Bill Butts continues his introduction to springtime White Bass fishing
Where and How-to If you live in or near the Ozarks Region you are not far from an excellent White Bass fishery. This region is covered with lakes that have wonderfully healthy populations of not only White Bass, but also their larger sometimes tackle busting cousins, Hybrid Stripers and Stripers.
The best known fisheries in this region, with their respective available species are as follows:
Beaver Lake (all 3 species)
Norfork Lake (all 3 species)
Greers Ferry Lake (Whites and Hybrids)
Bull Shoals Lake (White Bass)
Table Rock Lake (White Bass)
Bull Shoals Lake (White Bass)
Stockton Lake (White Bass)
Truman Lake (Whites and Hybrids)
Pomme De Terre Lake (White Bass)
Grand Lake (Whites and Hybrids)
Hudson Lake (White Bass)
Ft. Gibson Lake (White Bass)
Tenkiller Lake (White Bass)
(Note: These OK lakes are either just inside or outside of the Ozark Region, but are included for their excellent quality fisheries and accessibility.)
This is not a comprehensive list of White Bass fisheries available in the Ozarks. However, if you will pick just one or two of these fisheries and invest the time and effort to learn how, where and when to find these fish in the Spring you will be rewarded for your efforts and maybe catch yourself thinking about and fishing for them all year, too.
White Bass are not usually difficult to catch once you locate them. Over the years, I have developed a network of contacts with a variety of tackle shop staff, fellow fishermen (including local “good ole boy” minnow dunkers), landowners, fisheries biologists and game wardens for each specific fishery I pursue these fish. This process takes time in order to have the right combination of sources for accurate timely information. I take the time to meet and keep in contact with as many of these folks as I possible can, always taking and compiling notes from every important conversation.
This “network” is absolutely critical unless you hire the services of a guide or know someone that has already developed a local knowledge of a fishery that will take you with them. Additionally, I use a variety of maps and online resources to continually educate myself. County road maps, DeLorme Gazeteer topo maps (by state), Google Earth satellite photos, and several websites for water flow and temperature data are constantly utilized for their valuable content.
If you will concentrate your initial efforts on fishing just below the first two or three shoals/riffles above lake water, that is always a great place on which to focus. In low water years, the majority of White Bass will do their spawning in the lower stretches of a tributary. In years with strong and fluctuating flows from spring rains, you may find Whites in scattered groups literally miles up the river and not as concentrated.
White Bass do not like to stay in the fastest moving current in the river, but rather to hold just off the edges of current in deeper holes. If you happen to catch them in faster water it is because they are moving up or down through that water or chasing baitfish for a short time. They also seek a moderate current flow when the time comes to begin the spawning ritual.
So, what does a great White Bass fishing day in the spring look like? All the Temperate Bass species are highly photosensitive (sensitive to bright sunlight). Most of the very best days of fishing for these species for me have occurred on either cloudy to very dark cloudy and rainy days, or the first and last two hours of daylight on a clear day.
Water clarity is also a factor that fishermen need to consider. Some tributaries are extremely clear during normal flows, but many are never very clear. I have always found that White Bass that spawn in very clear streams are even more sensitive to light and to leader size due to the optimum visibility. I’ve also observed that these fish do not spend much extra time feeding in a clear water stream before or after spawning. This makes timing your fishing efforts even more critical because the total time they spend in that particular stream is very limited.
It should also make sense that fishing on low light days or at night are even more important for success. Another excellent time to fish these clear streams is after a good rain raises the flow of the stream and turns it off color. Just as the stream is clearing up but is still just a little murky is one of the best times to fish these waters.
Examples of clear water streams are Beaver and Swan Creeks, and the James and North Fork Rivers in MO. Murky water streams, though perhaps not as picturesque or easy to wade, hold White Bass longer before and after their spawning ritual is completed. I believe it is purely due to their comfort level of not being as visible as in clearer water.
The streams that I fish that have the longest lasting quality fishing during the spring are all murky water streams. Some examples of these are the Sac and Pomme de Terre Rivers in MO, and the Upper White River above Beaver Lake in AR.
Of course, spring rains can keep a stream murky to muddy for extended periods of time sometimes even ruining the fishing for weeks. One of best examples of a stream that seems to incur this factor is the Spring River near Miami OK. Though it runs quite clear when normal, it seems to stay at elevated flow levels and murky during the spring. I’ve caught Whites in virtually muddy water on this and other streams, but the lack of visibility for the fish becomes a limiting factor for success. I’ll come back to this factor, later.