Few fishing trips produce the fast action of a white bass run. Here's how to get in on the fun.
"Have you completely lost your mind?" my loving wife queried. "You want me to go fishing with you?" she continued. "It's barely March, twenty degrees outside, and it's supposed to snow tomorrow!"
"Well, can I explain a little white bass biology to you?" I pleaded.
"Yeah, in June!" she retorted. "Besides, have any of your crazy buddies gone white bass fishing yet?"
"Well, ahhhh...no, not exactly," I responded.
"Then, I rest my case," Charlene stated as she crossed her arms and raised her eyebrows to heights I had never seen before. "Well, Babe, you know daylight hours are increasing, and it does strange things to wild creatures. You love turkey hunting and understand all the biological stuff concerning gobblers. How about learning about white bass? We have had lots of bright sunny days. The rip-rap is absorbing heat and I heard the water temperature is approaching that magical mark when the males will start upstream. Sure would be fun to beat everybody to the punch!"
The day dawned cold, cloudy and windy. Pelting sleet peppered down as I motored the boat up the Osage River, just below the Lake of the Ozarks dam in central Missouri. There was not another boat on the river and conversation was as scarce as the boats. I hoped the fish would cooperate and bite quickly.
White bass are a fish of open waters, until the magical, annual urge to spawn overpowers these silver and black beauties. Predicting the exact peak of the white bass run is a bit like playing Russian roulette. However, I explained to Charlene that if we lost once at white bass fishing, at least we could play again. Then, maybe not!
Getting a jump on the run is risky business, but major white bass runs are predictable and the fish are plentiful, powerful and the object of reoccurring piscatorial dreams. Once the word gets out that the spring spawning runs have begun, the hearts of experienced white bass anglers make a little more room for this prolific sportsfish.
I prowled the waters of the first major hole below Lake of the Ozarks dam in hopes of finding a mass of fish hugging the bottom. Scattered fish were all I could find. The fishing proved slow, especially considering the fact that we were being pelted by sleet.
Hoping to pull an ace out of the hole, I motored a half-mile downstream to the deepest hole in that section of the Osage. I quickly explained to Charlene that staging white bass males always rested in the deepest hole below a dam -if indeed the run was about to start.
When Charlene raises one eyebrow, I know there had better be an ace in the hole! I grinned to myself as the boat slid quietly over the deep hole. There they were, lots of fish on the graph. I didn't tell Charlene.
Intending to improve my current stature, I spoke in my most confident voice and assured her that my instincts told me that we were going to catch whites and lots of them. I kindly tied a quarter-ounce chartreuse Road Runner
onto the business end of Charlene's eight pound line. I almost jumped for joy when her rod bent heavily on her very first cast. She hooked three fish before I finished tying on a duplicate lure. With an ultra light rod and reel combo, the fight that this scrappy little bass puts up is intensified 10 fold.
The whites were stacked in 15-feet of water. We cast to the head of the pool to allow the Road Runners to sink to the bottom. Once our lures made contact with the bottom, it simply became a matter of cranking the reel handle a couple of turns to bring the lure up a foot or so, then pausing to allow it to drop abruptly. The whites literally smashed our lures on the fall.
After we had each boated a half-dozen or so of the scrappy bass, the action slowed. I lifted the anchor and used the trolling motor to ease up the pool another 30 feet.
Bingo! The action picked up where it left off!
Within 45 minutes Charlene and I both held hefty stringers of white bass, most of which were pre-spawn males. And, the greatest enjoyment of our prospecting bonanza was the solitude we enjoyed.
Dennis Beabout, owner of Beabout's Bait and Tackle on Hwy. 54, in Osage Beach is a gold mine of information about white bass fishing on the Lake of the Ozarks and the Osage River. It was Beabout that first put me into the white bass bonanza on the Osage.
White bass are creatures of instinct. Once an angler establishes a spawning pattern, he can pretty much plan on catching whites there again in following years, provided water temperatures and conditions are similar. Patience, persistence and prospecting trips are the keys to getting the jump on the major white bass run.
Finding early pre-spawn males is like finding the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Once the males begin to stage, the fishing will become even more phenomenal as the big egg-laden females begin to show up. The fishing will become fast and furious for a few days and then it will subside as quickly as it began.
The Lake of the Ozarks has several tributaries where spawning runs take place each spring. For more information about white bass fishing in Missouri and accommodations check out the website: www.aroundthelake.com.
Day length and temperature are increasing. I expect at any day now Charlene will say, "You wanna go white bass fishing, Honey?"
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