It’s Time for Huge Fall White Bass

When you bring up the subject of white bass to most anglers here in the Midwest, they seem to talk primarily about spring, when many anglers search out these scrappy fighters on the river systems where they live. In fact, many anglers are not even aware that during the fall, some of the best catches of the year can be had—not only in quantity, but also in quality.

These white bass available during October will be some of the biggest. After a summer of very heavy feeding, these fish have really grown into some bruisers that will test an angler’s skill.

Another nice thing about fishing for these white bass is that it is not only reserved for the boat angler. Now, granted that in a boat you do have much more mobility to cover different areas, the shore angler can also enjoy the good fishing by picking spots to wet a line.

During October and later into fall, depending on weather, the locations you choose to fish for white bass are very important. Experience has shown that you will have a much higher success rate by fishing larger rivers during this time of the season. Keep in mind during normal weather years most of the tributary streams that white bass use in other times of the year now have relatively low water levels. You will find that the white bass will abandon these areas for the big river waters that offer not only depth and structure, but also forage for them to feed on. Because of this, these larger river areas will produce the most fish during fall.

When heading out to fish the larger Mississippi, Wisconsin and Illinois rivers, you will want to make sure you check out areas that have underwater points that protrude out from the shoreline. If the bottom makeup of the area contains some type of rock or gravel bottom, all the better, as the white bass will use this area extensively in fall to school baitfish. When fishing these point areas, most of the time you will find the fish anywhere from the shallow shoreline to about the 10-foot depth mark. Now that’s not to say you cannot catch them deeper because at times you can, but as a rule they seem to cruise these depths the most frequently.

Be aware of the wind when fishing these points. Wind-blown points, especially if the wind is blowing onshore, will cause baitfish and other forage onto the point for the whites to feed on. These wind-blown points can be real hot spots in fall. Also, the wave action on the water’s surface seems to help keep the white bass from spooking easily, which makes them even more within the anglers casting range.

Since I mentioned casting, let’s talk about just how we want to properly fish these point areas.

You will find that autumn white bass will take both small and big lures. Personally, I like to initially start out by casting a small jig in the 1/16- to 1/8-ounce weight range that has been tipped with a plastic twister tail in the 2- to 3-inch size. As far as color, I’ll try to match the forage base in the waters I am fishing. If I know the white bass are feeding on shad for instance, I’ll go with a black jig head with a silver tail. Many times I will use plastic shad bodies that have a black back with silver sides. Again, you want to initially match the forage base first, and then make color changes as necessary.

For this kind of fishing, I have found that a longer rod will work best. Use a rod in the “medium-light” weight range, and at 6 feet, 6 inches or longer (I have had success with a 7 1/2-foot rod for casting these smaller jigs). Use a good quality 4- or 6-pound-test, thin diameter line spooled on a lightweight-spinning reel and you’re in business. The longer rod will let you cast those smaller lures much farther. The added rod length acts like a whip to launch the lure out on your cast, giving you greater casting distance.

If you are fishing and find that you are catching only smaller white bass on the smaller jig, make the switch to a bigger jig and see if that eliminates the smaller fish from hitting. Going to a bigger lure will trigger those larger fish into hitting.

Another method that works well for these fall white bass is using crankbaits. Now I’m not talking of the ones you use for walleyes, but instead those smaller, panfish-sized crankbaits that are available. Crankbaits that are in the 1- to 3-inch range maximum can be very deadly on the whites. Start with the bright, flashy finish, such as chrome or silver. Other colors of cranks that are very effective are chartreuse, white and black. At times, especially on overcast days, black is a very effective color. Its silhouette against the lighter background of the sky gives the white bass a target they really like to hit hard.

Another area now active for white bass is wing dams. These man-made structures are located all up and down the Mississippi River, and during low and normal water periods, can at times offer some fast and furious fishing.

The longer wing dams that extend well out from the shoreline are the ones to concentrate your efforts on first. The reason is that these longer dams give the whites much more rocky area to cruise looking for forage and they seem to favor them. Early and late in the day seems to be the peak feeding times, but do not hesitate to try them at other times. You just never know when the fish will decide to go on a feeding rampage.

To fish these wing dams, you can start out by casting jig/minnow rigs or jig/plastic rigs tight to the upstream side of the rocks. Now keep in mind when doing this, you have to keep your rod tip high and reel immediately when your offering hits the water. If you do not, you risk getting snagged—believe me folks, wing dams love to eat lures.

You can also cast those same small crankbaits we discussed earlier. When you use them though, cast them parallel to the wing dam for best results. When you fish them this way, more fish get a chance to see your offering and strike it.

I’ll tell you my friends, over the years I have really come to look forward to the month of October so that I can once again enjoy the truly tremendous white bass fishing. As I mentioned earlier, many anglers are not even aware it’s happening.

Look for this to be a really great fall season on the water with plenty of huge white bass to go around. Hopefully you can make some time to get out and enjoy those huge autumn white bass on a river near you where they live. It’s a great time to make some memories.

 

Email your fishing and hunting questions to Mike Cyze at: [email protected] You can also check out Mike’s Blog at: lastcastoutoors.com or listen to him on ESPN Radio.