Fishing: a line and a lure

Every spring, the white bass converge on the rivers in North Carolina, gliding upstream to participate in spawning rituals that result in waters overflowing with the silver-bodied fish. If fishermen calculate correctly, they will find themselves ripping these fish out of the water faster than they can reel.

“I’ve had days when I’ve literally caught so many of ’em my arms ached,” said Bill Hoy of Fredonia, Tennessee in an article about white bass on the Bass Pro Shops website by Wade Bourne.  “If you just like hooking and playing fish, it’s hard to beat white bass when they’re running.  And another good thing: methods and locations for doing this are simple. These fish are easy to catch.  Anybody can do it with some basic know-how and tackle and a fair measure of persistence.”

When the white bass will run upriver is determined by a combination of water temperature, current and light intensity. According to John Riddle, a fisheries biologist with the Tennessee Resources agency, the white bass school up, wait for the right conditions and then swim upstream, which accounts for the high density in which they move upriver. The water temperature typically must reach the high fifties and then the males will start running, with the females following within one or two weeks.

Matt Bodenhamer, an avid white bass fisherman and a fish and wildlife major at N.C. State University, suggests using a three-inch swim bait — a soft, plastic bait that mimics a small minnow — attached to a white 1/16 to 1/8 ounce jig head and to keep the gear, such as the reel and line, light.

“The best colors are black and white or solid white colors,” Bodenhamer said. “We have used several lure manufacturers and as long as the color scheme is correct, they will all produce outstanding results. Second-best would be a white doll fly.”

Bodenhamer prefers to use a 5 1/2 or 5-foot cherrywood rod. “Reels can vary for however much you’re willing to spend, but I use a Pfleuger presidential ultra-light reel,” he said. “Keep it light with the line; I use no more than 6-pound test. The thicker lines give the baits less natural and less desirable action when in the water.”

When fishing in partly cloudy or murky water, Bodenhamer suggests using natural-looking swim baits such as black and using white baits for clear water.

“If a bait is too bright in these types of conditions, it causes the bait to give off an unnatural glow which will spook fish rather than attract. Clear, sunny days with clear water are better for the all-white bodied baits,” Bodenhamer explained. “The super bright colors catch the eyes of the white bass quicker and cause instinct strikes. They can also see the bait at a farther distance. The same methods apply to doll flies and both baits should be cast and retrieved slowly.”

Fishing for white bass can be fun for anyone looking to relax or catch some dinner. If calculated correctly, white bass are a fun, easy catch.

“The year 2010 was the most remarkable,” Bodenhamer recalled. “Within a day, my father, cousin, and a family friend caught 118 and kept almost 60 of them to eat.  When running at their full potential, on average, we can catch about 30 a day.”

While the white bass is native to northern habitats, they have been largely introduced in waters across the south and are distributed widely across the United States. As they typically run from mid-March until May, there is a good chance if you visit a river in Western North Carolina during these months you’ll have a fishing experience like nothing else, and your arms just may get tired.

The waters of WNC are great for catching other fish as well.

Western North Carolina offers many guided fishing services. AB’s Fly Fishing Guide Service has been in business for 30 years.

Hooker’s Fly Shop and Guide Service, located on Main Street in Sylva, offers guided trips on the Tuckasegee River, Oconalufte River, the Raven Fork Trophy Water and many other areas in WNC.