I t has been said that Caesar Augustus disliked the month of February so much that he shortened it to 28 days, just so that it would be over sooner.
Although scholars might take issue with the details of this account, most anglers share the emperor’s distaste for the second month. The wet and cold weather of winter puts a damper on the shirtsleeve fishing we all enjoy. But hark! Valentines Day is the traditional kickoff date for the white bass spawn, giving anglers a good reason to shake off the winter doldrums.
Morone chrysops is a schooling fish, found predominantly in the open
water of large reservoirs. Known also as sand bass, sandies, and speed perch, white bass require moving water to spawn. They migrate from the main body of a lake into creeks and tributaries. Depending on the lake and its location, migration may begin as early as December or as late as April. Males move into prime spawning areas about a month before females do.
White bass continue moving upstream, stopping when they reach a restriction that halts their migration. This may be a shallow sandbar in the headwaters of a creek or a dam on a major river. White bass stack up in these choke points, with large numbers of males and males contending for a finite amount of food. Competition is great, and a well-placed jig or spoon will draw quick strikes.
White bass do not build nests, but are free spawners. When the time is right, females release their eggs and males release milt. Fertilized eggs cling to bottom structure for a few days and are then carried downstream to the main lake by the moving water.
Locate an area where white bass are staging prior to spawning, and it is possible to catch a 25-fish per person limit in 25 casts.
When you fish a creek, look for things that constrict the flowing water. White bass will seek out eddies, where they can loiter and take respite from the flowing water. Sandbars, creek bends, and fallen trees all cause breaks in the current, providing the fish with areas to rest and then dart out to grab a meal.
Sand and gravel bars are prevalent in creeks, and there is usually a pool of deeper, slower water just below most bars. White bass stack up in the pools, hiding from the current and conserving their energy for the spawn.
White bass aren’t picky about what they eat, and I have caught them on a wide assortment of lures. In college, while fishing Yegua Creek above Lake Sommerville, I was bound and determined to catch a white bass on a Jitterbug. I finally did but realized that my fishing buddies had strung almost 20 fish on jigs while I was slinging a topwater bait.
Crappie jigs, spoons, and Roadrunners are good choices for spawning whites. Lure color doesn’t seem to be as important as the minnow-like silhouette of the lure; however, I have had days when the fish would only hit one particular color. White and yellow are my standard go-to colors in clean water, with chartreuse and hot pink in dirty water. I will often start the day with a double jig rig, knotting on two different color jigs to see if the fish have a preference. If I catch a handful, all on one color, it is a good clue that this color is important that day.
Since these payloads are small, a spinning reel loaded with light line is a superior choice over a baitcasting outfit. If you have more than one rod in the quiver, opt for the outfit that can cast the lightest lure with ease.
To increase your chances of success, cast your lure upstream of a sandbar and “swim” the bait along with the current. As the jig clears the sandbar, allow it to fall into the deeper pool while keeping a tight line. More often than not, your efforts will draw a viscous strike from a hungry white bass.
White bass are pretty good table fare if they are fileted and the strip of red meat removed. The fillets freeze well and are a great option when the family wants to have a fish fry.
White bass are prolific spawners, with young females laying almost a million eggs per year. As such, TPWD sets very generous bag limits of 25 fish per day. White bass must be 10-inches minimum length to be kept.
If the shortest month of the year has you in a blue funk, be encouraged. Spawning white bass are a harbinger that short sleeve fishing is just around the corne
Email Greg Berlocher at [email protected]