Monday, May 21, 2012

Wipe Ass, I mean, White Bass!

Whites, whitey, Lieutenant Stripey-Sides--they have many names, and whenever I tell non-anglers about them, they think I caught "wipe ass" (a mysterious wooded creature that cleans your bottom, I have to assume). By any name, I have been fortunate enough lately to catch a LOT of white bass, one of my favorite sweetwater species. And this makes me very happy.

I hit the jackpot 2 weeks ago when visiting some relatives of mine in the state that refers to itself as "the heart of it all." It certainly was the heart of the white bass spawning run and whatever else these fiesty bastards were doing on main lake rocky flats.

Over the course of 4 mornings, I personally managed to catch over 200 fish. Yes, that's two zeros. They weren't all that big, but bending the rod on nearly every cast for a few hours made up for a lot of fishless hours and fishless trips. I fished each of the four mornings for only 3 hours each day since I had many familial obligations and lots of folks to see. I was glad to see that the fish had missed me too.

In addition to tons of white bass to tug the line, my fishing partners and I caught a mess of black- and white crappie as well as walleye, saugeye, and carp (to 10 lbs!). We fished 2 lakes and a waded a narrow tributary, catching fish in all these spots. The first 3 mornings were calm (see the top pic), which made fly fishing possible (casting) but not ideal (line slap on the surface can drive fish down). Fortunately these are aggressive fish feeding throughout the water column and moving along the shoreline enough to not give a royal damn. And the fourth morning was a downpour with a little onshore wind.

So yes, I used both ultralight spinning and fly gear. I'm no purist...I just want to catch fish. Sometimes I bring both types of gear, sometimes I convince myself to stick with one and figure it out. Using spinning gear was made a little more fun on this trip since I just got a new setup--nothing fancy, just needed a new rod and bought a Shimano Scimitar on clearance from a big box store. This whippy little 5'6" rod got put to the test of all these hundreds of fish each day, including the bigger of the carp, pulled from some 10' deep. I spooled the pflueger reel with 6# Berkley Nanofil, which is my favorite spinning-reel line to date. This stuff feels like dental floss, but for the same reason allows it to rocket farther than braid. It is silent, but deadly, as they say. [I will have to post a separate blog entry on Nanofil]. I used 2x tippet (~7.1# test) as a leader material with 1/8oz jigs and 2" white grubs. Better than the grubs, however, was the new 2" Berkley Ripple Shad in Pearl.

Just an all-around badass. The fish didn't want deep-bellied swimbaits, so the ripple shad's minnow-like profile with well-constructed paddle tail was the ticket. When I ran out (the pack comes with 8 baits for $4-$5), I took my deep-belly baits and cut the bellies off. Not as good, but it still had a hard time avoiding certain annihilation.

For flies, I use a 2" long fly on a size #8 or #10 hook that I came up with. It's a lot like a gotcha bonefish fly, but with a patch of zonker hanging off the tail. They love this thing, but a conehead krystal bugger also worked well. As they say about bucktails for NJ flounder, "any color works, as long as it's white."

Much Love

Now last week I got to go to central Wisconsin to a city that promotes itself as "the white bass capitol of the world." As a moronid finatic, I couldn't turn down the offer to tag along with two of my fishing buddies. They wanted to fill their coolers for their families and employees, so they were making the 7-hour round trip in a single day, once a week for 3 weeks. Last week was supposed to be the peak of the run. I had to take a 1 hour train from the city to the suburbs to meet my friend for the 3.5 hour drive North. That meant I woke up at 3 am. On the water by 8:30am.

While we moved around a little, my fishing buddy controlling the tiller decided to stick it out anchored in the spot he found whitey in a week prior. Which could only mean I spent about 9 hours staring at this:
Lt. Stripey-Sides' snaggy romp room

...which at least wasn't as bad as the other side:

Overall we spent 11 hours on the water, fighting current, crowds (we had some lead cast at us from other boats), and thankfully, lots of fish. We caught whites, crappies, smallmouth, and one big walleye that came unbuttoned boatside. Totalled about 100 fish including 80 whites. 

We had 2 coolers. This is one. 

The fish didn't want to come to the surface, so we didn't really break out the fly rod until close to dusk. I caught one and missed 3 other bites on the fly (type III sink tip with a chart/white clouser #6). 


With dark water, crowds, a long drive (for only a day on the water), keeping fish, and live minnows for bait, it wasn't my preferred style of fishing. But I do like catching fish. And I'll do quite a bit to spend more time chasing that majestic creature, "wipe ass."


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