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3 Best Panfish Rod And Reel Combo (For Bluegill, Crappie and More!)

best rod and reel for panfish

Top Pick

Top Pick
Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Fishing Rod and Spinning Reel Combo
  • Ideal for anglers of all skill levels
  • Graphite and fiberglass construction
  • 3 ball bearings and one-way clutch instant anti-reverse bearing

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
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The Best Panfish Rod And Reel Combo For Bluegill and Crappie

Bluegill, crappie and other members of the panfish family have developed a reputation for being easy to catch, feisty, and tasty once they’re slathered in some Andy’s Fish Breading.

They can also be highly-prized game fish, though. That’s especially true if you buy yourself a proper rod to use when you’re targeting them.

I’ve targeted bluegill and crappie quite a bit during my time as a fisherman, and I’ve gotten a feel for what’s necessary to make the experience a good one.

In this article, I’ll go over three of my favorite panfish rods, and I’ll even throw in a few tips to help you catch more of them.

Panfish Rod And Reel Combos Mentioned In This Article


3 Best Rod And Reel Combos For Panfish

1. UglyStik GX2 Spinning Combo

Top Pick
Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Fishing Rod and Spinning Reel Combo
  • Ideal for anglers of all skill levels
  • Graphite and fiberglass construction
  • 3 ball bearings and one-way clutch instant anti-reverse bearing

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
Lasso Brag

First, I want to start this review by telling you that this is without a doubt your best bet if you want a good rod for catching bluegill and crappie. If you’ve read my other articles, then you already know that I personally own this rod, and it has served me well for many years. I’ll gladly recommend it to anyone who asks me which rod they should use for bluegill.


Now, let’s go over the features. This GX2 is a light-action rod, and it’s five feet long. You can purchase the GX2 in various lengths and power ratings, but this is the best one for panfish.

The rod’s blank is made from graphite and fiberglass, and that gives you the benefits of both materials. It won’t crack and quickly break like other graphite rods, but it’s not as stiff as a pure fiberglass rod.

Most pictures of this rod don’t show the tip, but I can assure you that it comes with the GX2 line’s clear tip. The tip is easy to see in all light conditions, and it’s extremely sensitive.

Ugly Stik USSP502L/2SC GX2 Spinning Combo, 5'

The only thing that’s not my favorite about the UglyStik GX2 is the reel. It’s not a bad reel. It will definitely do its job for a long time. However, some people find it to be a bit clunky. Personally, I kept the reel for several years before upgrading. So keep in mind that you might want to eventually upgrade to a different spinning reel when you get the chance. 

With that said, however, you might end up loving the reel and decide to keep it. I ended up replacing mine solely because of my own personal preferences.

Ugly Stik USSP502L/2SC GX2 Spinning Combo, 5'

Extremely comfortable EVA grips. 


  • Strong enough to survive bass or catfish

  • Sensitive and light

  • Advanced tip

  • The reel is one of the better reels that you’ll find on a combo.


  • The reel is a bit too heavy and clunky for me. You might love it, but I personally prefer a lighter reel. It is better than what you’ll get with most other combos, though.

I recommend this combo to pretty much anyone that plans on targeting smaller fish such as panfish. You just can’t go wrong with it.

It’s priced fairly, and it performs well in almost any situation. There are rods out there that are more specialized, but this is the best all-around panfish combo you’re going to get, without question.

You can check it out over on Amazon right here.

2. Pflueger Trion Spinning Combo

Pflueger Trion Spinning Combo

This Pflueger combo is what you want to use if you plan on using a bit of finesse. It’s great for tossing the small lures that are popular among people who target panfish, and it can pick up the lightest bites with ease. This isn’t as good for all-around fishing as the UglyStik, but it’s definitely the best alternative.

The rod blank is made out of graphite. That’s part of why it’s so good for very technical fishing techniques. However, you can expect it to break very quickly if it develops even a tiny crack. You should definitely do your best not to bump into a wall or slam a door on it.

The reel is my favorite part of this combo. It’s a Pflueger Trion, and it’s one of my favorite light reels. It has seven bearings, and they glide as if they’re lubricated in butter. It’s not just easy to use, though. It has an instant-reverse mechanism, and it’s strong enough to pull in any bass or catfish that steal your bait or eat your fish.

Pflueger Trion Spinning Combo

The Pflueger Trion reel is one of my all time light fishing reels


  • Very sensitive

  • Great for finesse fishing

  • Comes with an awesome reel


  • I’m not a fan of rods that are made entirely out of graphite. They’re great for fishing, but a single crack will destroy them, and it’s often difficult to tell if you’ve cracked a rod blank.

This is the perfect combo if you love to use very small lures, and it’s also a great choice if you like to have tons of control over the way your lures move. However, it’s not as durable as the UglyStik, and it’s not as good for all-around fishing.

3. Berkley Lightning Spinning Combo

Berkley Lightning (2 Piece) Light 5'6" Spinning Reel and Rod Combo

Berkley isn’t my favorite company, but I can’t deny that they provide decent products at affordable prices. This particular Berkley product combines the benefits of both of the other combos, but it also does come with a few drawbacks. And I’ll touch on those.

First, the blank is made from a composite material. It’s not as weak as graphite, but it feels like a whip sometimes. It’s also nowhere near as strong as the UglyStik.

That doesn’t mean that the rod is bad though. It just whips around a bit too much for my personal preference. You might love it.

I’ll praise Berkley for their design choices, though. The cork handles on this rod look amazing, and the blank itself is stunning. It looks like it belongs in the hands of a professional angler.

The reel is what you can typically expect from a combo. While the UglyStik and the Pflueger come with above-average reels, the Berkley’s reel isn’t that great. It’s not horrible. It’s definitely better than what you’ll get with a $12 Shakespeare combo. It just isn’t great. I suggest switching it out for a Shakespeare Durango or a Pflueger Trion as soon as you get a chance. 

Both of those reels are inexpensive and they’ll make this rod a leaps and bounds better. There are other great reels out there, but they tend to cost more than the price of this combo, and it doesn’t make sense to put a fancy reel on an inexpensive rod.


  • Looks amazing

  • Decent all-around option

  • Fairly durable


  • The included reel is what you would expect from a combo, and some people might not like how flaccid the rod feels.

Overall, I think this is a great alternative to the UglyStik. If you don’t like the EVA handles and black finish of the UglyStik, you can buy this Berkley Lightning for a more traditional appearance. However, its reel isn’t as good as the one that comes with the UglyStik, and it doesn’t have as much backbone.

What To Look For In A Panfish Combo (Buyers Guide)

panfish rod and reel combo

There are a few things that you should keep in mind when you go to buy a panfish combo. Not all combos are worth using, and some features will help you when it comes to catching panfish.

You will notice that I won’t be mentioning reels in this section. Once you learn how to fish, it’s best to buy each of your parts separately. Combos tend to have lower quality reels on them because they’re built to be affordable.

If you’re buying a combo, you’re doing it to get the rod itself at a lower price, or you’re doing it because you need a complete setup quickly. Having a cheap reel leftover from your combo purchase isn’t a bad thing, either. Reels get messed up pretty quickly, and you might have to rely on that cheap reel later. I just think you should upgrade your reel as soon as you get the chance.

Keep It Light (Ultra-Light)

If you click the links that I provided, you’ll notice that every combo I suggested is a light-action combo. You’re trying to catch some of the smallest game fish available. You don’t need a broomstick to do that.

You don’t have to buy a light-action rod, though. An ultra-light will be more sensitive. However, an ultra-light rod will break easier if a big bass takes your bait.

You have to remember that while you’re targeting bluegill, a 50-pound flathead might think your worm looks like a tasty snack. If that’s the case, I recommend cutting your line immediately, but you get my point. You don’t get to choose the fish that come after your bait.

Keep It Short

Longer rods are better for casting over long distances, but you don’t have to cast that far out when you’re targeting panfish. A five-foot rod or a six-foot rod will do just fine. You’ll also have an easier time carrying it around. Do you really want to wave a 12-foot rod around when you’re just targeting bluegill?

Choose A Comfortable Rod And Reel Combo

If you’re targeting bluegill and crappie, you won’t have the luxury of shoving your rod in a rod holder for twenty minutes at a time because you’ll be catching  fish left and right.

So you’re going to want your handle to be pretty comfortable. I usually suggest cork handles because they feel better, but the EVA handles on UglyStiks (my top pick) are extremely comfortable, too.

So, choose an UglyStik if you want a synthetic handle, but if you choose to stay away from UglyStiks, look for something that has cork handles.

Tips For Catching Bluegill And Crappie

large bluegill fish in mans hand

Here are a few tips that will put more panfish in your cooler:

Stay Close To The Bank

Unless you’re targeting crappie, panfish tend to go to the deeper parts of a lake when they don’t care about eating.

Cast Towards Cover

Bluegill and other panfish species are lower on the food chain, and they like to stay close to weeds or other forms of cover in case they have to run from bigger fish.

Move Around Frequently

If you don’t catch a bluegill in 15 minutes, it’s unlikely that there are any nearby. Walk 50 feet away from your current spot, and see if that’s where they’re at.

If you want more bluegill fishing tips, then please check out the other articles I’ve put together  that are specifically designed to help you catch more panfish.

Final Thoughts

Top Pick
Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Fishing Rod and Spinning Reel Combo
  • Ideal for anglers of all skill levels
  • Graphite and fiberglass construction
  • 3 ball bearings and one-way clutch instant anti-reverse bearing

We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
Lasso Brag

Panfish can be boring to catch if you use the same rod that you use for bass and catfish. If you want a real challenge, you need to invest in a proper rod. I highly suggest any of the three rods I reviewed in this article. The UglyStik is my personal favorite, and I recommend it above anything else. However, the other two are great alternatives.

Written by Don

When I'm not bass fishing or looking for steelhead in my home state of Oregon I can be found working on house projects dreaming of my next fishing adventure.

I started this website to share just some of the things I've learned along my fishing journey, and the many things I'm still learning. Enjoy!

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