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Like adults, kids like action and white bass aim to please.

Matt Williams photo
Athens Review, Athens, Texas

My daughter was only three-years old when she caught her first fish. It was a hand-size bluegill that inhaled a tiny piece of earthworm that I had threaded on a small hook and helped her cast to the fringes of a shoreline willow on Sam Rayburn Reservoir.

The experience obviously didn't set too well. Taylor was 12 before she reeled in her second fish. But she had a ball doing it.

I know that because I watched her closely as she cast the bait, set the hook and reeled the burly white bass to the side of the boat all on her own. When she squealed for me to remove the fish quickly so she could cast again, I thought for certain she was hooked.

It was neat experience for me, akin to seeing her ride a horse alone and hearing her call me Daddy for very first time. I often pray that Taylor will ask me to take her fishing again someday. If the timing is right, I'll take her to the river.

Rivers across Texas come to life during early spring. Catfish and crappie are good options, but the white bass wins most popularity contests hands down.

Late winter and early spring is when white bass (also called sand bass) stampede into rivers and creeks to partake in the annual spawning ritual.

The fish make huge moves in giant schools that can number well into the thousands. But that is hardly the only reason the white bass run is considered by many to be one of freshwater fishing's greatest shows.

White bass are eager eaters when the dinner bell rings. Get on the right spot and it is possible to sack up a 25-fish limit in as many casts.

Morone chrysops can be caught on assorted lures. But some work better than others. What follows is a synopsis of the most popular white bass baits:

ROADRUNNER

Made by Blakemore, the Roadrunner has a rich history of producing mega bites, especially on Texas river systems. Cast it. Reel it. Hang on. If whites are in the area, you are going to get bit.

DESCRIPTION: The original Roadrunner is designed with a lead head molded around a small hook. The bait comes from the factory with a marabou skirt that pulsates as the lure moves through the water.

Blakemore adds a small spinner off the nose of the head. Shaped like a tear drop, the blade rotates and creates flash and vibration when the bait goes in motion.

Roadrunners are available in a variety of sizes and colors. The best sizes for white bass are 1/8 ounce and 1/4 ounce. Preferred skirt colors are white, chartreuse or yellow. Baits with a red head seem to work best.

ADVANTAGES

• Cost: Roadrunners don't cost much, around $1.29 each. That's a good thing. Most rivers hide countless logs and tons of brush. If you are cast where the fish are at you are likely to hang up and lose plenty of lures.

My suggestion is to buy as many as you can afford. Those that aren't lost on one trip can used on the next.

• Fishability: Anyone who can cast a rod and reel can fish the Roadrunner effectively. Cast it, reel slowly and hang on tight.

DISADVANTAGES

• Open hook: The hook on a Roadrunner is exposed. It has a tendency to stick to wood and other obstructions.

FISHING TIPS

• Retrieve Speed: When the water is cold, white bass are lethargic and tend to hang close to bottom. Often times, the key to drawing strikes in chilly water is to let the Roadrunner sink bottom, then begin an ultra-slow retrieve. Cold water bites can be very light as opposed to the violent strikes that will come once the water warms to the upper 50s.

• Line size: The lightweight lures are naturally easier to cast on small diameter line. The downside to using lines lighter than 12-pound test is tied to durability issues.

Light lines will break easily if the lure gets hung up. Use a line in 14-16 pound test range and you can pull hard enough on a snagged bait to bend the thin hook and work it free before the string breaks.

CRANKBAITS

DESCRIPTION: Crankbaits are designed to simulate a fleeing bait fish. Some are equipped with a thin bill that protrudes at a downward angle off the nose of the bait. Others such as the Rat-L-Trap are lipless.

The length and width of the bill dictates how deep the lure will dive. The longer the bill, the deeper it dives and vice versa. Baits that dive 3-8 feet are usually best for river run white bass.

ADVANTAGES

• Built-in Action: Crankbaits have a built-in action that will sometimes trigger strikes when a Roadrunner fails. Baits with a wide wobble can be very productive when the water is cold.

• More Hooks: Shallow and medium diving cranks are equipped with two sets of treble hooks. The bristling hooks will sometimes catch fish that attempt to short strike or swipe at bait instead of eating it.

• Color Choices: There are hundreds to choose from. Stick with the basics. Reds, browns, chartreuse and shad patterns are hard to beat.

DISADVANTAGES

• Hang Ups: All those hooks naturally increase the chances of snagging on brush and other things you cannot see beneath the surface.

• Cost: The cheapest of crankbaits can easily cost upwards of $4 per pop. Lose a few and you'll be hunting for a Roadrunner.

LIVE BAIT

DESCRIPTION: White bass make their living eating live bait.The most popular among anglers are crawfish and minnows.

ADVANTAGES

• It's Alive: Live bait is natural. It kicks, wiggles, squirms and displaces a scent not found in any artificial lure. Live bait has been known produce when all else fails, but not always.

• Versatility: Live bait can be suspended beneath a cork, fished on bottom with a weight or utilized as a trailer to make a Roadrunner more appealing.

DISADVANTAGES

• Availability: While shiners are available at bait shops everywhere, crawfish are much harder to come buy. There are some commercial growers around, but most anglers choose to seine their own from bar ditches and shallow, still water pools.

• Care: Minnows need to be stored in water to stay alive. A minnow bucket or bait box is necessary to do the deed. Crawfish can live for hours out of water, but still require a bucket or box for storage.

Matt Williams is a free lance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail at mattwilliams@netdot.com.

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