by Tom Cannon
On the heels of a colder than normal winter, any sign that spring has arrived is welcome. Quite often the initial tip are the buds on trees and shrubs in our yards, or perhaps the first sighting of a Robin. Yet nothing means spring is here to me than White Bass!
Fishing for White Bass is a spring ritual in my home. Around these parts the “whites” are among the first game fish to bite well; becoming active when the waters warm to about fifty degrees. These aggressive fish, follow nature and migrate up the tributaries not long after ice off.
What’s more, White Bass are not tough to catch. Fishing for “whites” doesn’t involve a lot of work or tackle, merely a bit of effort. Scout your local lake or big river for the headwaters that feed it. Begin fishing at the mouth of where the stream enters the lake and gradually move upstream from there.
Simple is effective, when chasing White Bass. A rod or two spooled with six to eight pound line and small to medium minnow imitation lures work best. My favorite bait for catching White Bass is the Culprit Tassel Tail Grub. A subtle curl tail grub designed originally for Crappie fishing, it is equally suited for Whites or other species. Pair the Tassel Tail Grub with a 1/8 or 1/16 ounce jighead and you have one of the most effective stream lures ever devised!
One never knows where the whites will be from one day to the next! These fish can cover ground faster than a woman at the mall! In fact I have found them a mile or more upstream in just one day. Additionally they can normally be found on plain banks at one moment then laying next to a stump or brush pile moments later.
Fan casting your Culprit grub or other lure to each and every foot of water is the best method to ambush a limit of whites. Once the primary location is found simply duplicate that until it quits producing and move upstream. Often increasing the retrieve speed of the lure will trigger some bites from lethargic White Bass. There isn’t a speed they can’t catch, so don’t be shy about burning a lure back to the boat.
I have yet to meet an angler who doesn’t like to catch a White Bass. Typically one can always tell the strike… Similar to having a dog jerk the leash out of your hand when he sees a cat! Even the smallest of whites thinks he is a giant fish and will have you laughing at the strength of the silver and white fish. A better fish to introduce a child to fishing has yet to be found! Bad casting, splashing lures into the water, nothing deters a hungry “white”.
For some reason White Bass get a bad rap at the dinner table. My friends and family never seem to loose their enthusiasm for the fish though. I always feel that preparation of any fish or game is critical and foremost importance. Ice is the key ingredient in my livewell. Every fish I plan to keep is immediately placed on ice. Once at home I waste no time breaking out the fillet knife and quickly cleaning my day’s catch. Soak those fillets in water for several hours. In fact I also package my fillets in a bag of water to prevent any freezer burn. Once thawed simply run them through an egg wash and add seasoning, then drop into the fryer or broiler.
If there is a better sign that spring has arrived than a mess of freshly cooked White Bass on the table; I have yet to find it! Oh yeah be sure to keep at least one hand on your fishing rod at all times, as every year someone has one jerked into the water by an angry White Bass !