Back in the CB radio era, interstate highways were nicknamed "superslabs."

It is a rarely used moniker today, but perhaps it should be, at least when referring to I-55 in Mississippi.

Along its route north from its intersection with I-20 in Jackson to the Tennessee border, I-55 fulfills more dreams than the famed Yellow Brick Road in Oz.

It leads fishermen to super-sized slab crappie.

"As far as crappie fishing goes, I-55 is as good as gold," said Paul Johnson of Brandon, a longtime member and past president of the Magnolia Crappie Club (as well as Mississippi Sportsman columnist). "You start talking about the best crappie lakes in the Southeast or anywhere else in the world, and five of the best are right off that one highway."

Going south to north, there's Barnett Reservoir, Grenada Lake, Enid Lake, Sardis Lake and Arkabutla Lake. All five were recently included on a list of the Top 50 crappie hotspots in the country announced by the popular fishing Web site

Get this: The popular Web site had three of them in its Top 5 - Grenada No. 1, Sardis No. 2 and Arkabutla No. 5.

Enid Lake, which produced the 5-pound, 3-ounce world-record white crappie caught by Fred Bright of Memphis in 1955 is ranked No. 20 and Barnett Reservoir comes in at No. 29.

"That we have that many lakes along I-55 on such a list is not surprising," said James Thornhill of Grenada. "What is surprising is that they rank all four of the Corps of Engineers lakes in North Mississippi ahead of Barnett Reservoir.

"No way. You catch more fish and more quality fish on average at Barnett. That's all I'd add to that."

You might argue the individual rankings, but not the collective group. The I-55 crappie connection is umatched anywhere in the world - and there is no better month to cash in on the action than April.

"The best thing about it is April, when crappie spawn," Thornhill continued. "Makes you wish you could take a month off from work so you can follow the spawn right up I-55. You'd start first at Barnett and then move up the road to Grenada and Enid, which are so close that the spawn is at the same time, and then Sardis and finally at Arkabutla.

"Depending on spring weather, it can take you from early April all the way through to mid-May. The price of gas this year may curb some of the travel, but it's there if you want to chase them."

So when is the peak of the spawn?

Rabbit Rogers of Brandon said it's easy for him to remember, at least on his home waters of Barnett Reservoir.

"We all know that we have to pay our taxes by April 15, and you can count on the crappie spawn peaking on Barnett within a few days either side of tax day," Rogers said. "Whenever anybody asks me when they should plan to fish the spawn, I tell them to get their taxes done ahead of time because they need to be ready to go on a moment's notice.

"We can start catching the males shallow as early as late March and the first week of April, but at some point within a day or two of the 15th it's like someone flips a switch and the big females move in. It's like magic. One minute they're not in there and, bang, the next minute they are."

Rogers said it's obvious that it doesn't all happen at one time, but there is one day when it peaks.

"Our spawn on Barnett can last from March until even early June, depending on the area of the lake, but there will be that one day in mid April when it seems that the largest percentage of the crappie population will spawn," he said. "You can book it around April 15."

Thornhill agreed, and said then it's time to chase the spawn up I-55.

"Once I hear it's on at Barnett, I will run down and get a taste of it for a day or two, but then it's on to Grenada and Enid," he said. "There have been years when it peaks about the same time as Barnett, but that's only when there's a full moon in mid April, and this year the full moon is April 25. I suspect that means we'll see the peak a little later, closer to then at Grenada and Enid, and then right around the 25th at Sardis and Arkabutla.

"Of course, that's just my opinion, and I value the moon phases more than most people. I know the water temperatures and the lake levels will play roles, too. I guess that's why I rank Barnett so highly: The lake level there is pretty consistent, varying only a foot or 2 from winter to summer pool. These Corps of Engineers lakes (Grenada, Enid, Sardis and Arkabutla) vary so much more. Sardis and Grenada, man, they can vary 20 feet or more, depending on how much rain we get during the spring. It can mess up a spawn."