There are some bare essentials that every crappie fisher needs: pole, reel (although truly optional I think you will want one), fishing line and a hook. I hope those are somewhat obvious but let us look at the basics first. Crappie poles are generally long, slender poles reaching lengths of 18 feet or longer. I do not recommend a super long pole for someone that is just getting started or not ready for them. Longer poles have their advantages such as reaching into tight areas and also extending your reach from a central point. This is an advantage when employing a technique called spider fishing, using varying length poles you can create a blanket of hooks, often in a semi-circular pattern.
Longer, and often more slender, poles provide amplified sensitivity as well. Most crappie specific poles would be poor poles for catching catfish or large carp. When choosing a pole consider your application such as how are you planning on casting. Long poles work for just dropping a line in the water but slightly shorter poles will help you when bait casting.
If you have a good idea of what you want for a pole you will now need a reel. There are as many reels to chose from as there are crappies, not really but almost. There are three main components of a reel those are a barrel, crank and a guide or eye. There are two types of spinning reels, an open face and closed, these are easily distinguished. If you can see where the line is stored it is open faced if you cannot it is closed faced. Both types also vary greatly in operation, one you must flip the bail back while holding the line and the other uses a simple push button on the back of the reel which is loosely egg shaped. I like the first one because you can see what is happening with your line and the general feel is better. The later is very popular with kids and the very casual fisher.
There are two more types of reels, a bait caster and the fly reel. The later is not extremely popular with crappie fishers but should not be excluded especially in the spring where fly fishing can be a great weapon in your armory. The first reel has been around in some form for hundreds of years and is very popular with bass fishers and for good reason. Theses reels are easy to recognize as they are the only ones where the axis of the barrel, the part that holds the line, is perpendicular to the pole where all others are parallel to the pole like a spinning reel.
Of course there is an exception with the fly reel but the size of the barrel often gives it away. The bait casting reel gives the user the greatest control over the feed of the line and is also one of the most difficult to master. Simple answer for this is pick a reel you can use and become familiar with all of its various adjustments as I’m sure there will be many such as brakes and clutches.