The urge to propagate the species sets off ancient migrations directed by prehistoric instinct. Deer rut in the fall, and in the springtime, just prior to breeding season for the wild turkey, white bass (Morone chrysops) swim up rivers and creeks to spawn.

Chaos reigns while a great number of fish are congregated in small areas for spawning, and where this happens there’s sure to be a crowd of anglers beating the water with crankbaits and jigs and even live bait.

In southern highland reservoirs, the white bass spawn begins in late winter and early spring. On Arkansas’ Beaver Lake, for example, male white bass migrate in late February to feeder creeks and up the river tributaries toward spawning areas. Female white bass follow, often stopping short in the deeper water adjacent to spawning areas.

When conditions are favorable, female white bass move in the spawning areas. The reproductive process normally takes place near the surface in windswept spots or in areas with current, where fertilized eggs will settle on rocky substrate. This is usually around the mid to late March, later as you move northward.

How far the process of reproduction has progressed can be determined by examining the fish you’re catching. Males are smaller and possibly milking, while females will be bigger and heavy with roe. During actual spawning, both will be up shallow or near the surface.

Stephen Matt, the public relations director for G3 Boats, starts looking forward to the white bass spawn as soon as deer season ends. For years his main weapon was a jighead dressed with a curly tail grub. It still is, but instead of just one bait he’s now throwing five at a time.  

“A couple years ago I was fishing the White River below Beaver Lake Dam and only catching a few here and a few there,” he said. “I knew the fish were scattered, but there were still lots of them showing up on the sonar unit. In desperation, I rigged up a YUM Flash Mob Jr. with pearl white YUM Walleye Grubs on 1/8-ounce lead jigheads.

“The results were phenomenal.”

Amazingly, Matt figures he wasn’t even catching active, feeding fish. Instead, he was targeting suspended fish over sandy, rocky or pea gravel flats with depths of 7- to 20-feet.

“Anything with a steady decline where schools of white bass can scatter out will have staging fish,” said Matt.

Presentation is the key to catching these uncooperative, roaming white bass. Matt counts down the FMJ to the depth of the fish. Once it’s in the strike zone, he simply slowly reels it back in. He emphasizes reeling extremely slow. The flashing blades and swimming grubs create the look of a small school of baitfish.

“The best thing about the Flash Mob Jr. is that you can give it to novice anglers and kids and they will catch fish…lots of them, really fast,” he said.

Matt often trolls with the electric trolling motor, especially if he has a youngster along. It’s easy for inexperienced anglers to toss the rig out and let the boat do the work. He says the key is keeping the rig just above the white bass while circling or making S-shaped patterns.

For Matt, peak time for catching big numbers of white bass revolves around the water temperatures.

“The best time is after three nights in a row when the air temperature doesn’t drop below 50 degrees,” he said. “That usually happens around here in mid March into April.”

When the whites are running heavy and there’s plenty of cooperative fish around, you may not need the umbrella rig, but when times get tough it definitely makes a difference. If you’re exposing novice anglers or youngsters to fishing, do not leave home without an umbrella (rig).