Lake Livingston anglers are coming down with the fever and the fever is hot! Every February and March, White Bass fever spreads to fisherman here at an epidemic rate. The fever has been diagnosed as White Bass Fishing Fever. It begins in early February especially after a warming trend. The first words of a "White Bass run" and folks just get sick. The only cure is a day on Lake Livingston chasing spawning White Bass.
A combination of rising water temperature, moving water and longer days around the first of February will trigger the annual spawn of the White Bass. Lake Livingston White Bass will migrate by the thousands in search of spawning grounds in March when the environmental conditions are right.
The last few years the White Bass fishing on Lake Livingston has been nothing less than world class and I expect this year to be another great year.
Look for White Bass to spawn on major feeder creeks on upper Lake Livingston. White Rock, Harmon, Nelson and Bedias creeks are the creeks that are most likely to be loaded with spawning Whites. Moving water is the most important factor to remember when searching for spawning White Bass. The moving current of the creek or river will pull White Bass upstream like a magnet. This can have several effects on where you want to fish. First, in a dry Spring, the river channel will remain low and may provide the only current White Bass will detect. Therefore, White Bass will spawn in the river channel never moving into tributary creeks. If it's a dry year, you can bet the river will unload tremendous catches of 12 - 16 inch White Bass from the Jungle area North and above Bedias Creek. If creeks remain low, White Bass fishing in the creeks will be marginal. Second, following local rains White Bass will then move into upper reaches of major creeks by the thousands. This fishing can be great but timing is critical. Whites will move as far upstream as they can as long as they feel moving water. As the current subsides, the fish will move downstream as the water level in the creek drops. Under these conditions, anglers should run up major creeks as far North as they can shortly following a rain. Look for clearing water and start fishing downstream until you find the fish. One of the biggest mistakes fisherman make is waiting too long following a local rain to go fishing. 48 hours is too long. It's the moving water that concentrates the fish in small pockets of creeks where feverish action will take place.
As far as techniques and tackle for Whites, remember a couple of basic rules. Generally, when fishing the river use bigger baits, ex. 1/4 oz Rattle Traps. When fishing the creeks, use smaller baits, ex. Tiny Traps and minnow imitation baits. Whites feed more on minnows up the creeks and shad in the river channel. When creek fishing, I use 8 lb test spinning gear. One of my favorite White Bass lures is a plastic Shad in pearl blue black 2 inch or 1 inch rigged on 1/4 oz or 1/8 oz jig heads. Take a red Marks-a-Lot and paint the gills. One of the biggest mistakes that I see people making when fishing for White Bass is fishing too fast. Yes, White Bass will get aggressive and slam a fast moving bait. More often, the conditions will require a slower moving bait. Contact the bottom with a jig and you will catch more fish. I use what I call "the tickle technique", much like fishing a plastic worm for Black Bass. Cast out and let the jig settle to the bottom then raise your rod tip and bounce or tickle it slightly. Also, try a slow steadily retrieve and stop. The fish will often hit the falling bait. When the fish are real aggressive, rip a Rattle Trap and hold on! Trolling for Whites in the creeks and river is a great method for locating fish. Once the fish are located, come back and cast into the same place. Often times trolling seems to be the only way you can get them to bite. I believe this is due to the boat motor scattering bait fish and the lure contacting near the bottom. One secret technique that I have used is to pull into a cut bank in a creek then tie the bow of the boat off, put the motor in reverse and give it some gas. Cast out while the motor is thrashing the water. Also, you can beat on the side of the boat with a paddle. The technique seems to scatter bait fish and create a feeding frenzy of Whites.
A warming trend with rising water temperature, moving water and a Southeast wind and White Bass fishing in March is sure to bust wide open. A sudden cold front with a drop in water temperature will kill a great bite. The fish's metabolic rate slows down with dropping water temperature and they become dormant. A falling barometric pressure will always encourage aggressive fish and a good bite. Rising barometric pressure behind a cold front and fishing will get tough. I have seen White Bass fishing go from a fanatical feverish pace in one day to no bite at all following a cold front.
Guiding White Bass trips during the spawn is always a challenge. There is never an "ace-in-the-hole" when fishing for spawning Whites. The key is to move until you find the fish. Keep your bait in the water and don't waste time in unproductive areas.
In the event that you come down with the White Bass Fever this Spring, the only cure is a day on Lake Livingston chasing spawning White Bass. A boat load of Whites and a skillet full of filets can bring the fever under control.
Please give us a call and our guides at Palmetto Guide Service will work our hardest to provide a fun, safe and successful fishing experience for you and your family! www.palmettoguideservice.com
Dave Cox of Palmetto Guide Service is a regular contributor to the Lake Livingston edition of the Texas Sportsguide. This article has previously appeared in that publication.
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