Crappie vs Bass – What’s The Difference? Is Crappie Better?

Crappie and freshwater bass share many of the same waters. For this reason many people wonder about their differences. Let’s answer, what is the difference between crappie and bass?

Freshwater Bass and crappies are two different families, genus and species of fish. Fresh water bass grows larger and weighs more than crappies. Crappies are silvery and freshwater bass are greenish, grayish or brown. Crappies have a milder taste and a more delicate, softer texture than freshwater bass.

This article will compare the bass and crappie tastes, textures, cooking methods, costs, mercury levels and whether one can substitute for the other in recipes. In addition, I’ll do a side-by-side comparison of their habitats, size, weight and discuss their nutritional benefits.

Crappie vs Bass

When comparing both fish, the species of each has to be determined to make an accurate comparison. Crappie are two different species of fish, the white crappie and black crappie.

photo of crappie fish and bass
Black crappie upper left white crappie upper right smallmouth bass lower left largemouth bass lower right

Bass is a name shared with many different species. There are sea bass and freshwater bass. More common freshwater bass which can be found in freshwaters are largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass.

This article will mainly focus on the fish biology of crappie, smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass. How can you tell bass from crappie?

The easiest way to tell the difference between a freshwater bass and a crappie is by their size, weight and color. Freshwater bass average between 10-20 pounds and crappie rarely exceeds 2 pounds. Crappie have silvery bodies while freshwater bass are greenish, gray and brownish. 

Crappie have a more compacted body than bass which averages a longer length. Crappies have one dorsal fin and freshwater bass have two dorsal fins close together which appear separated or notched.

Crappies and Bass Scientific Classifications, Families, Species

White crappie are from:

  • Family: Centrarchidae
  • Genus: Pomoxis
  • Species: P. annularis
  • Common nicknames: Goldring, silver perch, crappie

Black crappie are from:

  • Family: Centrarchidae
  • Genus: Pomoxis
  • Species: P. nigromaculatus
  • Common nicknames: Crappie

Spotted bass are from:

  • Family: Centrarchidae
  • Genus: Micropterus
  • Species: M. punctulatus
  • Common nicknames: Spotty, spots.

Smallmouth bass are from:

  • Family: Centrarchidae
  • Genus: Micropterus
  • Species: M. dolomieu
  • Common nicknames: Brown bass, brownie, small, bronze bass and bronze back.

Largemouth bass are from:

  • Family: Centrarchidae
  • Genus: Micropterus
  • Species: M. salmoides
  • Common nicknames: Green bass, bigmouth bass, largies, bucketmouth.
Largemouth bass in their natural habitat and the spawn.

Habitats

White Crappie

  • Crappie are native to the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay and the Mississippi River basins from Canada, New York, South Dakota and Texas.
  • When fishing they can be found in lakes, reservoirs and rivers.
  • Also, they can be found in murky waters.

Black Crappie

  • Native to Canada, eastern and the western United States.
  • When fishing they can be found in lakes, reservoirs and rivers.
  • They prefer clear water over murky.

Spotted Bass

  • Native to the Mississippi River and across the Gulf states from Texas to Florida. In addition, they are found in the western Mid-Atlantic states. They have been introduced to Virginia, North Carolina and southern Africa.
  • They prefer warmer waters with strong currents and turbulence.
  • They prefer clear, open waters.
  • When fishing they can be found in reservoirs and streams.

Smallmouth Bass

  • Native to the upper and middle Mississippi River Basin, the Great Lakes, Saint Lawrence River and the Hudson Bay Basin in Canada. They have been introduced into many cool-water rivers and lakes in the United States and Canada.
  • Smallmouth prefer colder waters.

Largemouth Bass

  • Native to the eastern and central United States, southeastern Canada and northern Mexico. They have been introduced into many other areas as well.
  • Largemouth bass prefer warmer waters.

Colors

  • White crappies have a silvery color with dark vertical bars along the body. The back is greenish to brown.
  • Black crappies have a silvery color with dark splotches along the body. The back is greenish to brow.
  • Spotted bass have a greenish gray body. They have dark, black spots forming a jagged horizontal line down the body.
  • Smallmouth have a golden olive to brownish body. They have brown vertical bars or thick stripes down the body. The head has dark brown horizontal bars.
  • Largemouth have a greenish gray body. They have dark, black blotches forming jagged horizontal lines down the body.

In open waters the smallmouth have a lighter color compared to a darker color when found in darker rivers.

Crappie in their habitat and fishing tips.

Appearance

Dorsal Fins

  • White crappie has one dorsal fin with 5-6 spines.
  • Black crappie has one dorsal fin with 7-8 spines.
  • Spotted bass has two dorsal fins clearly connected to each other.
  • Smallmouth have two dorsal fins separated by a shallow notch. The front dorsal is shorter with spine rays. The second dorsal is taller with soft rays.
  • Largemouth have two dorsal fins with no separation. The front dorsal is shorter with spine rays. The 2nd is taller with soft rays.

Mouth

  • The white crappie jaw does not extend past the eye line. The mouth does not have an upward shape.
  • The black crappie jaw does not extend past the eye line. The mouth has an upward curve or shape.
  • The spotted bass jaw does not extend past the eye line.
  • The smallmouth protruding jaw doesn’t extend past the red or brown eyes.
  • The largemouth upper jaw extends past the eye socket.

Scales

  • The scales on crappie are similar across the body.
  • The scales on the spotted bass head are smaller than the ones on the remaining part of the body.
  • The scales on a smallmouth and largemouth are uniform across the body and head.

Tongue

  • The spotted bass tongue has a course rectangular tooth patch at the center.
  • The smallmouth can have a round patch of teeth on the tongue.
  • The largemouth bass has a smooth tongue.

Size and Weight

  • White crappies average 9-10 inches long and weigh between 1/2 pound to 1.5 pounds.
  • The black crappie easily weighs two to three pounds more on average. They average 8-10 inches long.
  • A spotted bass can grow up to 25 inches long and weigh up to 11 pounds. The average spotted bass is 8-15″ long and weighs 1-2 pounds.
  • Smallmouth average 12-16 inches long and weigh up to 10 pounds.
  • Largemouth average 15 inches and grow up to 20 pounds.

Check out all the differences between spotted and largemouth in my article, Spotted vs Largemouth: What’s The Difference?

smallmouth bass
Smallmouth bass

Diet

White crappie likes to consume the following:

  • Plankton
  • Crustaceans
  • Small fish
  • Insects

Black crappie likes to consume the following:

  • Plankton
  • Crustaceans
  • Small fish
  • Insects

Spotted bass consume the following:

  • Copepods
  • Crustaceans
  • Insects
  • Crayfish
  • Other smaller fish

Smallmouth bass consume the following:

  • Crayfish
  • Plankton
  • Insects
  • Other small fish

Largemouth bass consume the following:

  • Crayfish
  • Fish
  • Frogs
  • Insects
  • Crustaceans

Bass and Crappie Fishing

Crappie can be caught year round. Crappie fishing down in Florida from late fall, through March, to early spring is ideal. Crappie fishing methods don’t have to change between the white or black types.

Crappies aren’t heavy so a four pound test will be enough. They have tender mouths easily damaged by some hook sets. Your gear should have a bit of give to it.

Crappies have big mouths for a panfish so hook size matters. Use nothing smaller than a #6. Get yourself into the wildlife and have fun crappie fishing.

Bass fishing requires dedication, perseverance and of course some luck. Largemouth are most anglers target when fishing.

River fishing for smallies can result in a good fishing day. Spotted bass are more aggressive. Use the same size lures and plastics as largies.

In New York, you can go bass fishing June to November with a 12″ minimum and a daily limit of 5. From December to June, bass fishing is catch and release only. Check your local State for rules and regulations.

Largemouth bass
Largemouth bass

Crappie and Bass: Tastes and Textures

One of the most important things people takes into consideration when choosing a fish or fishing is its taste. When comparing the two fish, do they taste the same?

Crappie has a milder taste than bass which is mild to sweet. Crappie taste less fishier than bass. Bass has a firmer texture than crappie which is softer and smoother. Crappie is more delicate and flakey. 

White crappie and black crappie have a similar mild taste for good eating. Crappie does not have a sweet or fishy flavor. The texture is soft, smooth and flakey.

  • Spotted bass has a mild to sweet taste. It is only slightly fishy but not overly strong. It’s much less fishier than a largemouth. The flesh is white and has a firm texture.
  • Smallmouth has a mild to sweet taste. It is only slightly fishy but not enough to turn people away who don’t prefer a fishy taste. The flesh is white and has a firm texture.
  • Largemouth bass has a strong flavor and is a little fishy, more than smallmouth. It has white flesh which can be watery but is firm and meaty.

I did original research on the taste by polling clients, readers and members of food groups. I asked, which fish, crappie vs bass, taste better?

  • 62% said they preferred the taste of crappie.
  • 38% said they preferred the taste of freshwater bass.

I conducted more research by setting up a blind taste test at my home. Both fish were prepared and seasoned the same way. The fillets were cut to the same size. The results mirrored the poll and crappie was the winner.

Crappie was the winner in the poll and my own taste test.

For a complete comparison between smallmouth and largemouth bass check out my article, Smallmouth vs Largemouth: What’s The Difference?

Crappie recipe.

Substitutions

When preparing recipes for dinner it’s not always possible to locate the type of fish in a store or while fishing. If you have one type, you may ask, can I substitute one for the other?

Bass can substitute for crappie although its flavor is slightly stronger. Bass has a firmer texture allowing it to be used in any crappie recipe and more cooking methods than crappie. They both can be cooked using similar methods like baking, broiling and frying. 

The best crappie fish substitutes include the following:

  • Cod
  • Tilapia
  • Bluegill
  • Lake herring
  • Pollock

Smallmouth bass substitutes:

  • Freshwater trout
  • Lake herring
  • Mackerel
  • Snapper
  • Grouper
  • Halibut

Spotted bass substitutes are:

  • Halibut
  • Grouper
  • Snapper
  • Freshwater trout
  • Lake herring
  • Mackerel

Largemouth bass substitutes:

  • Tuna
  • Bluefish
  • Salmon
  • Walleye
  • Mahi mahi
  • Black Sea bass
Bass dinner with asparagus
Bass dinner with asparagus

Mercury Levels

The EPA and The Food and Drug Administration have issued warnings and suggestions regarding mercury levels in fish and how often they should be consumed 1. This is especially important for young infants, developing children and pregnant women.

They established a list of best fish, good choices and fish to avoid based on their mercury levels. Therefore, which one has more mercury?

Freshwater bass have higher levels of mercury than crappie. Crappie is listed on the FDA’s best choice of fish regarding mercury levels. Bass has been listed on some states advisory warnings in regards to high levels of mercury.  

If you’re pregnant, breast feeding or has a young child, Always check with a physician prior to eating new foods or changing your dietary habits.

These mercury warnings can change over time or affect only a particular area or state. Please check with your local EPA and FDA for the current recommendations especially when fishing 2.

Check out the detailed comparison of the spotted and smallmouth in my article, Spotted Bass vs Smallmouth: What’s The Difference?

picture comparison of a smallmouth bass and a spotted bass
Smallmouth bass and spotted bass

Cost

The costs will vary depending on how the fish were caught fishing. When purchasing any fish, be sure to check the label. Therefore, which one is more expensive?

Freshwater bass is more expensive than crappie. The average cost for fresh crappie is $1 per 3-4 inch fish and largemouth bass is $1.10 per 2-3 inch fish.

I conducted original research on costs by checking the prices at various different stores.

First, I checked online at Walleye Direct and found the following prices:

  • Wild, crappie fillets
    • $22 per pound

For stocking ponds, Pond King has the following price per fish:

  • Black crappie – $1 per 3-4″ fish
  • Largemouth bass – $1.10 per 2-3″ fish

Crappie vs Bass: Nutrition

Nutrients

Both of them are an excellent source of healthy fats, protein, B vitamins and minerals. Both fish contain the following:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Folate
  • Niacin
  • B6
  • B12
  • B5
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Selenium
  • Calcium
  • Zinc

The following nutrients are found per four ounces:

Nutrient Freshwater Bass, raw (4 Ounces) Crappie, raw (4 Ounces)
Calories 129 137
Fat 4.2 g 1.3 g
Saturated Fat 0.9 g 0.9 g
Cholesterol 77 mg 80 mg
Protein 21 g 25 g
Sodium 79 mg 49 mg
Omega-3 0.77 g 0.29 g
B-6 0.1 mg 0.1 mg
B-12 2.2 mcg 2.1 mcg
Thiamin 0.08 mg 0.07 mg
Riboflavin 0.08 mg 0.08 mg
B5 0.8 mg 0.8 mg
Iron 1.6 mg 0.9 mg
Niacin 1.4 mg 1.7 mg
Folate 17.0 mcg 6.3 mcg
Potassium 403 mg 357 mg
Magnesium 34 mg 39 mg
Phosphorus 226 mg 259 mg
Calcium 90.7 mg 85.8 mg
Zinc 0.7 mg 0.5 mg
Selenium 14.2 mcg 13.2 mcg

Nutrient Sources 3 4 5

Both fish contain a good number of minerals and vitamins. At first glance it’s difficult to determine which fish provides more. Therefore, bass versus crappie, which one is healthier?

Freshwater bass is healthier due to its higher percentage of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and minerals. Bass provides more B12, thiamin, folate, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc and selenium. 

Crappie is healthy and provides more niacin, magnesium and phosphorus. They also contain more protein than bass.

Keep reading the next section and find out why these vitamins and nutrients are important for health benefits.

Since crappies are difficult to locate in stores, I’ll consume either fish available to me for their nutrient content, taste and health benefits.

white and black crappie
White and black crappie

Crappie and Bass Health Benefits

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

The omega-3 fatty acids contained in crappie and bass are heart healthy and help keep arteries healthy. The omega-3s may help with the following:

  • Keeping bad cholesterol low.
  • Keeping good cholesterol high.
  • Reducing inflammation.
  • Reducing plaque build-up.
  • Lowering triglycerides
  • Help keep the heart rhythms more normal.

DHA and EPA, two of the fatty acids, are associated with lowering blood pressure and improving the health of blood vessels 6.

Studies suggest omega-3s can help reduce joint pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis. They may also boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs.

B Vitamins

The B vitamins provided include B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B9 (folate) B6, B12 and B5. B vitamins help support the following:

  • Energy levels.
  • Red blood cells.
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Digestion.
  • Nerve function.
  • Brain function.

Potassium

Potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium which helps reduce fluid build-up. These help keep systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 7.

The more potassium you consume, the more sodium your body will lose. Consuming too much sodium or not enough potassium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 8.

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure 9.

Magnesium

Magnesium calms and relaxes the whole body including blood vessels. Magnesium has been shown to help improve sleep related problems like insomnia 10.

Magnesium helps keep blood pressure levels balanced and stable. A recent study researched 22 studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased diastolic and systolic blood pressure 11.

Magnesium contained in crappie and bass helps control muscle and nerve function, blood sugar and blood pressure.

In the muscles and heart, magnesium competes with calcium to help the muscles relax after contracting. When the body is low in magnesium, calcium can over stimulate the heart muscle’s cells causing a rapid or irregular heartbeat.

Check out more of my crappie articles:

Calcium

The calcium is important for blood pressure and the heart. Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure because it helps to control the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels 12.

Calcium also helps the following:

  • Build and maintain strong bones.
  • Muscles need calcium to function properly.
  • Improve nerve function.

The following video has a fried crappie recipe.

As a Certified Health Coach many of my clients ask me about sunfish and bass. In addition to educating my Health Coaching clients about crappie and bass, I have researched, purchased and consumed both fish for 20 years prior to, during and after writing this article.

If you have any questions about this article or other posts view, don’t hesitate to email the details to us. You can find an email on our contact page.

Read Next – More Fish vs Fish Articles!

Sea Bass vs Cod – Is One Better? Let’s Compare

White Perch vs White Bass: Which Is Better?

Sea Bass vs Salmon: Which Is Better?

White Bass vs Striped Bass: The Key Differences

Sea Bass vs Salmon: Which is Better?

Bass vs Catfish – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare

 

Article Resources: Foods For Anti-Aging follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
  1. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish[]
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mercury accumulation in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in a Florida lake[]
  3. Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, mixed species, fresh water, bass[]
  4. NutritionData: Fish, bass, fresh water, mixed species, raw[]
  5. USDA FoodData Central: Crappie[]
  6. National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease[]
  7. American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure[]
  8. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach[]
  9. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure[]
  10. National Institutes of Health: Magnesium[]
  11. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis[]
  12. Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure[]

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