Welcome to Panfish

Part Eleven

White Bass
Photos and Text from Cowles Enthusiast Media
Thanks for use permission!

"White Bass"

excerts from Fly Rod Gamefish published by Cowles Enthusiast Media

Few gamefish provide as much angling excitement as white bass. The silvery fish cruise about in schools that may cover several acres. The schools, or packs, often push baitfish to the surface or into confined areas, and the fish then slash their prey. If you can fine one of these rampaging schools, you'll probably catch a fish on every cast. Circling gulls may tip you off to a pack's location.

White bass are easily spooked by a boat, so when you find a school, keep your distance or the fish will quickly disappear.


Orginally found in the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River and the Mississippi River System, white bass have been sucessfully stocked in many other part of the country, particularly the Southeast and Southwest. Commonly introduced in new reservoirs, they provide excellent fishing starting 2 or 3 years after stocking.

White Bass (Morone chrysops,) have silvery sides with unbroken black stripes above the lateral line. Stripes below the lateral line are faint and often broken in an irregular pattern. The back varies from bluish gray to dark green. The dorsal fins, unlike those of its close relative, the yellow bass, are not joined at the bases. The white bass can be distinguished from its other close relative, the stripped bass, by its deeper body. It's body length is less than 4 times the depth.


Often called sand bass, striper or silver bass, the white bass belongs to the temperate bass family. It has several close relatives including the white perch, yellow bass and striped bass. In the 1960's, fisheries biologists first crossed male white bass with female striped bass to produce an agressive, fast-growing hybrid. Called wipers these fish are being stocked in many waters throughout the South.

White bass thrive in lakes and reservoirs connected to large river systems. They prefer relatively clear water with gravel, sand or rock bottoms. But they also live in murky waters. Unlike sunfish and crappies, white bass rarely seek cover. Instead, they spend most of their time in open water from 10 to 30 feet deep. They prefer water temperatures from 65 - 75 degrees F.

White bass rely primarily on eyesight for chasing and catching their prey. In most waters, they feed almost exclusively on small shad, when they are available. They also eat emerald shiners and other small fish, in addition to crayfish, mollusks, worms and insects. White bass gorge themselves on mayflies during a hatch.

White bass spawn in tributary streams of large lakes and reservoirs, typically in water from 58 - 64 degrees F. They do not build nests. The female deposits her eggs in the current, while the male releases milt, fertilizing the eggs as they sink. The eggs stick to gravel, rocks or vegetation, where they normally hatch within 24 to 48 hours. A female may deposit more than a half-million eggs.

Spawning activity usually lasts 4 to 10 days. Parents do not guard the young, but begin migrating back to the lake. After hatching, the tiny fry form dense schools, a characteristic that white bass exhibit all of their lives. The schools move about constantly, some roaming as much as 7 miles a day. Tagged white bass have been found over 100 miles away from where they were marked.

In spring, when the water temperature reaches about 55 degrees F., huge concentrations of white bass build up below big-river dams as spawners complete their upstream migration. With so many actively feeding fish packed into such a small area, fly fishermen using most any kind of minnow-imitating streamer can catch white bass on virtually every cast. Look for the fish along current seams and in eddies along shore.

Beware Sharp Spine

Avoid grabbing a white bass across the gill plates. Each plate has a needle-like spine (note arrow in photo) that can inflict a painful wound. Instead, hold the fish by the lower lip or grab it firmly across the back.

In waters with large populations of shad, white bass grow quickly. In warm, southern reservoirs, a fish may reach one pound after just 2 years. White bass seldom live longer than 6 years. Most fish caught by angling weigh between one and two pounds. The fly rod world record white bass weighted 3 pounds, 8 ounces and was caught in Lake Nacimiento, California, in 1981.

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