Hey fellow angler, welcome to my review of the best crappie reels!
Crappies are relatively small and don’t put up too much of a fight. Since you’ll be freshwater fishing for crappie, you won’t need a reel that can take on saltwater. You can also afford to have a lot less drag since crappies are so small. That said, you’ll still want a smooth and light reel. And although reels for crappie fishing can be less corrosion-resistant, you’ll still need something that can withstand the test of time. Taking all these into account, my team and I spent 27 hours sifting through all the reels on the market. We also bought the more promising ones to test. In the end, these were the eight best reels for crappie on the market.
Out of those eight, one stood out more than the other reels. That reel is the Daiwa Regal LT. Extremely lightweight, silky smooth, durable, and powerful, it’s got it all. What’s more, it’s priced very reasonably at a little under 65 bucks.
If that didn’t float your boat though, fret not. Whether you’re looking for something lighter, tougher, or even cheaper, you’ll find them all in this comprehensive list of the best crappie reels.
Let’s jump right into it!
Our Top 8 Picks
- Daiwa Regal LT Crappie Spinning Reel (Best Overall)
- Team Lew’s Custom Pro Speed Spin (Best Splurge)
- Pflueger President Crappie Spinning Reel (Best Lightness)
- Shimano Sedona Crappie Spinning Reel (Best Durability)
- Okuma Ceymar Crappie Spinning Reel (Best For Beginners)
- Abu Garcia Pro Max Crappie Spinning Reel (Best For Surf Fishing)
- KastKing Centron Crappie Spinning Reel (Best Budget)
- Shimano Sienna Crappie Spinning Reel (Best Budget Durability)
The 8 Best Crappie Reels
Before we begin, just a heads up. You’ll see some really large reel sizes for the reels. Those aren’t meant for crappie fishing, but we included them for crappie anglers who want to use their reel for other purposes besides crappie fishing, like surf fishing.
Now that I’ve cleared that up, let’s begin!
- Ball Bearings: 9+1
- Reel Size: 1000-3000
- Gear Ratio: 5.2:1
- Max Drag Weight: 11-22 pounds
- Weight: 6.7-7.8 ounces
First up is our best overall pick – the Daiwa Regal LT. This incredible spinning reel is not only exceptionally light and smooth, but also tough and strong.
Featuring Daiwa’s Air Rotor System (ARS) and a carbon fiber spool, this reel is outstandingly light. The Air Rotor System makes the rotor 15% lighter than normal rotors and enhances rotational balance with the near-symmetrical shape, making the reel feel lighter than it actually is. The carbon fiber spool further contributes to this reel’s lightness as carbon fiber is the lightest material for spools. Combining the ARS and the carbon fiber spool, the result is a reel you can fish crappie with all day without fatigue.
This reel is also outfitted with 9+1 bearings, making it buttery-smooth. For context, 5+1 bearings is the benchmark for smooth reels. Now imagine how smooth a reel with 9+1 top-notch bearings will be.
On top of the lightness and smoothness, this reel is also able to withstand harsh elements. Earlier, I mentioned that the spool was made of carbon fiber. What I didn’t tell you, is that the carbon fiber is a composite that’s lighter and tougher than ordinary graphite. And best of all, it’s completely corrosion-proof. Safe to say, this is one of the toughest crappie fishing reels out there.
And in case you’re worried about how this reel fares against large crappie, a maximum drag of 11 pounds means even record-breaking crappie will be a piece of cake. In fact, if you get any of the size 2500 and above options, the 22 pounds of drag can take on even larger fish like bass.
In short, the Daiwa Regal LT is an awesome reel that excels in all areas. Its durability means you can also take it out on saltwater fishing trips, and its strong drag allows it to stare down larger saltwater fish.
- Ball Bearings: 11+1
- Reel Size: 2000-4000
- Gear Ratio: 6.2:1
- Max Drag Weight: 20-24 pounds
- Weight: 8.8-10.1 ounces
Next on the list is an even smoother and more sturdy reel than the Daiwa Regal LT. The Team Lew’s Custom Pro Speed Spin possesses unbelievable smoothness and durability, and comes with a powerful drag system.
Starting with smoothness, 11+1 stainless steel bearings guarantee buttery-smooth operation. The Daiwa Regal LT was already no slack with 9+1 bearings, but this reel is on a whole other level.
Moving on to durability, with every single part made of aluminum, this reel also surpasses the Daiwa Regal LT. Most reels only make the most important parts like the frame and sideplate out of metal. This reel, however, has a braid-ready aluminum spool, frame, sideplate, pinion gear, and even handle. And to top it off, the stainless steel ball bearings are double-shielded to ensure the bearings’ longevity. The Daiwa Regal LT may have ensured its body was corrosion-proof, but it didn’t protect its bearings. That’s why the Custom Pro Spin is superior in durability.
To seal the deal, this spinning reel can generate a whopping 24 pounds of stopping power, beating the Daiwa Regal LT by 2 pounds.
The only issue this spinning reel has is weight. At 8.8 ounces, it’s certainly still quite a lightweight reel, though just not as light as the Daiwa Regal LT.
All in all, this is a phenomenally smooth and hardy reel that is strong enough to handle even large saltwater fish, much less crappie. It’s the best there is, and the price reflects so. Sure it’s pricey, but it’s worth every penny.
P.S. Instead of showing reel sizes for the options, only line capacity is shown. I’m not sure why, but to clarify, the line capacities 160/8, 160/10, and 190/12 represent reel sizes 2000, 3000, and 4000.
- Ball Bearings: 6/9+1
- Reel Size: 2000-4000
- Gear Ratio: 5.2:1
- Max Drag Weight: 6-14 pounds
- Weight: 6.2-11.5 ounces
Light is the middle name of this reel. The Pflueger President is one of the lightest spinning reels available. That isn’t the only reason to buy it though. It’s also super smooth and robust.
Weighing a mere 6.2 ounces, this reel is one of the lightest available and the lightest one on our list. I honestly forgot that it was even on my rod when I was fishing with it.
This reel’s smoothness is also commendable. With 9+1 stainless steel ball bearings, its smoothness is equal to that of the Daiwa Certate LT.
Then, with a sealed drag system, stainless steel main shaft, and aluminum handle, this reel is also remarkably sturdy. The sealed drag system seals debris and water out to protect the drag system from corrosion and the stainless steel and aluminum material are long-lasting. Furthermore, the stainless steel ball bearings are corrosion-resistant. Together, these features translate to a hardy reel that will last for years to come.
Finally, this reel can produce 6 pounds of drag, which is just right for crappie. Unlike the other spinning reels before it, you won’t be able to go after bigger fish with the Pflueger President Spinning Reel. Nevertheless, its 6 pounds will more than suffice for crappie.
So far so good, but I don’t like that the size 2000 option only has 6+1 bearings. All the other sizes have 9+1. I really don’t understand why they would do that, and I’d advise that you avoid the size 2000 option.
Other than that, the Pflueger President is still a great all-around reel that’s a cut above the rest in lightness. It also costs about the same as the Daiwa Regal LT and has a braid-ready spool. For those who value lightness above all, this may just be the reel for you.
- Ball Bearings: 3+1
- Reel Size: 1000-4000
- Gear Ratio: 5.0-6.2:1
- Max Drag Weight: 7-24 pounds
- Weight: 7.6-10.4 ounces
On to our next reel, the Shimano Sedona is one of the most heavy-duty reels for crappie fishing on the market. It’s also light, and strong enough for the entire range of crappie.
First off, with the aluminum bearings and handle and the Hagane Gear, this reel has extraordinary sturdiness. The drive gear is the heart of every reel. To make it as tough as possible, Shimano made sure not to cut it out from a piece of metal. Instead, they came up with the shape with 3D Design. Then, they used their cold forging technology to create the drive gear. This state-of-the-art technology created the sturdiest drive gear on the market – Hagane Gear. Together, the aluminum handle and bearings and the Hagane Gear make this reel the toughest crappie fishing reel out there.
Another piece of Shimano technology that this reel incorporates is the G Free Body. The G Free Body repositions the reel’s centre of gravity higher up on the reel. This is similar to the Daiwa Regal LT’s ARS which also reduces fatigue. In essence, both technologies make a reel feel lighter than it really is. The G Free Body, coupled with a weight of only 7.6 ounces, makes this another great reel to fish all day with.
In terms of drag, you won’t be landing anything big with a maximum drag of only 7 pounds. But that’s not the real problem. After all, 7 pounds is already more than you’ll need for crappie.
The real problem is with the bearings. This reel is constructed with a measly 3+1 bearings. 3+1 bearings is definitely not enough for a smooth reel, and in most cases, you should expect rather chalky operation. Luckily, at least Shimano’s aluminum bearings are first-rate, so the reel feels like it has 4+1 bearings. In other words, it’s got decent smoothness.
Despite its disappointing number of bearings, this is still the most durable reel we could find for crappie. So if you’re looking for the hardiest reel there is, look no further.
Best For Beginners
- Ball Bearings: 6/7+1
- Reel Size: 1000-6500
- Gear Ratio: 4.5-5.0:1
- Max Drag Weight: 6.6-35.3 pounds
- Weight: 6.0-20.7 ounces
Up next is the best crappie reel for beginners – the Okuma Ceymar Spinning Reel. We decided that this was the most suitable reel for beginners as it isn’t the best in any one area, but delivers on all fronts at a very affordable price.
Weight-wise, this reel measures just 6 ounces at size 1000, which is impressively light. Sharp-eyed anglers may have noticed that this is even lighter than the Pflueger President, which stands at 6.2 ounces. However, that’s for its size 2000 option. Since the size 2000 Okuma Ceymar weighs 6.7 ounces, the Pflueger President is still the lightest reel on our list.
Smoothness-wise, armed with 6+1 bearings for the size 2000 and below options, the Okuma Ceymar’s smoothness is quite satisfactory. In addition, there are 7+1 bearings if you get the size 3000 and above options.
Durability-wise, this reel’s got a corrosion-resistant lightweight graphite body and machined aluminum spool. It’s not too bad, though not nearly as hardy as the higher-end reels before it.
Strength-wise, armed with 6.6 pounds of drag, even the largest crappie won’t give you much trouble.
Overall, the Okuma Ceymar does fairly well in every aspect. New anglers who want a high-quality reel for crappie fishing without having to spend too much, this could just be what you’re looking for.
Best For Surf Fishing
- Ball Bearings: 6+1
- Reel Size: 500-4000
- Gear Ratio: 5.2-5.8:1
- Max Drag Weight: 6.4-14 pounds
- Weight: 6.2-9.8 ounces
For those looking for a crappie reel that you can also surf fish with, this is it.
This reel is equipped with Abu Garcia’s Rocket Line Management system. This system significantly brings down the chances of wind knots and bird’s nests. This makes casting and reeling in fish a lot easier. The system also maximises casting distance, making this the farthest-casting crappie fishing reel out there. That’s why we decided this was the best crappie reel for surf fishing.
As for its other aspects, it performs adequately. It’s light at 6.2 ounces for the size 500 option, smooth with 6+1 bearings, and strong enough for crappie with 6.4 pounds of drag.
The one con it has is that its inner parts aren’t of good quality. For regular use, make sure to do reel maintenance every 6 months. And if you drop it in sand or dirt, clean it right away. Otherwise, it’s more than likely that the gears will be ruined.
- Ball Bearings: 9+1
- Reel Size: 500-5000
- Gear Ratio: 4.5-5.2:1
- Max Drag Weight: 11-17.5 pounds
- Weight: 6.9-13.5 ounces
At this point, if you still haven’t found a reel you like, I’m guessing it’s a matter of price. That’s why we included this budget reel. The KastKing Centron does just enough in each area to still be considered a good crappie reel.
By now, you should be quite adept at assessing the reel features, so I shan’t waste time going over them again. Just note that even though there are 9+1 bearings, they aren’t very high-quality. As such, it’ll feel more like 5+1 bearings when you use it.
Basically, the specifications all look decent, but the parts are all made with average materials. For example, the graphite frame is light like carbon fiber, but nowhere near as strong.
All things considered, I’d give this crappie spinning reel a borderline pass. We set out to find the cheapest possible reel that could still catch crappie, and this was it.
Best Budget For Surf Fishing
- Ball Bearings: 3+1
- Reel Size: 500-4000
- Gear Ratio: 5.0-6.2:1
- Max Drag Weight: 4-19 pounds
- Weight: 6.3-11.3 ounces
Finishing things off is another reel for distance casting – the Shimano Sienna.
This reel, like the Abu Garcia Pro Max, has a line management system. Much like the Abu Garcia Pro Max, its Propulsion Line Management system also prevents wind knots and backlash and increases casting distance.
The difference is, this reel is 15 bucks cheaper, as it has lesser bearings and less stopping power.
Since both reels cast equally far and are almost evenly matched in lightness, the choice is between price and quality. If you prefer a better quality reel and you’re willing to pay more, the Abu Garcia Pro Max is the reel for you. If not, for those on a tighter budget, this might be a more apt choice.
What To Consider When Buying A Reel For Crappie
Wanna know exactly how we chose each of these reels? I know you do. That’s why I’ll be breaking down in detail all the factors that we looked at.
Reel size matters because the bigger your reel, the more line you’ll be able to hold. However, the bigger your reel, the heavier it will be.
Given that you won’t need a ton of line for crappie, you won’t want too big a reel unless you intend to fish larger species with it.
For crappie, you won’t ever need more line than a size 3000 reel will provide. I always fish with sizes 1000-2000, but you can even get a size 500 reel if you don’t intend to go after the larger crappies.
Line capacity refers to the amount of fishing line a spool can hold without overloading. This of course depends on the size of the reel.
Line capacity is typically presented as something like “8/160”. This means that it can hold 160 yards of 8-pound line.
Since line capacity is decided by the reel size, just follow the reel sizes we provided and you’ll be fine.
The drag system is essential to tiring fishes out and preventing your line from snapping. Larger fishes will call for stronger drag systems.
Once again, crappie aren’t particularly big or strong. As such, as long as your fishing reel can at least produce 7 pounds of drag, it’ll suffice.
Having said that, you’ll only ever need that 7 pounds when you’re up against the largest crappies. Most of the time, you won’t need more than 5-6 pounds.
As for how to set your drag, it should be set to 1/3 or 1/4 of your line’s pound test. So if you’re using a 12-pound fishing line, you should set your drag to either 3 or 4 pounds.
Ball bearings keep your reel spinning smoothly. The more you have, the smoother your fishing reel will be.
However, more important than the number of bearings is the quality. 5 high-quality bearings can outperform 10 low-quality ones. Make sure that when you’re assessing a fishing reel, don’t just look at the number of bearings. Check to ensure that they’re of high quality too.
High-quality bearings will usually be made of stainless steel or some other durable metal. They may also be shielded too.
A good number to look out for with ball bearings is 5+1. As long as they’re quality bearings, 5+1 will give you excellent smoothness.
Gear ratio is measured by how many times your spool spins for every turn of the handle. The higher your gear ratio, the more line you retrieve per turn.
This means reels with higher gear ratios take fewer turns and less effort to reel fish in.
Even so, it’s not as straightforward as choosing the fishing reel with the highest gear ratio. Lures that call for slower retrieves will require lower gear ratios and vice versa for faster lures.
In general, 6:1 is considered fast and 4:1 is considered slow. I’d recommend a 5:1 gear ratio so that you can comfortably fish both fast and slow lures.
Frequently Asked Questions
Alright, so you now know how to choose a good fishing reel for crappie. This FAQs section will answer some questions that we often hear new anglers ask about crappie reels.
Spinning VS Baitcasting Reels: Which Is Better For Crappie?
Ahh, the age-old question. To spin or to baitcast?
Well, there’s actually no question that for crappie, spinning reels are better. Let me explain.
The main argument for choosing a baitcaster is that you’ll get a lot more casting accuracy. Baitcasters also work better with heavier lines and lures.
The thing is, you won’t need much casting accuracy when fishing crappie. You’ll also be using lighter lines and lures. This means there’s really no reason to use a baitcaster at all.
Furthermore, spinning reels are much easier to use. Since spinning reels are easier to use and more compatible with crappie fishing tackle, it’s obvious that they’re better for crappie fishing.
What Is The Best Line To Use For Crappie Fishing?
The 3 different types of fishing lines are monofilament line, braided line, and fluorocarbon line.
Monofilament is the cheapest but also weakest line.
Braided line is more expensive, but much stronger, although it’s also the easiest for fish to spot.
Fluorocarbon is the least easily spotted by fish.
The fact is, there isn’t a specific line for crappie fishing. Any line will do. As such, I’d suggest going with monofilament, the cheapest option.
What Rod Should I Pair My Crappie Reel With?
Remember, crappie are quite small, so there’s no point getting a super strong rod. You do need a sensitive rod though, so ultralight rods are a great option. Ultralight rods also make fishing crappie a lot more fun than something with more backbone, not to mention you’ll probably be using an ultralight spinning reel.
These are the best ultralight rods to pair with your crappie reel (which will likely be an ultralight reel).
Crappie are suitable for anglers of any skill level because they’re easy to catch, as long as you’ve got the right gear. To help you catch lots of crappie, we did the brainwork and legwork to find the best crappie fishing reels in existence.
These 8 crappie spinning reels will serve you well on the water and help you catch lots of crappie. And don’t worry if you’re having trouble deciding, or worry that you’ll make the wrong choice. The Daiwa Regal LT is a crappie reel that has it all, and you can’t go wrong with it. Just get the Daiwa Regal LT if you really can’t make a decision.
With that, have fun with your new crappie reel, and I hope you catch lots of crappie!