It’s mid-summer and that means that fishing can be good. Some days are better than others and you can catch anything, just like at any other time of year. There are a number of things we can do to increase our catching success at this time of year, but perhaps the most important thing we can do is to be flexible in our goals for the species of fish that we catch. We need to have a target species, a species of fish that we’re going to pursue on our day on the water, but there are times when we need to change our goals. Here’s what I mean.

John Stears holding up up a white bass he caught.

Several years ago my fishing friend Bob Riege and I were chasing walleyes on the lower end of Lake Pepin. Pepin is a wide spot in the Mississippi River near Lake City Minnesota. We were trolling for walleyes. We were using good baits in good walleye water, but the walleyes weren’t as interested in getting caught as we had hoped. I was watching our rods in their rod holders as we trolled. Suddenly Bob said, with some degree of urgency, “Reel the lines in”. I didn’t ask why, I just reeled. Then Bob pointed out a flock of gulls about a half-mile away that were swooping down on the river’s surface. I knew immediately that there was a school of white bass herding shad to the surface. The birds and the bass were eating the shad. We moved quickly in their direction, then put the electric motor down and quietly snuck within casting distance of the schooling bass. We started casting and catching. It didn’t matter what we threw as long as it was about three inches long, about the same size as the shad. We caught lots of white bass, but then they dropped down and moved. The action stopped, and we started trolling for walleyes again but kept a close eye on the birds the rest of the day. Several more times we spotted birds swooping, and several more times we got in on some very fast white bass action.

White bass saved the day for us on a lake in the northeast corner of South Dakota once also. Les Rowland and I were fishing northern pike, and we were catching a few. As we moved along we came upon a culvert that ran under the highway and connected two lakes. There was some decent current coming through the culvert. As we cast our large bucktails for pike, we kept feeling something swipe at them, but missed. We wanted to figure out what they were: Maybe they were small pike, but maybe they were walleyes. We switched to lighter action rods and smaller baits. They were neither pike nor walleyes: They were giant white bass, the big ones with blue tails. They were huge and on medium-action spinning rods, they were great fun to catch.

It’s good to have a plan when you go fishing, but across the Midwest and probably most other places, if you just tie on a jig and tip it with a plastic worm, something like soft plastic ringworm, and just start casting it along the deep weedline and anywhere else that looks fishy, you’re probably going to get bit. Might be a bass, maybe a walleye or northern pike or crappie or perch, or maybe even a white bass. The thing is, you’re increasing your odds of catching a fish, and that means you’re increasing your chance of having a good time, and that’s why we go fishing.

PHOTO CAPTION-John Stears caught this nice white bass while fishing for largemouth bass on the Mississippi River near Wabasha Minnesota. White bass can provide lots of action when other species of fish won’t.

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By Bob Jensen

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