One element of fishing that everyone realizes early on is that it’s nearly impossible to own one setup for a variety of species. It’s hard to pull in monster pike on a steelhead combo, and casting a small panfish lure on the 8-pound line you use for bass is just not going to happen. This is why anglers who like to seek out a few different species have completely different sets of tackle for each. If panfish are a species that you’re interested in, and you’re thinking about picking up a whole set of tackle just for bluegill, perch, and crappie, then today you’re in luck. I’ve come up with a brief list of what you’ll need, as well as some suggestions for specific products that I’ve found to be quite useful over the years.
When it comes to rods for panfish, the length is really going to vary depending on your own personal preferences. Most rod companies offer a selection of lightweight models, and some even offer rods specifically designed for panfish. St. Croix’s Triumph series includes some quality rods in panfish sizes for a reasonable cost, and Bass Pro Shops’ Microlite series is designed for light tackle fishing. Most panfish rods won’t be very expensive and you’ll want to match up the action or length with the types of lures you’ll be using mostly. Reels are a little easier, as most models are available in a range of sizes for different species. Popular reels for panfish include Abu Garcia’s Cardinal, Pflueger’s Trion or President, and Bass Pro Shops’ Microlite Elite, all of which cost only around $40.
When it comes to line, you don’t really have to go crazy. Most monofilaments will work just fine. However, if you’re fishing a location with a lot of weeds or logs, it might be worth it to invest in braid. Most any line is available in strengths as light as 4-pound test, and a braid of 4-pound test will be even thinner than mono of the same strength, which means further casting and more sensitivity.
Many anglers like to use live bait, such as wax worms or minnows, for panfish. These will always work well, but some anglers also like to throw lures. The Bobby Garland line of panfish plastics is a popular choice, as are any small curltail grubs or minnows. Also, Strike King and Booyah both offer spinnerbaits in panfish sizes tha have worked wonders for me personally. Perhaps one of the most desired panfish lures, at least from my experiences, is the Beetle Spin lure. Comprised of a soft plastic with a metal arm and a blade, much like a spinnerbait, these lures fly off the shelves each year. Furthermore, you can find lure kits, equipped with a variety of soft and hard lures for panfish, at nearly any retailer.
If your goal is to fill the cooler, then I would suggest live bait suspended from a crappie rig. I’ve had great luck in the past rigging two minnows or worms to a crappie rig and either attaching a weight to get it to the bottom, or suspending it beneath a bobber. Either way, catching two fish at once is a great reward and will fill your cooler, and your fridge, twice as fast.
Believe it or not, there are many anglers who do not want to get into panfish. They don’t think it will be fun, due to the smaller size of the fish. However, anyone who has their own panfish rig can tell you that a slab crappie on a light tackle is a fun time! Besides, that means more for the rest of us, right?