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19 Jun

White Bass: Ultimate Species Guide

Bass Fishing Tips

The bass fishing world tends to focus on largemouth and smallmouth bass any time the sports side of things is discussed, but there’s a prevalent species throughout the Midwest that deserves just as much attention.

The white bass.

White bass are unique fish in the bass family that are sure to give you a hefty challenge while mixing things up a bit, and if you’re near any of the spots we talk about later, you have to try targeting them.

To help you understand this underrated target a bit more, here’s a complete species guide covering what a white bass is, species-specific information, and of course, how you can go about catching them.

What is a White Bass?

A white bass is a smaller, yet still substantially sized, bass that gets its name from its white coloring.

Visually, the white bass is similar to smallmouth bass, but the majority of its body is white with dark speckles, and the upper region above the lateral line fades to a darker greenish-black. 

Like all bass except for the largemouth bass, its mouth stops well before its eye, but you won’t need to check the mouth out to differentiate it from other species due to the stark color difference. The fins are also spikier and more aggressive looking than they are on other bass species.

White bass are typically around a foot long, and they weigh up to 2 pounds on average. This makes them smaller than your average smallmouth, but they can get up to 6 pounds and roughly a foot and a half long. The fight you get out of them is easily what you’d expect from a larger fish, though. They’re pint-sized dynamos even if they can’t stack up against largemouth bass.

 White Bass - Close-Up

Where are the White Bass?

The sport fishing community indeed tends to focus on largemouth bass due to their size and aggressiveness, but there’s another reason white bass aren’t talked about as much. They’re not as prevalent throughout the entirety of the US.

White bass enjoy larger bodies of water with plenty of flora and warmer temperatures. For the most part, they’re found in the Midwest with Missouri being one of the prime locations to catch them if you fish the bigger lakes the area has to offer. However, Texas also has a considerable population of white bass for you to try your hand at catching, and you can catch them in most of the lower Midwestern states if you go to the right lake.

White Bass Can Be Hybrids

Before we move on to more strategy-focused bits about the white bass, it’s important to know they have a rather unique trait that sets them apart from any other bass species. They can be hybrids.

White bass that live next to tributaries and briny water might end up mating with striped bass. Striped bass are much larger ocean bass found in the Atlantic. In the gulf and along the east coast, this can result in hybrid white bass that combine traits of both fish to create a briny water bass that is white with a green tint, many visual features of the white bass, and a considerably larger size.

While your standard white bass is usually around 2 pounds and maxes out at 6 pounds, a hybrid bass averages about 10 pounds and can reach 22 pounds fairly frequently.

Because of the size difference, mixing up the two species is difficult. However, it is an interesting fact to be aware of if you’re new to targeting white bass.

What is the Optimal Gear for Targeting White Bass?

Now that you have a good idea of what a white bass is and where to target it, it’s time to start looking at the fun stuff. Gear and strategies. Let’s start with gear.

Since white bass are generally a lot lighter than other bass you target, you’re not going to want to head out to the lake with a super heavy rod, 30-pound braided line, and massive lures.

We recommend downsizing considerably to get the most out of your white bass fishing experience.

Since white bass are smaller and lighter bass, we recommend using a light to medium power rod with a tip action that works for the strategy you intend to use. Whether it’s a casting rod or a spinning rod is mostly up to your personal preference, but a simple spinning rod and reel is more than enough as long as you buy something of good quality.

Like most rods, you’ll want your rod to be 6-7 feet long to give you plenty of casting power without being extremely unwieldy like a super-long crappie rod.

For your line, you have to remember that you’ll be using smaller lures. You’re not quite in the range that’s considered ultra-light fishing, but you still don’t want to go above an 8- or 10-pound line to ensure that you get a good cast with the smaller lures.

We’re going to go over specific types of lures, but in general, most of the same types of lures you use for largemouth are going to work great for white bass. They behave similarly, and they’re just as ready to bite the same types of lures. However, you’ll want smaller versions of them. The heaviest lure you’re likely to want to use is going to be ¼ ounce.

What Lures to Use When Fishing for White Bass

As we said, all your favorite staples are going to work. They just need to be downsized to match the size of your target. However, some types of bass lures do work better than others. 

Here are our favorite white bass lure types and our favorite presentations with each one.

1: Road Runner Jigs with Curly Tail Grubs

If you want to toss a lure out and zip it through the water with minimal attention to presentation, this is the setup for you.

Choose a 1/8 or ¼ ounce Road Runner jig to get started. This is a simple swim jig designed to cut through the water, and it has a little blade attached to the head mold. It’s an extremely popular option with ultra-light anglers, and it will work perfectly here, too.

Then, you just need a smaller curly-tail grub that you can use as a trailer.

With this setup, you can toss your lure out, focus on faster retrieval speeds with sudden stops, and generate a ton of action. The jig shape helps it cut through the water and wobble quickly, the blade provides vibration and flash effects, and the tail of the grub will vibrate violently as you pull it in.

It’s simple, exciting, and most importantly, effective.

You can use any color patterns you want, but we do recommend going with lighter colors to mimic the minnows and shad that white bass typically feast on.

2: 1/8-Ounce Spoons

Since we got one of the faster, more reckless, lures out of the way, it’s time to tone it down a notch. If you want to spend time slowly enticing the bass and luring them in for the strike, a small spoon is a great choice.

We recommend going with a 1/8-ounce spoon in silver. Again, minnows are often on the menu for white bass, and you want to use colors that mimic them fairly well. If you want to use a heftier spoon, a ¼-ounce spoon is okay, too.

You use this just like you would for any other species. Plop it in the weeds, around docks, and other bits of cover, let it sink a bit, and bounce it back to you with short, medium-paced, retrieval speeds.

This is a more "tactical" approach than just chucking a lure out there and buzzing it back in, but it does work wonders when the bass are stubborn. Of course, due to its smaller size, be prepared to catch bluegill, smaller largemouth bass, and other fish that are likely to get enticed by a small, shiny, snack floating around sporadically.

3: Inline Spinners

You’re probably noticing a big overlap between white bass lures and the staples of ultra-light fishing and trout fishing, by now. Keeping with that theme, inline spinners are a great option.

The small inline spinners you will frequently see tied onto light and light-medium rods have a place here, and in our opinion, they’re better than small spinner baits in this application.

If you’re not aware because of the focus usually being on soft plastics and larger lures in other parts of the bass fishing community, an inline spinner is a straight wire that usually has a metal blade, a spacer bead, a barrel, and a treble hook on it. Most of the time, they also have a synthetic or hand-tied natural hair skirt around the hook, too.

This is a flexible lure that you can use just like your standard spinnerbait. You can toss it out and zip it back in, bounce it around on the bottom, use pauses, or whatever else you can think of for your retrieval speed. Each method will greatly alter the way the lure is presented in the water.

Our favorite lures of this type are Rooster Tails, but they can be found in all price ranges, and you can even make them yourself with very little experience or financial investment.

4: Storm WildEye Shads

Remember how we said shad was a major part of this target’s diet? Well, you can get life-like paddle tail swimbaits that look and behave just like shad from Storm’s WildEye series.

These are small paddle tails, and they work exactly like you think they do. Your main strategy with these should be to cast past your target location and reel your lure in at a slow to medium pace while occasionally pausing. It’s pretty straightforward to use.

The reason these stand out from your dime-a-dozen paddle tails is because they’re extremely realistic and high-quality, but they’re affordable. 

Storm uses weighted bodies for their WildEye swimbaits, thick, sharp hooks, realistic skin coloring and texturing for the molded soft-plastic parts, and a lifelike “WildEye” feature that creates flash.

All of that, and you shouldn’t spend more than $10 for several of them.

5: Whopper Plopper

Finally, white bass do strike topwater lures, and our favorite way to target them at the top is the classic Whopper Plopper.

One of the smaller versions is best, and you should choose one in silver or white. If you’re fishing in particularly dirty water, chartreuse is a good option, too.

Using the Whopper Plopper is straightforward. Use a reel-and-pause retrieval pattern and change up the speed of your presentation depending on how the bass are behaving.

The only issue with this one is you’re going to spend about $10 to $12 for one depending on where you buy it, and that makes this the most expensive type of lure on this list.

With that being said, you get an incredibly durable high-performance lure. So, it’s worth every penny spent to add two or three to your tackle box.

What Spots Should You Target for White Bass?

When you target white bass, the best way is to hop in a boat and start trolling. White bass roam the water a lot, and they tend to go after consistently moving lures.

If you don’t feel like trolling or you don’t have a boat, you’re not out of luck. Try to target spots where the water bends or breaks, and if you see a shady spot on a hot summer day, cast around the shade with a slower-moving lure with tons of action and flash.

Of course, you’ll also find them around cover and structures like any other bass. Particularly when the weather makes them slow down a bit.

Boost Your White Bass Experience with BassForecast

By now, you’re ready to start targeting white bass and catching them consistently. 

However, the BassForecast fishing app can enhance your experience considerably. You’ll find a spot-on solunar, key tips to help you navigate the water, weather information, and more. 

Download today!