In about a month, white bass anglers will be flocking to streams to enjoy the annual white bass ‘run’. Fishing is often fast paced during this period when spawning ‘whites’ move into creeks and rivers above lakes to deposit and fertilize eggs. Scheduling a successful fishing trip around this much heralded run can be ‘iffy’ but when conditions are right, the run actually occurs and white bass vacate the reservoirs in mass and head up creeks and rivers above the lakes.
These ‘just right’ conditions include rainfall on the watershed above the lake to create current, optimal air and water temperature, water clarity and a host of other factors we mere humans are not as of yet privy to. Many white bass never leave the confines of the lake to spawn but deposit their eggs around windblown points with current. But there is something very special about spending time on a remote stretch of a creek or river during the spawn.
I dearly love tossing small minnow imitation baits or Roadrunner jigs along slow moving streams in the spring for white bass but, looking back through the years on past fishing trips, I can remember several times when I simply could not find a concentration of fish. But there’s something very special about those rare instances when one finds ten thousand hungry white bass packed into the very narrow confines of a creek bend.
In truth, white bass can be caught right now on reservoirs such as Cedar Creek and Tawakoni relatively easily, assuming one chooses a mild winter day with light winds to venture forth on the lake. When the water temperature is in the fifties, consistently catching white bass is a far different proposition that when the fish are chasing shad to the surface and hitting just about anything small and shiny.
Now is prime time to boat some heavy stringers of white bass. The fish are in pre spawn and the females are packing a lot of weight. Fish in the 1.5 to 2 pound range are very common this time of year and the really good thing about winter fishing is that when you find fish, there is likely to be a big concentration in a tight area.
Finding concentrations of fish is relatively easy this time of year assuming your boat is rigged with good sonar and you have the ability to interpret it’s readings.
Points are prime areas to locate pre spawn whites this time of year, either points connected to the shoreline above water or those completely submerged. Expect the majority of white bass to be hugging bottom in water 28-40 feet deep. It’s common to catch fish that still have a little mud on the top of their heads.
Don’t expect winter white bass to strike the bait hard. One-ounce lead slab in white or chartreuse with a quarter-ounce jig tied about a foot above works well during the winter. Using a sensitive rod, it’s possible to feel the bottom with the slab which is very important this time of year.
Allow the baits to fall until it contacts the bottom then move the baits very slowly in a vertical jigging motion, maintaining contact with the bottom at all times. The fish hit the jig above the slab the majority of time. Sometimes, the only indication of a strike is a heavy feeling when the fish grabs the bait. When the line goes taught or the rod top jiggles the slightest bit, it’s important to set the hook with a quick pop of the wrist.
When graphing the deeper points, it’s best to position the boat off to one side and run parallel with the submerged structure. As a rule, the white bass schools will be stacked up on bottom on one side of the hump or the other. If the point is running east and west and there is a steady north wind, it’s usually best to key south side of the hump because actively feeding fish are apt to be staged here, picking off baitfish that pass over the top of the structure.
Once a school of fish is located, toss out a marker buoy and, depending upon wind speed and direction; either allows the boat to drift over the structure or used the trolling motor to slowly drag the baits across bottom. Either way, the strikes, albeit they subtle usually come quickly and limits are often landed when a big school of actively feeding fish is located.
Tips for catching winter white bass
KEEP BAITS ON BOTTOM- If your lure is not bouncing off the bottom, you probably won’t be catching fish. Use a sensitive rod to feel bottom and set the hook when you feel the slightest resistance.
FISH DEEP- Most of the white bass I catch this year come from deep structure, water 28-40 feet. Graph deep humps, ridges and points until you find a concentration of baitfish with fish holding tightly to bottom below them, these will usually be white bass.
PLAN YOUR TRIP AROUND THE WEATHER- Watch the weather closely this time of year. Fish the warming trend between fronts. There’s no need to be on the water at first light. Begin fishing around 7:30 or 8 am. ; on a sunny day with little wind, the temperature often warms up quickly.
DRESS PROPERLY- Dressing in layers this time of year is always a good idea. Make sure your outer jacket is warm and waterproof. Once it warms up around mid-morning, you can remove the heavy outer layers and fish in comfort. A good face mask and gloves will help keep you comfortable during the first couple hours of on the water.
PREPARING YOUR CATCH- White bass are excellent eating. When removing the fillets, don’t bear down with the fillet knife when removing the skin. Leave about one-eighth inch of the red meat on the skin. Once this darker colored meat is removed, white bass are one of the tastiest of all fish. Allow the fillets to set in a mixture of buttermilk and Louisiana Hot Sauce for thirty minutes before dusting them with a mixture of cornmeal and flour and dropping them into the fish fryer.
Contact Outdoors writer Luke Clayton via email at www.catfishradio.org .