-yard ratio. Each loop of line coming off a reel causes friction, so more loops per yard equates to shorter casting distances.


A reader recently posted a question asking which panfish reels I use. In recent posts on bluegills and crappies, I often mentioned rods without discussing reels at all. Probably qualifies as an oversight, but honestly, reels have improved so much, across the board, it actually seemed unnecessary to suggest one over the other. Almost every reel manufacturer today is making a quality product. And, while I occasionally have an 11-inch bluegill take several feet of line, having a great drag isn't a big deal (until a bonus largemouth or walleye happens along, at least).

The reels I use most of the time are pictured here. They include the Pflueger Patriarch 9525 (I also use the 9530 for panfish a lot), the Abu Garcia Cardinal C70ILX, the Shimano Symetre 750FI, the Shimano Stella 1000F, and the Eagle Claw Gun 10. I use a number of other reels, too, but these are the ones I've been taking out every day this year. And just because Quantum and Daiwa reels aren't pictured, don't think it's because their reels are somehow inferior. I just don't happen to own any in the right size for panfish. They all have nice, tight tolerances, allowing me to use 4-pound Berkley FireLine Fused Original (my favorite for most panfishing tactics) without getting it wound into the gears, crimped into the roller bail, or wrapped under the drag-adjusting cap.

To say these reels are precisely equally nice would be misleading. Certainly you get what you pay for. But these have all been trouble-free units for me, with smooth drags capable of wearing down the occasional 5-pound interloper of the micropterus variety. Size and weight balance just fine with the ultralight 7- to 8-foot St. Croix Avid, G. Loomis, Shimano, and Fenwick Elite sticks I use most — and that's a big part of the enjoyment of fishing for me. I certainly hope that answers the question.

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