Bank Fishing for White Bass

Looking to score a feastful of flavorful fish? Check out these 5 tips for limiting out during this year’s white bass run.

It’s January. The cold winter months are almost over. The weatherman says warm weather is upon on and to us fisherman, it means spawning season is upon us.  Amongst the earliest fish to spawn is one of my favorite fish species, white bass!

The Science

Come late winter, when the water warms up a bit, white bass males make their way upstream to find spawning locations.  About 2 weeks later, the females make the same trip. They play a delicate waiting game and when the mood is right, she lays her eggs, he comes in and fertilizes it and two days later, almost a million eggs per female hatch and make their way to populate the lake.  

Here are our 5 tips to catch your limit of white bass this season.

  1. Timing is everything. One week early and you get a few here and there. Arrive on the right day and you can limit out in an hour. Here in Texas, the way the older generation of fisherman know when the run is best is by watching our favorite flower, the bluebonnet. When you start seeing patches of our state flower pop up on the side of the road, you know you can count on some good fishing days. For fisherman who are not familiar with bluebonnets, look for redbud (dogwood) trees to bloom.  For much of the south, we are looking at late February through March and (through a quick google search) for the northern half of the United States, you are looking at May for prime fishing season. Maybe I can migrate with the spawn and have a super long white bass season. I wonder how my husband will take that idea.

  1. Pre-Season Peek. In the winter time, (around Christmas) I make a trip out to my favorite white bass spots. I scope out the area and make notes of bank changes due to erosion and brush, trees and other significant cover that could be beneficial to me locating fish during the run. For example, my favorite white bass spot is a bend in one of the major rivers here in Central Texas. Every year, this part of the river changes. One year, the cliff above it eroded and it sent a 15 foot tree into the river. I happen to be there a couple of weeks after it fell and I saw it laying in the river. In the spring, when the water was up, while everyone was fishing their normal spot further down, I fished right where the tree went down and limited out in 45 minutes. Easiest fishing ever.  

  1. Techniques. Before spawning happens, while the bass are staging themselves to spawn, look for white bass in deep pools. The bass wait here until the temperature, sun, water flow, hormones and other factors are correct. They are usually found in large numbers so when you find one, keep casting to the same hole until you don’t get anymore bites. Another great spot to find would be an eddy. How do you know you have found an eddy? Simple, the water goes the opposite direction.  This water movement is a white bass haven because they know food will be here. After the spawn, as the bass move back to the lake, one thing to consider is many people think you catch white bass in the current. While you can get an occasional bite in the stream, most of my bites come on the sides of the river where the water is calmer. The white bass are hungry. They don’t want to expend a lot of energy to replenish all the energy they have lost while they were focused solely on reproducing.

  1. Gear. White bass have little mouths. I use a medium light to light rod with a spinning reel sized to hold 6lb to 8lb mono.  I use small hooks sizes 4 to 10. White bass is super productive on live bait but for me, hunting down or purchasing live bait and then having to carry it around with me hoping not to run out is not my idea of fun. Plus, I have just as much luck on lures. My favorite baits are Yakima Bait Wordens Original Rooster Tail and this 2” Triple Tip Grub from Big Bite Baits on a 1/16” to 1/4" ounce jig head.  I work these baits almost exactly the same. I’m a little “type A” when it comes to fishing so I have a basic search pattern. With each of the aforementioned lures, I do a series of methodical casts. I start with continuous fast, medium and slow retrieve at high, medium and low depths. Followed by fast,medium and slow jigging action at high, medium and low depths. As I run through this process, whichever one I get a bite on, I repeat the pattern and more often than not, I continue to catch fish.

  1. On The Fly. Even though I have just given you my run down of spinning setup, my favorite way to catch white bass is with a fly rod. Anything from a 4wt to 6wt rod will do.  Depending on the depth of the river, you may need a sink tip line if they are running deep. However, I have a trick for that. My number one go-to fly is the good ole clouser minnow in white and chartreuse combo color pattern. I tie these with 3 different eye sizes, small for shallow water, medium for mid-depth water column and large for deeper water. When stripping in my clouser minnow, I start with fast short strips, medium strips then long strips. I vary the amount of time between each strip until I find fish.

Last thoughts

Be safe. I was 4 months pregnant and waded into thigh high water.  It wasn’t a big deal in the morning when I first crossed the river to get to the opposite bank. However, after 8 hours of standing on the water bank, at least 200 or more casts and hauling a near limit of white bass, I had to cross back over. I have to admit that about halfway in the stream when the water was fastest, I felt myself sliding across the gravel bottom. I was really struggling to keep my balance and it was a lot harder than it was when I crossed over. I have often wondered what I would have done had I lost my balance. Now when I cross a river, I have a lightweight, telescoping hiking staff to help me keep my balance if I need it and I don’t cross if the water is fast flowing at knee level.  Consider, if you are going into fast flowing deep water, wear one of those instant inflatable life vests. Yes, sometimes fishing is better from the other side, but my life isn’t worth seeing if the grass is greener on the other side. 

Be courteous. Don’t be the guy who sees someone catching bass and then cast or worse yet, the guy who stands right where someone is casting.  Consider that it probably took the successful fisherman a while to find that spot and if you want to fish the same area, ask first.  Most fishermen I know don’t mind sharing a spot but we do call you names if you steal our spot. 

When all else fails. If you aren’t catching fish and someone around you is, watch what they are doing and mimic it. If you can’t figure it out, then man up put your ego aside and just ask what they are using/doing.  As a side note, be sure to write me and let me know what that guy is using/doing. Sometimes I luck out as well.

So what tips do you have for white bass? What are your favorite go-to baits and lures? Let us know but commenting below. Until next time, 10-4 Good Buddy!!

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