7 Best Crappie Reels: Reviewed, Rated & Compared

by John Laconsay

7 Best Crappie Reels: Reviewed, Rated & Compared

by John Laconsay

by John Laconsay

Crappie fishing is one of the most rewarding types of angling because the fish are so much fun to catch and crappie are very tasty. However, not every reel is built to catch crappie.

Anglers who are looking for the best crappie reel at the right price can read this guide to find out everything they need to know.

Preview

Product

Max Drag

Line Capacity

Gear Ratio

Check Price

KastKing Summer Spinning Reel,Size 2000...

KastKing

Summer 2000

12 lbs.

Mono: 6/310, 8/235
Braid: 20/260, 30/140

5.6:1

Cadence CS8 Spinning Reel, Ultralight Fast...

Cadence

CS8 1000

11 lbs.

Mono: 6/110
Braid: 10/115

5.2:1

Zebco ZO3,10,BX3 Omega Z03 Spincast Reel, One...

Zebco Omega

Unspecified

Mono: 85/10

2.9:1

Okuma Ceymar Spinning Reel Size 10 - 5Lb Max...

Okuma Ceymar

6.6 lbs.

Mono: 110/4

5.0:1

Pflueger PRESSP20X President Spinning Fishing...

Pflueger

President p20x

6 lbs.

Mono: 200/2, 100/4, 80/6

5.2:1

SHIMANO SYNCOPATE Front Drag, Freshwater...

Shimano

Syncopate

7 lbs.

Mono: 6/200, 8/140, 10/120
PowerPro: 10/170, 15/145, 30/95

5.2:1

Lews Fishing Mr. Crappie Slab Shaker Spinning...

Lews Fishing Mr. Crappie Slab Shaker

Unspecified

Mono: 4/110, 6/90, 8/80

5.2:1

Why Fishing for Crappie Requires Specialized Reels

Crappie are smaller panfish found all across North America in freshwater sources like lakes, sloughs, and streams. They prefer cover like sunken logs and vegetation, so a crappie reel has to be able to hold line that can rip through these obstacles.

They feed on smaller fish such as minnows, so a good crappie reel should cast lures a good distance. Crappie may not be in the shallows at certain times of year, so reels should also be able to present lures vertically to be the most effective.


Buyer’s Guide to Choosing a Quality Crappie Reel

Fishing Environment

While crappie are found in freshwater sources, they can be found almost anywhere within those environments. In the winter, they go to the shallows where they can feel the sunlight. They can be anywhere at other times of the year, which means a good crappie fishing reel should work for casting, trolling, and dropping straight down into the depths.

Reel Type & Size

It’s certainly possible to use a baitcasting reel to catch crappie, but spincasters and spinning reels are much more effective, and they make crappie fishing much more fun. Both varieties are easy to use, so beginners can start with crappie. For more seasons anglers, these reels allow for faster casting and steadier retrieval to try and entice crappie out of wherever they happen to be hiding.

Other Reel Features

  • Gear Ratio
    Gear ratio describes how many times the spool rotates in one crank of the handle. For crappie, a slower gear ratio like 5.2:1 is preferable for making more enticing lure presentations.
  • Drag System
    It doesn’t take as much stopping power to stop crappie as it does to turn a bass. Crappie reels usually have less than 10 pounds of maximum drag, but that makes the whole experience more fun.
  • Ball Bearings & Bail
    Ball bearings make the reel operate more smoothly while the bail should have an automatic close when the angler reels in. Crappie reels can also have manual bails depending on what the angler prefers.
  • Spool Style
    Spools often bear the brunt of a fish’s attack, so they have to be made of strong material. They should also spin smoothly and be as lightweight as possible to prevent fatigue.
  • Line Capacity
    Trolling and long-distance casting require more line. Crappie reels often hold way more line than is needed to get a minnow lure within the target's attack range.

Warranty

For less expensive crappie reels, warranties are usually not offered. When you get nearer to the $100 price point, warranties start to appear. In most situations, that’s because it’s cheaper to buy a new inexpensive reel than to replace one. Even when a warranty is offered for a crappie fishing reel, they are typically not longer than one year.

Price

Some crappie fishing reels are built with cutting-edge design and high-quality materials. In contrast, others are meant to be budget options and are therefore built with more easily replaceable material. If you have the money, investing in a top of the line crappie reel could be the smarter move. The more expensive reels typically outperform the budget options and are more likely to save you money in the long run.


7 Best Fishing Reels for Crappie Reviewed

1. KastKing Summer 2000

Our Top Pick

Reel Weight

9.1 oz.

Max Drag

12 lbs.

Line Capacity

Mono: 6/310, 8/235

 Braid: 20/260, 30/140

Ball Bearings

9 + 1

Gear Ratio

5.6:1

The KastKing Summer line is the best crappie spinning reel on the market with exactly the balance and lightness needed to make catching these delicious little panfish challenging and fun. Shooting a lure underneath docks or dropping down into a deep hole to find the crappie wherever they’re hiding is easy with this reel. It can also hold tons of mono or braided line, making it more versatile for different types of crappie fishing. 

This is one of the sturdiest crappie spinning reels around, constructed out of graphite and formed into a compact design that won’t take up too much room in a gear bag. The 5.6:1 gear ratio might seem a bit on the slow side, but for tempting crappie out of the vegetation and sunken logs where they most like to hang out, it’s spot on. With a 12-pound maximum drag, this reel can easily turn any crappie you manage to get on the line.

For even more drag power and line capacity, consider the 5000 KastKing Summer. The smaller 2000 makes for more fun crappie fishing because every fight will feel like a record-setter on the hook. With a smooth operation usually reserved for crappie spinning reels far outside this price range, the KastKing Summer 2000 is easily the best crappie spinning reel around.

Pros
  • Durable graphite frame
  • Highly versatile
  • Strong drag
  • Inexpensive
  • Smooth reeling
Cons
  • Slower gear ratio

2. Cadence CS8 1000

Best Crappie Reel Under $100

Reel Weight

6.3 oz.

Max Drag

11 lbs.

Line Capacity

Mono: 6/110

 Braid: 10/115

Ball Bearings

9 + 1

Gear Ratio

5.2:1

The magnesium frame of the Cadence CS8 crappie fishing reels makes them stand out, and that’s just the beginning of the extra features you get for the slightly larger investment. Aluminum in the handle and the interior, specifically the pinion gear, make this spinning reel easy to use for crappie fishing and strong enough to haul any panfish out of the water. The carbon fiber drag system has 11 pounds of stopping power, which is slightly less than our top pick but still plenty for catching crappie.

All the materials used to build the CS8 are top of the range. The spool is machined aluminum, which is lightweight and easy to spool line onto. Generally speaking, this reel is comfortable in the hand, easy to cast, and has an oversized handle for additional leverage over the target. There are more ball bearings in this reel that you would probably expect at this price point, and the smoothness of its operation reflects that.

If you’re looking for crappie spinning reels that can also be used in other environments, the CS8 is a great option. It’s saltwater-friendly and easy to maintain, so you can use it to chase some smaller targets in other environments as well. It holds enough line to cast or use vertical presentations for your jigs. It’s also backed by a one-year warranty for additional peace of mind.

Pros
  • 1- year warranty
  • Saltwater-friendly
  • Aluminum spool & handle
  • Comfortable casting
Cons
  • Less drag

3. Zebco Omega

Best Spincast Crappie Reel

Reel Weight

13 oz.

Max Drag

Unspecified

Line Capacity

Mono: 85/10

Ball Bearings

6 + 1

Gear Ratio

2.9:1

The Zebco Omega is one of the best crappie reels for getting out on the water without any fuss. The line comes pre-spooled, so all you need to do is put this reel on a crappie rod and attach your lure, and you’re ready to get down to business.

It can stand up to a fair amount of abuse and even though it’s a little heavier than some other crapping fishing reels, the Omega still makes any crappie fishing combo feel well-balanced. The line that comes pre-spooled on the Omega is 10-pound test, which is more than enough for crappie and a perfect weight for fishing them out of heavy cover.

If you want to do some slow-trolling with a lure to fish for crappie in winter, this is a good reel for it. The slow gear ratio means that covering long distances with the lure is going to take some serious cranking, but if you’re fishing in colder weather when the crappie are more likely to be lethargic, the Omega works great.

If the 10-pound test seems too heavy for use with the crappie you’re after, you might prefer the Size 20 Reel of the Zebco Omega. Overall, this reel works just fine for panfish, and you can even use it for small to medium-sized bass and walleye.

Pros
  • Comes ready to fish
  • Durable
  • Easy to use
  • Casts smoothly
Cons
  • Slow gear ratio
  • Weighs more

4. Okuma Ceymar

Best Reel for Crappie Jig Pole

Reel Weight

6 oz.

Max Drag

6.6 lbs.

Line Capacity

Mono: 110/4

Ball Bearings

6 + 1

Gear Ratio

5.0:1

Easily one of the most professional-looking crappie spinning reels on the market today, the Okuma Ceymar is chock-full of thoughtful design elements that all come together to make it a highly effective crappie reel. For example, Okuma has developed a fast-drying airflow system around the rotor so it won't stay wet for long.

The gears inside feel like they have been cut very precisely, and there are plenty of ball bearings to make the action on this reel flow smoothly. The handle is comfortable and strong when there’s a fish on, although there is noticeable flex in the reel foot when the rod is under pressure.

The way this reel handles line is really something. There are very rarely any problems with how it lays line back on the spool, and it casts fantastically without any sort of hangups. With the right crappie fishing rod, this Ceymar crappie reel should cast like a dream.

This is probably one of the most lightweight crappie spinning reels to make this list, and it also has a low profile design to ensure that it won't cause fatigue throughout long days of repeated casting. The construction feels very durable, and the reel itself doesn't take on much water, which means it should last a very long time with the right upkeep.

Pros
  • Sharp design
  • Lightweight
  • Casts great
  • Dries quickly
Cons
  • Flex in the reel foot

5. Pflueger President p20x

Best Lightweight Crappie Reel

Reel Weight

6.2 oz.

Max Drag

6 lbs.

Line Capacity

Mono: 200/2, 100/4, 80/6

Ball Bearings

7

Gear Ratio

5.2:1

By far, one of the most respected brands in the crappie fishing market, Pflueger has crafted a beautiful reel for enticing crappie out of their hiding spots and into the live well with their President p20x. The graphite body makes this the best spinning reel for crappie fishing for people with a lightweight setup.

Casting light lures a long distance is easy with this reel, and if you are going to be fishing in places with lots of cover or vegetation, this reel is built specifically to handle braided line that can rip through without snapping. Braid can be attached directly to the spool of the Pflueger President.

The sealed drag system means you won’t have to fuss around with the drag or try to keep water away from it. It might require a little more delicacy when you have to do seasonal reel maintenance, but it makes this crappie reel much easier to use for the rest of the year.

The drag itself has plenty of fish-stopping power. You can fish this reel all day without having any line twists, and the line is laid back on the reel without issue when you crank the handle.

Pros
  • Casts light lures far
  • Sealed drag system
  • Durable frame
  • Built for braided line
Cons
  • More difficult maintenance

6. Shimano Syncopate

Best Shimano Crappie Reel

Reel Weight

9.2 oz.

Max Drag

7 lbs.

Line Capacity

Mono: 6/200, 8/140, 10/120

 PowerPro: 10/170, 15/145, 30/95

Ball Bearings

4 + 1

Gear Ratio

5.2:1

It’s always difficult to definitively say which Shimano reel is the best for a given species because Shimano always makes their reels effective. The Syncopate is the best spinning reel for crappie fishing from Shimano because it has some great design that makes it the most effective for catching panfish.

It has a solid frame, and the reel operation is extremely smooth. The features that stand out the most on the Syncopate reel are its one-handed casting ability and the way it handles line. Even in high winds, this crappie spinning reel will cast with ease and without forming any knots.

For anglers who have lots of crappie fishing experience, this reel makes it easy to cast a lure with one hand, which means anglers can make more casts in a given period and can use their free hand to, for example, manipulate a net or a fish finder.

If you want to fish multiple rods simultaneously, being able to cast with one hand will make that whole process much simpler. It isn’t the most lightweight crappie fishing reel on the market, but the extra weight helps balance longer rods, which means it will be better in a setup meant for longer casting.

Pros
  • One-handed casting
  • Great line handling
  • Ideal for long distances
  • Durable frame
Cons
  • Weighs more
  • Less drag

7. Lews Fishing Mr. Crappie Slab Shaker

Best Crappie Reel for Beginners

Reel Weight

6 oz.

Max Drag

Unspecified

Line Capacity

Mono: 4/110, 6/90, 8/80

Ball Bearings

2

Gear Ratio

5.2:1

There's no better way to get into it than with a Mr. Crappie Reel for anglers who have never fished crappie before or people who are just beginning their fishing careers.

Like other Lew's crappie reels, this one has plenty of drag power to turn a fish and handles line with few knots so newcomers can concentrate on learning the ropes instead of fussing with their gear. The body is built of graphite, so it’s lightweight enough to prevent hand and arm fatigue after many casts, and it's strong enough to survive getting dropped on the deck.

This reel comes pre-spooled with a 6-pound test, which is ideal for catching crappie. It’s not such heavy test that it will overpower crappie, but it's strong enough to prevent line breaks. There are two ball bearings inside that make the reeling action of this Mr. Crappie reel fairly smooth.

At this price point, there’s no cheaper way to get beginners into crappie fishing. It may have a few shortfalls compared to more expensive crappie fishing reels, but that should give beginners the impetus they need to practice so that they can graduate to more sophisticated tackle later on. It will last throughout the first few seasons while new anglers get the hang of things.

Pros
  • Good line handling
  • Inexpensive
  • Casts well
  • Pre-spooled line
  • Durable
Cons
  • Fewer ball bearings

Understanding Crappie Fish

Crappie aren’t as temperamental as bullhead or as sensitive as trout. They like to eat small minnows, and despite their smaller size, crappie are still predators in their habitats.

The best time to fish for crappie is at dawn or dusk, or when they feed, which is typically between midnight and 2 AM. They love lures that mimic minnows, but other soft baits and crankbaits also work.

Common fishing methods for catching crappie include casting, vertical jigging, trolling, and shooting jigs, which requires the angler to take the hook in one hand until the rod flexes and then “shoot” it with the energy in a loaded rod much like you would with a bow and arrow.


Types of Reels for Crappie Fishing Compared

  • Spinning
    Many anglers love spinning reels because they are much easier to use, but they make the best crappie reel because they are versatile enough to be used in any of the popular crappie fishing methods. They rarely experience knots, and it is easier to fish multiple spinning rods at once, which can be helpful when you have yet to find out where the crappie are.
  • Spincast
    Spincasters are even easier to use than spinning reels. Most of them even come with the line pre-wound on the spool, which means they’re great to have around for last-minute crappie fishing trips. They are closed-face reels so that the angler will have less direct control on the line. However, for simple casting methods used to catch crappie, a spincaster will work just fine.

Recommended Reel Sizes for Crappie Fishing

Using a reel that’s too large could ruin the fun of crappie fishing. You also run the risk of pulling the lure right out of the crappie’s mouth instead of setting the hook properly.

Most crappie reels are at the smaller, lightweight end of the spectrum. Different manufacturers have different size ratings for these reels, but it’s most likely a good crappie reel will be a 100 or 1000 size.

Anglers can also catch crappie on 200 or 2000 size reels. Anything larger will be less useful because it will likely not handle the lighter test line well that you need to use for crappie fishing. Lighter lures used for crappie also call for smaller reel sizes.


Helpful Crappie Fishing Tips for Beginners

The best advice for crappie fishing is to get the best fish finder you can afford because crappie can be anywhere in a freshwater environment.

Once you have the fish finder, spool line on a spinning reel by attaching it to the spool and spinning the handle backward. Standard hook-and-bobber setups work great for crappie fishing.

Use methods like shooting jigs underneath docks and into deep cover where crappie like to hang out. Try slow trolling or still lure presentations if the crappie are acting lethargic.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

What lures can I use to catch crappie?

Crappie love minnow lures, but they can also be tricked into attacking using crankbaits and soft plastics. Make sure to use a lighter lure that won’t make a huge splash and try to get a fishing rod that can give the lure the most lifelike presentation possible.

What is the best fishing line for crappie fishing reels?

Using heavy line can ruin your chances of catching crappie. Lighter test will be better for casting the lighter lures that crappie like. Use somewhere between 3 and 7-pound test for the best results.

How important is it to consider the type of crappie fish when deciding on a reel?

There are two main types of crappie fish, and they are very similar to each other. Crappie don’t vary in size too much, so it's relatively easy to pick out a crappie reel. Think lightweight gear and lures when you select a setup for crappie.

What are Panfish?

Crappie are panfish, but not all panfish are crappie. Panfish are edible fish that are usually smaller than a frying pan. Some examples of panfish include carp, bluegill, and some channel catfish.

Where is the best place to find crappie reels for sale?

For the most frequent sales and the best delivery times, head to Amazon for a crappie fishing reel. Most seller profiles are controlled by the manufacturer, so warranties and other deals typically apply for reels purchased through Amazon.


Conclusion

Crappie fishing takes a durable, lightweight reel that is versatile enough to cast, troll, and fish with vertical presentations. The KastKing Summer 2000 has all this to offer and more, which is what makes it the best crappie reel on the market today.

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