If your goal is to catch a big stringer of white bass, this is your time of the year.
In March and early April, the fish school up and head up tributaries of major reservoirs to spawn. And the fishing can be outstanding.
That run already has started at some Ozarks reservoirs. And it won’t be long before it gets underway in Kansas.
With the drought, there might not be enough water for the whites to get up some tributaries. But look for whites to spawn along gravel banks and flats near the mouth of those blocked feeder streams even if the water is low.
Here’s a look at what to expect in Missouri and Kansas in 2017. My rankings are based on personal observation, reports from fisheries biologists and information from guides and other fishermen.
- Bull Shoals Lake: Guides such as Buster Loving (shown here) already are guiding customers to big white bass at Bull Shoals. But this is just the start. The fishing should only get better as March wears on. Bull Shoals is recognized nationally for its spring white-bass run. Numbers probably aren’t as large as they once were, but Bull Shoals still has plenty of white bass.
- Table Rock Lake: Some of the best white-bass fishing I have ever experienced took place in the White River arm of Table Rock with guide J.D. Fletcher. The fishing has gone downhill some since those days 15 to 20 years ago, but Table Rock still has sizeable white-bass runs.
- Truman Lake: This giant reservoir in west-central Missouri is well-known for its late-spring and early-summer fishing. When the fish school up to chase shad, the fishing can be fantastic. Fishermen use jigging spoons and topwater lures to catch impressive stringers of fish. This year should stand out. Fisheries surveys show that the population is on the increase, and plenty of big fish should be available.
- Smithville Lake: Smithville also is known for its early-summer fishing. Many fishermen hit wind-blown main-lake points to catch whites chasing baitfish in May, June and the first part of July. Fishermen also catch multiple fish when they target structure such as humps, roadbeds and drop-offs.
- Stockton Lake: The white-bass run has started at Stockton. Though low water-levels have kept the whites from making their spawning run up many tributaries, fish have moved into the shallows of the Ozarks reservoir. Guide Les Jarman has reported good fishing in recent days.
- Melvern Lake: Fisheries surveys show that Melvern leads the state in densities of white bass 9 inches and larger and in the preferred category (fish 12 inches and bigger). It also has good numbers of lunkers (15 inches and longer) if fishermen are looking for a good tug.
- Clinton Lake: This reservoir in Lawrence is full of white bass this year. It ranks second to Melvern in the density rankings by Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, and it has some good-sized fish, too.
- Cedar Bluff Lake: If you’re looking for a big white, Cedar Bluff is the place to go, if fisheries surveys are any indication. the western-Kansas reservoir leads the state in the lunkers (15 inches and longer) category.
- Kanopolis Lake: Kanopolis is the oldest reservoir in Kansas, but it still has plenty of life to it. It is known as a strong white-bass reservoir. In fact, its three-year density rating is tops in the state. It has a good mix of sizes this year and should again provide good fishing.
- Glen Elder Lake: This reservoir in north-central Kansas has a history of producing good white-bass fishing. It should only add to that reputation this year with another strong crop of fish, according to surveys.
This is the fifth in a series on fishing prospects for 2017 in Missouri and Kansas. Go to brentfrazee.com for earlier reports on largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappies and walleyes.