LITTLE ROCK (AGFCF) – It's white bass time. Say this out loud among Arkansas fishermen, and you may get some funny looks along with barbed comments.
The arrival of April is regarded as crappie time or bass time or maybe bream time. White bass? They're definitely also-rans among Arkansas fish in popularity.
But white bass have their good sides too, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. One, they are plentiful and in various types of waters. Two, they are not bashful about what they will hit – everything from live minnows to crank bits and jigs. Three, the daily limit is 25 statewide, so if you get into a good bunch of whites, you may need help carrying an ice chest of them home.
White bass can't approach the appeal of crappie to anglers, but they are an alternative, a spring extra that can provide fun and food for the table.
Yes, you'll get an argument on the latter point, but white bass are edible, at least in most households. They rank below crappie, of course. Nearly all fish do. Most fishermen who dress out whites are careful to remove the thin strip of darker red meat on each side.
White bass are nearly everywhere in Arkansas. They're in big lakes in big numbers, in small lakes and in rivers large and small. The Arkansas River is loaded with them. In central Arkansas, Lake Conway has numerous white bass, generally ignored by fishermen pursuing crappie, bass, bream and catfish. Greers Ferry Lake has huge numbers of whites. To the southwest, Millwood Lake is good for white bass. To the west, Lake Ouachita is heavy with white bass. To the northern strip of Arkansas, Beaver Lake, Bull Shoals Lake and Norfolk Lake are all good bets for white bass.
White bass travel upstream, most often from a lake into its feeder rivers and creeks, to spawn over gravel or rocks. But the good times for white bass fishing stretch to either end of the actual spawning periods. The fish tend to congregate on the upper ends of lakes near the mouths of these feeder streams for several days before actually going upstream. Then they'll come back down and hang around the mouths after spawning.
A general rule of thumb for baits in these areas and at this time of the year is to try anything resembling a shad. Live minnows can work, as can live shad when you can get a supply. Much more common, though, are artificial lures like white or light colored jigs, soft plastic grubs, spinners like the Roadrunner, topwaters like Red Fins and even spinner baits of the type usually worked for largemouth bass.
There is a difference in fishing for schooling white bass, which can occur much of the year, and for the spawning run white bass. Yet, the assortment of lures is virtually the same. These work both at schooling and at spawning times. A white bass feeds almost entirely on shad, small gizzard shad and the threadfin shad that come only in small sizes.
A fair-sized wide-bodied white bass can put up a good scrap on light or even medium tackle, too.