Reels To Pair With Your ACC Crappie Stix

December 3, 2021

By Greg McCain

As crappie fishing continues to evolve, reels have gained a more prominent role in a fisherman’s tackle arsenal.

For years, reels were something of an afterthought. The focus remained on rods, lines, and lures, especially among those anglers who used multi-rod spreads to pursue crappie. At times, reels were nothing more than a line-holder, and even those who used casting as their primary presentation didn’t see great need to spend excessive amounts when it came to reel-buying time.

As more anglers turned to pitching to crappie and even to long-range casting while using forward-facing sonar like Garmin LiveScope, the need to pair the best reel with the best rod became more of a necessity. Precision became a buzzword applied to rod-and-reel usage, and fishermen began experimenting with tackle with an emphasis on a perfectly complementary rod-and-reel combination.

With those thoughts in mind, we sought the advice of members of the ACC Crappie Stix pro staff about reel usage. Which reels do they use on a daily basis while guiding and while tournament fishing? What qualities or features of reels make for a more efficient experience on the water?

The answers reflect some ideas from the past with the need to adjust due to the current trends in crappie fishing, especially considering the renewed popularity of traditional casting techniques.

“I have two approaches when it comes to reels,” said guide Tim Howell, who spends as much time on the water as anyone on central Mississippi crappie lakes like Grenada. “I’ve always been a cheap $20 reel guy for spider rigging. It’s only holding line for me, so there is no need for anything fancy.

“I do prefer the small compact spinning reels for this. I normally get one, maybe two seasons out of them before I trash them.”

Tim (Long Branch Guide Service, 662.251.5625 or tim@longbranchguide.com) still spends much of his time spider-rigging, changing presentations from season to season. The tackle usually remains the season regardless of the spider-rigging approach.

The time arrives, maybe for a single day or for a slightly longer window, when casting replaces spider-rigging as Tim’s go-to presentation. He stows the longer trolling rods like the ACC 16-footer and pursues fish with a shorter pole.

“Now, since the invention of Livescope, I have incorporated several ‘better’ reels into my arsenal,” Tim said. “It took me the better part of a year of trial and error to find what worked for me.

“I finally settled on the Team Lew’s Custom Pro Speed Spin TLC 1000. It has 11+1 ball bearings with a 5.2:1 gear ratio. It’s smooth as butter.”

The reel pairs nicely with the ACC casting rods like the 6’, 6½’, and 7’ models, the mid-length rods like the 8-footer, and the jigging poles, which range from 10’ to 13’. Tim said he uses the Lew’s reel mainly with the 6 ½’ and 7’ ACC Crappie Stix.

“And contrary to my previous beliefs, a good quality reel does make a ton of difference,” he said. “With the high gear ratio, if I miss my target on the first cast, I can get the bait back in quick and get another shot at the fish before it gets out of range most times.”

Tim’s approach is common among ACC pro staff members. They often experiment with various reels to find the right combination.

“The Pflueger President in size 20 is the best spinning reel to use for crappie fishing,” Keith Acker said. “I’m not going to bash any other brands, but I got away from Pflueger to find reels that look good with the ACC Crappie Stix. A little over a $1000 in reels and one year later, I’m going back to Pflueger. They are smooth, dependable, and can take the abuse from guiding.”

Various features of reels become more important based not only on presentation but also on how, where, and when they are used. As a fisherman in Minnesota, Goose Gutzman (follow Goose’s fishing adventures on Facebook) has some special requirements for his tackle. 

“I really like the Viper X 1000 from Piscifun (pronounced Pee Cee Fun),” Goose said. “It’s got an excellent drag system and reels in really smooth. To me, that’s important when I’m casting jigs. I want it to be super smooth on a very slow retrieve.

“I also need a reel that can hold up to at times 10 to 20 (degrees) below freezing. Piscifun held up excellent all last winter. I didn’t have any issues whatsoever.

“I like the price point on them. They sell online, so they pass on the savings to the consumer. It looks really nice on my ACC Crappie Stix. That’s a plus as well.”

Illinois guide Fred Mooney (Full Moon Fishing Service, 618.731.1601) uses the same reels.

“The 1000 series has plenty of spool for my 10-lb. mono and balances perfectly on the 10, 11, and 12’ rods,” Fred said. “The drag is absolutely a beast to handle catfish when I get those unexpected kitties on the line. My favorite thing is that there’s no free spool switch on the back to accidentally hit and cost you a trophy fish!”

Following are other suggestions about reels from members of the ACC pro staff:

Nick DeWolf (Louisiana, Wolf Pak Fishing on YouTube): “I use 50-100 series spinning reels. I like the Bonehead 50 because the handle lays down out of the way for vertical jigging. But you can also cast 35’ with it if you need to on a long rod.”

Nick also mentioned both spinning reels and baitcasters from SixGill Fishing Products.

Jake Byerline (Illinois, Jiggin’ with Jake on YouTube): “I have 2 favorites but one outshines the other.

“First, the Kastking Valiant Eagle 1000 in the Emerald Eagle series. I’ve used this reel for the past two years, and beyond needing a cleaning, it has performed extremely well. The wide spool does allow for more line capacity and, in my opinion, less line twist. Both are extremely important when casting jigs from the bank. The only issue with this reel, Kastking doesn’t offer the Emerald Eagle series any longer.

“That’s why the Piscifun Viper X 1000 is my reel of choice. It pairs excellently with the ACC green rods. As Goose Gutzman mentioned, it’s smooth as silk, the drag system is excellent, and it performs great in extremely cold temps. As a matter of fact, I swapped this reel from my 7’6” split grip to my 30.5” ice rod. It performed great on the ice.

“The price point is another big factor. For the price, you can’t beat the quality and the fact that it’s a matching set up. This reel also has a wide spool for larger line capacity.”

Charlie Burrow (Louisiana/Texas, GO FISH with Charlie Burrow on YouTube): “I took the Bonehead BH100 spinning reel for a test drive a year ago and liked it enough to purchase two more. Priced at $40, it’s held up to a bi-weekly workout with big east Texas slabs.

“(The reel) allows me to open the bale and vertically drop 25’ as fast as the jig can fall, or I can easily pitch 25’-30’ with no worry of backlash. Most of all, the green paint job makes that ACC ‘POP’.”

Closing with a little personal commentary, I have paired the Zebco Micro 33 spincast reels with the ACC youth rods for my grandchildren. For a very moderately priced reel, they perform well. With a ⅛-oz. jig, they cast out to about 60’ and have a good drag. They come in both traditional spincast and also in closed-faced spinning models.

Regardless of the need, various reels pair nicely with ACC rods. The Lew’s, Pfleuger, and Piscifun brands are quality starting points for any search. Find them in tackle shops and also from major outlets online. For the price, they are good reels that perform efficiently on the water and nicely complement just about any length of ACC Crappie Stix.