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St. Croix Pro Picks Best Crappie Rods

“If I could only carry one panfish rod it would be the Legend Elite Panfish LEP70LXF, but St. Croix makes the same great length, power and action available in its extremely popular Panfish Series,” says panfish expert Blake Tollefson of Chippewa Falls. “The Panfish Series gives more anglers the opportunity to own high-performance panfish rods, and the PFS70LXF model is the best-seller in the series for a reason.”

For panfish – and crappies in particular – Tollefson casts and retrieves a lot of small jig and plastic combinations. “This is probably 75% of my panfishing, as it is for a lot of other anglers, too,” he says. “Jigs in the 1/32-to-1/16-ounce range dominate most of my crappie fishing, but the PFS70LXF still has the ability to handle 1/8-ounce jigs when necessary. The rod also does well for other panfish-oriented techniques like casting small crankbaits, float fishing, and dropshotting,” he adds. “It’s an astounding panfish rod and can cover a wide range of techniques.”

Tollefson recalls the first time he ever used the rod. “I was fishing a river system for crappies with a 1/16-ounce jig and Eurotackle B-Vibe 2-inch paddletail. I cast upstream of a rock pile and before I could even start my retrieve, I felt that distinctive tap and set the hook. It was a windy day and I was fishing in current, so I can still remember how impressed I was with the ability to feel the bite before I even started my retrieve.”

Casting and retrieving small plastics is effective year ‘round, but Tollefson emphasizes its effectiveness during the late-spring and summer months when fish are living in and around weeds. “That’s when small paddletails like the Eurotackle B-Vibe really dominate,” he says. “These are great imitations of baitfish and can be fished at variable speeds and still provide a ton of action. I typically pair these up with 1/32-to-1/16-ounce jigs, but occasionally bump up to a 1/8-ounce jig in deeper water.

When presenting these baits in and around weeds, Tollefson says the goal is to get the bait as close as possible without getting hung up. “Depending on the day or body of water, I either want my lure to be ticking the tops of the weeds or just off the edge of the weed line. It often takes some experimenting to find out exactly where the fish are located within a given weed patch.”

Tollefson suggests a 1000-size reel like the Daiwa Fuego. “It pairs up perfectly with the PFS70LXF and LEP70LXF. Throughout the years, I have tried a wide range of lines on my crappie setups – everything from mono and fluoro to copolymers and braid,” he reports. “In the last few years, I have grown to favor micro braids in most situations. The micro braids allow for smooth, long casts as well as increased sensitivity. Oftentimes the higher visibility braids (white, greens, yellows) are great because you can see when fish grab the bait on the drop.” Tollefson runs a high-quality 4-pound fluorocarbon leader about four feet long so the fish can’t see the braid. “People often worry about the lack of stretch with braid and crappies because they have such soft mouths. When paired with the right rod, like the PFS70LXF, this is not an issue. The rod’s SCII carbon blank has the ideal backbone to soak up those head shakes and keep the fish pinned, and the lightweight stainless-steel guides on these rods stand up to braid really well.”

Tollefson cautions panfish anglers on choosing the right jig. “If you’re not using the right size jig, then there’s a good chance you won’t get bit. If your jig is too heavy, you’ll end up too far in the weeds and will be constantly peeling weeds off the end of your line. If it’s too light, then you won’t get close enough. A 1/16-to1/8-ounce jig usually puts you in the ballpark. From there, you can manage your depth and separation from the weeds with retrieve speed,” Tollefson advises. “I’ve found that slow is usually the way to go. Reeling too fast gets you out of the strike zone before the fish can get to the bait, so if you find you are having to reel too quickly to keep the jig off the weeds, go lighter.”

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