Each year in late winter and early spring one of my favorite “runs” begins here in South East Texas, the White Bass run. When the fishing is excellent you can catch between 50 to 100 whites in a trip if are able to find schooling fish. White Bass make great table fare and you are able to keep a sizeable amount per day here in Texas. Texas bag limits for White Bass are a minimum length of 10 inches and you are allowed to be in possession of 25 per day. Check your state annual handbook for more information and bag limits in your area.
So when is the best time of year to target white bass? Well the old timers will tell you when the Dogwoods start to bloom it is time to start fishing!!! Although Dogwood blooms are a great indication the white bass run really comes down to water temperature. The white bass really start to move in large numbers when the water temperature reaches between 50-53 degrees and maintains that temperature for a week or longer. Once we begin to see consistent temperatures in the main lakes the white bass begins their journey through main lake tributaries and then into the feeder creeks and back waters to spawn. Now early I said the run in Texas sometimes begins as early as late January, but that isn’t the case for all parts of the country. The white bass run can start as late as April and May in some our Northern states depending on weather patterns and water temperature.
Checking the water temperature and looking for dogwoods will give you a great indication of when to start fishing, but you have to make sure you are fishing for them in the right places. Early in the run you will find fish leaving the main lakes are starting to congregate at the mouths or rivers/beginning of what most would call the “Main lake”. The fish will be much more spread out during the very early run and it will take much more effort to find and target. As water temperatures begin to rise the fish will move up the river and begin to eat anything and everything in sight in preparation for the spawn. You will usually find these fish in deeper areas of the river and as the early spring sun begins to warm the water, they will move into shallower areas usually in 10ft of less of water. Once the temperature begins to reach 55 plus degrees you should begin to target the smaller feeder creeks off these main river channels. These smaller feeder creeks are where you can find hundreds of hungry fish in massive numbers. During pre-spawn fishing look for deeper holes or pools in these feeder creeks and you will likely hit the white bass jackpot. White Bass do not hang close to structure during the run but instead swim in schools moving constantly.
During the white bass run the fish have 2 things on their minds, spawning and eating!! So what do you feed these guys with? That answer will vary depending on where you find them. In the main river channels and while you are searching for them any bait that has a shine to it and rattles or vibrates will catch fish. Most white bass prefer a 2-3 inch long bait with some type of spinner or rattle, my personal favorites are a 1/4oz Rat L Trap Mini in chrome with a blue back and a 2 ¾ inch Berkley SquareBull 5.5ft diving crank bait in the sexy back theme or red craw. I use these 2 baits as search baits in order to locate the fish along the often murky river channels. A very effective way to search for white bass is to troll, the above mentioned baits, while leisurely paddling up and down the river channels. Cast out 20 yards of line, place your rod in your YakAttack Omega rod holder, paddle down the edges of the channel and wait for a hit!!! Once you have located a possible school you can continue to use the above baits or you can switch over to a beetle spin, rooster tail or roadrunner style bait. I personally will continue to use the lipless crankbait or crankbaits but you really can’t go wrong once you locate fish. When you are fishing the larger main lake tributaries the water clarity is usually pretty stained and off color so vibration and sound is very important to finding the fish so start with the louder bait and move to the smaller ones. During the later weeks of the run the fish will be moving into the feeder creeks with clearer waters. You will find them in larger concentrations and a tandem rigged setup with 2 road runners with a 2in Gulp Jigging grub is hard to beat. You can catch them 2 at a time once located.
Right now in Texas the run is on and in other parts of the country white bass will begin to run very soon!! The white bass run is a great opportunity to get out with other kayakers in your areas and chase some white bass. Like I said earlier the white bass only have 2 things in mind and they aren’t timid fish. Having multiple kayaks in the same area will not ruin the bait, actually the more the merrier! Having friends out there to help locate the fish actually makes it much easier to locate school and stay on the fish. If you have kids that are able to get out on the kayak with you, this is a great time to get them out there and have a day of fishing they will not soon forget.
If you would like to hear more information about white bass fishing check out The Paddlers Playbook Podcast episode “Straight Trippin: White Bass” on Spotify, itunes and anywhere else you enjoy streaming music and podcasts. The Paddlers Playbook is a podcast dedicated to helping paddlers enjoy their time on the water by giving information in both an entertaining and educational way. The hosts Drew and Chris, are joined by industry leading guests, experienced fisherman and various kayak community members regularly to help you experience the outdoors in comfort and style!