Basses and crappies are two of the world’s most popular game fish due to their flavorful taste and the challenge they pose. However, before you decide which species to target the next time you go game fishing, you may want to know the differences between crappie vs bass.
To help new anglers, we’ve prepared an article that lists how crappies stand out from their bass brethren. And as a bonus, we’ve collated some tips on maximizing your fishing experience by getting more fish.
|Freshwater and saltwater
|Medium to Large
Bass vs Crappie: An Overview
Before we look at the differences between these two fishes, let’s have a quick glimpse and get to know them first.
Bass refers to the various species of freshwater and marine fish under the superorder of Perciformes, or ray-finned fishes. They can be seen in open oceans, rivers, streams, and lakes worldwide.
Many anglers pursue bass for sport fishing for their inherent size and strength, usually giving fishermen a good fight before a successful catch.
They’re also valued in the culinary world for their taste and texture, with Chilean sea bass and striped sea bass being some popular varieties.
Native to North America, the crappie is a freshwater fish that’s part of the sunfish family and Perciformes order. Originally from the eastern side of the US, these deep-bodied fishes have two main species – the black and white crappies.
Crappies are popular in recreational and commercial fishing as a challenging fish to reel in. Interestingly, the crappie is also called a ‘panfish,’ as it’s small enough to fit in a regular frying pan.
Aside from their similar body and shape, omnivorous nature, and high productive rates, there are several differences between crappies and basses.
In terms of size, bass are larger, being able to reach up to 30 inches in length. Compared to the average bass fish size of 12–24 inches, crappies are much smaller—measuring around 4 to 12 inches from mouth to tail, although some can get as big as 15 inches.
Regarding weight, bass can weigh as much as 25 pounds. Conversely, most crappies tip the scale at 3 to 4 pounds; even the biggest one doesn’t get heavier than 5.2 pounds.
Aside from the size and weight differences, other key points that separate the bass and crappie include:
- Dorsal Fins – Crappies have five to eight spines. Meanwhile, most bass, like the smallmouth bass, have between 11 and 13 dorsal spines and an additional five to seven anal fin spines.
However, a few bass species only have two dorsal fins—these can be either separated or connected. Some notable examples are the spotted, smallmouth, and largemouth basses.
- Eyes – Most basses, such as black, spotted, and rock basses, have red or orange eyes. Smallmouth basses may also have brown eyes.
As for crappies, their eye hues tend to be medium-green.
Most bass species, particularly the sea basses, have female-biased sexual size dimorphism—a condition where the females are noticeably longer and heavier than the males. In fact, females can be 30 – 40% larger than their male counterparts.
Although both the male and female crappies share similar size, you can tell them apart by their color during the breeding season, with the former having much darker fins. This phenomenon is known as sexual color dimorphism.
Bass fish can grow several inches per year until they reach full maturity at the 4-year benchmark, although they can start breeding after the first year.
Meanwhile, crappies can grow at most 2 inches annually, and it’ll take 5 years for these species to get to their full size and 2–3 years to reach sexual maturity.
Additionally, some bass species can change their gender for survival and propagation, something not seen in crappies. Called protogynous hermaphrodites, varieties like the black sea bass can start as females and turn into males when they’re 2-5 years old.
While both crappies and bass can survive in different weather conditions, they move differently depending on the season. Anglers can expect more activity from crappies during the winter, making it the perfect time to catch some.
Bass varieties, on the other hand, prefer the warmth of spring and mild summer.
6. Crappie and Bass: How to Identify at a Glance
Looking at the fish’s size, color, and weight is the easiest way for anglers to differentiate a crappie from a bass. Some key points to consider are:
- Weight: Bass, particularly freshwater ones, weigh between 10 and 20 pounds, while crappies rarely weigh more than 5 pounds.
- Size: Bass have longer bodies; crappies are smaller and have compacted bodies.
- Color: Bass vary in color, from green to gray and brown; crappies generally have silver bodies.
Crappie or Bass: Which is Easier to Catch
1. Top Fishing Locations
Lakes are the best places to visit if you’re going bass fishing. Idaho’s Lake Coeur d’Alene, Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia, and the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Florida are some of the nation’s top spots.
For crappies, you have more places to choose from. Black crappies call Eastern US home, and white crappies are usually found in the Mississippi River and the Hudson Bay.
2. Best Seasons to Cast Your Reels
Experts recommend spring and summer for bass fishing, where water temperatures are between 60-80℉. Spring is also breeding season for bass, meaning they’re hungrier, more aggressive, and more likely to bite on our lures.
For fans of crappies, the best time to cast your lure is during the spawning season, around February to May.
3. Tips and Tricks for A Successful Catch
If you’re trying to reel in some bass, the best time is before a storm since the atmospheric pressure makes the bass more active. A few common techniques for catching basses are drop shot rig, spinnerbait, topwater popper, and wacky rig.
To make the most out of crappie fishing, use a combination of vertical jigging to get their attention and provoke them to bite. Also, remember that crappies tend to swim in schools – getting one means you’ll be catching more.
Nutritional Value: Tasty and Healthy
While both live in similar waters and give anglers a good fight, there’s a big difference between crappie vs bass. These fishes have unique features that make them beloved catches for anglers, not to mention tasty treats if you want to cook them.
The first half of the year is great for crappie fishing as it’s their spawning season, while spring and summer seasons are perfect for luring bass across the country.
Hi, I’m Thomas Kirk. As someone who loves fishing, I am here to offer everyone help on all aspects of angling, whether it’s preparing live bait or determining when to crank in a fish. As you go through the guides here, feel free to let us know your thoughts and any topics you want to learn more about.