The sight of shad fleeing frantically told Gary Dollahon all he needed to know. He fired the outboard as I hopped into my seat and we moved a few hundred yards upstream. Dollahon killed the motor well shy of the spot and then scurried to the front deck and dropped his tolling motor. I quickly joined him, and we both begin firing Bobby Garland Stroll’Rs toward where we saw the fleeing bait.
It didn’t take long before we were both engaged in battle. Based on their fights, most white bass seem to think they are larger than they are, and these fish were no exceptions. We managed to land them, and our next hook-ups followed very soon after.
Dollahon, who operates a public relations agency that specializes in fishing products, is somewhat of a white bass fanatic. He targets them throughout the year, even vertical jigging offshore when necessary. As a white bass fan, there’s nothing that gets him fired up quite like the spring run, when fish congregate in predictable locations and serve up sometimes frantic action.
The run happens every spring and in much the same way on many waterways. The specific timing varies, based mostly on water flows and temperatures, but every spring the white bass in lakes and reservoirs run up tributary arms with procreation in mind. The result is big concentrations of fish become available to anglers who position themselves correctly.
Many of the best white bass opportunities occur in tributaries that have strong flows and plenty of rock or woody cover in their headwaters. However, good fishing begins in the lower ends of the same creek arms, usually quite early in the spring.
Pre-spawn fish typically move into tributaries when water temperatures hit the 50s, and they move gradually upstream as the season progresses. They don’t all migrate together, though. Males move upstream earlier than females, and all the white bass spawn in shifts to protect against losing an entire year class, if conditions turn bad. Therefore, you find fish in various places throughout the spring. Still, there are major concentrations that more than warrant the search.
As white bass work their way up rivers and creeks, they spend much of their time out of the strongest currents, either in shoreline eddies or slack pools, and often you can find them by simply working your way up a tributary and casting into pockets along the shore. Any dam or other obstacle that blocks the white bass’ upstream travel is also likely to have a concentration of fish beneath it.
Anytime you catch a fish or even get hit, slow down and work that area hard. Where you find one white bass, you usually find more. If you catch a few small fish, you might have found the males and want to keep searching. If you catch a 3-pounder, you could be about to hit the jackpot!
Often white bass give themselves away by running shad on the surface. Also, as you work your way upstream in a boat, if several fishing boats or bank-fishermen are congregated in a single area, a group of white bass probably is nearby.
Dollahon’s favorite white bass lures are Bobby Garland Stroll’Rs and Slab Slay’Rs fished on Garland Mo’Glo jigheads. The Stroll’R has an active swimming motion and creates a lot of thump as it comes through the water. The Slab Slay’R has a more subtle gliding action.
Tipping these jigs with minnows is effective, but it usually isn’t necessary. You can also catch white bass with a minnow under a float once you’ve found the fish, but a jig remains a more efficient searching tool.
Dollahon mixes his head and tail colors and lets the fish decide. Generally speaking, though, he prefers bright colors for spring white bass fishing. He also varies presentations, mixing slow steady retrieves with quicker cadences and presentations that involve more rod twitches.
On most spring days when the white bass are running, Dollahon is able to locate a good group of active fish and to figure out the best bait, color and presentation for that day. When he does, the action becomes fast and furious!