Friday, April 12, 2019

White Bass


         When warming water starts running into Ozark reservoirs, thanks to the spring storms that rumble across southern Missouri every year, great schools of white bass will move into small tributaries where they will spawn. Sometimes it will last two or three weeks, sometimes more than a month.

        But it usually gets to going pretty well in late March or early April. They need lots of flowing water to really make a strong spring spawning run, and hit looks like there is plenty of water this spring.

         The white bass males are smaller fish as a rule, usually weighing only a pound or so, but the females will often weigh two, three or four pounds and they fight like tigers. The only thing that will compare to them pound for pound in our reservoirs is a smallmouth bass. Maybe to some, the white bass is not as good to eat as other fish, but they are more fun to catch, especially when you catch them on the light spinning gear that most people use.

         White bass lay their eggs just after sunset well into the night in small tributaries that flow into the reservoirs. I’ve seen them stacked in shallow, clear water by the hundreds, males and females thrashing against the current in the fading light. When actual spawning occurs and for some time afterward, they won’t hit anything. But when you catch the females getting ready to make that trip into the shoals, they’ll nearly tear the rod out of your hand.

         A fishing companion and I found them like that one spring many years ago in a very small tributary to the Long Creek arm of Table Rock Lake. We had spent the morning scouting the area in north Arkansas looking for, and listening for, wild turkeys.  It was the first few days of April and we planned to chase crappie that afternoon with perhaps more enthusiasm than we had for wild gobblers, which had been scarce, quiet or both.

         About two or three p.m., we backed my boat down the ramp near the Cricket Creek Marina, and were catching crappie in a very short time. We kept about 15 nice big slabs that afternoon, and released that many smaller ones. Eventually we worked our way back into the tip of the cove where you could see the small stream flowing in. There was a little rock bluff, some fairly deep water, and a few logs.

         I fastened the boat to a snag sticking up in the middle of the hole, and tied on a topwater rebel, hoping there’d be bass back toward the logs behind us and along the bank before us.

         There were, and as the shadows lengthened, we sat there uninterrupted by other fishermen, setting trebles into small-sized largemouth bass that would swirl beneath the topwater wobblers or slash across the still surface to engulf them. We were using light spinning gear with six pound line, and the bass, mostly 11, 12, or 13-inch fish, were affording us a great time before we released them.

         On occasion we would hook a 14 or 15-inch fish, but nothing bigger. Then as the sun began to set, I cast toward the small rock wall on the other side of the boat. I twitched the rebel, and worked it back at a brisk pace a foot or so beneath the surface. Only a few feet from the boat, I saw a broad silver side flash beneath the lure. I tied on a small shad-like crank bait and made several casts toward the rocky outcrop where the main creek channel coursed.

         Finally, as dusk crept over the lake, and spring peepers made music around us, the white bass became belligerent. A four- pounder hit savagely beside the boat and stripped line against the drag. My fishing partner tied on a new lure, and we pitched into the best white bass fishing I’ve ever seen.

         In no time the floor of the boat was alive with whites. We turned back smaller fish, which were few, and kept those from two pounds up. It was a constant flurry of activity, catching fish for an hour or so on almost every cast, straining the light rods against surging, underwater tigers. It slowed after dark, then stopped altogether. We had three, four-pound whites, one nearly 4½ . We weighed the six biggest fish at 23 pounds total.

         We were there the following evening, but the whites weren’t. I’m sure they did come back again that week, but the turkey season opened the next day and we headed south to the national forest with our attention turned to gobblers. But I haven’t forgotten that spot, and some spring day I’d like to go back to see if the descendants of those whites we caught years ago ever return to that little creek as the evening wanes.

         It was perhaps the best of the white bass fishing I have enjoyed over the years, but it is not uncommon to find big white bass back in a deep tributary-fed cove this time of year.  You have to look for them, and when you find them you’ll never find such action as those bigger females can provide.

Contact me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 or email  Call our office to order either of my magazines, or one of my books.  That number is 417 777 5227.  I write some conservation articles which cannot be printed in newspapers. You may read them on my website…


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