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THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing GuideExpert Articles by John Neporadny Jr. - April 2008

White Bass Runs Are Springtime Barrel of Fun

by John Neporadny Jr.

About the closest you can come to catching fish in a barrel occurs when Lake of the Ozarks white bass make their spawning runs up the creeks and rivers in the spring.

White bass, a member of the sea-bass family, are close relatives of the striped bass. Most of the time, these silver-sided bass prefer deep, still water over sand and gravel bottoms, but when they make their spawning run, they seek out shallow, flowing water. Large schools of white bass concentrate near the mouths of tributary streams during their upstream spawning runs. Greg Stoner, Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) fisheries management biologist, likens white bass to salmon in that both fish migrate up rivers to spawn on clean swept gravel bars rather than build nests. Whites prefer to spawn on the gravel bars where their deposited eggs stick to the rocks. The current keeps the eggs clean and well oxygenated, which causes them to hatch within two days.

The spawning run is mainly influenced by the increasing length of daylight during the spring, says Mike Colvin, a MDC fisheries research biologist who has studied white bass runs on the Niangua and Pomme de Terre rivers since 1991. Other lesser influences affecting the spawning run include water temperature and flow.

White bass usually make their spawning runs at Lake of the Ozarks in early to mid-April through the first to second week of May, according to Greg Stoner, MDC fisheries management biologist and an avid fisherman. The best run occurs on the Big Niangua arm and some limited reproduction takes place on the Little Niangua River and Grand Glaize and Gravois creeks.

The lake level determines where white bass spawn every year. "They tend to go to the first or second riffle above the lake boundary," Stoner says. "If the lake's down real low at that time of the year, they won't go up the river as far as they do when the lake is at normal pool or above."

Stoner's lure selection for spawning whites includes Gay Blades, Roostertails and 2-inch Rapala Floaters. Cut shad also works well. "One thing about the Niangua , the hybrids will also move up in there during the spawning period so you might lose some lures with lighter tackle," Stoner says. To prevent hybrids from running off with this lures, Stoner uses 8- to 10-pound test.

I have also caught spawning white bass in the Lake of the Ozarks creeks throughout the years. My favorite technique combines a 4 1/2-inch Rapala Floater with a 1/16-ounce white or bright pink doll fly. The jig is tied on an 18-inch leader line of 4-pound test and the leader is attached to the back hook of the Rapala. I cast this combination upstream on a gravel bar and let it drift down into the hole below the riffles. As the lure drifts down, I jerk the rod hard to make the Rapala flash and attract the white bass' attention. Most of the time, the whites hit the jig trailer, although I have caught some bigger fish that smashed the Rapala on the surface.

When the white bass make their spawning run at Lake of the Ozarks this spring, you can catch them in a hurry if you find them bunched up in the tributaries. It's the next best thing to fishing in a barrel. For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 152-page vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau web site at funlake.com. Copies of John Neporadny's book, "THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide" are available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the web site www.jnoutdoors.com.

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