John's Journal...

Limiting Out On Linesides

Finding and Taking Linesides

Editor’s Note: Catching white bass is relatively simple because the fish are extremely aggressive – eating many types of smaller fish, including perch, bluegills, crappie and gizzard shad besides feeding on Click to enlargeinsects and crustaceans – and will hit a wide variety of baits. The biggest problem involved in catching white bass is finding the fish so anglers have a target for their casting. Since populations of white bass fluctuate from year to year because of the fragility of the eggs and the requirement of nearly-perfect weather conditions for hatching, the fishing is hot and cold. Although the white bass can be harvested heavily without harming the fishery, the fish successfully reproduce only every three to four years in most areas.

The second-easiest tactic of finding white bass is to look for the gulls as Captain Ahab did from the decks of the Pequod before the white whale broke his boat in half. Seagulls and other birds that feed on shad or minnows have something in common with the white bass. They both like an easy meal of shad or minnows. Where you find one, the chances are very good that you will find the other. Diving birds in white bass water are much like a neon light blinking the words, “The fish are here.” Fishing a plunking cork, a jig, a tailspinner or a small spinner bait will all yield white bass beneath the gulls. Another easy place to locate linesides is in the tailraces of most hydClick to enlargeroelectric dams, where the water is whirling.

The sun was just peeping out from under the covers of darkness before it stepped into the glory of a new day years ago when my son John, a friend of mine, John Hill and myself floated out on Wilson Lake in the tailrace of Wheeler Dam on the Tennessee River to search for white bass. Sitting on the turbulent water, we waited for feeding action. But the schooling fish never showed-up where they had for the last two weeks. However, after a 20-minute wait, shad exploded as the water came alive with fish. Like a quarterhorse jumps from the starting gate, we raced our boat to the feeding fish. Before the 18-foot flat-bottomed craft came to a full stop, we were casting and retrieving. My son John’s ultralight rod pretzeled first. The white bass hit with such fierceness Click to enlargethat it snatched him to the side of the boat and up on his tiptoes. He had not expected the fish to strike so savagely. I grinned and said, “Boy, you better not let that fish pull you…” Before I could finish that sentence, fish struck, and my drag burned-off line rapidly as did Hill’s. The rally only lasted 10 minutes. And then as magically as the fish appeared, they vanished minutes. The white bass, which is a current feeder, finds large concentrations of baitfish and highly-oxygenated water in the swift tailrace current. Even in the hot summer months of July and August when angling for most other species slows down, white bass action can be fantastic in a swift-running tailrace.

Since there are generally great quantities of water being discharged from hydroelectric plants, pinpointing the schools of white bass can be difficult at best because the fish roam widely in a tailrace current. Many bassers believe that trolling is the best method of finding and taking stripes in tailrace areas. Two trolling tactics that work well are bottom bumping and crankbait trolling. The bottom bumpers use 20- to 25-pound test line, a weight heavy enough to carry their lines to the bottom, a three-way swivel 12 to 18 inches above the weight with a 6- to a 12-inch piece of leader and either a jig or a spoon attached. Above the first swivel, a second three-way swivel is tied with another piece of leader and another swivel and/or jig. That swivel is fasteClick to enlargened directly to the line. By running that boat across the current, these bottom bumpers present the baits to the deep-feeding white bass. This method is also effective on hybrid bass, which are a cross between the white bass (Morone chrysops) and saltwater stripers.

However, crankbait trollers approach their trolling in a different way. Using a deep-diving crankbait like Bagley’s DB 3, a Model A bomber or the Maxi R, an angler attaches a 10- to 20-pound-test piece of line to the last treble hook of his crankbait. Then he fastens a small jig or spinner to the end of the line and trolls the lure either across or down current. Trollers will catch the white bass on either one or both lures, depending on the size and aggressiveness of the white bass. For the boatless sportsmen who fish the tailrace, casting small spinners like the Beetle Spin, the Mepps spinner or the Panther Martin can be highly productive. These fishermen can stand on the bank, cast into the current and have just as fast fishing as the boating anglers. These are the easy tactics for finding and taking linesides and pay dividends in almost any area where the white bass swims.


Check back each day this week for more.

Day 1: Finding White Bass
Day 2: Catching White Bass
Day 3: Finding and Taking Linesides
Day 4: Hunting Island Whites
Day 5: Night Bass Fishing



Entry 341, Day 3