Lake Whitney Winter Whites

Discussion in 'LUKE CLAYTON' started by Luke Clayton, Dec 21, 2007.

  1. Luke Clayton

    Luke Clayton New Member

    "Lake Whitney Winter Whites"

    Luke Clayton

    Much is written about the white bass ‘run’ when the prolific spawners pack the creeks and river systems above major reservoirs during their annual breeding ritual. Granted, fishing and catching can be red hot during these brief periods of frantic action, when large numbers of fish pack themselves tightly into relatively small waters. I enjoy fishing for white bass during the spawn as much as anyone but I also understand that several factors must be just right in order to locate spawning whites. Water clarity, current, temperature and, of course time of year are all paramount to enjoying a good day fishing streams for spawners.

    Each year, I am amazed at how many white bass anglers seem to forget all about their favored species during late December and well into January, waiting for the time, somewhere between February and early April, depending upon many factors, when the urge to procreate causes the white bass to spawn. These folks are missing out on some very good pre spawn fishing, and the action is taking place right now in just about any reservoir with a healthy white bass population.

    Photo by Luke Clayton

    Just yesterday, I got off the water at Lake Whitney with guide Randy Routh who guides not only for stripers and catfish but white bass as well. The days prior to our trip, the wind had blown from the south for several days and the action was red hot. Limits of big whites averaging 1.5 pounds apiece were the norm and most trips produced a few of the big stripers Whitney is known well for. Yesterday morning, the wind was steady at about 15 knots, directly out of the north.

    As Randy pulled his boat up to the general vicinity of the submerged Brazos River in the lower lake, not far from the Island, his graph began to plot clouds of baitfish and accompanying larger inverted ‘V’s that denoted large schools of white bass. “They are still here and many of the schools are stacked vertically in a typical feeding pattern. Even with the North wind, we should be able to catch a nice ‘mess’ for your fish fry.” said Routh as he broke out rods and reels rigged with half-ounce lead slabs. “These fish will probably be on a very subtle bite. I’ve been using Kistler rods for a long time and these new medium heavy action 7 footers are made from Carbon Steel. They will soon be available in both bait cast and spin cast models and provide not only the sensitivity to detect subtle bites from white bass but the backbone to handle even the bigger stripers. Let’s get our baits down close to bottom and see if we have any takers.”

    Photo by Luke Clayton

    We were anchored within a few yards of the submerged Brazos River ledge and clouds of baitfish and accompanying mixed schools of white bass, drum and stripers moved below our boat, plotting that inverted Christmas tree pattern on sonar that spells feeding fish.

    Although the whites were marking throughout the clouds of shad, they would not take a bait unless it was within a couple feet of bottom. Routh’s yo-yo presentation with the bait was obviously the most productive-the ONLY productive method. He would ‘feel’ bottom with the half-ounce elongated slab, then simply lift the bait up a couple feet and allow it flutter back to bottom, mimicking a dead or wounded shad. The trick is to let the bait fall naturally but keep the majority of slack out of the line so that even a soft ‘peck’ from a white bass or striper can be detected. My buddy, Dubb Wallace and I were quick to pick up on the bait presentation and we soon began to connect with white bass and, hard pulling (and very good eating) freshwater drum. Early into the trip, Dubb’s rod bowed heavily toward the water’s surface and Randy immediately knew it was not a white bass our buddy was fighting. “That’s a Gaspergou (drum), see how he is pulling straight down rather than running with the bait?” Sure enough, after a brief but intense battle, Dubb brought a big drum to the net. Smaller drum that weigh two pounds or less are excellent eating but the larger ones, just like their saltwater cousins called ‘bull reds, are best released to thrill another angler with their mule-like habit of fighting directly below the boat.

    Regardless which lake you choose to fish, this ‘ledges and edges’ approach used by Routh will produce big dividends when fishing for white bass during the dead of winter. Find submerged ledges in water 20 or more feet deep, falling quickly into deeper water- and you’re in prime white bass winter haunts.

    In a few weeks, white bass and stripers will begin following shad into pockets off the main lake and, sometime within the next two to three months, many of them will be moving into feeder streams above the reservoirs. Usually a late winter rain on the watershed above the reservoir will trigger this annual spawning run. But, as Routh is quick to point out, many white bass never leave the main lake to spawn; that’s why windy points with a bit of current are such good places to catch whites during the spawn. The gentle wave action created by wind creates the same spawning conditions for the white bass as does moving water in streams and rivers.

    If you’re ‘fish hungry’ and beginning to experience a bit of cabin fever during the holidays, take a tip from my friend Randy Routh and a host of other savvy white bass anglers and get out on the water BEFORE the spawn. Besides, timing a fishing trip during the peak of the spawn for white bass usually requires a very flexible schedule-a schedule that most folks with a busy work schedule find it hard to meet.

    Guide Randy Routh fishes out of Uncle Gus’ Marina and can be reached at 817-822-5539 or online at


    DOWNSIZE BAITS- Use jigging spoons and slabs that are smaller than those used during much of the year. Usually half-ounce baits work best.

    FISH CLOSE TO BOTTOM- Most actively feeding white bass will hit baits worked slowly within a couple feet of bottom-very often right on bottom. It’s not uncommon to find mud on the nose of white bass during the winter time. This is a good indication that they are relating strongly to bottom structure.

    KEEP ON THE MOVE- White bass schools are often comprised of fish of the same year class. If you begin catching all small fish, move around a bit and find another school.

    FRESHWATER DRUM OFTEN RUN WITH WHITE BASS- During the winter, it’s common for the plentiful baitfish that white bass feed upon to also attract huge numbers of freshwater drum. These fish are excellent eating. On your next winter outing, keep a few of the smaller drum to fillet and ‘test’ fry a batch. I’m betting you will enjoy their flavor every bit as much as the white bass fillets!

    White bass fillets are very tasty. Here’s how I prepare them: I remove as much as the ‘red meat’ from the side of the fillet as possible, then marinate the fillets in a 50-50 mixture of buttermilk and Lousiana Hot Sauce for a couple hours. Then, dust with a cornmeal/flour batter and fry until crispy. Note: The smaller freshwater drum fillets prepared in this manner are also excellent eating.

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