If you want to add a little excitement to your summer fishing outings, try spending a few hours chasing some sand bass.
Common throughout the state, sand bass are a fun and challenging for anglers of all skill levels. They are known for their jarring strikes, and even a small sand bass outfights just about any other fish of equal size. In fact, sandies have saved many a day for black bass anglers when the largemouths took an unexpected vacation. Add to that their excellent table qualities, and it^s easy to see why the sand bass is Oklahoma^s state fish.
Chances are, they^re biting right now at a lake, stream or river near you.
"For people who like fast-paced fishing, white bass can provide a lot of entertainment on a summer outing," said Barry Bolton, assistant chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "Many of our lakes and rivers support excellent populations of these exciting game fish, and they^re relatively easy to catch, which makes them great for family outings. They^re exceptional fighters that can reach weights of over five pounds."
Although white bass feed throughout the day, the most consistent schooling action occurs in the mornings and evenings, usually near coves, points, humps and islands. Schools of white bass use such structures to herd schools of shad and restrict their escape routes. They attack in concert, slashing though the shad and forcing them to the surface.
To catch them, cast white, yellow or chartreuse grubs on light jigs into the fray. Better yet, try small crawdads. Light tackle is essential to keep the lure from falling too quickly, and also to avoid spooking fish in the clear water typical of our best white bass lakes. Jigs should weigh between 1/4- to 1/16-ounce, depending on how far you must cast. Line should be no thicker than 8-pound test.
Topwater lures also work well for schooling whites, as do lipless crankbaits, such as the Rat-L-Trap or Rattlin^ Spot.
Strikes often occur almost as soon as your lure hits the water, but those quick-strike artists are usually the smallest fish in the school. The biggest white bass hover below the shad to feed on the dying and wounded that fall from above.
On lakes like Tenkiller and Broken Bow, you can catch monster whites by casting and retrieving medium-running crankbaits off flats adjacent to deep water. These are often incidental catches that usually occur while you^re fishing for largemouths, but hooking a succession of three-pound white bass has a way of changing your priorities for the day.
Other lakes with excellent populations of white bass are Foss, Fort Supply, Hudson, Murray, Oologah, Sardis, Sooner and Tom Steed. Shawnee Twin Lake #1 also has an overlooked, but outstanding, white bass fishery.
In addition, lakes Canton, Kaw, Holdenville, Lawtonka and Pine Creek are also very good for white bass fishing.
Cashing in on the action takes a lot of patience and a good pair of eyes. Dedicated white bass anglers keep their motors idling and scan the surface with binoculars. As soon as they see the surface start to churn, they throw the motor into full throttle and race just to within casting distance.
If you get too close, you^ll spook the school and force the fish to disperse. With a skillful approach, you can settle in front of the school and let it come to you.
If other boats are present, be especially careful on your approach. Don^t crowd other anglers or do anything to spoil the fishing for them. By taking a little extra time and care, everyone can enjoy the fun.
Once in position, cast into the school and let the lure fall freely. Use your fingers to slow the fall and feel for strikes. The fracas will be short-lived, but you^ll catch fish on almost every cast until it ends.
When the whites sound, start glassing the surface with your binoculars, because they^ll probably pop up again somewhere close by within 15 minutes or so. The hours will pass quickly, and after a full day of sunburn sand bass fishing, you^ll agree that there^s no better way to spend a hot summer day.