Armed with the right rod and reel, amazing feats of panfishing are possible. On the flip side, a poorly matched outfit can be cumbersome an inefficient. Thankfully, pan fans have a forest of fine sticks at their disposal, along with an armada of high-performance reels — yielding a wider selection than ever before. To help sift through the choices, we offer this sample of new and noteworthy panfish combos, just in time to gear up for the season ahead.
Berkley C-Series Crappie Pro Rod/Abu Revo S
- Unveiled late last season and just now hitting the water in force, Berkley's new C-Series includes five models from 9 to 14 feet long, all designed for tightlining and jigging techniques. Each is constructed of 24-Ton 100% Carbon Fiber that's lightweight and sensitive. Features include an EVA power-grip handle that tapers to a bell shape — to sit securely in rod holders — plus durable, high-vis, solid carbon-fiber tip, titanium oxide guide inserts, and catchy, crappie-scale graphics. For ease of storage and transport, the 9- through 12-footers are two-piece models, while the 14-footer breaks into three sections.
Abu Garcia's Revo S spinning reel balances well with any of the C-Series options. It's light and strong, thanks to a one-piece X-Craftic alloy frame, graphite stem, and polymetric body and rotor. Other smart features include a machined-aluminum spool, six stainless-steel bearings plus a roller bearing, Everlast bail and Carbon Matrix hybrid drag.
B'n'M Duck Commander Double-Touch/Buck's Best UltraLight Reel
- You can't go anywhere these days without seeing the bearded faces of the Duck Dynasty crew on everything from t-shirts to bedsheets, but four new rods produced by a partnership between members of the Duck Commanders and B'n'M Poles are more than novelties — they offer exceptional promise for panfish fans.
One of our favorites is the DC Double-Touch Crappie Rod. Available in 8- to 12-foot lengths, it's built from 40-million modulus IM-6 graphite for sublime sensitivity, which is aided by the pole's unique 'double-touch ' system that allows your fingers to touch the blank in two spots along the Portuguese cork handle — just ahead of the reel seat, or farther up the handle for better balance. There's also extra room below the reel seat for gripping the rod behind the reel to stretch the tip way out there to reach a choice stump or stakebed. Another smart feature is the series of chartreuse depth-monitoring wraps. Placed at 12-inch intervals along the blank, the wraps take the guesswork out of gaging water depth. Just raise the tip and let the jig swing back to the rod to know for sure.
The company's new Buck's Best UltraLight Reel is a perfect match for this rod. Lightweight yet crush-resistant ABS material keeps total weight to a svelte 1.6 ounces, which helps reduce fatigue from vertical fishing. It also offers dual ball bearings — a rarity in a line-keeper reel — and a 1:1 gear ratio.
Cabela's Pro Guide PTC Spinning Rod/ Fish Eagle Spinning Reel
- From shooting docks to lobbing floats, Cabela's has you covered with a dozen dandy sticks in the Pro Guide PTC lineup. Options range from a 4½-foot ultralight to an 8-foot light action, and the entire clan was designed with specialized actions to fit the many facets of modern panfishing. All feature IM-6 100-percent graphite blanks, fast-action tips for precision casts and fast hook-sets, Portuguese cork handles, and aluminum-oxide guides.
In the reel department, Cabela's new Fish Eagle Spinning Reel makes a fine complement for under $30. Despite the modest price, it offers solid features such as instant anti-reverse, an aluminum spool, Stealth Oscillation for even line lay, four bearings, and Everlast oversize bail system. While there are four models in the Fish Eagle family, the smaller two, geared to 4-and 6-pound line, are top picks.
Clam Outdoors Jason Mitchell Elite/ Pflueger Trion TR120
- Veteran Devils Lake, North Dakota, fishing guide Jason Mitchell designed a line of spinning rods for Clam with walleyes in mind, but the 6-foot 4-inch, medium-light model excels for slow-trolling small crankbaits for crappies. You can also use it with mini-livebait rigs for 'gills, and downsized spinner setups for perch and crappies along weedlines deep and shallow.
Weighing just 4 ounces, the IM-8 graphite rod features Fuji guides, an EVA reel seat, and pro-style guide train, with guides aligned opposite the spine for maximum performance. It handles 4-pound line and light lures well, and offers great sensitivity with enough flex to keep delicate fish on the hook.
The smallest option in Pflueger's newly redesigned Trion spinning lineup matches well with it. Weighing 5.9 ounces, the TR120 holds 100 yards of 4-pound mono and has 6-pound maximum drag capacity. With a 5.2:1 gear ratio, it swallows more than 20 inches of line per turn of the reel handle. Standard features include four stainless-steel ball bearings plus a roller bearing for the one-way clutch, a silky, multi-disc drag, and titanium line roller.
Pinnacle Vertex/ Matrix Tiny20
- Pinnacle's reputation was built on top-shelf bass rods and reels, but deep in its lineup lie the underpinnings of an excellent float and dipping combo. The Vertex IM7 Graphite rod series includes several fine panfish poles, including the two-piece, 10-foot VGT1002SN spinning and noodle rod. Features include stainless-steel guide inserts, cork handle, and graphite reel seat with cushioned stainless hood.
Match it with a Matrix Tiny20 spinning reel, which offers a quartet of stainless-steel bearings, infinite anti-reverse, balanced rotor, ResistTwist line roller, FatWire bail, machined aluminum spool, and multi-disc, enhanced drag system — a plus should larger prey engulf your offerings. Weighing 7.4 ounces, it balances well with the long rod, and accommodates line from 2- to 6-pound test — pinnaclefishing.com.
Mr. Crappie Slab Shaker Dock Shooter and Jig Trolling Combo/Slab Shaker Reel
- Shooting docks is a mainstay in many of our panfish playbooks, and this new combo from Mr. Crappie enables easier execution of the technique. The duo leans heavily on the light-action graphite composite Slab Shaker rod, which at 5 feet 2 inches is legendary crappie maven Wally Marshall's favorite length for launching lures deep under docks and overhanging cover.
Amenities include stainless-steel guides, a graphite reel seat, which aids sensitivity, and weight-trimming, non-slipping EVA foam handle. It's paired with a Mr. Crappie size 75 Slab Shaker spinning reel. Featuring a lightweight graphite reel and rotor, it sports updated cosmetics, a chrome-plated spool and drag knob, dual bearings, and holds ample line for long casts. At under $30, it's a steal.
Another fresh face in the Slab Daddy family is the new Jig/Troll Spinning Combo. Matched with the same size 75 spinning reel as the Dock Shooter, it does double-duty, covering trolling and jigging applications. Available in lengths of 9, 10, and 12 feet, I dare say its dimensions and moderately slow action apply to floats, too. All feature premium fiberglass blank, EVA foam handles, and graphite reel seats.
Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2
- Shakespeare's new GX2 series builds on Ugly Stik's lineage of legendary toughness with a lineup of spinning, underspin, spincast, and low-profile combos — a number of which fit panfish applications. All feature Ugly Tech graphite and fiberglass construction, which yields a blend of strength and sensitivity, plus blank-through-reel seat stylings and ultra-durable Ugly Tuff guides. As expected, the trademark clear tip delivers extra strength where you need it, while remaining sensitive enough to detect light bites.
The GX2 family includes seven spinning combos. Of these, the two-piece, light-power, 5-foot USSP502L/25CBO offers the ideal action for a range of casting and jigging duties, without the whippiness of longer models. It's paired with a new Model 25 reel designed specifically for the Ugly Stik. The reel sports a double-anodized spool, glass-filled nylon body, oversize bail wire, dual pinion bearings and three ball bearings plus a one-way, instant anti-reverse bearing.
St. Croix Panfish Series/Mitchell Avocet
- No review of combos aimed at 'gills, perch, and crappies would be complete without a nod to members of this new line of rods from St. Croix. The series includes nine spinning rods from 5 to 11 feet. Models measuring 7 feet or less feature ultralight and light powers coupled with crisp actions, while the longer sticks carry moderate-fast actions and light-power ratings.
'St. Croix brought their expertise to the panfish realm, ' says noted guide and multispecies authority Scott Glorvigen. 'With a few of these rods in the boat, you're ready for anything — from dipping jigs under overhanging cover for river-run crappies hiding in current breaks, to swimming jigs through cabbage tops. '
Glorvigen recommends a reliable, lightweight spinning reel like the Mitchell Avocet Silver AVSIV-500UL, a slick little ultralight with four bearings, instant anti-reverse, aluminum spool, multi-disc drag, and NeverFail bail spring. 'It handles light breakstrengths, giving you even line lay — with no coils, ' he says.