Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Doggone White Bass

Dablemont column 3/30/20     

      White bass caught on ultra-lite equipment, will outfight about anything in a stream… except smallmouth. And when there is a good current in a tributary to any Ozark lake, if you find a bunch of those big female white bass, you can wear yourself out just trying to get a dozen or so in the boat.

      That awful experience reared its ugly head for a friend and I a couple of days ago.  We were up in a rain-swollen river trying to hook a walleye or two and big hefty female white bass kept intercepting our multi-colored crank baits. Sometimes we just struggled to get them back to the boat.

      We might have caught a nice walleye or two or even a lunker smallmouth if they had just let those lures alone, but they wouldn’t.  We’d feel a hard jolt out several yards into the current and the drag would screech for a minute or two and some big ol’ egg-laden white bass would bend a rod nearly double, whilst we would hang on and hope they would tire a little.  What a fight!

      Finally we just gave up and caught a whole passel of them out of spite. That can be a lot of fun if you wouldn’t druther catch a walleye. White bass are below those shoals of many lake tributaries wanting to spawn soon.  You would think any fish wanting to spawn would be less interested in eating, but now that I think about it, I have known a few pregnant women who just couldn’t get enough to eat, so it may be a natural thing amongst females.

     White bass spawn on gravel shoals in the Ozarks at night, but they didn’t get the name ‘sand bass’ for no good reason.  In the spring, sand warms quicker than gravel.  I mention this because that day we came across a big sand bar deposited by high water, and exposed to an 80-degree sun.  And right there we found some big female whites just hungry as they could be.

      You might keep that to yourself or in the spring when you are out fishing for white bass you may find two or three boats congregating next to any sand bars.  I don’t fish on weekends, because of that problem.  Weekends in the spring, everyone, goes fishing.  For example, last Saturday afternoon I motored up one river to look for some mushrooms and shed antlers and the place was all choked up with boats.  I saw one 17-foot boat with three kids and four adults in it and fishing rods sticking up everywhere like quills on a porcupine… probably looking for my favorite sand bar.

      I passed one small boat with a father and a boy about 10 or 11 and my mind went back to my own boyhood, when I spent hours in an old wooden johnboat with my dad or my grandfather, floating the Big Piney when almost no one did but us.  I couldn’t believe how much that young boy looked like I did at that age.  Discarding my usual contempt for city folks who flock to the Ozarks on weekends, I couldn’t forget the look on that little boys face as he clutched that rod and reel. 
      So I motored over and told them if they would follow me I would show them my secret sand bar.  I got my picture took with that youngster, and found out that his father, from Kansas City, had been reading my fishing book the week before they came down to fish.  Well, for some reason the white bass weren’t hungry that afternoon, but they said they would keep my favorite spot a secret and would only fish there when I wasn’t.  I hope they come back sometime.  I would like to see that little boy haul in a stringer full of those whites.  I cannot get that blond mop of hair and his “I want to catch a fish” face out of my mind.

      I’ll share another secret with all you readers.  I do not like to eat fish!  I guess eating so many as a boy has sorta made me allergic to the taste.  I don’t like any fish, not even crappie or walleye.        But I filet what I catch and try to give them to poor or elderly folks who just love them.  Chances are you will like white bass, hybrids or stripers if you learn to skim off the red meat.  It is a little like skimming the chocolate icing off a cupcake, but it leaves a red stripe down the center of the filet you have to eliminate also.  I think that this week I will put photos of that step-by- step process on my website, That way, many will change their attitude about eating white bass filets. I will add some of my recent photos and what I promised to post about paddlefish.

      Let me add this… if you are a landowner instructed to register your land with the MDC so you can get a landowner permit this spring to hunt wild turkeys, DON”T DO IT!  There is more to this than you know.  I will hunt my land without the permit.  It will be the first time I have ever intentionally broken the law, but there isn’t a conservation agent anywhere who will be able to catch me. Makes me feel like one of them Bostonians who threw the tea in the Atlantic back in the 1770’s. 

      Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email

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