Depends on the fishing you are doing. You say trout, panfish, maybe some bass. But what's the water like ? Little creeks and small streams or medium sized water included ? Maybe some ponds ?
A good all around starting point is something 8ft or 8-1/2 ft and 5 wt or 4/5 wt. This will cover small rivers, get you into some ponds with a little wind, cover some of the bass, cast some small poppers etc, and still doable on a smaller stream. But if you fish all tiny creeks with tiny trout and small panfish it won't be as much fun as a 3/4 wt around 7ft- 7-1/2 ft or so. It's a first rod and needs to cover a multitude of fishing scenarios initially i presume, unless your water situation is very limited, which for some folks is indeed the case.. That said, Cabelas, Bass Pro and LL Bean all have starter rods that are quite decent and also one level up that doesn't break the bank . As a beginner I Just woudln't get into a fast action rod, you want something Moderate Fast or at most Medium Fast as they tend to be more forgiving in my experience. most starter rods will meet this need.
I can attest to the fact that Cortland makes a nice action rod, I've fished a $79 ( rod only) Cortland for small creeks for more than 20 years and it has performed beautifully for me, it's a 7ft 3/4. Their introductory rods back then had good blanks too but soft guides that wore out in a couple of years of hard fishing, the next series up, which is what I have had hard guides that don't wear out. My kid ( some kid he is 46 yo now lol) took one of those kit Cortlands and stripped it and put on chrome guides , a new grip and reel seat and it makes a beautiful casting trout rod for moderate sized rivers but he caught many land locked salmon on that rod 30 years ago, the blank still lives on today after the rebuild.