John's Journal...

Limiting Out On Linesides

Finding White Bass

Editor’s Note: Catching white bass is relatively simple because the fish are extremely aggressive – eating many types of smaller fish, including Click to enlargeperch, bluegills, crappie and gizzard shad besides feeding on insects and crustaceans – and will hit a wide variety of baits. The biggest problem involved in catching white bass is finding the fish so anglers have a target for their casting. Since populations of white bass fluctuate from year to year because of the fragility of the eggs and the requirement of nearly-perfect weather conditions for hatching, the fishing is hot and cold. Although the white bass can be harvested heavily without harming the fishery, the fish successfully reproduce only every three to four years in most areas.

Silhouetted against the first flames of an orange, pre-dawn sky, my fishing companion sat perched in the bow of the Click to enlargeboat with the wind in his hair and his finger pointed skyward. “The gulls! Look for the gulls! The gulls will mark the spot where we’ll find the fish.” As those words rang in my ears I remembered the same words coming from the wooden-legged, blue-coated figure of legendary Captain Ahab, stomping up and down the deck of the Pequod, his weathered face searching for gulls in his relentless pursuit of the white whale, Moby Dick. Although the fish we sought were not white whales, they were white bass and put up a whale of a fight. White Click to enlargebass, which resemble small striped bass, often lurk unseen in schools below the surface of the water. “Find the gulls and you’ll discover white bass” was a fishing lesson a friend of mine had told me many years ago.

When Joe Price of Bessemer, Alabama and I spied a hovering white cloud of gulls diving and capturing minnows, we motored close to the feeding birds. I cast a white, 1/8-ounce bucktail jig with a chartreuse hair tail while Joe threw a green and white Mann’s Little George, an old bait that still catches plenty of fish. Before the leaded lures crashed into the rocky bottom, the line twitched, and I set the hook. The ultralight rod dove downward to kiss the fast-moving current of the mClick to enlargeighty Tennessee River in North Alabama as the drag on my reel shrieked goodbye to the 6-pound test line.

The white bass we angled for were not the usual ½- to 1-½-pound top schoolers for which most sportsmen fish. And as the lineside bass I had on my rod ran, I realized just how strong a 2-½ to 3-pound fully-mature white bass can be. The fish made four or five line-stealing runs before he could be boated. The savagery with which the white bass fights is one of the main reasons for his gain in popularity with sportsmen in recent years. In less than 20 minutes, Price and I had 20 white bass in the boat. Then the action stopped. Evidently the fish had moved. And once again our search had to begin.


Check back each day this week for more.

Day 1: Finding White Bass
Day 2: Catching White Bass
Day 3: Finding and Taking Linesides
Day 4: Hunting Island Whites
Day 5: Night Bass Fishing



Entry 341, Day 1