Panfish Pole Alternatives

Comparison of panfish poles, click for larger image

In a comment a few months ago I promised a review of alternatives to the beloved but discontinued long-backordered, Cabela’s Telescopic Panfish pole.  As of Monday, Cabela’s claims that the panfish poles we have grown to love will be available again on May 6th. With any luck they will be back to stay and the review that follows will be moot, but after being fooled by two previous restock dates that came and went, we set out to evaluate alternatives. Read on for a review of each.

We ordered six collapsible panfish poles from a variety of online vendors (A, B, C, D, E, F – see image above).  These ranged in price from $7 – $28 per pole and measured between 1.8 and 6 meters when fully extended and 1/2 to 1 meter collapsed.  The poles we tested were constructed with plastic, carbon fiber or some combination of the two and varied in the attachment at the tip of the last segment.  Poles D-F have the familiar metal loop at the end of the pole (right – top), which is the usual place to tie off your favorite noose material.  Poles A-C have a short length of string glued to the end of the pole (right-middle). I tried to create a loop using small diameter split rings (usually used for fishing lures), but the result is flimsy and would not allow an attached noose to stick out straight from the pole and would instead droop downward (right-bottom). I’ve summarized the stats on each pole in the table below.

Poles A&B comparable in collapsed and extended length to the Cabela’s brand, but have a less suitable tip, are made of flimsier material but are dirt cheap.  Pole C compares favorably to the Cabela’s poles in all aspects except the tip connection. Poles D-F are sturdy, have comparable extended lengths and attachment tip to the Cabela’s poles but are much larger when collapsed; too big to fit in the action packers we generally use to transport our gear.  One could travel with a few of these as carry-on baggage in a poster tube, or otherwise check a separate container filled with these, perhaps a hard shell golf club carrier.  The procrastinating herpetologist will be happy to learn that A and F can had quickly via next-day Amazon shipping.

After testing out the alternative panfish poles for a while I’ve come to a few, albeit personal, conclusions.  Above all else, the string tipped poles won’t work for me.  For the bark anoles I spend the most time catching in the field I need to be able to approach the animal with the noose open horizontal to the ground (so that it can be worked around the head of a an animal on a tree trunk perched with its head up or down).  I have not been able to achieve this with any of the string-tipped poles.  The larger poles, with ring tips would work for us, although they will be harder to transport and fully extended are somewhat clumsy to maneuver.  One benefit to the Shakespeare poles (F) is the option for greater extended length, up to 6 meters.  These would be great when going after crown and high trunk dwelling species.  Although, in our current work these species are a minority of our collecting effort. To me, the Cabela’s poles remain the best option, if available.  We’ve talked about modifying some of the smaller poles to retrofit a loop on the end.  If we pursue this, I will be sure to post an update.  In the meantime, it seems like our best option is to get the restocked poles, while the gettin’ is good.

Has anyone else tried out alternatives? It would be great to hear your thoughts and I will update the summary table below with any new information provided.

Pole Cost Tip Collapsed (cm) Extended (cm) Material
Cabela’s $28 loop 38 304-426 carbon fiber
A $7 string 56 180 plastic
B $7 string 58 360 carbon fiber & plastic
C $22 string 68 450 carbon fiber
D $13-17 loop 103 304-396 carbon fiber & plastic
E $16 loop 115 304-396 carbon fiber
F $16-28 loop 115 488-610 carbon fiber

About Anthony Geneva

Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University. I use a variety of evolutionary genetic approaches to ask questions about gene flow, adaptation and speciation.

8 thoughts on “Panfish Pole Alternatives

  1. Thanks Anthony. I’ve been waiting to see this (although I am not particularly encouraged by your findings). Hopefully Cabela’s panfish poles eventually come back.

    1. Liam, I share your disappointment. I really hoped there would be some nice choices out there. I think there is some hope in modifying a few of these poles to better suit our needs, but I agree that stocking up on Cabela’s poles is probably the best option.

  2. Anthony, I think you should append an additional measure of scale to the photograph so people can really appreciate how different these poles are from the gold-standard.

  3. Anthony,
    Yeesh! It’s worse than I thought. It looks like Type D is the closest thing to the Cabela’s pole, no? It’s got the metal ring and the only downfall is that they’re super long. I need to catch trunk-ground anoles, so the extra length actually won’t help me at all. I’m really glad you looked into this and this post is really helpful. I’ll wait until May 6th and hope for the best.

  4. If I was heading out in the field tomorrow D (the Uncle Buck’s crappie pole) would be my pick as well. D is super long but narrow enough that you could squeeze 7 or 8 of them in a regular size poster tube. If you don’t mind giving up a carry on (or worse a checked bag) I think they will do the job. Another option would be to mail them ahead of time, they are pretty light so shipping costs might be reasonable…

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