Five White Bass Lures and How to Use Them

White Bass (Morone chrysops), is a freshwater member of the family of true basses, which include the Yellow, Striped and Sea Basses. They migrate across lakes and up and down rivers in search of their favorite prey….shad. They also hit other baitfish, as the opportunity presents itself. White Bass prefer open water, over a sandy, or rocky bottom, hence their nickname…Sand Bass. They are sight-feeders, relying mostly on their vision to locate prey. They will readily school right along with Striped Bass, and in fact, have been artificially crossed with them to create the sterile Hybrid Bass.

White Bass, like their anadromous relative, the marine Striped Bass, have a very strong homing instinct when it comes to spawning. They prefer to spawn in tributaries with moving water, and if able, will return to the river they were born in to spawn. But, they can also spawn along lake shores. They readily cross-breed with their cousins, the Yellow Bass, and produce hybrid offspring. In late spring, White Bass congregate in large numbers below tailraces to spawn. They bite readily at night, and are active all winter.

There are many lures that are very effective for Sand Bass.

Jigs: Almost any jig that outwardly resembles a baitfish will work. One of the best are marabou jigs in Chartreuse, White and Yellow. One trick that works great, especially in tailraces, is to rig two different colored marabou jigs, one about 2′ beneath the other, underneath a large bobber. Then the whole rig is cast upstream, and allowed to drift with the current. It is not uncommon to hook two fish at once using this method. Soft plastic bodies are very effective on jig heads, such as the Sassy Shad, grubs, Bassasins, Mister Twisters, tubes, and Storm Wild-Eyes. These can be greatly enhanced by spraying, or dipping them in scents, such as Berkley Bait-Mate, Smelly Jelly, and others, in baitfish, or shad scents. Also, standard bucktails and Arkie-style jigs can be effective.

Crankbaits: These are productive either reeled, or trolled. They are great worked along rip-raps, and along channels and shoals. Good choices are Shad-Raps, Big Os, Bagleys Killer B, Hellbenders, River Runts, Lazy Ikes, Wally Divers, Rattle-Traps, Rapala Minnows, and Bombers.

Spoons and Slabs: Almost any of the spoons and slabs in the proper colors will work at times. They, like jigs, are very versatile lures. They can be cast, trolled, jigged, and even tipped with plastic bodies, or live or dead bait. When fish are deep, spoons are your best bet to hit the depths. They come in every color combination imaginable. The rule of thumb is to use bright colors for murky water, and dark colors in clear water and at night. Some of the better spoons are Johnson’s Silver Minnow, Daredevils, Kastmasters, the Little Cleo, Mepps Syclops, and similar models.

Spinners: These are my favorite, and most productive lures for White Bass. They can be jigged, trolled or cast, and seldom fail to attract attention where the quarry is present. In my opinion and experience, the all-time best, most fail-safe White Bass lure is the Little Suzy, in grey and white, or chartruese colors. Worked off of sandy points and shoals in the mornings and evenings, these are about as fool-proof as it gets. A close second choice is the similar Little George.The only drawbacks to these lures is that they are very heavy for their size, and sink like a brick. It gets it down to the basses level quickly, but also makes it easy to get hung up on the bottom. They are not good choices for tailraces, but in open water, they are tops. Just keep your rod tip up high, and reel them FAST. No one who ever plans to go after White Bass should be without a few of these in their tacklebox. Other good lures are Roostertails, Mepps, Blue Foxes, Panther-Martins, and similar offerings. For some reason, spinner-baits do not seem to attract Sand Bass. I don’t know why, because they have all the right attributes. I have tried them, but so far, I’ve never had a Sand Bass hit one, even during a Feeding Frenzy.

Topwaters: When White Bass are mauling shad on, or near the surface, topwater lures are an exciting way to catch them. All you have to do is find a school of marauding Sand Bass (usually by looking for wheeling, and diving birds) near the surface, and just cast in the middle of the boiling water. You’ll hook one on almost every cast until they dive, only to surface again in a few minutes nearby. By following the school, and maintaining contact, you can fill a stringer up very quickly.

Flies: I couldn’t let this discussion go without at least mentioning fly-fishing. If you’ve never learned to fly fish for White Bass and Stripers, do so. You are missing some of the most thrilling freshwater fishing available. When Sand Bass are near the surface, they attack streamer fly patterns with total abandon, and put up an epic battle on fly gear. Some of the better patterns are Puglisi-style Shad patterns, Matukas in shad colors, Zonkers, and even some classic bucktails and streamers like the Black-Nosed Dace, Grey Ghost, Mickey Finn, and similar flies.

Any way you decide to do it, White bass are well worth the effort.


Dan Eggertsen is a fellow bass fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on bass fishing since 2004.

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