One thing I’ve learned over the years about catching fish: there’s usually a pattern and a bait that will produce action, regardless of the lake, time of year, or species.
Finding this pattern is the challenge!
For many years I have enjoyed catching white bass, sandbass as they are called in North Texas. I like to fish them all year round, but when the water gets really cold in the dead of winter, they can be a bit tricky to catch on a regular basis. I have a now retired guide buddy who showed me a technique years ago on Richland Chambers that often produced cold water white bass.
He used to say to me, “Luke, drop that sheet of lead all the way down and try to get it upright, all the way down, then lay it flat.” This is the only model that works for me when the water temperature drops into the 40s.”
Of course, the slab was not still at the bottom of the lake due to the movement of the boat, the current, etc. There had to be a little movement of the bait and that slight movement was often just enough to attract a lethargic white bite. low.
Last week I joined guide Brandon Sargent, owner of the Lead Slingers Guide Service on Ray Hubbard Lake, and learned more about catching white bass in cold water in three hours of fishing than in the course of of the last four decades. Sargent is a savvy angler whether he is targeting white bass, crappie or hybrid stripes and when he called last week with an invitation to fish I was thrilled to get in the water and more than ready for a crispy fried white seabass platter. nets!
Sargent, like many guides today, used a Garmin Livescope not only to help him find fish, but also to give accurate bait presentations. I knew the Livescope was very good at catching crappie that held onto the structure, but I had never used it to farm fish, like white bass that are constantly on the move chasing baitfish.
We were fishing deep flats in the lower lake in 38-40 foot deep water. The exercise looked like this: Sargent would engage the lock on the trolling motor that holds the boat in place without an anchor or mooring. He would then turn on Bobo’s Thumper, which is a battery-operated unit that would run a rubber mallet up and down, hitting a plate and sending the rhythmic sound waves under the boat towards the fish. Quite often the sonar showed a vacuum for about 10 minutes when we first stopped and then the fish started to appear under the boat. I can’t say exactly why that thud attracts the fish, but it’s a fact, especially at this time of year when the water is cold. You’ll see few striper guides on lakes such as Texoma that don’t have a thumper on their boat this time of year.
When white bass pods started to appear, we would lay half-ounce chartreuses or white slabs in the middle of the school. We kept a close eye on the bait on the Livescope screen and the fish would be all around but they wouldn’t bite. The only bait presentation that worked, and it worked just about every time, was slowly lifting the slab above the fish. Looking at the screen we would see two or three white bass following the bait and invariably one nailed it. Leave the bait in the middle of the school and no strike, but cast the bait vertically through the water column out of the school and fish!
In late February or early March, annual white bass spawning is usually underway in streams and rivers above reservoirs with good white bass populations. Hotspots are traditionally the Sabine River above Tawakoni and below Toledo Bend and the Trinity River above Lake Livingston. Of course, spawning white bass also make their spawning run in many of the feeding creeks. For the past few years I have looked forward to fishing with my friends on a feeder stream at the upper end of Fork Lake. Guess there will be no racing on Fork this year due to low water levels when the lake was torn down for repairs on the dam.
Drought or near-drought conditions prevailed for much of the winter, resulting in low levels in many lakes and very little water in the feeder streams. A few days of heavy rain could fill the creeks with currents and push white bass out of the lakes, but without heavy rains over the next month, I doubt there will be a traditional spawn.
One thing is for sure, there is certainly no shortage of big, feisty white bass in Lake Ray Hubbard and spawn or not, the fishing should remain very good throughout late winter and spring. My biologist buddies tell me that the whites will spawn in the main lake if there is no current to draw them to the rivers and streams. They deposit and fertilize their eggs around the points blown by the wind with the current. Contact guide Brandon Sargent at 469-989-1010.
THIRD ANNUAL REN DE VOUX OUTDOOR SPRING will be held in Greenville at Top Rain Cowboy Church on March 12th. Larry Weishuhn aka Mr. Whitetail will be on hand around the campfire with me along with a host of other outdoors people including Connor Crockett and his deer retrieval dog Boone (Boone and Crockett), guides and outfitters . Kiosks, barbecue, campfire cooking, live music, it’s going to be a lot of fun!
For more information, contact Luke Clayton at [email protected] or www.catfishradio.org, Pastor Charlie Nasaar at 903-217-3778.