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Great White Bites

White Bass. They are probably one of my most favorite fish to try for. Certainly one of the easiest to catch once you can locate them. But that is where most anglers miss their mark.

The most important factors to consider when locating white bass are those factors conducive to the water type you are fishing. For instance, if you are fishing downstream of a dam, odds are these fish are going to be very sensitive to fluctuations in the water level and to current.

When I first started fishing for white bass, I used their surface activity as an indication of their general location. This however is a hit and miss situation. 
Schools of whites are known to move over great distances, usually following the movements of large baitfish schools, often setting up ambush points near and around points, underwater ridges, incoming tributaries, old river beds and even near submerged islands.

A favorite tactic of mine is to wade into an incoming tributary carefully and cast smaller spoons, white jigs and crankbaits upstream and retreive them at a brisk pace. Most of the tributaries I fish are less than 7 feet deep and often pockmarked with little pockets. These pockets are results of the combined current variables and they are very easily overlooked and packed with white bass. These lures cover the full spectrum of the water column and allow me to target specific groups of bass.
I have seen far too many anglers sitting in one spot waiting for white bass to come to them. This is a hit and miss approach as well. Not only do white bass move great distances, but they have great vertical depth preferences in the course of a given day. Your best approach to is to drift or troll specific key sections. The base of rip rap where it meets the river bottom and thins out is a good key spot in rivers. Cast upstream and retrieve so your presentation just taps the bottom occasionally. expect a few hang-ups. This indicates you are in the right zone to connect with bigger whites.

An observation I have made is that the farther away from structure whites are located, the more negative they seem to be. Take a few casts and if you don't get any strikes, move on to more aggressive fish. Big whites don't waste time nailing properly presented lures or baits. The strikes are most often fast, vicious and bone jarring and will take you by complete surprise.

>From talking with white bass fisherman across the state, it seems that the larger whet bass always hold near the bottom of the school and suspend deepest. A few fisherman I talked too recommend using larger lures such as bigger jigging spoons and larger jigs or tail spins to reach them. Cranks will take the smaller fish easily enough, but the bigger whites are more wary and not so easily fooled.

While visible surface activity is not a sure thing, it can key you in on fish location variables you may have overlooked. If you spend any time on a given body of water and witness the sporadic bursts of white bass busting shad or other baitfish near the surface, you can almost define a migration pattern. 

Three friends of mine and I did just this fishing beneath Gavins a few years ago. They moved through the area almost like clockwork, cornering baitfish and feeding, then moving on to the next. I often thought this was actually more than one school of whites, as the size differed as the day progressed, moving through the same key areas.

Experience provides the most reliable groundwork for a successful fishing strategy and strategies are your best bet when going after large white bass. Study the contour maps available at most bait shops and locate prime key areas and then go from there.
Until next time
Keep those lines wet.

Daniel C. Nielsen


Copyright 2000 
Reprinted with permission

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