In my lifetime I’ve been on several thousand fishing trips — today’s trip will stand out among them. This was the single most productive day I’ve ever had on Stillhouse. The white bass aggressively fed from before sunrise and until the winds died at around 3:30pm. I boated exactly 243 fish today. People often e-mail me and ask how I keep track of my fish. I use a manual counting device — each time a fish comes over the side (and no, I don’t count those that jump off or get away) I click the lever and keep up with things that way. Having exact numbers allows me to compare trends from season to season, lake to lake, and year to year.
This manner of heavily congregated white bass schooling was commonplace today. There are about 32 fish shown in this shot in a small area under the boat covered by the sonar. Now, imagine this density of fish spread over 40 to 80 yards of bottom — that’s literally thousands of fish congregated together. This is what we encountered today!!
Here, the white bass were so aggressive, that two of them chased my marker buoy weight 1/2 way up off bottom as I left these fish biting to find additional active fish. As I paused to take this screen shot, the buoy weight, seen as a dark line, is leveled off at 14 feet.
Start Time: 6:45a
End Time: 3:34pm
Air Temp: 63F at trip’s start.
Water Surface Temp: ~64.3 to 64.8F
Wind: Winds were from the SSE today, beginning light, increasing to ~15 by noon to 2p, then tapering to slack by 3:30p.
Skies: Skies were 100% cloudy nearly all day with the exeption of a break in the clouds around noon. Clouds thickened to the point of sprinkling by 4:30p.
Environmental Notes: Spotted a mature bald eagle today; today’s weather was pre-frontal.
I began the day hoping birds would assist me in locating fish. Although I did see 3 gulls patrolling early in the morning, they kept right on going. I went with the old reliable Plan B of searching with sonar, first looking at the high end of the breakline at Area 543. There were fish showing here, and they were suspended just off bottom — a good sign. I positioned over them and in about 80 minutes’ time, boated 13 fish on a combination of slabs and live shad fished via tightline. This included 11 white bass and 2 short largemouth.
I left this area after the action settled, and headed to Area 537 (BA: 13HG/11C) and the vicinity within 80 yards all around it. As I idled around, there were fish everywhere, from top to bottom, and they were in abundance. Long story short, I fished here for 3 hours and for 3 hours straight caught fish via blade bait (cast and jigged), via slab (single and tandem rigged with a Hazy Eye Shad), and (for just 3 or 4 fish) via the Cork Rig on topwater. By far the most productive of these combinations was the TNT 180 (3/8 oz. white) with the Hazy Eye Shad fished above it. When I made an effort to do so, nearly 80% of the hooked fish could be converted into a double during the time I spent in this area. I did notice that many of the doubles I caught were smaller, as they were coming out of suspended schools, versus the larger, but fewer, specimens that came primarily off bottom. By 11am, these fish began to get sluggish (although they never quit) as the sun began to brighten and become visible for the first time all day. I landed exactly 100 fish here (97 white bass, 3 largemouth with one going 3.25 pounds) and then, with the action going soft, headed to do some experimenting.
I found nothing at Area 100.
I headed to the circuit of Area 114, 336, 319 and 343. I attempted flatline trolling here (2 passes) without result. It was now around noon.
I headed to Area 546 (BA: 5HG) which lies in about 27 feet of water. As I idled in, I found solid sonar readings in the lower 1/3 of the water column. I went to work on these fish and found them immediately willing to strike on a single slab, but then got them worked into a frenzy sufficient to allow several fish to be taken on the Hazy Eye tandem. I caught exactly 52 fish here (51 white bass, 1 drum), and these fish were still actively pursuing a smoked slab when I decided to leave them and continue checking areas for the presence of fish. At this point in the day, the wind began to increase and stay at its peak of about 15mph for about 2 hours, all the while with grey clouds continuing to build and humidity increasing — a great scenario. This was all pre-frontal in advance of a mild cold front that would drop rain all day the following day and turn winds northerly.
With 165 fish now boated, I headed to Area 035 for a look — no shad, no stop.
I headed to Area 547 and, at the N. edge of the feature, found fish piled up on the breakline in 30-32 feet of water. I fished this area for 1 hour and 4 minutes, boating 38 fish (37 white bass, 1 largemouth). This water was deeper and clearer and also gave up a better average size fish — about 12.75″ on average, and produced the largest white bass of the trip, one going a shade under 14″. Around 2:40p the wind started to slack off and these fish began to slack off too. Those fish that were suspended just about turned off completely, leaving fish on bottom still striking, but they had to be worked for.
I headed to Area 033 and found shad, but no fish, and decided to try anyway. Zero’ed here.
My last stop came at Area 122. Again this was in 31-32 feet of water, and this time sonar showed fish without shad. I dropped a slab down and on the very first bounce came up with a solid white bass. One small largemouth and 38 more white bass would follow this one until, at about 3:30, the wind stopped completely and the fish quit biting. Not an hour later, we’d receive some drizzle in advance of the approaching cold front, with more rain overnight and then a full day’s rain the following day.
One interesting observation concerning largemouth bass. This fall, my by-catch of largemouth while white bass fishing has been (and was today) much lower than over the last two years. I suspect this is because we do have a good crop of hydrilla beginning to make a comeback. Up until now, with the loss of 100% of our hydrilla to the 2007 flooding, the bass were going to deep water and making use of topographic features there to ambush shad and other prey. Now that their much preferred habitat (aquatic vegetation) is making a comeback, they are inhabiting that instead of these “non-traditional” 20-30 foot depths where the white bass tend to dwell. The largemouth I am catching with the whites are as they have traditionally been — that is, small and pale, indicating they’ve spent a long time in that deep water.
TALLY = 243 FISH, all caught and released