Timing a fishing trip to coincide with the peak of the white bass spawn is about as chancy as predicting the weather in Texas two weeks in advance, but when everything comes together, the nonstop action provided by a big school of spawning white bass, confined to a deep pool in a stream or river or stacked up in huge numbers on a main lake hump or ridge, is about as exciting as fishing gets.
White bass need current for a successful spawn. This current can come from runoff from a recent rain in feeder creeks or rivers above reservoirs or in the reservoirs themselves. Each year, about this time, big egg laden female whites and smaller males will leave the larger reservoirs and pack into the feeder creeks and rivers in efforts to procreate. But countless white bass spawn each year around main lake points and humps on the main body of water where wind causes the current necessary for their eggs to develop. Several factors are necessary to triggering the spawn; warming water and current seem to be the major factors that cause the fish to move to the upper end of their home reservoirs.
I’ve fished for spawning white bass in creeks and rivers for many years, sometimes by boat but very often from the bank. I’ve caught spawning whites in creeks above tiny little White Rock Lake, situated within the shadows of down town Dallas skyscrapers and I’ve caught them on Caddo Creek above Tawakoni where I had to walk a mile from the nearest road to find suitable water and fish. A couple years ago about this time, I had the pleasure of fishing above Lake Whitney near the junction of the Nolan and Brazos Rivers for spawning whites. Fishing for spawning whites in a slow moving stream is a great way to get out and enjoy the outdoors but success can be “iffy”. It hinges upon finding a concentration fish that are continually on the move this time of year. A much more predictable way to insure a big “mess” of white bass fillets for those with a boat and good electronics is to pinpoint concentrations of spawning white bass holding tight to structure on the main lake.
Regardless where you live, chances are very good that you are within a short drive of potentially excellent white bass waters. Many of my favorite creeks are simply too small to access by boat and I opt to walk the banks looking for good spawning waters. When accessing these fishing hotspots on foot, make sure and contact the property owners to gain access before heading down the creek in quest of a big ‘mess’ of tasty white bass fillets!
Top baits for spawning white bass include soft plastic minnow imitations but crank baits and inline spinners can also be highly effective. I prefer the single hook soft plastics because of the inherent problem of getting hung on brush when fishing creeks. When fishing reservoirs, soft plastic shad imitations on a jig head work well, as do half-ounce lead slabs or spoons or, the two baits fished in tandem with the slab on bottom. The little baits such as Sassy Shad, Roadrunners or Coho Minnows are deadly on white bass regardless whether fishing in a creek or huge reservoir.
Proper bait presentation is almost as important as the bait used. Spawning whites, for whatever reason, prefer very slow moving baits. When fishing creeks, cast soft plastics downstream and work them back along bottom with a slow retrieve, allowing the baits to ‘bump bottom’. Concentrations of fish can often be found close to the banks, so it’s a good idea to try to keep baits parallel with the bank, just as close to the bank as possible.
Regular readers of this column will recall last week’s account of a fun morning on the water with Stubby Stubblefield, maker of Stubby’s Catfish Bait. Stubby and I had so much fun fishing together that he invited me back a few days ago to catch some white bass that were holding on big schools in several areas on Lake Fork. Stubby is obviously a serious catfisherman but he also enjoys getting into the action provided by a big school of aggressively feeding white bass. We caught most of the fish in water about 24 feet deep and the majority of strikes came close to bottom. The females we landed were carrying well developed egg sacs and we caught them all on the main body of the lake, far from any feeder creek, proof positive that many white bass go up the creeks to spawn.
Regardless whether you fish your favorite lake or stream, white bass are well into their annual spawn right now and I can guarantee you that those well trimmed fillets caught from fish in cold water are some very fine eating!
A RECIPE FOR CRISPY FRIED WHITE BASS FILLETS: Many people complain about the “red meat” on the outside of white bass fillets. The majority of this meat can easily be removed during the filleting process if care is taken not to bear down too hard with the knife. If the knife runs up about one-eighth inch above the skin side of the fillet, much of this red meat is left on the skin; what’s left can easily be trimmed with a thin blade fillet knife. Marinate the fillet in a 50-50 solution of Louisiana Hot Sauce and buttermilk for a couple hours and then dust with a batter of three fourth corn meal and one-fourth flour and fry in hot oil until crisp! Yellow bass are often landed while white bass fishing. Although these fish are not as large as white bass, there is no yellow bass limit in Texas. Keep as many as you wish to eat, the fillets are very tasty; I actually prefer them to crappie.
Luke’s book “Kill to Grill, the Ultimate Guide with Wild Hog hunting and cooking” is available through Amazon or www.catfishradio.com