How to Catch White Bass: Essential Tips for Success

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How to Catch White Bass: Essential Tips for Success

Tackle Village is reader supported. If you buy a product through links on the site we may make a small commission

Updated on:
How to catch white bass feature image

For bass anglers looking for a new fish to target, white bass fishing can be exactly what you want. Catching white bass is an extremely popular sport throughout the United States and other parts of the world, and can give you a new and unique fishing experience.

Catching white bass doesn’t require any special equipment or fishing skills, and due to their prolific spawning, these schooling fish are often able to be fished all year round in various parts of the country including the East Coast, New England waterways, and elsewhere in both shallow water and deep water.

Schooling white bass are heavily responsive to changes in the weather as are largemouth bass and many other sport fish species. Look for seasons where rainfall is moderate and water temperatures hover around 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

You also want to look for a decent flow rate in rivers and creeks where white bass may be spawning, but with the addition of the rainfall white bass will be found both downstream and upstream giving fishermen and women plenty of opportunity to catch a trophy.

For anglers that love shore fishing with heavy or light tackle, white bass are a very viable species for catching in this way. Often called sand bass, these fun and active fish can often be found near shore throughout the spring months and gathering around docks, jetties, and other areas where you can stand and fish.

Additionally, for boat anglers, white bass can be followed into more restricted areas around offshore islands, coastal caves, and more. When you catch white bass in these unique and picturesque locations, you create fun memories that can last a lifetime.

Where to Find White Bass

Both native and introduced populations of white bass can be found in the Detroit River and Arkansas River, as well as into the upper end of the Ohio River.

White bass are extremely common across the Midwest and eastern United States. You can also find them throughout Manitoba and Quebec Canada. Moving south, white bass can also be found in the Gulf of Mexico along the shores of Texas, Louisiana, and Florida.

You’ll find massive healthy populations of white bass in the Midwest along the Mississippi River, as well as up into the Great Lakes. Both native and introduced populations of white bass can be found in the Detroit River and Arkansas River, as well as into the upper end of the Ohio River.

In all of the areas white bass are found, many of these locations are not their native range. Introduced populations of hungry white bass were moved into various waterways to provide anglers with a self-sustaining source of both sport and edible fish for them to catch with different lures and baits. 

When it comes to their actual native range, you will rarely see white bass further west than Oklahoma due to changes in the water temperature. With introduced populations, however, more and more anglers of all experience levels were able to enjoy the experience when they catch white bass on their favorite lures or baited hook, or in some cases on flies.

White Bass Fishing Tactics

Lure fishing

Spoons

When selecting the right lure for your next white bass run, a good spoon should be top of your fishing tackle list. Not only are these lures great for trolling through schooling white bass, but they can also be used for single casting into a target area where the larger white bass may be hiding.

Using a spoon is rather simple and can be a great first lure for new white bass anglers to learn with. It’s a very versatile and forgiving tackle in case of mistakes, and can still help you haul in a massive trophy sized fish during the white bass spawn months.

Spinners

If spoon lures aren’t to your liking, spinners should take the next spot on your artificial lure list. Since this is a topwater lure, it’s one of the best lure options throughout the summer and fall as white bass will be moving into much more shallow areas of water and scanning the surface for potential meals.

If you love being able to catch fish near the surface, spinners are definitely the light tackle you should have on the end of your fishing line.

Swimbaits

This lure is great for imitating the natural diet of a white bass. If white bass are currently feeding on shad in the area where you are fishing, use a swimbait tackle that imitates shad in size, shape, and color. 

Swimbaits are great for toeing the line between very artificial and highly realistic, and can be found in both generalized colorations and custom paint jobs. Realistic fishing swimbaits are a great way to catch those bigger fish that are usually females, as well as for catching the smaller males, both during and after the white bass spawn in the spring.

Crankbaits

For water that is around 14 to 20 feet deep, deep water crankbaits are the go-to lure for this depth. White bass will stay in deeper water during the pre-spawn season or when spring water temperatures are too low for them to be extremely active.

If you find yourself seeing fish on the fish finder around this depth, try tossing a crank bait in and seeing what luck you get. Chances are good, a crankbait can get bites from smaller males even if other lures and tackle have failed on the same day.

Bait Fishing

Minnows

For live bait fishing in the spring, summer, or fall, minnows are an easy to find bait and are also easy to use. These small but active fish can entice even the most hesitant white bass into striking and getting caught on your double jig rig.

Minnows with a nose hook or spine hook will provide excellent motion in the water, as well as put off a natural and genuine odor that nearby white bass love. This fishing method is also great when using a stiff rod tip as the motion of the minnow won’t bend the tip much at all.

Shad

One of the most common prey items for this schooling fish according to the wildlife department in various white bass areas, threadfin shad are a great option for live bait in th.e early spring. Since white bass in the area are already eating this food, a feeding school won’t hesitate to strike an injured shad on your hook.

Using shad is one of the best fishing bait options for areas where white bass may be hesitant to strike artificial lures or unfamiliar live bait. If white bass are heavily pressured and ignoring most of the casting tackle being tossed into the water, try using threadfin shad as your live bait.

Worms

The classic stand-by, worms of various types are a great option when fishing in colder water and can also be a way to attract baitfish to the area. Whether you choose to use mealworms, nightcrawlers, or wax worms, this bait is a great choice for slow moving white bass during the winter months.

If even the best popular lures aren’t working from mid March onward, consider trying to catch white bass on a simple worm instead of fancy lures. Chances are good you will be surprised at how much more effective a worm can be over different lures.

Trolling

Trolling can be done in a variety of ways to cover water and find fish, but most anglers agree that for white bass the best trolling speed is right around 1.7 or 2.0mph. This gives your hooks plenty of movement in the water to locate schools, but also makes it easy for white bass to notice and catch what you are offering.

When trolling, a variety of live bait works exceptionally well, but shad is probably the best option since it is an extremely fragrant fish and is one of the most common natural prey items of white bass around the country. Some anglers believe that with the right water current, the small of your bait can be smelled by white bass miles downstream from your boat.

About White Bass

Expect to haul in sand bass between 2.5 and 3 pounds with females being larger than males due to the million eggs they carry during the spawning run.

Scientific Name

White bass have had many scientific names over the years as they have become more studied and understood. In the 1820’s, they were triple-classed as Perca chrysops, Roccus chrysops, and Lepibema chrysops

By 1842, they were reclassified as Labrax albidus which remained as their accepted scientific name until 1853. At this time, they were again moved into a differing subspecies and classed as Labrax osculatii. 

This name once again remained for some time before the white bass was moved into their current classification of Morone chrysops. As more studies and gene sequencing are done on other species around the world, white bass may once again be changed to better reflect their actual placement in the animal kingdom. 

Distribution

Found in many areas of the United States, many waterways where white bass are found are not actually their native range. This is a very versatile species of fish that has been introduced into a number of different waterways in order to provide anglers with a very prolific and fun to catch trophy fish.

They are very willing to spawn in a wide range of different conditions including open water, stained or clear water, fast moving rivers, spring and summer fishing reservoirs, and more. Due to their prolific nature and willingness to go about their business regardless of surface activity, white bass are an easy target.

White bass are the state fish of Oklahoma, and as a result can be found in most waterways around the state. This includes ponds, lakes, reservoirs, rivers, creeks, and tributaries. Around 1.5 million pounds of white bass are harvested in Oklahoma each year.

In addition to Oklahoma, white bass can be found throughout the Midwest and New England, and can range as far south as the Gulf of Mexico. They are a very common coastal fish in Texas, Florida, and Louisiana.

Size Range

While not reaching the same massive sizes as largemouth bass or other sport fish, white bass average and can easily reach 12 inches in length. Some of the largest white bass caught have measured 17 to 18 inches long.

For weight, most white bass caught in open water and rivers will reach around 3 pounds, but record-breaking white bass weighing more than 4 pounds have been caught and recorded. For the white bass average weight, expect to haul in sand bass between 2.5 and 3 pounds in weight with females being larger than males due to the million eggs they carry and lay during the spawning run.

Eating Quality

White bass have a very “fishy” flavor which some people are not fond of. Many fishermen that love the more mild undertones of bass flavor will soak their white bass in a salt brine to reduce this overly-fishy flavor.

The meat of white bass is very firm and makes an excellent filet. You can also use most parts of this fish for a stew. White bass can be a somewhat oily fish, but will not be nearly as oily as other species such as cod or salmon.

An important factor is that the natural diet of the fish can lead to a more or less noticeable fishy flavor. So if you are looking for a distinct taste in your white bass, be aware of their year-round diet in the waterway you are fishing. If you can’t track the entire year, focus on the early spring and early summer months to see what baitfish are most popular in those staging areas for white bass.

Additionally, adding your own butter and spices can help balance out the fish flavor or mask it entirely. Different parts of the fish will also have different levels of flavor, with the back and belly meat being more mild and buttery, while the red meat along the rib is more fishy in taste.

The actual water temperature and conditions can play a part in the flavor as well. Clear open water along the coast will produce white bass with a more mild flavor. While spring and summer rivers, seasonal tributaries, and fall cold water lakes can create white bass that are much more fishy in flavor.

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AUTHOR
Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water.