How To Fish For White Bass

White Bass, scientifically known as Morone chrysops, is a freshwater fish commonly found in the United States’ large lakes and rivers. This species is characterized by its silvery, white body with dark stripes running horizontally along its sides, which makes it easily distinguishable. White Bass are medium-sized fish, usually measuring between 10 to 12 inches in length and weighing around 2 pounds, though larger specimens are not uncommon.

Fishing for white bass can be particularly exciting during their spring spawning runs, when they migrate up rivers and streams from larger lakes and reservoirs. This guide will cover essential tips and strategies for targeting white bass, including the optimal gear, baits, techniques, and timings to increase your chances of a successful catch.

White Bass Fishing Setup

The best setup for White Bass fishing often includes light to medium-light action rods paired with spinning reels for ease of use and versatility. A rod length of around 6 to 7 feet is ideal, as it provides a good balance of casting distance and sensitivity to detect the often subtle bites of White Bass. For the reel, a spinning reel in the 2000 to 3000 size range filled with 6 to 10-pound test monofilament or braided line offers the perfect combination of strength and finesse. This setup ensures both the casting range needed to reach schooling fish and the sensitivity to feel the bite, coupled with enough backbone to handle the spirited fight White Bass are known for.

The best rig for White Bass is the jig head paired with a soft plastic grub or minnow. Jig sizes from 1/16 to 1/4 ounce work well, depending on the depth and current of the water you are fishing. The versatility of this rig allows anglers to adjust the retrieval speed and jigging action to match the activity level of the fish.

Best Bait For White Bass

White Bass are opportunistic feeders that primarily consume small fish, such as shad and minnows, along with insects and crustaceans. This diet preference plays a crucial role in selecting the best bait and lures for targeting them.

The best live bait for White Bass includes minnows and small shad, reflecting their natural prey. Anglers find great success using these live baits on jig heads or under slip bobbers. The key is to mimic the movement of these small fish, enticing the White Bass to strike. Presenting the bait at the depth where White Bass are feeding is crucial, often requiring adjustments based on water temperature, time of day, and season.

As for artificial baits, there are many effective options. Small spinners, jigs, and crankbaits that mimic the appearance and movement of small baitfish are top lures for white bass. Silver or white spinners and jigs are particularly effective, as they closely resemble the flash and vibration of fleeing prey. Soft plastic baits, such as grubs and swimbaits in silver or shad patterns, also work well when rigged on a jig head. These can be cast and retrieved with a steady or jerky motion to simulate injured fish, a technique that often triggers aggressive strikes from White Bass.

White Bass Fishing Techniques

Casting with Spinners and Jigs

One of the most common and effective techniques for catching White Bass involves casting with spinners and jigs. This technique is especially effective during the feeding frenzies that occur in early morning or late evening. For spinners, a light to medium-light rod paired with a spinning reel loaded with 6 to 10-pound test line is ideal. The same setup works for jigs, though the choice between a soft plastic grub or a minnow-like appearance depends on the angler’s preference and what the fish are biting on that day. Casting near schools of baitfish or along current breaks where White Bass are likely to hunt makes this technique highly effective. The retrieval speed can vary, but a steady, medium pace that allows the spinner or jig to mimic a fleeing baitfish tends to provoke strikes most consistently.

Trolling with Crankbaits

Trolling with crankbaits is another effective technique for catching White Bass, particularly useful when fish are dispersed over a wider area or when locating schools of fish in larger bodies of water. For this method, a medium-light action rod with a trolling or baitcasting reel spooled with 8 to 12-pound test line is recommended. Crankbaits that dive to various depths allow anglers to cover different water columns until they find where the White Bass are actively feeding. This technique is most effective in the late spring through summer when White Bass are more likely to be found in open water chasing schools of baitfish. The key to success is adjusting the speed of the boat to ensure the crankbaits are swimming naturally, usually at a slow to moderate pace.

Vertical Jigging

Vertical jigging is highly effective when White Bass are located in deeper water or holding close to structure such as drop-offs or submerged river channels. This technique requires a medium-light rod with a sensitive tip to detect bites, paired with a spinning reel and 6 to 10-pound test line. Using jigs ranging from 1/16 to 1/4 ounce, anglers can target specific depths where White Bass are schooling. This method is particularly useful during the colder months when White Bass move to deeper water or during the summer when they gather in deep water to escape the heat. The jig is dropped vertically to the desired depth, then twitched or jigged upward in short, sharp motions to mimic an injured baitfish, triggering strikes from predatory White Bass.

Best Time To Catch White Bass

White Bass spawn in the spring when water temperatures reach between 54Β°F to 64Β°F, usually from late April through May, depending on the geographical location. The best time of year to catch White Bass is during the spring and early summer.


In spring, the best time to catch White Bass is during their spawning run up rivers and streams or along wind-swept lake shores. Anglers find success using casting and retrieving techniques with small spinners, jigs, and minnow baits. Targeting areas with moving water or just downstream of spawning sites can yield excellent results, especially in the morning and late afternoon when White Bass are most active.


During summer, early morning and late evening are the prime times to catch White Bass as they feed aggressively on surface schools of baitfish. Trolling with small crankbaits or casting with topwater lures near feeding schools can be particularly effective. In larger reservoirs, locating underwater structures such as humps and drop-offs where schools of White Bass might congregate is a successful strategy, especially when using deep-diving crankbaits or vertical jigging techniques.


Fall brings cooler water temperatures, causing White Bass to feed heavily in preparation for winter. This season, focus on mid-morning and late afternoon for the best fishing. Areas where baitfish are abundant, such as near creek mouths and along submerged structures, are key. Casting with spinners or jigs that mimic the forage fish in these areas can be highly productive.


In winter, White Bass fishing can still be rewarding, particularly during warmer spells. They tend to school in deeper waters, making vertical jigging the most effective technique. Using sonar to locate schools and then targeting them with jigs tipped with minnows or using blade baits can lead to success, especially around midday when water temperatures are slightly warmer.

Where To Find White Bass

White Bass are prolific throughout many freshwater systems in the central and eastern United States, thriving in large rivers and natural lakes.

In terms of depth, White Bass can be found at varying depths depending on the season, ranging from shallow waters of about 2-4 feet during their spring spawn to deeper waters of 10-20 feet or more when they are in lakes during summer and fall.

Large Rivers

In large rivers, White Bass often move to shallower areas during their spring spawning run, making them accessible to anglers fishing from both boats and the shore. The most effective setup for catching White Bass in rivers includes a medium-light spinning rod and reel combo with 6-10 pound test line, using small spinners, jigs, or crankbaits that mimic small baitfish. Casting upstream and retrieving the lure with the current can be a very effective technique, as it presents a natural appearance to the White Bass. During non-spawning times, focusing on areas with slight current breaks or where tributaries meet the main river can also yield good results.

Natural Lakes

Natural lakes offer excellent opportunities for White Bass fishing, especially near submerged structures, drop-offs, and areas where baitfish are abundant. A versatile setup involving a light to medium-light rod with a spinning reel and 6-10 pound test line works well, allowing for various techniques such as casting or trolling with small crankbaits, spinners, or soft plastic jigs. During early morning or late evening, look for White Bass chasing baitfish on the surface. Throughout the day, especially in the warmer months, deeper fishing near underwater structures with vertical jigging or using live bait can be particularly effective.


Shore fishing for White Bass can be very rewarding, especially during the spring spawn when they are closer to the banks and in the early morning or late evening in summer. Anglers should focus on areas where there is easy access to deeper water or where currents bring baitfish close to the shore. The same light to medium-light tackle used for boat fishing is effective from the shore, with spinners, jigs, and crankbaits being the lures of choice. Casting into or across currents and retrieving the lure in a manner that mimics fleeing baitfish can be very effective in enticing White Bass to strike.

Tips To Catch White Bass For Beginners

  • Start with a light to medium-light action spinning rod, around 6 to 7 feet long, which offers a good balance between casting distance and sensitivity.
  • Pair the rod with a spinning reel in the 2000 to 3000 size range, spooled with 6 to 10-pound test monofilament or braided line for versatility and ease of handling.
  • Use small jigs (1/16 to 1/4 ounce) tipped with soft plastic grubs or minnows as bait, which mimic the small fish White Bass prey on. These are effective and easy for beginners to use.
  • When setting up a hook for live bait, such as minnows, thread the hook through the lip or back of the bait to keep it alive and moving. For jigs, ensure the soft plastic is straight on the hook to mimic natural movement.
  • Cast near areas where White Bass are likely to feed, such as near schools of baitfish, along current breaks in rivers, or around submerged structures in lakes.
  • Maintain a steady retrieval speed when using lures, allowing them to swim naturally through the water. Pay attention to the feel of the line; White Bass often strike hard.
  • Experiment with different retrieval speeds and jigging actions to find what triggers bites, as this can vary with water conditions and time of day.
  • Keep an eye on water temperature and season. Spring and early summer mornings or late evenings are prime times for White Bass, especially during their spawning run.

Best White Bass Fishing Gear And Tools

Selecting the best fishing gear for White Bass enhances the angling experience by improving both efficiency and success rates. Here’s a breakdown of the ideal attributes for the rod, line, reel, and fish finder when targeting White Bass.

Fishing Rod

The ideal fishing rod for White Bass is a light to medium-light action spinning rod, about 6 to 7 feet in length. This range offers a perfect blend of sensitivity and versatility, allowing anglers to feel the bite and manage the fight without overpowering the fish. The length of the rod ensures good casting distance and accuracy, which is crucial for reaching schools of White Bass or targeting specific structures where these fish are known to congregate.

Fishing Line

For White Bass, a 6 to 10-pound test monofilament or braided line is best. Monofilament line is forgiving, with a bit of stretch that can be beneficial when setting the hook on a soft-mouthed White Bass. Braided line, on the other hand, offers greater sensitivity and a higher strength-to-diameter ratio, allowing for more precise presentations and the ability to feel subtle bites. The choice between monofilament and braid may come down to personal preference and the specific fishing conditions.

Fishing Reel

A spinning reel in the 2000 to 3000 size range complements the recommended rod and line setup perfectly. These reels are user-friendly, making them a great choice for anglers of all skill levels, and they have sufficient capacity for the line strengths used in White Bass fishing. Look for a reel with a smooth drag system to handle the quick runs and aggressive fights characteristic of White Bass. A reliable drag is essential for preventing line breaks and ensuring successful landings.

Fish Finder

A fish finder that offers both down imaging and side imaging technology is highly advantageous for locating White Bass, especially during the times of the year when they are more dispersed. Look for a model that provides clear and detailed images of the underwater environment, including structures, depth changes, and schools of fish. The ability to identify baitfish schools is also crucial, as White Bass often feed aggressively on these smaller fish. Modern fish finders with GPS functionality can further enhance the fishing experience by allowing anglers to mark productive spots for future outings.

Species Similar to White Bass

Several fish species share similarities with white bass, either in appearance, behavior, or habitat. These similarities can sometimes lead to confusion among anglers. Here are some species similar to white bass:

Striped Bass

Striped bass (Morone saxatilis) are closely related to white bass and share many physical characteristics, including horizontal stripes running along their sides. However, striped bass are generally larger, with some individuals reaching weights of over 40 pounds. You can fish for striped bass in both freshwater and saltwater environments. Hybrid versions of striped and white bass, known as hybrid striped bass or “wipers,” have been stocked in many water bodies and share traits of both parent species.

Yellow Bass

Yellow bass (Morone mississippiensis), another member of the Moronidae family, have a similar body shape and schooling behavior to white bass but are distinguishable by their yellowish coloration and more pronounced, broken horizontal stripes. They are smaller than white bass, usually not exceeding 12 inches in length.

White Perch

White perch (Morone americana) are a smaller relative of the white bass, with a more subdued coloration and lacking the distinctive horizontal stripes. They are primarily found in the northeastern United States and are known for their adaptability to both freshwater and brackish water environments. While they share the “white” moniker and are part of the same family, their size and habitat preferences can vary significantly from those of the white bass.