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White Bass: The Angler’s Guide

If you want an angling experience of family fun ending in a delicious meal for all, don’t overlook the white bass as an excellent fishing option! 

catching a white bass

Species Description

As the largest of the croaker family, the white bass migrates in open waters. Related species are the striped bass, the striped landlock bass, and the Whiterock bass. 

Spawning of this fish may occur in freshwater tributaries and on rocky areas of lakes and rivers. 

How to Identify

You may be able to identify the white bass by its blue or gray dorsal color, silvery abdomen, and — in its youth —  black silver stripes. 

The white bass features a sharp point on the dual gill covers (as opposed to the striped bass, which has two points each).

Along each side of the body are partial horizontal stripes. The back fin will reveal two separate spiny and softer sections. 

History

Non-native to California and other states where it frequently dwells in the present day, the white bass originates from locales such as the St. Lawrence River, Lake Winnipeg, and the Rio Grande.

As the fish is known for its feeding patterns, naturalists have transplanted many species in rivers and reservoirs to control gizzard shad populations.

World Record

While ice fishing, Blake Fleur reeled in a white bass in Devils Lake, North Dakota, weighing in at 4.27 pounds and 4.32 pounds on two different scales.

The fish reached a record length of 18.5 inches.

Life Cycle

In US southern regions, mating typically begins in February. In northern ones, this takes place in May.

The white bass does not mate in pairs or build nests. Groups of male bass follow females, aiming to fertilize eggs as they exit her body. 

Adults typically head toward deeper waters, and the fertilized eggs will hatch in around two days.

Depending on climate (taking longer in colder regions), the full maturing process into adulthood takes approximately two years. 

Habitat

Typically, white bass fish gather in lakes, slow rivers, reservoirs, or other open waters. Juveniles may inhabit coastal waters, collecting in areas of drifting seaweed.

Mating season can last until waters reach 79 degrees Fahrenheit, but their ideal temperature for growing lies at 82 to 84 degrees. 

Prime locations for the white bass are in the Hudson Bay, the Great Lakes, and the St. Lawrence River along the U.S.-Canada border. 

Diet

White bass larvae predominantly eat zooplankton, but they tend to feed on insect larvae such as larvae from dragonflies, mayflies, and damselflies as they mature into juveniles.

Adults of lengths more than 14 inches become piscivorous (fish-eating) with age. Some of their prey includes gizzard shad, fathead minnows, yellow perch, carp, and freshwater drum.

Threats

There are limited white bass predators, such as different fish, sea lions, humans, and sharks.

Another external threat is pollution, which poses a challenge to their expansion as a species.

Overfishing and destruction of habitats have contributed to a similar phenomenon. 

How to Catch

Small lures (usually around 1/16 to 1/8 ounce) are ideal for catching white bass. The lure is best if it is flashy or shows an action of some sort to attract the fish’s attention.

Try to spot waters with gravelly or rocky water bottoms.

It is also important to note that the white bass can easily get scared of lines thrown into entire schools.

The key is to cast your line outside of the school’s range and slowly reel in as you enter it. Jigheads and grub tails are ideal for angling white bass.

Where to Catch

The white bass tends to swim up tributary rivers and creeks from lakes when spawning.

You may want to use sonar to identify schools of baitfish during wintertime, under which white bass generally lie. Fishing vertically from that point may then lead you to success. 

Springtime fishing, white bass often gather by bridges, so you might want to follow the schools of fish here.

White bass chase baitfish in open waters during the summer, so scanning the surface for active fish may be your best shot at catching them.

How to Eat

Grilling, sauteing, baking, broiling, or searing are all great techniques for preparing white bass for tonight’s dinner.

Steaming or poaching may also work, but the fish has a natural firmness, so these may make the fish too tough. 


You can cut the fish right down the middle and get rid of the darker bloody parts. Olive or grapeseed oil, along with melted butter, are great for white bass preparation. 

Final Thoughts

Enjoy a savory meal of fresh white bass any way you like, really — it is a delectable fish that will have your family asking for seconds!

Rocco Smith

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