Do you know the difference between a white crappie and a black crappie? Lots of folks don't. During the spawn, the male white crappie turns black, and is often confused with his double-first cousin, the black crappie.

Shown in the accompanying photos are two white crappie, a female and a male. These beauts were caught by Hugh Krutz of Brandon, tournament director for the Magnolia Crappie Club, on Barnett Reservoir in the deep-water stumps in mid-May.

There are a couple of questions surrounding these perfect pictures. One, what in the world was this colored-up male doing out in 20+ feet of water, and, two, what were any of these slabs doing on their summer patterns already?

Continuing our discussion on white compared to black crappie, let's make it simple and refer to the black species as "specks." Blacks get the "speck" nickname because their spots are in a speckled pattern and not arranged in vertical bars.


Black or white - who cares?

We care because knowing the difference in habitat of both sub-species helps us catch more fish. For instance, "specks" are much more structure-oriented than white crappie. Where white crappie tend to chase shad in open water, "specks" will orient more to the edges, hanging in cover and waiting to ambush lunch.

Don't get me wrong: All crappie are structure-oriented. They have to be because they are typically both predator and prey. But specks rarely leave the safety of the deep structure, and white crappie will school more often and chase shad in open water.

Maybe it's just me, but I find black crappie to be the more aggressive of the two, hitting jigs as easily as live bait. And that black crappie sure pulls harder and is much quicker than his white cousin.

On the other hand, white crappie usually run bigger than specks. In some lakes, small specks dominate so much that they make catching a slab almost impossible.

Most lakes in Mississippi will contain both sub-species, but there will usually be a more predominant number of one. Lakes with clear water tend to hold more black crappie. White crappie do better in stained to muddy water.

As an example, Wolf Lake is one of the muddiest crappie lakes I fish. I've fished tournaments there for 15 years or more, and I caught my first Wolf Lake speck this past May.

Eagle Lake was predominantly a white crappie lake, but then the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries stocked a bunch of specks there. Now, a white crappie is a rarity coming out of Eagle. And Eagle Lake is one of the clearest, prettiest lakes in Mississippi. The water is almost aqua-blue most months of the year.

Okatibbee Reservoir, in Lauderdale County, is a clear lake where specks dominate. At Barnett Reservoir, more specks can be found upriver where the water clears up faster than down in the main lake.

Chotard/Albermarle hold both in good numbers, but the specks stick to the brush tops and laydowns on the edges of these old oxbows, and can become very predictable targets for good jig fishermen.


Great fun

There is absolutely nothing any more fun than sticking a big "speck" with a jig at about 6 feet deep. Bud, you are in for a real fight on that light tackle. That sucker will run away from you faster than you can react, and then do a double back flip out of the water when he reaches the end of your string. Or he'll dig deep, making tight, hard circles until you can finally get him headed your way.

It's hard to imagine anything more fun than that - unless it's catching a big mess of white crappie "as big as they grow" with a minnow pole.