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Choosing the best crappie reel isn’t difficult and doesn’t have to be expensive. Even the biggest crappie isn’t going to test the capability of the modern spinning reel.
The typical crappie ranges from 4 to 8 inches with world record crappie measuring in at just shy of 20 inches and 5.7lb.
With competent hands, this isn’t a challenge for your average 2500 spin reel.
Crappie are great fun on light gear with even the hardest marlin hunter getting plenty of excitement from America’s favorite panfish.
Your reel choice will be determined by the type of rod you want to fish. Your rod will be determined, by and large, by where you intend to deploy it.
Safe to say, crappie hunting is predominantly a light tackle affair, and there will only be rare circumstances where you’ll want a reel bigger than 2500.
As crappie fishing is all about light tackle, I usually recommend that the average angler sticks to spinning reels.
While casting reels are awesome, the spin reel excels in ultralight finesse style applications.
In which case, I’ll focus on spinning reels only. Let’s look at the top 5 crappie reels for all budgets.
Top 5 Best Crappie Reels in 2024
Last update on 2024-02-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
1. SHIMANO Sienna FG Spinning Reel – Best on a Budget
The Sienna is a great entry-level spinning reel, ideal for crappie and even better for the angler looking for quality on a tiny budget.
The Sienna series is well established and has been with us for decades, with the FG being the most current iteration.
Hand on heart I say with all confidence that the crappie hunter needs no more than the Sienna FG, and I know this from experience.
My Siennas work just as well today as they did when I bought them years ago. They get no special attention beyond an occasional clean.
While the Shimano Stella is the dream reel in anybody’s language, it’s the Sienna that makes Shimano quality accessible.
I think the 2500 Sienna would be the ideal choice for most average anglers.
You have crappie completely covered from pretty well every location and condition with some extra grunt to poke at bass and others.
The Sienna is a little slow at 5.0:1, but there’s some nice cranking power, indeed more than you’ll need for the common black crappie.
You’ll fit approximately 140 yards of 8lb mono and 170 yards of 10lb braid. There are 9 pounds of max drag, which is more than enough to arrest grumpy crappie.
There are 3 bearings plus a dedicated anti-reverse. It’s smooth enough and the hook setting is enhanced by a lack of back play.
The AR-C spool enhances casting manners for long accurate casts, and the g-free body ensures an ergonomic feel for fluid, rapid casting.
At only 250 grams, this is a lightweight reel suitable for lures and natural baits. At this price point, the Sienna is basic but very hard to beat in terms of quality at a rock-bottom price.
- AR-C Spool
- G-Free body
- Ball bearings 3+1
2. DAIWA BG Spinning Reel – Best Allrounder
A great number of anglers only have one or two reels in their arsenal. These anglers are looking for durability, longevity, and versatility.
They want to get a tonne of diverse fishing out of one reel type and size.
Should crappie be the target, but you also want to catch bass, walleye, trout, and a host of salt species, the Daiwa BG is a very worthy investment.
They represent outstanding value as the build quality and performance are outstanding for this price point.
It’s reels like the BG that sees Daiwa outpacing Shimano for per dollar performance.
I like the 2500 for the crappie hunter. In many respects, it may well be overkill for the diminutive crappie.
But it will never feel like overkill, as the lightweight crank and lightweight construction ensure a finesse style feel while remaining far more robust than your average finesse reel.
There are 6+1 bearings encased in an alloy body. This is excellent for corrosion resistance and therefore perfect for the fresh/saltwater combo.
With features such as Daiwa’s Digigear II, for the perfect gear mech, and Air Rotor contributing to the lightweight crank, the average angler will be fishing Daiwa’s best tech.
It also includes ABS II and Twistbuster technology, for outstanding casting manners
There are four kilos of ATD (drag) which combines perfectly with a generous spool for fantastic fighting capability.
Again, more than you’ll need for a crappie reel, but you can spool up with 210yds/6lb to extract the perfect action on your lures.
There’s no need to wind on 120 yards of 30-pound braid, even though it’s nice to know that you can do this, whilst maintaining a beautiful balance.
I also like the BG for anglers that are prone to be rough on their gear.
The black anodized machined aluminum body and rotor keep everything light yet strong, rigid, and impact resistant.
If you want to chase crappie, yet need the beef for a huge range of inshore species, salt and fresh, the BG 2500 is an excellent choice.
- 6+1 stainless bearings
- Anodized Aluminium Body and Rotor
- Digigear II
- Air Rotor
- ABS II
- ATD system (drag)
3. DAIWA Certate Spinning Reel – Editor’s Choice
Yes, it’s expensive, very expensive. But it’s still around 400 dollars cheaper than the Stella, and the performance is almost indistinguishable.
The reason this is the editor’s choice is that this is just about one of the best reels available on the market, without having to spend the 1000 dollars plus for a Stella.
Getting a Certate will leave you a substantial sum (from the Stella price) for getting the best fishing rod available, for the perfect crappie outfit.
Many will suggest that spending so much on a crappie reel is unnecessary, even outrageous.
However, we have to remember that expensive is relative, and there are plenty of anglers, indeed crappie fans, for whom a $600 plus reel is not an issue.
I like the 2500-XH spooled with 200 meters of PE 0.8 (about 8 pounds) of braid.
This is a crappie nuclear bomb. A force no crappie could beat. If you want to even up the odds a little, spool up with 150 meters of 6-pound mono.
The list of features is phenomenal, as you might expect at this price.
The 6.2: ratio is appealing. It’s pretty quick for a spinning reel and opens up the applications due to decent flipping and pitching capability.
There’s 10kg of ATD (drag), which is an astonishing amount for the average crappie angler, but coupled with its significant braid capacity makes the Certate a brilliant allrounder.
ATD delivers reduced start-up inertia protecting lighter lines, aggressive strikes, and shock breaks.
Should you pick up something extra large while chasing the crappie schools, you’re well and truly supported for a major battle.
There are 10 bearings plus a dedicated anti-reverse bearing that provides zero back play.
The crank is as light as air, incredibly smooth yet incredibly strong thanks to CNC aluminum Tough Digigear.
The reel is mag sealed, as are the bearings, which makes the Certate incredibly durable and an ideal choice for those who fish the rain, or wade. It’s also brilliant in saltwater.
The long cast spool makes it the perfect choice for the land-based angler to reach the crappie when they’ve moved into the deeper water.
The rigid one-piece aluminum monocoque body is incredibly strong, rigid, and durable. This is a crappie reel that will last you a lifetime of crappie fishing with simple maintenance.
If you’re looking for a crappie reel that can do anything and everything and will cast as well in your 80’s as it did when you bought it in your 20’s, then the Certate, while expensive, is fishing excellence.
- LT (Light and Tough)
- Rigid one-piece aluminum body (monocoque)
- Magsealed body construction
- 10 CRBB ball bearings
- Zaion Air Rotor
- CNC aluminum Tough Digigear
- ATD drag system
- Infinite Anti Reverse
- Cross Wrap system
- ABS Longcast spool
- Air Bail
- Twist Buster II line roller
4. SHIMANO Vanford Spinning Reel – Best Finesse Reel
The Shimano Vanford has taken over from the Stradic and is a mid-priced precision reel that will appeal to the more discerning sports angler.
The 1000 size would be my reel of choice and is suited for the serious finesse angler looking to catch a smaller class of fish, such as the crappie,
The 1000 weighs in at a tiny 155 grams. It will hold 85 yards of 15-pound braid, but the real sport is achieved by spooling up with 270 yards of 2lb or 140 yards of 4lb mono.
There’s 3 kgs of max drag which should just be enough for a heavier specimen on 2-pound line.
There are 7+1 Ball bearings, for a lightweight crank that’s supporting X-Ship Hagane Gearing with Micromodule II.
Gears are protected by the Ci4+, G Free, Hagane body. It delivers strength, durability and rigidity yet remains profoundly light and especially ergonomic – ideal for relentless casting.
The Liner Roller & Clutch are IPX8 rated water resistance with X-Protect, ensuring this is an all-weather, fresh, and saltwater reel.
Wade out to the target zone in the rain, and don’t be overly concerned that your Vanford is getting wet. It’s not fully sealed, however, so it’s best not submerged.
The spool is an AR-C Angled Lip Long Stroke that delivers performance casting. It’s accurate but also casts prodigious distances for its size depending on your rig.
This is a true ultralight and finesse precision spinning reel. It should be matched with an all graphite rod rated 1 to 3 kilos.
In every way, this is a top-shelf reel, performance-driven, and built to last. Quality finesse gear can be very expensive, however, the Vanford, despite its pedigree, is relatively accessible.
This is a thrilling and exciting crappie reel when rigged for sport.
The other Vanford sizes are equally compelling, however, the Vanford 1000 is the perfect finesse crappie weapon and ideal for the more experienced angler.
The Vanford is at home aboard your favorite vessel and equally potent from the banks, or a secluded doc somewhere.
This can fit your crappie ideal if you enjoy oceans of sport with precision gear, where you get to test your angling abilities with a finesse specialist.
- Body Shimano Ci4+
- G Free Body
- Hagane Body
- 7+1 Ball bearings
- Hagane Gearing
- Micromodule II
- AR-C Angled Lip Spool
- Long Stroke Performance Casting
- IPX8 Rated
- Silent drive
- MGL Rotor
5. SHIMANO Stella FJ Spinning Reel – Best of the Best Bar None
There’s no doubt that Stella is a special reel. In the event that I could afford an arsenal of Stellas, I would never run out of crappie fishing opportunities.
This is the ultimate ultra-light, light finesse reel, however, given the choice, I’d probably go for the 2500 over the 1000.
The 2500 not only covers light crappie action, but the 9 kilos of Rigid Support Drag gives you incredible inshore access, particularly if you spool up with 100 yards of 30-pound braid.
Given we’re chasing crappie, I’d spool up with 140 yards of 8lb, and target the biggest crappie the sounder catches in its beam.
At 205 grams, this is a particularly light reel considering there are 13 bearings all up, including the dedicated anti-reverse.
The crank is super-light which is enhanced by the silent Drive system which removes the slightest noise or movement and handles play, for a crank that has to be felt to be believed.
Micromodule II gears are brilliantly refined making for an extremely smooth crank yet having all the power and strength of a much larger, more powerful reel.
The Hagane gear is cold-forged. The mesh is incredibly refined which is the ultimate reason the crank is so light but yet so powerful.
Rigid Support drag ensures the drag system is as light and smooth as the crank. The system removes all the unwanted movement or wobbles associated with extremely light drag settings.
The Hagane body protects the internal with its strength and rigidity.
Even under the heaviest load, the body maintains its shape, ensuring there’s no slop or unwanted movement within the gears that bleeds torques and power.
The G-Free body makes your entire outfit feel like an extension of your arm, provided you have mounted it to a rod of comparable pedigree, which is likely if you’re spending this much on an inshore spinning reel.
The AR-C Spool enhances casting manners, as does the one-piece bail. Friction is reduced significantly, as is the chance of extra light lines snagging in the bail gap.
The Stella has excellent anti-corrosion credentials with X-Protect and the Shimano E.I. Surface Treatment.
X-Protect ensures water is kept at bay and doesn’t make its way into the internals, where the E.I. surface treatment is an external coating keeping corrosive elements from damaging the surfaces.
The Stella is jam-packed with Shimano’s flagship technologies and is a precision, class spin reel of the highest pedigree.
If you’re looking for the best of the best, a precision instrument, the top of the top shelf then the Stella FJ is your choice, you needn’t look any further.
The aspirational price point will prohibit many. A few more might feel a little sheepish getting a Stella for crappie.
Don’t let this stop you/ If you want an amazing crappie experience, and money isn’t an issue for you, then get the reel most anglers dream of. Get a Stella.
The only question you’ll have is do you get the 1000 or the 2500. Tough choice!
- 12+1 S ARB Bearing system
- Hagane Gear
- Micro Module Gear II
- Hagane Body
- Silent Drive
- G Free Body
- AR-C Spool
- E.I. Surface Treatment
- Rigid Support Drag
- One-Piece Bail
- Extra-High Crank Power Rating
- Extra-High Cast Rating
What Size Reel is Best for Crappie
In general, there is no best crappie reel size. Reel sizes 3000 and below are well suited for crappie fishing.
Depending on the brand, as specifications can vary, the 2000 and the 2500 are probably the best reels sizes for crappie.
There would be few reasons to get a 3000 unless you need a reel that has to cover other applications.
For the finesse angler, a 1000 size reel is perfect. For those who wish to learn the finer arts of finesse fishing, then chasing crappie with a 1000 reel delivers an excellent education.
Spool up a 1000 size reel with 4-pound mono and test out your skills against the average crappie. The good thing about crappie is that pound for pound, they put up stiff resistance.
It’s a forgiving scenario because you can lose fish without heartbreak. Nobody minds dropping an 8-inch crappie while they’re honing skills.
Chasing crappie on light and ultralight gear is very rewarding and exciting, but it also allows you to learn how to play a fish.
It’s much less of a drama dropping a little crappie than it is dropping a 12 pound bass of a lifetime because you haven’t quite mastered the skills of battling a fish that has all the advantage.
For the average angler, a 2500 reel is perfect. If you’re feeling a little braver, drop the reel size and the line class and test your metal.
What is Good Line Capacity For Crappie
Opinions will vary, and there are as many options as there are locations, fishing outfits, and rigs, but a good line capacity for crappie is 2 pound to 8 pound.
For inexperienced anglers, you can up the class to 10 or 12 for a sure catch, but this is pretty well overkill for the crappie.
Fishing 2 or 4 pounds is generally best for the experienced angler; while crappie might be small, they can put up quite the fight.
If you’re not well versed in the finer arts of fighting fish, using drag and rod techniques, it’s probably best to stick to 6 or 8 pound.
If you’re fishing near gnarly snags or other similar structures, it might be best to up the class a little or at least make sure your line has excellent abrasion resistance.
I prefer the forgiving nature and stretch of mono for tackling crappie, especially if I’m fishing ultra-light.
What is The Best Gear Ratio for Crappie Fishing
It depends on the technique and location you’re using, but in my opinion, it’s more or less irrelevant.
Most small spinning reels will have a ratio of 5 to 6.4. These ratios and anything in between is going to be fine for crappie.
If by chance you are flipping or pitching, it might be better to go a faster ratio, but it’s by no means essential.
What is the best line for crappie fishing
This is personal preference and there’s definitely no need to overthink it, particularly for the average angler.
Mono is perfect for crappie fishing, especially if you’re fishing light. It has stretch and shock resistance which is ideal when you’re using an extra light fishing line.
I don’t see any need for the strength of braid or the expanse of fluoro. Perhaps if you want your line to sink, then fluoro might be useful, however, mono is fine.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Drag for Crappie Fishing
Crappies are small fish, and even though they’re feisty little players, they’re not going to test the drag limits of even the smallest reels.
However, if you’re using 2 or 4 pound, you are going to have to use great care when setting your drag.
A decent crappie will have little trouble snapping 2, 4, or even 6-pound line if you don’t have your drag set appropriately.
It’s impossible to give any hard fast numbers for this, there are too many variables. However, a good test is to pull the line from the reel feeling firm yet smooth resistance.
Always test this by pulling the line from the end of the rod and not directly from the reel, especially if you’re using mono.
Are Spinning Reels Better than Baitcasters for Crappie
Spinning reels are the best reels for crappie. Crappie is a small fish, best approached with the lightest gear you dare use.
When it comes to fishing light, finesse and ultra-light, spin reels do it better.
There are casting reels that are very useful finesse reels, but they’re best handled by experienced anglers.
Why complicate things? Use spin for crappie and a much easier day on the water.
Can Any Reel Be Used For Crappie Fishing
Yes, within reason. Obviously, massive spin reels, overhead reels, and game reels are just silly.
But center spin reels, spin reels, hand lines, and fly reels could be used depending on the circumstances.
For simplicity, ease, and fun on the water, I will always recommend a spinning reel 3000 and under, for the majority of anglers.
What Rod Should I Pair my Spinning Reel With for Crappie?
This is a difficult question to answer accurately as there are plenty of variables that will go into consideration.
Are you fishing from a boat, a kayak, a bank of jetty? Do you need casting distance?
Do you need to get over reeds and other foliage preventing you from getting to the water’s edge?
What line class do you wish to use? Are you using a 1000 size reel or a 3000 size reel? Are you an experienced angler or an occasional weekend dangler?
All of these questions need to be answered. And it’s an article unto itself.
If you’re using a 1000 to 2500 reel, select a full carbon rod rated 1 to 3 kilograms.
If you’re fishing a boat or kayak, 6 feet is fine. If you’re fishing from the bank, you can go as long as 8 feet if conditions demand.
If you’re ever unsure about matching a rod to a reel, it is always best to talk to a pro at a tackle shop, giving them as much information as you can about how and where you intend to fish crappie.