How to Catch a White Bass

Throughout the world, in fresh water and in salt, there are plenty of different types of bass. Many of them are popular game fish and bass fishing is a huge industry. If you’re going out to angle for bass, it’s a good idea to get to know a few of the many bass, especially in the area you’re headed to. Different bass have different habits, strike on different baits, and live in different areas. In this article, we’ll cover Morone chrysops, or White Bass. 

What is a White Bass?

White Bass is a fish by many names: sand bass, silver bass, streaker, and barfish. It’s often confused with the striped bass and the hybrid striped bass. The hybrid is a crossbreed of the white and striped varieties. The white bass is distinguished from both by its single tooth patch on the tongue. They also have one sharp point on the gill cover, rather than the two striped bass have. Most adults grow to be about a foot long, with silver, grayish-green bodies. Several thin dark stripes run along the sides of the fish horizontally from head to tail. Two fins decorate the dorsal side of the white bass, the second of which is more sturdy than its partner. The record for the biggest white bass ever hooked stands at six pounds, thirteen ounces. There were two fish that tied for this honor, one from Louisiana and another from Virginia.

These fish spawn in large schools in early spring. They’re not the most ideal fish parents. White bass are broadcast spawners, meaning the females release all of their eggs at once and then the males release their milt. The two meet in the water, which fertilizes the eggs. One female white bass can lay around up to 900 thousand eggs which drift and stick to vegetation, rocks, and whatever else they bump into. In a few days, the young hatch and begin to feed on tiny invertebrates. Mom and dad leave the eggs right after spawning and don’t spend any time with the youngin’s. In warm weather, the young fish will mature in about two years. In the northern latitudes, it may take up to three years to reach maturity. They’ll hang out in the shallows until they get bigger and move to deeper water. 

For a great illustration of white bass, check out this US Fish & Wildlife Service page. To get an more in-depth bio of the white bass check out Lake Scientist.

Where to Find White Bass

White bass is a freshwater lake-dwelling fish that likes to swim in deep waters most of the time. They move up the connecting creeks and rivers when it’s time to spawn in the spring. This is prime time to catch this fish and anglers will swarm from miles around to take advantage of it. Nationally, this fish’s native range is in the Mississippi River basins all the way from Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico. It’s found in all of the Great Lakes and is native to all of them except for Lake Superior. Puerto Rico also has some good white bass fishing. Like most game fish, the white bass has spread out from its original range and can now be found throughout the midwest and southeastern states. White bass are few and far between in areas west of the Rocky Mountain range. 

Because of the adult white bass’s preference for deep water, it can be difficult to locate them without sonar equipment. Look at the underwater geography and see if you can spot the points. White bass will congregate in schools on either side of the hump. Both with the sonar and the naked eye, your clue to where the white bass are is watching their prey. If you’ve spotted a large school of shad on your radar, the white bass will be hanging out underneath them. That’s where you’ll cast your line, letting it sink down past the shad school. You can also catch them in the summertime, top feeding when a group of them drive the shad or minnows up to the surface. Keep your eyes open for birds feeding on surfaced baifish.

There are a few tricks to finding them seasonally and you can even ice fish for them in the deeper lakes. Spring and Summer are the best seasons to look for white bass as this is where they’re the most active. When the weather is colder, they move to the lower depths of lakes. They are likely to be a bit sluggish because of the temperature and won’t be as enthusiastic when striking. To find them during the spring spawn, check for bridges and inlets where the waterway narrows as it hits the lake. Check with your local shops for spring migration maps. This is a popular time for white bass fishing so the locals will have all the details and tips on where to go. Never underestimate the knowledge of your local anglers, especially the seniors who’ve spent most of their time in the area. To see the white bass’s range, go to this USGS Map.

Best Bait for White Bass

Before you pick out your bait or lures, start by choosing the right tackle. Since you’ll be using light bait, you won’t need a heavy duty rod or line. Just make sure you know how deep you’re going to fish that day and have enough line to cover the target depth. The reel you choose will need to be able to handle that amount of line. Four to six pound monofilament line should do the trick. If you’re doing really deep, you may want an additional rod handy that can handle a heavier line with weights attached. A good standby is a six and a half foot rod equipped with a spinning reel. 

As with most predatory game fish, the best bait for white bass will be what they’re catching in the wild. Small baitfish like shad and minnows are an excellent choice and should be easy to get ahold of either at a bait shop or off the boat. Hickory shad and threadfin shad are both great choices. Again, find out what’s in your local area so you can not only have better luck with the bass, but avoid inadvertently introducing any species that doesn’t belong there. Of course, if you’re catching your bat from the same waters, this won’t be a concern. If you’ve got an aerated bait bucket, keep some baitfish in that and make sure to keep them out of the sun. You can also try a drop net hung off the side of the boat. That eliminates the need to aerate the water, but does leave them susceptible to turtles. Keep your eyes open for these silent swimmers trying to steal your bait!

To hook the bait, grab ahold of the minnow and grip it securely but don’t crush it. With your other hand, insert the hook just behind the top jaw and out between its eyes. The point should be facing the same direction as the minnow with its head sitting in the bend. This keep the bait moving in the right direction as you draw it through the water. With its body unhindered, the minnow can wiggle and swim naturally so the bass will be none the wiser. You don’t have to stick to smaller fish when going after white bass either. Invertebrates like worms work well too. A whole nightcrawler or a leech will do nicely.

Best Lures for White Bass

If you don’t have the patience to deal with live bait, the variety of bass fishing lures available is staggering. Since bass are the most fished in the whole of North America, bass lures are a huge business. They aren’t, however, created equal nor are all bass lures good for all types of bass. Overall, with a white bass, you’ll want to pick out something that mimics minnow, shad, or a worm. Choose colors to match the conditions of the water. In clear waters, select a more realistic looking lure. In murky or muddy waters, a brightly colored chartreuse or neon lure will be more visible to the bass. 

Spoons are always a good choice for white bass. They’ve been around for ages, simply because they work so well. Don’t be surprised of your grandpa fished with spoon lures. Yellow Bird has a line of lures called Doctor Spoon. The nickel/chartreuse option is a good color combo and so is the silver shad version. You can also go with the Acme Little Cleo spoon in hammered neon blue and nickel black stripe for a good white bass lure. 

A lot of anglers prefer a jig for catching white bass. Start out with a 1/32 ounce or even a 1/16 ounce size jighead and pair it with a curly tail grub. The curled tail will catch the water and make the lure wiggle and squirm like a live bait. Even though it’s a worm, fish can mistake them for a small shad or minnow too. The white Mister Twister curly tail grub is a popular and inexpensive choice, as is the shiny pearl color. The pearl white Gulp! Jigging Grub from Berkley is also a worthy alternative.

Often, it takes a little more than flashy colors to attract a white bass’s attention. In that case, it’s a good idea to have a rattling lure that uses a couple of BBs to make noise. One great lure that does this is the Buck-shot Rattle Spoon by Northland. There aren’t as many color options with this one as there are for some of the other lures, but the silver shiner, the super glow perch, and the super glow rainbow will get a lot of attention.

How to Cook White Bass

White bass is a fun fish to catch, but not many anglers like to eat it. It has a reputation for being very fishy tasting. That fishy taste can mostly be avoided, however, if you clean and trim the fist properly before cooking it up. The key is to look for the red flesh versus the white flesh, as white bass has both. It’s the red meat that give this fish the disagreeable flavor. Once you take that off, you’re left with a pretty decent meal. 

Buying frozen white bass, if you find it, is not recommended, since this fish is only good eating within a couple of days of its catch. The best way is to pull it out of the water yourself. Bleed it and ice it right away to keep the flavor nice. Until you decide if you like it though, you may want to only keep one and release the rest back into the water. 

Piscifun has a great recipe for White Bass Chili Lime Tacos on their YouTube channel. The name pretty much says it all: just pull together some corn tortillas, a little lime, and chili power. Once you’ve separated the meat from the bloodline, soak the filets in salt water for a few hours in the fridge. Add melted butter, salt, and garlic powder to the chili lime mixture and marinate the fish filets in it. Stick the whole thing in the oven for a bit while you make the pineapple salsa. Throw that all into a tortilla and enjoy your Mexican inspired feast!

Lindner’s Angling Edge presents another good-looking recipe for Blackened White Bass. This one involves loads of butter and blackening spices. Use the butter to help coat the filets in spice. Cook the filets on the stovetop in a skillet with more of the butter. Once the fisk starts to smoke, flip it over and get the other side. You can serve that up with asparagus, mashed potatoes, or a lemon rosemary aioli. Bon appetit! 

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