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White bass are often forgotten by bass fishermen. Largemouth and smallmouth bass grow to larger sizes and are considered more desirable to catch. But white bass can be a blast to catch, especially if you use ultralight tackle.
White bass are also a great option to fish for when teaching a younger fisherman the ropes. So what are the best white bass lures?
In this article, we’ll cover the best white bass lures depending on the season/fishery, where and when to fish for white bass, as well as what kind of tackle you should use. By the time you finish reading, you’ll be ready to catch your share of white bass!
In a hurry? Here’s are the top 5 best white bass lures from our experience.
Top 5 Best White Bass Lures
What Are White Bass?
Also called sand bass, white bass are silvery-white in color and grow up to several pounds. The largest recorded white bass was 6 lbs and 13 ounces. White bass are abundant all over North America but are most prevalent in the midwest.
Pennsylvania around Lake Eerie is full of white bass along with the Detroit and Arkansas rivers.
White bass primarily eat nymphs and insects, but will also eat small fish such as minnows shad. They are sight-feeding fish, which means they actively hunt for their prey. They’re often found feeding where other juvenile fish such as walleye.
If you see shad schools jumping out of the water, then that’s where you’ll want to present your white bass lures.
Where Do White Bass Live?
White bass enjoy living in large lakes and river estuaries. During mating season in the spring, they are found more often in shallower waters such as streams, creeks, and inlets. Look for underwater cover and shelter from direct sunlight to find where white bass like to live.
In river settings with white bass, they will run up the river in the spring to spawn, they will travel in massive schools, and the fishing can consist of non-stop action with dozens of fish potentially caught in a single afternoon.
The Best Tackle for White Bass
Since white bass are relatively small, light to ultra-light tackle works best. A trout rod with an ultra-light spinning reel is a perfect combination for fishing for white bass.
You want to make sure you use light tackle; if you use tackle that is rated for heavier fish, you won’t be able to feel when a white bass bites. It also won’t be any fun to reel in as you’ll bully the fish out of the water too much
When to Fish for White Bass
The best time of year to fish for white bass is in the spring between the months of March and April. This is when White Bass spawn and congregate in large numbers close to shore. When white bass spawn, they become much more aggressive and will bite at many types of lures thrown at them.
You can still catch white bass other months out of the year (such as later in the summer and fall), but we recommend fishing for white bass in the spring or when the water temperature is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This is when you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
Fishing after the spring depends on the body of water you are fishing, as many fish that moved up any tributaries to spawn will head back to the lakes or larger bodies of water they came from.
When they head back to the lake it can be hard to find them, as they spread out in large schools and aren’t as concentrated.
Again, this depends from one body of water to the next, and in many lakes and rivers, white bass can be caught without issue year-round.
How to Fish for White Bass
There are many different fishing techniques that work well for white bass. Both live/real bait and artificial lures will work depending on your presentation. We’ll cover our favorite techniques and favorite white bass lures below.
Artificial White Bass Lures
The best size artificial white bass lures are between 1/16 ounces and ⅛ ounces. Artificial jigs, spinning lures, and very small spoons can all work well for white bass. Our favorites are Blue Fox Vibrax spinners and Storm WildEye Shads.
Since shad are one of the white bass’s natural prey, using lures that imitate shad often works very well.
As far as presentation goes, we recommend casting your lure close to where the white bass are feeding/spawning and retrieving with vigor. Spawning white bass are aggressive and will strike at an annoying lure that gets to close to them. If the action you’re giving your lure isn’t working, be sure to mix it up!
Natural White Bass Lures
If you want to use natural white bass lures, we recommend going to the fishing spot you’re planning on fishing at ahead of time and catching some live insects or worms. You can then use these with an appropriate-sized hook, and know that you’ve picked bait that white bass like to eat.
Similarly to artificial white bass lures, cast your natural white bass lures close to where you think white bass are feeding or spawning.
With natural bait you don’t necessarily need to add additional movement; the creature will move on its own. What you do need to do is be extra attentive for bites. When you feel a bite, set the hook with a light tug.
White Bass Bait Options
If you don’t have artificial white bass lures or natural white bass lures, you can always try using artificial bait options. We’ve found that the trout-flavored Powerbait works well for white bass as well as Turbo Dough.
Artificial bait presentation is very similar to natural lure presentation: cast your bait close to where you think the white bass are feeding, then wait. Patience is crucial when using artificial bait! If you don’t feel any bites after 15 minutes, reel your line and check to make sure your hook still has bait on it.
Casting techniques for white bass are very simple and straightforward and are similar to fishing for crappie or bass, and is one of the reasons they are a great target fish for kids, and people just getting into fishing.
Pro tip: In most cases a simple straight retrieve at slow to moderate speeds will work just fine with most lures, other times floating crankbaits or other lures that can be paused throughout the retrieve will catch fish that are a little on the finicky side.
Catching White Sea Bass
To catch white sea bass, like most fishing, you need to have patience. White sea bass like to have a taste of their food before they actually bite. When fishing with live bait, you will usually feel your baitfish swim a bit faster when it sees a predator.
A few other fish reside in similar locations to white sea bass and have a similar diet. It is not uncommon to hook calicos and even yellowtail while fishing for white sea bass, and vice versa. One way to minimize catching smaller species is to size the lure accordingly.
The larger white sea bass tends to favor live medium-sized mackerel and sardines for bait. Using similar size and profile lures might reduce the total number of fish you catch. But it should help with catching the targeted species.
You will feel a few slight bumps as the bass tastes the fish. When you feel the heavier bump of the bite, allow a few seconds before you strike and set the hook. Many inexperienced anglers get excited by the activity at the end of the line.
Striking too early will often yank the bait out of the fish’s mouth before he has sunk his teeth into it.
Where Do White Sea Bass Live?
White sea bass can be found at almost any depth down to about 400ft. Fishing at these extreme depths is unnecessary because they are still common in shallower water. Most experienced anglers fish for white sea bass at a maximum depth of about 120ft.
The elderly squid that white sea bass prefer in early spring are usually in the process of sinking to the seafloor. This has given a common misconception that white sea bass are bottom feeders, but this is not the case.
The White sea bass has a protruding lower jaw that is not designed for bottom feeding. The placement of their eyes towards the top of the head suggests they prefer to take their prey from beneath.
Keeping this in mind, it helps to allow one or two feet of lead line between the sinker and the bait. This will help to keep the bait from being covered in sand or mud from the seafloor. Some people have caught white sea bass off of the floor, though, which adds to the confusion.
The fact is that most times, the bait or lure had probably not yet settled on the bottom. Another case could be that a current, wind, or jerk of the line might have picked the bait up. Leaving your bait on the seafloor is more likely to attract true bottom-feeders like rays.
Identifying White Sea Bass
The younger species are more often encountered as they prefer shallow coastal water like bays and estuaries. The young fish can be challenging to identify because they have a distinct dark or black vertical bar pattern – similar to striped bass. As they get older, these patterns begin to speckle before fading away completely.
Due to the speckled barring pattern and the size of the younger fish, they can be misidentified as sea trout. One of the easier ways to differentiate between the two is that sea trout have a more prominent belly.
Author Note: Both species are quite sleek and narrow when viewed head-on. But from the side, the sea trout’s stomach starts much closer to the head and protrudes further down. Another defining characteristic is the second dorsal fin.
The white sea bass’ second dorsal fin is much more extended with a single spine and 13-15 well-spaced soft rays. The sea trout’s second dorsal also has one spine but 26-29 soft rays, which are spaced closer together.
The sea bass’ second dorsal fin starts immediately behind the first and runs most of the way back towards the tail. Despite having more rays, the second dorsal of a sea trout is shorter and closer to the tail.
White Bass Habits
White sea bass are clever fish and use this intelligence to their advantage. In early spring, squid are reaching the end of their natural life span. After the squid spawn, they die. Often the adults cling together in a final embrace as their energy wanes, and they sink to the bottom.
White sea bass are a bit lazy and prefer to take prey that they don’t need to work too hard to catch. In early spring, they take full advantage of the aging squid. After the squid spawn, they stop eating and slow down. Which makes it easy for the bass to snatch these slow-moving targets
Later in spring, as the anchovy shoals arrive, they, like many other species, change their eating habits to suit. Using anchovy style lures, however, is not recommended for white sea bass. Anchovies are a favorite food for many species. So hooking your target fish with an anchovy-style lure is just a matter of luck.
Calicos are regularly found in popular white sea bass spots. Using a medium-sized mackerel lure should be too large for all but the biggest calicos. This should help to reduce the amount of smaller species you encounter.
Contrary to popular belief, some fish actually have quite a good memory. There are a few ways that fish display this. We have all been snapped off by a Wiley fish that has taken cover behind rocks or in a reef. The reason for this is because the fish remembers where these hiding places are.
As fish get older, they learn from their experiences. This behavior is shown by older fish using a wider variety of tactics to elude capture. Swimming around and through kelp beds to entangle your line is a favorite tactic. Older fish often learn that they can use the anchor line of your boat in the same way.
A fish remembering the best places to hide in its habitat is not that remarkable. But there are other ways that they can display knowledge of previous experience. Research has shown that it is almost impossible to catch the same fish using the same lure two days in a row.
In fact, fish could even remember their friends being caught on a particular type of lure or spinner. This could shed some light on why fishing in the same spot with the same tackle has been less successful after a day or two.
Although small, white bass can be one of the most rewarding fish to fish for. Their aggressiveness during spawning makes them easy for inexperienced and expert fishermen alike to catch.
Teaching a younger fisherman how to fish? Try taking them fishing for white bass using our white bass lure recommendations. They’ll end up getting many opportunities to reel fish in and have something to take home at the end of the day.
Have a white bass fishing story to share with us? Shoot us a note below in the comments!