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Best Crappie Rod And Reel Combo - Reviews For 2020

Last Updated: October 12th, 2020
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Spring is in the air, and for many anglers, that means one thing: crappie fishing!

As you gear up for the start of crappie season or re-assess your tackle after a few trips to the water, you might be wondering about the best crappie rod and reel combos designed specifically for slab-hunting.

Combos are an excellent way to get the most bang for your buck, and a carefully selected pairing can really be a treat to fish.

If you’ve been wondering about the best rod and reel combination for crappie, keep reading. We’ve put together a list of winners that are sure to put a smile on your face:

Quick glance at the best crappie rod and reel combos:

Check out our reviews for the best crappie reel and best crappie rod!

Best Crappie Rod And Reel Combo Reviews

Cadence CR5 Combo - Our Top Pick!

Cadence Fishing CR5 Spinning Rods | 30 Ton Carbon | Fuji Reel Seat | Stainless Steel Guides with SiC Inserts | CR5-702S-ULM

Amazon 

Specifications

Pros

Cons

Length: 7’
Material: carbon fiber
Power/action: Ultralight/moderate
Lure size: 1/32-⅛ oz.
Line weight: 2-6 lbs.
Handle: continuous cork
Guide material: stainless/SiC inserts
Pieces: 2
Reel: Cadence CR5
Line capacity: 6/110
Bearings: 9
Gear ratio: 5.2:1
  • Awesome blank is both strong and sensitive
  • Provides cushioned hooksets ideal for crappie
  • Casts well
  • Has the length you want for jigging and dipping
  • Excellent guides
  • Comfortable, long cork handle is great for large hands and different techniques
  • Good reel
  • N/A

Summary

The Cadence CR5 combo is a step above similar offerings from this company, pairing an excellent rod with an excellent reel. That’s rare in the world of combo offerings, and this really is an exceptional deal.

The 7-foot, 2-piece rod is everything you’d want in a do-it-all crappie rod, and the carbon fiber blank is amazingly sensitive. It’s also pretty strong, but don’t expect it to rival the GX2 when it comes to durability--carbon fiber just can’t take the punishment that fiberglass composites can.

This ultralight rod sports a moderate action, and that’s great for papermouths and treble-hooked lures like rooster tails. Offering some cushion on the hookset, and a split second of give before the power reaches the tip, you’ll hit more crappie on the lip--and keep your hook there--than you will with faster rods.

Cadence’s guides are excellent, and you won’t have any quibbles about them. They’re plenty slick, providing the pampering your light lines demand.

I really like the continuous cork handles on this rod. Attractive, durable, and spacious--they’re everything you could ask for unless you prefer a split grip.

The Cadence CR5 reel that comes with this rod is a great bargain. Plenty smooth, it holds a reasonable amount of mono for crappie anglers, and the drag is pretty nice, too. Geared to 5.2:1, it’s middle-of-the-pack fast, making it a great all-arounder.

This is a very hard combo to beat, and given the quality of the reel, it edges out its competitors for our top spot.

Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Combo

Ugly Stik USSP702UL/25CBO GX2 Spinning Combo, 7'

Amazon 

Specifications

Pros

Cons

Length: 7’
Material: graphite/fiberglass composite
Power/action: ultralight/moderate
Lure size: 1/32-¼ oz.
Line weight: 2-6 lbs.
Handle: continuous EVA foam
Guide material: Ugly Tuff stainless steel
Pieces: 2
Reel: ?
Line capacity: N/A
Bearings: 3
Gear ratio: N/A
  • Excellent composite blank is both strong and sensitive
  • Provides cushioned hooksets ideal for crappie
  • Casts well
  • Has the length you want for jigging and dipping
  • Ugly Tuff guides are better than you’d expect
  • Comfortable, long EVA foam handle is great for large hands and different techniques
  • The reel is nothing exceptional

Summary

Shakespeare’s line of Ugly Stix has won a rock-solid reputation for durability, and the GX2 continues this tradition. Upgraded with the addition of graphite, this composite technology provides enviable strength with excellent sensitivity--a very hard combination to beat!

The 7-foot, 2-piece ultralight is a great crappie rod, no question about it. Sensitive enough to detect light strikes in cold water, flexible enough to provide a cushioned hookset, and darn near unbreakable, you really can’t ask for more at this price point.

This rod loads and casts well, even with the lightest lures it’s designed to handle, and I’ve put those Ugly Tuff guides to the test with 2- and 4-pound line.

The result?

If you do your job, they will, too--and I was really impressed by the way they pampered my line. They’re not an expensive component, but they really do punch above their price.

The continuous EVA foam handles are comfortable, and they prove plenty of territory for large hands and the variety of grips you’ll use when dipping, casting, and jigging.

The reel that’s paired with this rod is acceptable, but nothing to write home about. Designed for 2- to 6-pound lines, it’ll get the job done.

Overall, this is a great combo, especially for anglers who are tough on their tackle or worried about an ultralight rod breaking.

Pflueger President Combo

Pflueger PRESSP President Spinning Combo Fishing Reel Rod

Amazon 

Specifications

Pros

Cons

Length: 6’6”
Material: graphite
Power/action: light/fast
Lure size: 1/16 -⅜ oz.
Line weight: 4-8 #
Handle: continuous cork
Guide material: stainless steel
Pieces: 2
Reel: Pfleuger President 25
Line capacity: 4/200, 6/140, 8/110
Bearings: 10
Gear ratio: 5.2:1
  • Excellent blank is both strong and sensitive
  • Casts well
  • Has the length you want for jigging and dipping
  • Great guides
  • Comfortable, long cork handle is great for large hands and different techniques
  • High-quality reel
  • Light action takes some finesse hooksets to keep papermouths on the line

Summary

Pfleuger is a trusted name on the water, and pretty much every angler I’ve met has owned a Pfleuger reel at one time or another. Known for inexpensive quality and price-conscious performance, Pfleuger’s tackle is legendary for a reason.

The 6’6” 2-piece rod is about as heavy as I’d go for crappie, but in the hands of an experienced angler who knows to ease-up on the hookset, this stick can be murder on papermouths. A high-quality graphite blank provides excellent sensitivity, and paired with a fast action, this rod can fight monster slabs without breaking a sweat.

It casts well, too, and for anglers who prefer a bit larger lure for crappie, this rod might be just the thing they’ve been looking for.

Pfleuger’s guides are nice, and I wouldn’t worry about how they’ll treat my line in a hard fight.

And the long, continuous cork handle is everything you’d expect: comfortable, robust, and attractive.

The reel is excellent, outperforming its price-point and easily competing with higher-end alternatives. Its operation is silky smooth, and you won’t be disappointed by how well it fishes--guaranteed!

The front-mounted drag is smooth and reliable even with light line, and plenty of crappie anglers swear by this brand.

Overall, this combo is probably better for more experienced crappie anglers, and for most folks, the ultralights on this list will be better options.

Our Pick - The Cadence CR5 Combo!

Cadence might be a new name for many anglers, but there’s no questioning this company’s dedication to quality tackle. And while Shakespeare and Pfleuger really deliver the goods with their combos, we think the CR5 edges them out, overall.

The reel features an incredible carbon fiber blank that’s strong and sensitive while still providing the cushioned hookset you need for papermouths. It casts well, too, and provides the length you need for dipping and jigging without spooking wary crappie.

The guides this rod wears are nice, providing more than enough pampering for light lines. And the long cork handle is as good as it gets at this price-point.

The CR5 reel is nice, too, and while probably not as good as the Pleuger President 25, it can hold its own on the water.

For anglers looking for a price-effective combo for crappie, it’s hard to do better!

What We Consider When Selecting a Crappie Rod and Reel Combo

Action

A rod’s action describes where along its length it will begin to bend under weight. Fast action rods are stiff for most of their length, bending near the tip. By contrast, slow action rods begin to give closer to the handle and reel seat, curving over a much greater percentage of their length.

Many anglers prefer a fast action rod for crappie, as they appreciate the sensitivity that it provides. But as any experienced crappie angler can attest, this species really earns its reputation for a soft, easy-to-tear mouth. Slower actions, all the way down to moderate, can really help cushion the hookset, improving your bite to catch ratio.

The trade-off? Fast actions are typically a bit more sensitive to light strikes, but that varies quite a bit with blank quality and material.

Which is best for you is probably a question of experimentation and taste.

describing power and action

Power

Power describes how much force is required to bend a rod. Together with its action, a rod’s power tells you a lot about how it will perform.

Anything above light is just overkill for crappie, and really not fit for purpose. Not only will you lack the feel to detect light strikes, but you’ll also be inclined to rip your hook right through a crappie’s mouth, making the medium rods some sites recommend just plain ridiculous!

Do yourself a favor and save the medium-power rods for bigger fish.

Instead, reach for ultralight or light rods. Even light-powered rods can be a bit too heavy for papermouths.

We recommend ultralight rods for three reasons:

  • Cushioned hooksets - Ultralights, whatever their action, are going to help you apply the gentle hookset necessary with crappie. Whatever the action you prefer, they’ll provide some cushion, encouraging you to keep your hook where it can do some good!
  • Sensitivity - Because ultralight rods bend so easily, they’re incredibly sensitive to every nibble. That’s a huge advantage when the fish are being timid or the water’s cold. And all the way down to moderate actions, ultralights can maintain the feel you’ll need.
  • Fun - I fish for the joy of it, and using ultralight tackle turns every fish into a whale! If you haven’t given ultralight a try, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much more fun it is.

Length

For this article, we’ll be reviewing general fishing rods, not specialized gear for spider rigging.

Instead, we’re assuming that you’re casting, dipping, jigging, and shooting. And as a general rule, the longer a rod is, the further you can cast with it, but the less precise those casts will be. Shorter rods are deadly accurate, but casting distance will suffer.

For most crappie fishermen, ultra-long casts don’t matter--but that doesn’t mean they’ll be fishing with short rods! Because papermouths love cover, accuracy matters, but so does reach. For techniques like dipping and jigging, a bit of extra length can prevent spooking wary fish, and a rod in the neighborhood of 7 feet really shines.

The bad news?

Most combos feature short rods, and while they can provide deadly casting accuracy, reach is an issue.

The rods that made our shortlist are on the longer end for combos, and we’d skip the 5-foot rods altogether.

Line and Lure Weight

The slender, whip-like rods you’ll choose for crappie take light lines and tiny lures. Look for rods designated with line weights between two and six pounds, with lure sizes ranging from 1/64 of an ounce to as much as ¼ to ½.

Guides

Guide quality is definitely a place that rod manufacturers can cut corners to keep prices reasonable, and the good news is that for crappie and other sunfish, that’s not a big deal.

You still want slick guides, but you won’t be fighting monsters!

That said, I still recommend that you give the guides a quick test with the line you intend to use. You’ll find that it doesn’t take much friction and heat to break even the best of the bunch.

Material

Modern fishing rods can be made from a variety of materials, including carbon fiber, graphite, and fiberglass. Some feature composite construction, using more than one material in the blank that provides their backbone.

  • Graphite is strong, stiff, and ultra-light. Due to its high stiffness, it’s also quite sensitive, and it makes a great, durable choice for a rod.
  • Fiberglass is heavier than graphite and usually less expensive. It’s not quite as sensitive or as stiff, but it can be incredibly strong, earning it a place in your angling arsenal. Especially for crappie, this is not necessarily a disadvantage, as cushioned hooksets are ideal.
  • Carbon fiber is the stiffest, strongest, lightest, and most expensive material used for rod blanks. Its performance is unparalleled, but so is its price!

Handle

Much about which handle to choose is a personal decision, and what’s comfortable to me may be misery for you. Generally, there are two primary handle materials: cork and EVA foam.

  • Cork is warmer and more attractive, but less forgiving of rough treatment.
  • EVA foam is softer and cooler to the touch, and it’s pretty tough stuff.

A Few Words About Reels for Crappie Combos

Rod and reel combos are often priced right, and for cost-conscious anglers, they can be a real deal.

But don’t just look at the rod--check out the reel it’s wearing, too.

Spinning Reels Are Superior

Right out of the gate, you’ll notice that our shortlist is all spinning tackle. That’s not a mistake: baitcasters really struggle with light lines, and for ultralight fishing, there’s nothing better than a spinning reel.

We’d certainly consider a spincaster from a good company like Zebco, but they don’t offer a combo for crappie that we could get excited about.

Don’t Get Hung-Up on Bearing Count

We don’t recommend that you get too caught up on bearing numbers. In my experience, bearing count isn’t a useful metric by which to judge reel quality or smoothness.

That said, on this list, the 10-bearing Pfleuger really does stand out.

Drag: This Is What Matters

Instead, you want smooth drags that can deliver on the lighter end of their settings, a reasonable retrieval rate, and a solid casting.

Your drag should stay smooth when set low, as it will be for crappie. If it binds, catches, or jerks, that’s not good. Test it by setting it to about ⅓ of the line weight, and pull slowly straight from the spool (in the direction of the rod blank).

Ideally, it’ll be smooth as silk!

Our Pick - The Cadence CR5 Combo!

Cadence might be a new name for many anglers, but there’s no questioning this company’s dedication to quality tackle. And while Shakespeare and Pfleuger really deliver the goods with their combos, we think the CR5 edges them out, overall.

The reel features an incredible carbon fiber blank that’s strong and sensitive while still providing the cushioned hookset you need for papermouths. It casts well, too, and provides the length you need for dipping and jigging without spooking wary crappie.

The guides this rod wears are nice, providing more than enough pampering for light lines. And the long cork handle is as good as it gets at this price-point.

The CR5 reel is nice, too, and while probably not as good as the Pleuger President 25, it can hold its own on the water.

For anglers looking for a price-effective combo for crappie, it’s hard to do better!

About The Author
Pete D
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.
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