The statistical behaviour of the smallest eigenvalue has important implications for systems which can be modeled using a Wishart-Laguerre ensemble, the regular one or the fixed trace one. For example, the density of the smallest eigenvalue of the Wishart-Laguerre ensemble plays a crucial role in characterizing multiple channel telecommunication systems. Similarly, in the quantum entanglement problem, the smallest eigenvalue of the fixed trace ensemble carries information regarding the nature of entanglement. For real Wishart-Laguerre matrices, there exists an elegant recurrence scheme suggested by Edelman to directly obtain the exact expression for the smallest eigenvalue density. In the case of complex Wishart-Laguerre matrices, for finding exact and explicit expressions for the smallest eigenvalue density, existing results based on determinants become impractical when the determinants involve large-size matrices. In this work, we derive a recurrence scheme for the complex case which is analogous to that of Edelman's for the real case. This is used to obtain exact results for the smallest eigenvalue density for both the regular, and the fixed trace complex Wishart-Laguerre ensembles. We validate our analytical results using Monte Carlo simulations. We also study scaled Wishart-Laguerre ensemble and investigate its efficacy in approximating the fixed-trace ensemble. Eventually, we apply our result for the fixed-trace ensemble to investigate the behaviour of the smallest eigenvalue in the paradigmatic system of coupled kicked tops. © 2017 IOP Publishing Ltd.