White Bass Primer

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Video best time to catch white bass

Bull Shoals Reservoir is one-of-a-kind. It’s character doesn’t resemble many other man-made lakes in the country. It’s banks are, for the most part, void of docks or buildings. It seems as if it’s lost in time when the Ozark Indians used to use the once White River for their source of life.

Bull Shoals Reservoir is one-of-a-kind. It’s character doesn’t resemble many other man-made lakes in the country. It’s banks are, for the most part, void of docks or buildings. It seems as if it’s lost in time when the Ozark Indians used to use the once White River for their source of life.

What about the fishing?! As many lakes in the midwest, white bass are a sought after trophy, for their meat and for their fight. I remember years ago in Oklahoma, to name one state, white were considered a trash fish and not fit to eat. No limits on this abundant fish didn’t seem to deter the population on most lakes and rivers. There seemed to be an endless number schooling up and down the flats, devouring and schools of shad in their way. Times have changed, as they do, and the white bass, or called sand bass in some other parts of the country, have become coveted as crappie and walleye (well- almost). Most anglers come out of the woodwork on warm, sunny days in March and April to line the banks and fill the channels with their boats to do what? Chase whites.

When do the whites start their march? All depends on the weather. In January, we start to see white bass show up when fishing for winter crappie off mud flat banks or fishing for walleye off the flat channel in deeper water. On into February, more start to show from K-Dock up to Beaver Creek in the main channels and you can usually depend on finding them close to the bottom. How do you locate them? Find them through countless days of drifting and trolling in this 4 to 6 miles stretch… or… read my reports and I’ll tel you where I’ve either caught them or heard of other catching them. I don’t know about you but I can’t afford to spend countless anything but working here at the resort! Once found, they won’t move too far too fast- especially if they are close to say Beaver Creek where they will run up to spawn.

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How to catch pre spawn whites- as I said, they will be close to the bottom of the lake. **Bull Shoals is designed to be the holding basin for the White River Chain of lakes- it can hold lots of water. About 15 years ago, they put 40 feet of water over the normal pool- that’s allot of water!! Then normal thin lake went sprawling all over the place and it was difficult to find anything in so much water.** You need a good depth finder, not necessarily to find the whites but to see what kind of depth you’re in. Finding the fish is good too. Lures and techniques- your preference from here. I like jigs. I use 1/18th and even 1/4th oz jigs, depending on the depth and wind conditions. I use marabou mostly when vertical jigging. White, blue, chartreuse, gray, yellow, purple…. I switch around until I find a color to their liking. Some people like to jerk spoons. I’ve never got the hang of that but I know it works. One thing to remember when working either a jig or spoon up and down- look for it to stop before it hits bottom. You won’t feel the proverbial tap like when retrieving a lure- they usually take the lure on the drop. Drifting minnows on the bottom is good. Either with the wind or current. Careful not to use too much weight so as to get hung on the bottom a lot. Trolling deep diving crank baits is also good- blue/silver hot-n-tots, shad raps and heavy rooster tails. If the lake level is low enough, use 1/8th oz lead heads and swimming minnows and work them slowly across the bottom. We use several colored minnows including motor oil, blue, purple, chartreuse and smoke. Powersite will start holding white bass early in the season. Either fishing from a boat or the banks, working crank baits or swimming minnows is current or not can be productive. You really never know what you’ll catch up there too- whites, crappie, black bass, rainbow or brown trout, drum, carp, catfish, walleye- even striper now. That’s why they call it the “Pot Hole”.

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Night fishing for pre spawn whites is very popular and productive closer to the spawn. I’ve headed out in my boat from River Run on many a night, while others are heading in. I head down to the “Willows” and anchor in current along the mud bank in about 18 feet of water. I throw a purple swimming minnow (1/16th oz lead head in medium current and 1/8th in heavy current) towards the bank almost at a 90 degree angle and let the lure drop close to the bottom before retrieving it. When the lure makes the swing at the back of the boat, I usually get the strike. This is when we catch a lot of the “sows” or female whites- big whites!! Conditions do have to be just right for this to happen but in most years- we do get water generation at night and we do catch whites this way. Other ways to catch whites at night- off the banks- the same willow bank, the mouth of Swan Creek, up close to Powersite Dam and the mouth of Beaver Creek. Use slow-moving lures like jigs, grubs or swimming minnows and work them close to the bottom. Darker colored lures usually work best.

Spawning whites- when does it really happen? Water conditions in the creeks need to be: warm- 60 degrees or higher; running water preferred; water color- I believe anything but extremely muddy. In the spring, weather fronts and rains play havoc on fishing. “The whites and running- now their not- it’s too muddy- water is too high- too low- too clear- too cold- new moon- old moon.” If you’re like me, you spend half your time chasing “stories” about what happened yesterday and coming up empty. In early to mid April, our white bass are usually in peak spawn and most of the time, you’ll find white spawning on up into May. Whites will certainly stay in the creeks into June sometimes feeding on minnows.

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Early mornings and late evenings in low light times, whites generally make a run up in our creeks and are easy pickings. Night time too. Whites will moving up in creeks and then hold in deep pools before continuing on their trek. People wading using minnows in holes below riffles usually do real well. Use 4 lb line with a small split shot and #8 hook. Toss the line in the current and let it settle in the pool. If the pool isn’t real deep, blue rebels are a hot lure to use. Jerk it erratically, triggering the strike. This technique works on post spawn whites too in the main lake and in creeks. Working swimming minnows through these pools also is good. Use different colors- depending on water color- till you find a color they will hit. Fly fishing is a blast for whites in the creeks now. Fly fishing is the best technique for fishing the fast riffles and pockets along these riffles. Use small jigs, streamers and even nymphs like stones and hellgrammites. Whites usually like flashy flies.

Whites bass hang around the same areas for weeks after spawning, usually out closer to the mouths of the creeks and in the main lake. After spawning, they are vivacious feeders and very aggressive. Jerk baits like the blue rebel and sluggos are a blast to use. We fish up in Swan Creek with small sluggos into the month of June and in clear water, you can see the white swarming the lure as you twitch it in. Main lake- rattle traps is one of the best lures to locate and catch whites.

Bottom line- white bass is a great sport fish to fish for and even to eat. I hope this helps you have a successful fishing trip this spring.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>