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101: White Bass Fishing

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White Bass Fishing

Kentucky and Barkley lakes both boast good populations of White Bass.  These fish are a favorite target for panfish anglers during the summer and fall.  White Bass are schooling fish and can provide some very exciting fishing.  The primary forage for White Bass on Kentucky and Barkley is threadfin and gizzard shad.

Spring Patterns

White Bass are migratory fish and during the spring they will migrate up the tributaries and rivers of both lakes to spawn.  During this time these fish are not a relevant target for lake anglers.

Summer Patterns

After the White Bass have spawned they will return to the open water areas of both lakes.  They generally start showing up in numbers around the first week of June.  These fish school in large numbers and spend the summer from June thru September on the main lake.

They typically can be found along the old river and creek channel ledges during this period with forays onto the nearby main lake flats to feed on schools of baitfish.  These fish are noted for surface feeding activity during the summer.

Large schools of these fish will chase baitfish to the surface of the water and feed voraciously for short periods of time.  This surface feeding is known as "jumps".  When one encounters these surface feeding fish the action can be fast and furious.  Cast small crankbaits, spoons, inline spinners and topwater poping type lures into and around the feeding schools.

When the White Bass are not feeding on the surface they are taken by vertically fishing along the main river and creek channel ledges with inline spinners, curly tail jigs and small spoons.  Another method quite common is to troll along the ledges with a deep diving bass type crankbait with a drop line off the back of the crankbait baited with an inline spinner or small spoon.  This method is very useful in locating deeper schools of White Bass.

Fall Patterns

When the water temperatures start dropping in the fall to below 70 degrees, the White Bass will follow the schools of baitfish into the bays and creeks to feed up for the coming winter.

These fish can be found on the flats in the bays feeding on the large schools of baitfish.  They will sometimes be in "jumps" but are more likely to be just under the large schools and their feeding activity tends to be just under the surface.

One should watch the large schools of baitfish to see when they are rising near the surface.  When the baitfish do rise to near the surface it is a dead give away that some predator fish are under them and pushing them up to the surface.   Many times these predators are a large school of White Bass.

Another sign easily recognized of feeding schools of fish during the fall is to see sea gulls diving on schools of baitfish.  These gulls are taking advantage of the baitfish being pushed to the surface by feeding predator fish.
These fall White Bass can be taken by casting small topwater popping lures, inline spinners and small crankbaits in and around these large schools of baitfish.  This activity will last until the water cools down to the lower 50's and they move back out to the main lake wintering areas.

Winter Patterns

During the winter months the White Bass are located on the main lake along the deeper old river and creek channels where they will suspend under schools of baitfish.  These fish can be taken by vertically jigging small spoons and curly tail jigs just under the baitfish schools.  The bite during this time of year is very subtle due to the cold water.

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Fishing 101 Credits:

Written by Dave Stewart, Bass Buster Guide Service
Edited by Shawn Dunnaway
Fishing 101 may not be reproduced or reprinted and is provided exclusively by ExploreKentuckyLake.com

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Photo by Melodie Cunningham

These geese float gracefully on a warm autumn day. Honker Lake was actually named for the number of Giant and Interior Canadian geese it attracts.