6 Best Crappie Spinning Reels
After you find out that your lake of choice is abundant with crappie, the next step is to get yourself the best spinning rod and reel in the market that’s specially designed to catch the little speckled devils. Not only are they an addicting fish to catch all over the country, they’re also one of the tastiest panfish you’ll come across (whether you bake or deep-fry in batter: you’ll treat yourself to a soft flaky white fish perfect for a cosy winter meal).
There’s a different kind of thrill in going for the tiny fish: unlike anglers always in search of 600 pounder monster bluefish (they might as well catch sharks!), you’re going on the other side of the spectrum and catching those ever-elusive little guys. Is a crappie biting the bait or just the current of the water: it takes a pro to know the difference.
It’s common knowledge that while you may sometimes get away with compromising on your rod, your fishing reel has to be top-notch. As long as you have an ultra-light spinning rod with good flexibility and sensitivity, you can up your game with carefully selecting a reel that is durable and boasts of excellent performance.
Here are six of the best crappie spinning reels in the market.
Cadence CS8 Crappie 1000 Spinning Reel
The Cadence CS-8 has been the choice of experienced anglers for years, and it’s known for being exceptionally smooth.
One of the first things you’d notice about this reel is how lightweight it is. Made with CMC(Carbon-Magnesium-Carbon), the magnesium allows it to be 34% lighter and 1.5 times stronger than aluminum. The machined spool is made from aluminium and prevents slippage and built with a carbon fiber drag system. Finally, the handle knob is large and easy to hold; made out of EVA foam instead of aluminum handle, which further reduces the overall weight of the reel.
This spinning reel is in a mid-range price point, but is quite a modest price when you consider the high quality bearings and attachments and high performance. With the maximum amount of bearings: 10, all corrosion resistance stainless steel, the reel literally glides in all kinds of weather and water.
When fishing for crappie, you need a reel that’s fast. The Gear Ratio is blazing fast at 6.2:1/5.2:1 and will ensure that you can scoop up your crappie even before it knows what’s going on.
Now crappie isn’t usually more than 2lbs, but the largest crappie to ever been caught on record was a 21-inch 6 pounder! In case you get that lucky and snag a massive fellow, the reel has got you covered. The superior drag system has a stopping power of 20lbs and is powerful enough to handle a fish fight!
- 9 stainless steel bearings + 1 anti-reverse bearing
- Line capacity: 6lbs and 110 yards
- Gear ratio: 5.2:1
- Weight: 6.3 oz
- Maximum drag: 29 lbs
- 3 years warranty
The Cadence CS8 is perfect for an intermediate angler. If you’ve spent some time fishing with a basic rod and reel and are now looking to narrow your catch to crappie, and upgrade your reel to something high-performing: this is the reel for you. It’s mid-range price may not be the choice for a first time fisher, but is a brilliant choice for someone looking to invest a small amount to get a pro-level high quality reel worth double the price.
Penn Battle II Spinning Reel
It’s often a close call between the Penn Battle and the Cadence CS8! A high quality and durable option for the price, the Penn Battle II has a hardcore fan following of its own.
With ‘silky smooth’ HT-100 carbon fiber drag washers, this reel works great for crappie fishing. It’s made with a full metal body, sideplate and rotor with a heavy duty aluminium bail wire. It’s still lightweight however, while maintaining high precision gear alignment.
There’s also fluid cranking with 5 stainless steel ball bearings with 1 instant anti-reverse bearing. The rubber handle knob is also ergonomic with a smooth retrieve. There are sizes from 1000-8000 available but we recommend the 1000 size that works perfect for ultralight fishing techniques.
A rubber gasket/inlay prevents the superlines from slipping: you don’t have to get backing for this reel.
One of the highlights of the Penn Battle II Spinning Reel is the anti-corrosion finish. Perfect for both freshwater and saltwater, you won’t see any chipping paint on this well-finished reel. However, it’s recommended that you always give your equipment a rinse once you get home to prolong its shelf life.
- 5 stainless steel bearings + instant anti reverse bearing
- Mono Capacity: 240/4; 180/6; 125/8
- Braid Capacity: 210/8; 180/10; 165/15
- Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
- Reel Size: 1000
- Weight: 8.1 oz
- Max Drag: 9lbs
- Line Retrieve (in): 22
As a semi-affordable high-quality reel, this is a good option for beginners and lightly seasoned anglers. It will last you at least two or three seasons, before we can anticipate any issues with the performance. For the high spinning ratio and smooth drag system, you pay a much lower price than one would expect, and get to experience high performance while fishing crappie.
As a beginner, you will find reels in the $10-30 range, but these tend to be rather cheap or plastic-y. If there’s one place you should invest, it would be in a reel like this one.
BassPro Micro Lite Elite Spinning Reel
This affordable reel is a great option for someone looking for budget reels for crappie fishing. With an impressive line capacity and smooth drag system, the BassPro delivers above and beyond all other reels with the same price tag.
The front-mounted drag is extremely easy to use and easy to adjust, located at the end of the spool. With it’s line capacity of 6 pounds, there is zero slippage from this drag that can really withstand the weight it claims to.
With a 7 ball bearing system and corrosion resistant double anodized aluminum spool, this is ideal for casting lightweight lures for crappie.
One feature to note is the anti-reverse system which really ensures that the crank won’t turn backwards even a tiny bit.
If not properly spooled, this reel could fall short on casting distance. But ensuring that the right line with a low memory has been used as well as correct spooling to minimize friction can resolve that issue as well.
This tiny reel will definitely impress you with all that it can hold and do!
- 6 + 1 roller ball bearings
- Mono Capacity: 6 lb./150 yds
- Gear Ratio: 5.2:1
- Max Drag: 6 Lbs.
- Weight: 6.2 oz
The Bass Pro Micro Lite Elite spinning reel is a quintessential ultralight spinning reel that would be a great option for any beginner angler. As a reel in the lower range, it’s perfect for someone who doesn’t want to compromise on quality, top features and performance, while also not wanting to splurge a three figure number on their reel.
KastKing Summer 500
As one of the cheapest reels on this list, the KastKing provides impressive smoothness for its price point.
It has nine ball bearings and one anti-reverse system, which is more than most other ultralight reels. It’s quite lightweight with a narrow graphite frame design and a balancing system.
One of the highlights of the KastKing Summer 500 is the superior drag gear system maximum stopping power at 11lbs which is impressive for such a tiny reel. With precision matched pinion gear, and a hardened main metal shaft, this provides great fighting power for ultralight techniques.
The aluminum spool is also high strength and anodized. The high tensile strength graphite frame resists corrosion as well. While it’s not as silky smooth as the drag systems of other high end reels, it can still provide bang for your buck with all its features.
The only issue could be that the bail is hard to close with a crank, and this reel may not hold up in saltwater if you don’t frequently clean it. It’s designed to withstand cold temperatures for ice fishing as well, but that significantly affects the smoothness of the drag.
Because of the budget build, the real issues with the performance of the reel would only crop up if we were looking at the larger reels, but in the 500 size for ultralight crappie fishing, it does a great job.
- 9+1 roller bearings
- Gear Ratio: 5.2:1
- Line capacity: 4 lb./240 yds.
- Max drag: 11.0 lbs
- Mono Line Capacity: 4/240 6/155
- Braided Line Capacity: 15/220 20/125
- Weight: 7.3 oz
- Graphite Frame
This spinning reel is the kind of reel you don’t have to think twice about ordering if you’re on a budget and looking for solid performance from a budget reel. If you are looking for a backup reel this is also a great option. It won’t deliver the kind of quality as the other reels mentioned in this list, but that’s only to be expected because of the difference in price tag.
Shimano Sienna 500
One cannot speak about an ultralight spinning reel without including the Shimano Sienna 500. It’s such a popular choice that it has almost become the standard comparison point to any other reel. It’s known for having an ultra smooth operation and being durable for years and years.
It’s definitely proof that more features aren’t always better. With only 3+1 roller bearings, this reel is big on performance. With a gear ratio of 4.7:1 the Sienna is a slow reel, so if your technique requires playing the crappie more than yanking it in, this is the spinning reel for you.
You can really tell how high-quality a reel is by looking at how smooth the front drag is; and the Sienna definitely delivers in this area. After using the Sienna, all other reels feel like a struggle. Anglers often comment that even after 20 years, not many reels can compete with the smoothness of the Sienna’s front drag.
Keep in mind that if you’re ice fishing for crappie with this reel, you’d need to re-lube it and winterize it to make sure that it still performs as well as it should. The reel also casts really well, and can accommodate monofilament from 2lbs to 6lbs, which is more than enough for fishing crappie.
- Line Capacity: 4 lb./100 yds.
- Bearings: 3 + 1 roller
- Gear ratio: 4.7:1
- Propulsion Spool Lip
- Weight: 7.2 oz
There’s really no target audience in mind when talking about the Shimano Sienna 500. There are people who say it’s perfect for their kids to learn fishing on while experienced anglers say they’ve been using it since the 80’s and won’t swap them for the world! That’s all you need to know about this reel, that it’s really a perfect little reel for the budget reel price.
The only reason why you’d go for a higher end reel than the Shimano is if you were bent upon getting new features like 9+1 bearings. Apart from that, if you just want a reliable and solid reel with durability for years together, this is the one for you.
Pfleuger President Spinning Fishing Reel
Pflueger’s President spinning reel is a good option for someone looking for a reel with the high quality features and durability.
It’s known for being an exceptionally durable reel. With a strong stainless steel, aluminum and graphite body, this reel has a much more solid feel as well as a smooth retrieve. It also has a 7 bearing system, all corrosion resistant and stainless steel. Something unique about this reel is the sealed drag system that never needs to be re-lubricated.
There’s also slow oscillation gearing that ensures lines don’t get twisted. With a braid ready spool you can tie the braid directly to the spool. What we’re particularly impressed with is the sure click bail system that drastically improves the backing line.
However, the Pfleuger President is a small reel. The spool is also rather tiny, holding just 100 yards of 4-pound mono.
- Line capacity: 4 lb./100 yds.
- Bearings: 6 + 1 roller bearing
- Gear ratio: 5.2:1
- Weight: 7.36 oz
If you’re the kind of angler who wants their reel to have all the latest technology and features, the Pflueger’s President will deliver. It has a lot of unique features for a budget reel such as braid ready spool, and sealed drag system. It could also be great for a beginner or for teaching children how to fish.
How do I choose the best spinning reel for crappie?
Now that we’ve narrowed down 6 of the best crappie reels, you’re likely wondering how to figure out which is best for you. The key to doing this is just to understand your own requirements. While crappie fishing is quite straightforward, there are still some anglers that have their own techniques for playing the fish and reeling it in.
Your technique and surroundings affect the kind of reel that you’d want.
Why a spinning reel?
You might have noticed that all the reels on this list are spinning reels. That’s because they work great for small panfish like crappie and are also the most widely used. There are kids, beginners and even experienced anglers who stick to spinning fishing and never specialise into one particular kind of reel (like fly fishing or inline).
Spinning reels are also much better than baitcasters when it comes to casting! This is because we’re using such small ultralight reels, where a baitcaster can actually increase the resistance and reduce the casting distance. That’s why pros who fish exclusively crappie only stick to spinning reels.
And since crappies are found in lakes, ponds, rivers and streams, all year round: it’s best to stick to spinning reels for crappie fishing in this kind of water.
You’ll notice that the reels we’ve listed here are mostly of the 1000 size. The sizing differs from brand to brand. Some have sizes from 1000 to 8000 with 1000 being the smallest. For crappie fishing, you generally need a pretty small reel.
And if you’ve ever seen a crappie before, you probably remember their signature large mouths This means that they can bite larger bait and lures but also that it can easily slip out of their mouth. The tricky part is when you’re setting the hook into the crappie’s mouth. What helps to maneuver your rod while trying to accurately set the hook is having lightweight gear.
An ultralight rod paired with a too-large reel can cause imbalance which is the last thing you want while trying to land these slippery mouth crappies. The ideal reel would be a small one that goes with your rod and also has the power to pull in larger crappie, should you get so lucky.
Remember to make sure your rod is fast or medium-fast action before going crappie fishing, unless you’re going ice fishing. That’s because fish move much slower under ice due to the colder temperatures.
To conclude: look for a lightweight reel, but one with a larger spool for more of the line’s capacity and a large handle for ergonomic comfort while fishing.
When you’re fishing for hours on end, you don’t want a bulky reel that’s made out of heavy metal, especially when fishing for crappie. This is why it’s important to look at the constitution of the reel frame and ball bearings.
Take a look at the weight of the reel. It should be around 6-7 oz. to ensure that the crappie reel is lightweight enough.
You should also consider what the metal frame is made of. High quality materials are generally carbon fiber, machined aluminum, anodized aluminum and sometimes even magnesium (in the case of the Cadence CS8). All of these materials are lightweight, though reels made with graphite and carbon fiber body will naturally be the lightest material.
The reels that you get in a rod and reel combo will often boast of the best features but you’ll see the difference in build quality. That’s why you should take a few moments to notice the material of the spinning reel. Bonus points if these reels have corrosion resistance since that will definitely add up in the future when you’re considering durability.
The reason why we’ve included the line capacities of both monofilament and braided lines for all the crappie reels that we reviewed is because it’s one of the most important things to look at while choosing a fishing reel.
The line’s capacity refers to the ideal line that the reel was made for, or the midpoint of the range of lines that it can handle. For example, if a reel has a listed capacity of “6 LB/110 YDS” in its specifications, this means it could also handle a 4lbs and 8lbs line but would be optimal with the 6lbs. Heavier braided lines will be able to handle big fish but since you’re crappie fishing, this may not be a concern for you!
Spinning reels can have three different kinds of drag systems. It can either have rear drag systems or a front one, or a sealed drag.
You can recognize low quality drags by how jerky they feel while using it. This is generally the kinds of drag you’ll get in a budget rod and reel combo. Since you’re looking to purchase a reel separately, it’s definitely crucial to pay attention to the drag systems.
When crappie fishing, the crappie reels can be any one according to the price range.
Rear Drag System:
Many pros prefer the rear drag system on their crappie reel because of how easy to access they are. However they can be a little mechanically complicated and aren’t always as high-quality and effective as their front drag counterparts since they don’t directly come in contact with the spool.
Front Drag System:
The front drag is a little more difficult to access, especially if you’re used to the rear drag method. But they’re usually far smoother and powerful mechanisms. You’ll find the front drag system in a slightly mid-range to high crappie fishing reel.
Sealed and Watertight Drag System:
Specially designed for saltwater fishing, the sealed and watertight drag systems ensure that no water or sediments corrode the inner workings. This helps when you’re trying to really get your reel to last for a couple of years. Since we don’t find crappie in saltwater (unless you’re fishing in creeks), it doesn’t make sense to shell out extra coin for this high-end feature on your fishing reel.
A final aspect to focus on would be the gear ratio of the crappie reel. The gear ratio refers to the number of spool revolutions per crank of the handle. A crank is also one full turn of the handle.
For example: in 5.2:1 gear ratio, there are 5.2 full turns of the spool with every turn of your handle.
This is important when you consider how fast you want your lure/bait action to be and how fast you’d like the retrieve to be. Most crappie fishing reels will be around the 5:1 ratio.
Our Winner and Final Words
We’d choose the Shimano Sienna 500 as the best crappie spinning reel and this is why: it’s incredibly reliable and durable and is known for having smooth operation. It’s also a bit of a case in point, because of how few stainless steel ball bearings it has and how affordable it is while still being the best.
While multiple fancy features in your reel can enhance the experience and improve your fishing, an ultralight reel needs to be primarily built with a smooth drag. Your crappie most likely won’t fight back too much once you set your hook in, so it’s important that your ultralight equipment is sensitive and easy to maneuver as compared to how powerful it is.