I started flyfishing not too long ago, but whenever I have any free time I'm reading whatever I can get my hands on, and it sounds like you do the same. I would go with a 9' 7wt. rod with a medium fast action, as the 7 wt. gives you enough backbone to fight a LMB but it also gives you the a light enough feel that will allow you to detect a some of the lighter strikes if there is such a thing from a LMB
. A medium action rod will allow you to fish with finer leaders and tippets for when the fish are spooky. This done by the rod absorbing the pressure of the fight from the fish rather than the leader/tippet. With bass not being known for being leader shy I don't believe that medium action rod would be necessary. And with a medium fast action rod you will get a faster hook set. St. Croix and Sage offer excellent rods in your price range.
As far as lines go, you will want a sinking line so you can get the line down to strike zone of some of the deeper holding fish. Unless the areas that you will be fishing are primarily topwater. Scientific Angler has an excellent WF sinking line, but you can't go wrong with Rio as well.
As far as reels go, you can't go wrong the Ross or Lamsom. Lamsom's conical drag is one of the smoothest around. As of right now I'm saving my pennies for a Lamsom Litespeed. Currently I do have a Ross.
In regards to panfish, I have included a link to an excellent article in Fly Fisherman magazine written by Dave Whitlock.
Seasons of the Sunfish
I hope this information helps.