When calendar pages turn to April, the focus of fishing turns to hard-fighting white bass.
Stand in a grocery store checkout line long enough and you’ll hear the $64 question: “Are the white bass running yet?” During April, schools of white bass migrate from Beaver Lake up the White and War Eagle rivers on their spawning run.
White bass fever strikes early. Lots of anglers fish for them in March, but April is when the run kicks into high gear. White bass are so abundant that there’s no daily limit and no size limit at Beaver Lake or its tributaries. Fishermen can keep all the white bass they care to clean, or let them all go.
Lures or live bait get fishermen into pole-bending action. Any lure that looks like a minnow has potential. White jigs, spoons, grubs or crank baits spill from the tackle boxes of seasoned white-bass fishers.
A lightweight spinning rod with 6-pound test line on the reel is an ideal rig for white bass.
Minnows are the go-to live bait. Even better are small crawdads the size of a thumbnail. The Crawdad Man can fix you up.
A visit to the Twin Bridges access on the White River revealed that Crawdad Man has set up shop, selling little crawdads out of the bed of his small pickup. He doesn’t like to give his real name, but he’s a fixture under the Arkansas 45 bridge at Goshen during the white bass run.
“Everybody just knows me by Crawdad Man,” he’ll tell you.
The real hoot during white bass time is to chase them with a fly rod. Every fly rod should come with this cautionary note: “Warning: Pursuit of white bass with this fly rod may result in sudden elation and be highly addictive. Do not operate heavy machinery while using this fly rod.”
Catch a white bass on a fly rod and you may never go back. A light- to medium-weight fly rod is the ticket for white bass. The gold-standard fly is a Clouser minnow, tied to a 4X leader. A 4X is about 4.5 pound test. Leaders of 3X test about 5.2 pounds.
Cast the Clouser minnow upstream. Let it sink, then strip it in slowly while keeping the line tight so you’ll feel a strike. White bass are dogged fighters that bull their way toward the bottom. These fish don’t jump. They pull with all their might.
The filets of white bass make a fine feast indeed. Filet a white bass or striped bass and you’ll notice bands of red meat on the filet. This meat has a strong taste most folks don’t like, but it’s easy to remove. Run a knife along the filet just under the red meat to quickly slice it away.
An old fisherman’s saying is, white bass fishing is best with the dogwood blossoms are the size of a squirrel’s ear.
That’s right around the corner. White bass are ready to run.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sports on 03/27/2018