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Early Spring White Bass and Striped Bass

Heath Wood

white bass

white bass catchTypically for me, the beginning of spring is usually centered around the upcoming turkey season. Being a self-proclaimed, die-hard hunter, I would often laugh at the thought of my friends going fishing during this time of the year. In my mind, I could not grasp the concept that anyone could be more excited about fish than about a gobbling turkey.

During April of 2018, I found myself traveling to the lake with two of my buddies to see what all the excitement was about. The first thing I want to mention is that I was fishing up into the late hours of the night, on a weekday, during the middle of turkey season. Needless to say, I was stepping out of my comfort zone. As we fished for a couple of hours before sunset, I was able to catch a nice largemouth bass as well as a decent-sized walleye. Both were good fish but not what we were fishing for that evening.

All the excitement that I have encountered among my friends over the years has been due to the catching of white bass and striped bass, otherwise known as a striper. During this time of the year, both types of bass venture to the shallower parts of the lake. As we fished into the darkness of the night, I was unable to catch my first white bass or striper. However, that evening I witnessed my two buddies catch several good-sized white bass and witnessed why they get so excited.

Fast forward to this year, I caught myself anxiously waiting for another chance at catching one of these hard-fighting bass. As spring approached, I began watching the water temperatures of the lake, waiting for the perfect time to try my luck. I had not completely forgotten about the upcoming turkey season, yet it had indeed been put on the backburner as I kept envisioning myself possibly reeling in a bass.

white bass fishingSpring had finally arrived, and I had become more anxious than I have ever been in the past to catch a fish. The fish that was on my mind was that of a white bass or a striper. Learning from an experienced friend of mine, whom I would be fishing alongside as well as talking to other experienced anglers, the water temperature of the lake needed to be around 54 to 55 degrees for these two species of bass to come into the shallower waters.

As the water temperatures began to rise during the early part of the spring, the shad which is a favorite meal of both whites and stripers begin coming into the warmer parts of the lake which is the shallow parts. When this happens, the bass follow behind making for an exciting time that many fishermen look forward to each spring.

Around the second week of March, we decided to take our first trip to the Norfork Lake near Mountain Home, Arkansas. A few days prior, we began having our first few warm days of the year, which had our hopes high that the time to catch these particular bass would be upon us. We began fishing around 6 p.m. and had planned to fish late into the evening, which is one of the best times to catch bass. On most occurrences, one will catch a few white bass the last hour of daylight, then as darkness falls the stripers will bite more. However, on this trip the water temperature had only made it to around 47 to 48 degrees.

Even though we caught a few largemouth bass, we struck out on white bass and stripers. I was starting to feel the pressure even more, as this trip had a lot of similarities to the year before, in the way that we were not catching what we were after. On April 2, 2019 we ventured back to the Norfork Lake. This time we had come off four straight days with daily high temperatures in the mid 60s and lows in the low 50s which had the water temperature that evening at 55 degrees. Hoping for a more successful experience, I started the evening fishing a Lew’s CS200 spinning reel on a 7’ med/heavy rod with Seaguar Tatsu 12lb fluorocarbon line, using a Cotton Cordell Gay Blade lure to simulate a shad. Knowing that I had about two hours of daylight left before focusing on stripers, I decided to use the Gay Blade specifically for white bass. Twenty minutes into the trip, I hooked my first white, then a few minutes later another one bit, and I was able to boat two within the first 30 minutes.white bass bait

Both fish put up a good fight, not disappointing my anticipation in how fun they would be to catch. My buddy and I fished another hour catching six whites total. Even though we had some success, he suggested that we start throwing some jerkbaits in hopes of catching a striper, and we did just that. I switched to my Lew’s Super Duty casting reel on a Lew’s TP1 Black, 7’, Med/Light rod. On this particular setup, I was using Seaguar’s NEW Smackdown Hi-Vis Flash Green braid in a 20-pound test, perfect for being able to hold up to a striper, which can easily be above 20 pounds. Approximately an hour before dark, I began casting a Strike King KVD Jerkbait in a Pro Purple Headed Hammer color.

My buddy suggested that I cast as far as I could, then slowly reel it in. After a few minutes, I caught a nice-sized smallmouth bass which got my blood pumping even more. We were catching fish and having fun doing it. Like, many other anglers, we wanted bigger. During the last few minutes of light, I had a hard hit on the jerkbait about 15 foot from the boat. I quickly set the hook and began a 5-minute fight with a 5.5-pound hybrid, which is a white bass/striper mix. It wasn’t the big striper I was hoping for; however, it was just as fun. It was such an adrenaline rush to be able to reel in such a beautiful fish

After that night of action-packed fishing, I now see why so many people get excited about a bunch of fish as I do about turkey hunting. The only negative part to the evening was coming to the realization that I am going to have a battle each spring in deciding where I should focus more of my attention, fishing or hunting. Perhaps I will settle and keep loving both. As for my personal 2-year quest to catch a white bass or striper, even though I technically didn’t catch a striper. Being able to catch such a nice hybrid will hold me over until the next fishing trip occurs. I will go ahead and say it; I am officially hooked!

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