How To Catch White Bass
White bass are found in many parts of the country. They are great targets for floatation fishing wherever they live. They are prolific. Where you catch one you can usually expect to catch a lot more.
White bass are small cousins of the striped bass. Unlike stripers, they live only in fresh water and are mostly lake dwellers. However, they do make annual spawning runs up lake tributaries to drop their eggs in flowing water…or along wave washed rocky shorelines. If you can get into the big schools during spawning time you can wear out your rod arm. White bass are aggressive predators and readily smack almost any fly, spinner, spoon, hard bait or jig you offer them. They often take surprisingly large lures being fished for largemouths or other bigger species.
Whities provide great sport for tubers and tooners. They are especially good for newbies and kids. They seem to be always willing to play. When they are thick around the shorelines, or near stream mouths, you can often hook one on every cast. In some cases you need only drop a lure over the side on a short line to get instant action. In some lakes white bass may go deeper when following their forage or when the water is
warmer or colder than their preferred range. When they do you need sonar and good vertical presentation skills. However, if you find them they will take a wide range of jigged lures. Probably the best method of catching white bass, when they suspend deep during the summer, is to fish live minnows under lights after dark. That can be difficult from the confines of a float tube but can be done with a floating crappie light. It is easier from the more spacious topside of a pontoon. You can also rig hanging light brackets from the frame of a toon.
When fishing for white bass it is probably more difficult to find anything they will not hit
than something they will. If you can find them they will usually bite just about anything you offer.
That being said, they can also be frustratingly difficult. There are some days when they
seem to prefer lures of a specific type, size and color…rejecting everything else. And, on some trips,
you will catch far more on a piece of natural bait than any fancy lure you throw at them.
As previously mentioned, there are times of the year when whities school up and feed
recklessly…easy to catch by anybody…on whatever is tossed in front of them. The spring spawn is
the best example of wide open whitie fishing. But, as the waters cool in fall they also tend to school
up more and bite more aggressively. Ditto under the ice.
If you want to be properly prepared to fish for white bass on any given trip, here are some
items to include in your tackle box…and suggestions for how to best fish them.
SPINNERS: White bass have sensitive lateral lines and good vision. They respond to vibrations in
the water and are attracted by color and flash. Spinners will often bring them in from several feet
away, even in muddy water with little visibility.
Small spinners usually work better than large spinners. And lighter lures are better than
heavy ones, especially when casting into shallow water with rocks or brush on the bottom. If you
are retrieving the spinner over a snaggy bottom a heavy bodied spinner will cost you money and
keep you from fishing while you keep tying on new lures.
Plain silver or gold spinners will get the job done. Some say to fish gold in “stained” water
or low light conditions…and silver in clearer water on bright days. White bass don’t seem to care
much. Proper depth and speed are more important. You should also bring spinners with a variety
of colors in them. White, chartreuse, hot pink, black, purple or patterned spinners sometimes work
better than plain metallic ones.
If you want to improve the effectiveness of the spinners, try adding a small piece of worm or
fish flesh to the hook. A piece of white bass meat is about as good as it gets. But, a bit of carp meat,
perch meat or piece of minnow will work equally well. In most cases the worm is all you need.
When fishing spinners in shallow water, over rocks, you should begin reeling as soon as your
spinner splashes down, to avoid snags. But, when the whities are suspended in deeper water, over a
clean bottom, it is often a good tactic to let the spinner settle to the bottom and then reel it up
through the water column. Experiment with speed and occasionally stop the retrieve and let the
lure drop back to the bottom before resuming.
SPOONS: Small spoons can be as effective as spinners for white bass. They tend to work better in
clearer water, or when vertically jigged in deeper water…especially under the ice. When fishing
from a tube, toon or boat, you can work small spoons vertically with a piece of “sweetener”…inside
the harbors or over deeper spots in the main lake. Wherever you have access to docks inside the
harbors, jigging a small spoon next to the structure can put some whities in the cooler.
There are several types of small spoons that are very light, and mostly designed for trolling
for trout. These light spoons are ideal for fishing for whities in shallower water. You can cast them
a suitable distance with light spinning rods, and they are active even when retrieved slowly. Since
they are light, they tend to stay above the snags fairly well.
Of all the spoons on the market, the plain old standby Kastmaster is probably one of the best
to keep in your white bass arsenal. It works well when cast and retrieved through active fish, and it
can’t be beat for vertical jigging in deeper water or under the ice. The 1/8 oz models are often the
best, but at times you can do well with 1⁄4 or 3/8 oz. sizes…in silver, silver/blue and gold.
“BLADE BAITS”: Although these are technically “spoons”, their unique design and action earns
them a separate mention. These are lures with weighted metal blades. They may be fished by
casting and retrieving, trolling or vertical jigging. They are popular on Utah Lake for white bass,
especially for ice fishing. You work these lures more aggressively than small jigs and when the
whities are active they really smack them. Those who use blades are often able to draw in fish from
a distance by vigorously working them up and down…creating vibration and flash.
TUBE JIGS: Small tube jigs…1 1⁄2” to 2”…are some of the best things to have in your white bass
tackle assortment. You can cast and retrieve them, vertical jig them or hang them under a
bobber…with or without worm or fish flesh. They are also suitable for prospecting for white bass
by drifting or even trolling.
Carry a wide assortment of colors. Good single colors include plain white, chartreuse, black,
yellow, orange, pink and purple. Almost any combination of two or more colors can
work…especially good contrasting colors during murky water conditions. Some of the more
effective combos are “fire tiger”, black/white, black/chartreuse, red/chartreuse, red/white,
orange/chartreuse and purple/chartreuse.
If you are making short casts in very shallow water it is better to fish with a single tube jig
on a very light head…1/16 or 1/32 oz….and to keep the rod tip up and fish slowly, with little jerks.
In deeper water you will sometimes do better by rigging “tandem”…two jigs…with one on a six
inch dropper about 18 inches to 2 feet above the bottom one. You will not want to rig tandem when
fishing water that has a shallow rocky bottom or a lot of brushy snags.
PLASTIC GRUBS & TWISTERS: You can say pretty much all the same stuff about these lures as
you can for the tube jigs. The main difference is that when using “active tail” lures there will be a
lot more action and vibration on your lure during a slow steady retrieve. This can attract more fish
and trigger more strikes…especially in murky water or low light conditions.
While most anglers who specifically target white bass stick with smaller plastics, some like to
throw 3” or larger twisters for them. The rationale is that it reduces the number of dink whities to
reel in and remove from your line, increases the average size of your catch and offers a better shot
at attracting the occasional walleye. Unfortunately, walleye chasers are often plagued by overeager
whities that won’t leave their larger plastics alone. Going bigger is no guarantee of bigger whities.
FUR & FEATHER JIGS: Not many anglers use hair jigs these days. Plastic is far more popular
and is available in a wider range of shapes, sizes and colors. On the other hand, there are still
plenty of serious white bass fans who prefer marabou (feather) jigs under some conditions…if not
all year round. Marabou feathers are well known for their “breathing” qualities in the water.
Whenever you need a slow retrieve or slow jigging action the marabou will provide a lot more
natural action than even the softest plastic. These jigs are especially effective when fished below a
bobber. The slightest twitch on the rod or the merest ripple on the water keeps the feathers moving
“HARDBAITS”: This is a generic term for a wide range of wood or plastic lures…including
crankbaits, divers, poppers, jerk baits, etc. Modern technology and manufacturing advances have
seen a proliferation of thousands of different sizes, shapes and colors which can be used for just
about every species…fresh water or salt water.
The best hardbaits for white bass on Utah Lake are usually less than 3 or 4 inches long,
although they will attack larger lures being fished for larger species. Shallow running crankbaits
like Rapalas or similar are popular choices, especially for fishing shallow rocky water. Use deeper
diving lures only when fishing over deeper water with a clean bottom.
“Lipless cranks”, like the RatLTrap or Shad Rap, are also popular and effective. They work
for all species in Utah Lake. Best colors are usually chrome or white, with a dark back…blue, grey
or black. These represent the fry of white bass, crappies or other pale colored small fishies. Since
young carp are also on the whities’ menu, lures with gold hues can also be effective. But, don’t
forget chartreuse, fire tiger or other hot colors in your tackle box.
Most whitie chasers who fish hardbaits present them by just casting and retrieving. This
provides the greatest control in fishing specific spots and in varying speed and depth of retrieve.
However, a good crankbait with a good wiggle is also a good choice for dragging behind a boat if
you favor trolling. You can also fish them like a jig…lifting and dropping on the retrieve.
When white bass are driving fry to the surface or ambushing them around the edges of
vegetation, you can have some great fun by tossing poppers. If the whities are aggressively
smacking little fishies on the surface they may whack a popper as soon as it hits the water.
Otherwise, simply give it a twitch periodically or retrieve it with a steady pop – stop – pop retrieve.
And don’t be surprised if you have a big ol’ largemouth blow up on your popper.
FLIES: White bass are omnivorous. They eat just about anything that does not eat them first.
Although larger whities prefer meat…minnows and fry of their own and other species…they will
slurp up all kinds of insects and other invertebrates when they are hungry. That means that they
will take a wide variety of flies.
Small streamers or “buggers” are popular with those who fling flies for white bass. In the
right size, color and presentation they do a good job of representing minnows, leeches, small
crawdads or aquatic insects. But, when the whities are feeding heavily on the abundant
midges…larvae or adults…you can score a lot of fish by fishing chironomids or small peacock
nymphs. In fact, the old “hare’s ear” pattern is a great fly for whities…either by itself or as a
dropper in combination with a larger and brighter pattern.
You should always carry some of those bright patterns…in hot colors with active
feathers…like marabou or hackle feather wings or tails. There will be times when you hook two
whities every cast when using a tandem fly rig. This can be especially effective when they are
cruising shallow water in the spring. And don’t forget flyrod size poppers for the fry-feeding
frenzies of late summer around the reed beds.
You can have a lot of fun with whities on your trout-sized 3 weight outfit. But, you will be
able to cast larger flies and better handle the occasional walleye or other larger fish if you use at
least a 5 or 6 weight rod.
Since most fly rod fishing for white bass will be in fairly shallow water you can usually get
by with a floating line or a sink tip. No need for heavy full sinking lines. You will also not need
long tapered leaders with fine tippets. A few feet of six pound level leader will usually do the job.
BAITS: As previously suggested, there is little that white bass will not eat. Almost any bait you
offer…either by itself or as “sweetener” on a lure…will get an enthusiastic acceptance by the
typical white bass.
Perhaps the most universally used bait for white bass is the plain old nightcrawler. Whities
love them. And, you do not have to use a whole worm. A small piece on a plain hook or tipping a
jig is usually enough to get them to bite. However, they will gladly accept a whole worm…as
frustrated catfish and walleye anglers will attest. A school of worm-munching white bass can
quickly decimate your full day’s bait supply and they usually get to it before the larger targeted
species can find it. The only consolation is that you can also cut up the white bass to use for bait
and catfish and walleyes love white bass meat. Of course, so do the other whities so it is only a
partial solution. You still have to find an area with the larger species that is not overrun by hungry
Whities also slurp up pieces of carp meat or whole minnows being fished for other species.
If you wish to target white bass with these baits, just scale down the size of your offerings. Small
two inch minnows are just right for white bass, and will still attract larger fish of other species.
Ditto for small pieces of carp meat. In fact, some very large catfish are taken on thumbnail sized
pieces of fish flesh being soaked for white bass.
Rounding out the suggested list of baits for white bass would be leeches, grasshoppers and
other insects. Wax worms and meal worms are prime baits for tipping jigs during ice fishing trips
and also work for whities during cold water transition periods in open water when the fish are slow
but still receptive. Some of the “synthetic” baits (Gulp) also work very well but they are more
expensive and not necessary if you have plain old worms.
RIGGING & TECHNIQUES
Because white bass are abundant, eat almost anything and are not bashful about hitting
artificial lures you don’t have to spend a lot of money on fancy tackle and you don’t have to learn a
lot of exotic rigs. When the whities are “in” and aggressive, a lot of them are harvested by folks
who use simple hand lines and a hook baited with a piece of worm. Plenty are caught by kids with
Barbie outfits or cheapo tackle from Wal-Mart…or good ol’ boys with rods and reels bought in
pawn shops or yard sales. Whities ain’t too proud.
If you go armed with several rod and reel outfits try to include at least one light or ultra-
light spinning rig if you plan to fish for white bass. You will be throwing small lures and baits and
the average white bass does not require heavy tackle to subdue it. A good quality light action rod
with sensitive tip will not only allow you more sport on small fish but will also help you to cast and
retrieve small lures more effectively and with greater “touch”.
You can catch white bass on heavy gear being fished for catfish. And you will pick them up
on large lures being worked for largemouth or walleyes. But, presenting small spinners or jigs with
a light action rod is so much more fun it should be illegal…but isn’t.
HIGH-LOW RIG: This could also be called a “drop shot” setup. It consists of a sinker on the end
of the line, with two dropper hooks or jigs tied above the sinker. The first might be only a foot or so
off the bottom. The second can be as high up as you want. Another 18” to 2 feet is generally about
right. A lot of anglers who use this rig also use it for catfish and walleyes. And, it is not unusual to
catch several species in a day using this rig and a variety of baits. Favorite baits are worms,
minnows (whole or pieces) and pieces of carp or white bass.
You can fish this rig by making short casts and then propping the rod up high, and reeling in
the slack line to keep the line tight to the sinker…with the baits up off the bottom at different
depths. You can also cast and retrieve this rig or even drag it behind a boat, tube or toon. Use good
sharp hooks and set the hook when the fish takes the bait. With the weight on the end of the line
you can’t let the fish run with it without feeling drag and dropping the bait.
TANDEM JIG RIG: This a high low rig for artificials. You can use your choice of feather jigs or
plastic tubes or twisters. Mix or match sizes and colors to offer the fish a choice. Sometimes they
will exhibit a preference for one or another. Other times you will get doubles on white bass by
fishing a tandem jig regardless of size or color.
One of the best ways to rig a tandem jig setup is to use a blood knot dropper. Tie a blood
knot while adding a 3 foot length of leader to your line. Leave the line end from the rod about a
foot long and clip off the tag end of the other piece. Now tie a jig on the dropper and one on the end
of the line. You should leave about a six to eight inch dropper, after the knots are tied and
trimmed. And, the bottom line, below the dropper, should be about 18” to 24”.
If you have trouble tying the blood knot you can use a small swivel or split ring instead. Tie
those directly to your main line and then tie in droppers of the desired length from a spare leader
spool. That helps keep your reel spool from being used up too quickly by making rigs.
A tandem rig is ideal for prospecting and looking for white bass. But, unless you like to
spend a lot of money on tackle don’t use it in shallow rocky or weedy water. It is much better over
clean bottom when you can make long casts and retrieves without worrying about snags.
HOOK LINE & SINKER: All you need to present bait to white bass is a hook on the end of your
line. That line can be anything from a hand line to expensive fluorocarbon. The hook can be
anything from a small salmon egg hook to a large circle hook being used for catfish. And, since
Utah Lake is not deep…and you usually don’t have to cast very far…you generally don’t even need
a sinker. But, if you want a sinker you can use anything from a split shot to more exotic sliding
sinker rigs. They all work.
“CORKY RIG”: This rig is usually fished for walleyes but white bass like it too…especially when
they are cruising a bit off the bottom and you need to float the bait up to them. They don’t always
forage on the bottom. The basic concept is to run your line through a small slip sinker and then tie
it to a swivel. From the swivel you run a leader…from 10” to 3’ or so…the distance you want the
bait to float off the bottom without using a bobber. Then, between the swivel and the hook you add
a floating “Corky”…a colorful float originally designed for fishing for steelhead and salmon. They
even come in glow. They not only float the bait but attract fish with their colors as well.
BOTTOM FISHING: White bass are known for suspending above the bottom and hunting for
small minnows and fry. But they also forage on the bottom when there are no small fish available
for them to slaughter. They eat all kinds of aquatic insects, snails, leeches, crawdads or anything
else that will fit in their mouths and fill their bottomless stomachs. That’s why just soaking a
worm, minnow or piece of fish flesh on the bottom catches a lot of whities. It works. If the fish are
not feeding on the bottom rig up a Corky rig or use a bobber. If you have a two pole permit you
can rig one rod for bottom fishing and the other to suspend the bait above bottom.
BOBBER FISHING: Bajillions of white bass are caught out of Utah Lake every year by anglers
soaking a jig, worm, minnow or other offering below a bobber. White bass often cruise around
somewhere above the bottom and below the surface. If you can find the “zone” just adjust your
bobber to hang your lure or bait at that level or slightly above it. Like most species white bass will
rise up a bit to hit something but are not as likely to move down to take something below
them…unless they are actually foraging near the bottom.
Using a bobber and fishing next to reeds or structure is one of the most effective methods of
prospecting for white bass during much of the year. Only when they are chillin’ near the bottom in
the colder water months will you do better with deeper presentations.
When fishing inside the harbors you may find white bass on or near the bottom in the
deepest areas. If you want to fish them with a bobber you will have to learn how to rig up a “slip
bobber”. This allows you to cast and reel in the bobber and jig/bait easily. But the rig will sink all
the way down by slipping through the bobber to a preset “stop” on the line to set the depth. This
can be a great way to make vertical presentations to deep fish when you are stuck on the bank and
cannot fish from a boat, tube or toon.
DRIFTING: White bass are roamers. They constantly move around to find food and the right
water conditions. You may not always find them where you expect to. If you don’t know where to
look try drifting or trolling. Drifting in a boat, tube or toon is an effective prospecting technique, as
long as there is not a strong breeze that might move you too fast. Then you will be trolling.
You can drift with just about any type of bait, lure or rigging. If the bottom is clean…with
few snags…you can drag bottom with a baited hook. This might also bring a cat or walleye. The
high low rig can also be effective…with two baited hooks over a sinker. Hold the rod or prop it up
solidly. If something bigger than a white bass slams your bait you might lose a rod.
Drifting with a tandem jig rig or even flies may work well also. Keep changing sizes and
colors and the depth at which you are presenting them. Sooner or later you will find a productive
area and then you can anchor and cast to load up the cooler.
TROLLING: If there is no breeze for drifting or if you wish to cover more water more quickly
then put out some lines and troll until you find the fish. Some anglers simply prefer to troll rather
than casting. As long as it works, and you can afford the gas…or have a good battery for your
electric motor…just keep on keepin’ on.
Utah Lake is shallow so there is no need for long lines or downriggers. But, if you are
serious and want to avoid spooking fish with your motor you might consider using planer boards.
Walleye trollers do much better with them and you will too even if you are only fishing for whities.
You can use just about any kind of action lures for trolling. Plastic tubes or twisters…rigged
single or tandem…are great for trolling up some white bass. Spinners work great as do small
shallow running crankbaits in assorted colors.
If you have a sinking line on your flyrod, you can even slow-troll flies for white bass. Just let
out enough line to get the flies down to at least mid-depth and then maintain a slow steady speed.
helps to pump the rod a bit once in a while to provide additional action on the flies.
Although white bass are considered a “warm water species” they tolerate the cold winters of
Utah Lake quite well and remain active all year. In fact, they are a popular target with ice
fishermen whenever the lake freezes over. And, even when the whole lake does not freeze up most
harbors get enough ice to support anglers and to draw white bass in from the open lake.
Some of the best ice fishing for white bass is inside the harbors right after ice first forms.
Look for them in Provo, Lindon and American Fork Boat Harbors on the east and north side of the
lake. Saratoga Springs Marina, on the west side, is a newer harbor but has been good for ice
fishing. You can also hit the private harbor at Saratoga Springs, if you live there or have
You can sometimes find winter whities up inside the boat channel at Lincoln Beach, as well
as over the rocks and holes off Lincoln Point. Perhaps one of the most popular spots for icing white
bass is around the “pump house” at the mouth of the Jordan River where it leaves Utah Lake.
There is good depth in front of the gates on the old Jordan River channel. This attracts large
numbers of white bass, crappies, bluegill, perch, largemouths and even walleyes and catfish.
There are a few places around Utah Lake where warm water springs raise the water
temperature a few degrees. In years past some of these springs flowed more heavily and were
warmer than they are at present. Agricultural and domestic water “mining” has drawn down the
water tables and reduced the flows to the point that they are no longer able to warm the water and
attract fish as in former times. The main exception is around the Saratoga Springs area. There are
still some warm springs there that create great winter fishing for several species.
The main key to catching white bass in the winter, under the ice, is to find them. They are
not a territorial species and roam constantly in their never-ending search for food. That’s why the
best ice fishing is early in the season, when only the protected harbors are frozen. White bass come
inside, under the ice…both for protection and because the water clears when there are no wind
driven waves to keep it stirred up. They find easier foraging.
If it gets cold enough to cap the main lake, white bass will leave the harbors and scatter
around the whole lake. That makes them more difficult to find. However, there will usually be a
few that remain “inside”, providing action for the iceaholics. But, if there is too much noise and
activity on the ice the fish will either shut down or move out into the lake.
One of the best places to look for white bass under the ice is near docks or other structure.
Drill a series of holes and go from hole to hole until you find fish. You can sometimes find a school
that stays put all day, but they often roam around and you have to keep moving to find them.
If the harbor has an uneven bottom, with deeper spots, you may do better by looking in the
open areas for those fish-holding places away from the docks. Sometimes the mouth of the channel
to the harbor can be good, for fish that move in and out of the harbors. Strangely, it can also be
good to drill and fish right over the end of the concrete boat ramps. That hard bottom often
attracts fish of several species.
The winter patterns and ice fishing are usually about over by the first of March in most
years. But, it is still early for the white bass to be getting ready to spawn. They can be found most
easily by looking for flowing water coming into the lake, especially if it is a couple of degrees
warmer than ice-out lake temperatures. Warm springs are the best bet. In the “olden days”, when
Geneva Steel was pouring large volumes of warm water into the lake, at the “bubble up”, white
bass would school by the thousands and wading anglers would harvest grundles of them. No more.
White bass prefer to spawn in flowing water and they usually start schooling around the
lake’s inlet stream mouths by mid April of most years. Spawning typically takes place sometime in
May, depending on water flows and water temperatures. In a poor water runoff year spawning
may be poor too. But it only takes one good spawning year in several poor ones to keep Utah Lake
full of the prolific whities.
Anybody who can’t catch white bass when they school up to spawn probably can’t catch
anything anywhere. Unlike walleyes, which don’t feed during their spring fling, white bass seem to
hit almost anything of any size or color. Goof-proof fishing at its finest.
Again, the key to catching the frenzied whities is to find them. Once the tributary closures
are lifted by the first of May (to protect spawning walleyes), you can usually find white bass well up
into the Provo River, Spanish Fork River and other flowing tributaries. They will also be plentiful
at the mouths of these streams…before, during and after the main spawn.
The mouth of Hobble Creek (Camelot) is a popular spring white bass spot. So are the
mouths of Benjamin Slough (Beer Creek) near Lincoln Beach and Battle Creek, just north of
Lindon Boat Harbor. Less accessible to bank tanglers but great for boaters is the outlet of the
waste water treatment facility, between Lindon and American Fork Boat Harbors. And, for a full
contact white bass fishing experience, join the shoulder to shoulder lineup at the mouth of the
American Fork River, just west of the harbor.
Another spot popular for spawning white bass is below the water control gates at the outlet
channel near the pump house at the mouth of the Jordan River. At the far south end of the
park…on the west side of the channel…there is a narrow bridge and some control gates. When one
or two of these gates are open, and water is flowing, the white bass mass in the turbulent water
during the spawn. Thousands are caught during a typical day. Bring your own rock to stand on.
But when all three gates are open the fishing is usually poor. The flow is too strong for the fish.
You can also find large schools of white bass spawning along rocky shorelines in several
spots around the lake. Bird Island is rocky and washed with windblown waves, making it an
acceptable whitie “dating” venue. Ditto for the rocky areas off Lincoln Beach and further around
the lake toward Goshen Bay. Directly across the lake from Lincoln Beach is the Knolls. Much of
the shoreline between the Knolls and Pelican Point has rocky and brushy areas that attract hordes
of white bass during the spring fling.
Whenever you find white bass spawning near shore, they will likely be in fairly shallow
water. It is not uncommon to catch them two at a time on a tandem rig by casting into water less
than 3 feet deep…or even shallower. Small spinners are especially effective under these conditions.
Once the white bass frivolity is over, the fish scatter and become more difficult to find for a
time. The mouths of streams are still usually good bets as are the edges of reed beds and along the
rocks of manmade dikes and channels. Otherwise you must search large areas to find fish and the
schools seldom stay in one place very long. Trolling and drifting are good prospecting tactics. Once
you find fish, toss out a marker buoy or anchor and keep casting until the fish move out.
Just about all species of fish in Utah Lake spawn in spring and early summer. By June, the
young fry of all species are forming big schools in the shallows and among the protective reeds,
rocks and brush along the shorelines…all around the lake. In some popular “nursery” areas, white
bass and other predators forage among the protective structure and can be taken in pretty shallow
water. It is often necessary to rig weedless jigs to safely fish the cover. Fishing jigs or baits under a
bobber next to the snaggy stuff is also effective. And, you have a shot at catching a big ol’ kitty as
well as white bass, bluegill, crappies, largemouth bass, walleyes or bullhead cats.
The mouths of inlet streams provide a continuous source of food and fresh water for the
white bass and other predators. Newly hatched fry and various invertebrates are washed down to
the bigger fish on a steady conveyor belt of groceries. And, as the lake water warms, the tributary
streams provide cooler water temperatures for sensitive species.
White bass feed actively and aggressively all summer…day and night. Whenever and
wherever you find them you can usually catch them. They hit all kinds of lures…spinners, jigs,
crankbaits, etc. They also take almost any kind of bait…crawlers, carp meat, minnows and
especially pieces cut from other white bass. They are cannibalistic…actively feeding on their own
young each year until they grow too large. And, they are a nuisance to those who are fishing baits
for larger species like catfish or walleyes. Even if they can’t get a large bait into their mouths they
will pick it up and swim around with it, and eventually mangle it or strip it off the hook.
By late summer the young-of-the-year white bass have grown to 3 – 4 inches and are preyed
upon by the larger white bass, as well as other predators. These smaller whities seek shelter in the
flooded reeds and shoreline brush, and back in the shallow areas of harbors. If you can find
concentrations of the baby fish you can usually find larger white bass and other predators hanging
around the buffet line.
After Labor Day, white bass start looking for flowing water again. Lots of them run a ways
up into tributary streams or congregate around the inlet areas. The lower Provo River and the
rocks along the harbor dikes attract lots of whities…and lots of anglers. When the fish come in
thick the fishing can be almost as good as during the spring fling. The mouth of the Spanish Fork
River is also a good early fall whitie hangout…and their presence brings in the walleyes.
Just as in the spring, fall often finds a lot of white bass schooling along natural rock
shorelines. The Knolls is such a spot, and the rocky ledges off the point at Lincoln Beach produce
bunches of fall whities. In fact, they become real pests when they smack the plastics and hardbaits
being fished for fall feeding walleyes. The manmade rocky structures of harbor dikes can be great
fall fishing for white bass also…especially around the points at the mouths of boat channels.
almost as if they were already frozen. Casting or vertical jigging from a boat or float tube, over
bottom hugging fish, can load you up with all the fish you care to fillet.
In the cold weeks before ice up, whities will sometimes school up inside harbors,
almost as if they were already frozen. Casting or vertical jigging from a boat or float tube, over
bottom hugging fish, can load you up with all the fish you care to fillet.
If you are not afloat, just walk out on the docks (where legal) and jig around the pilings.
You might also try using a slip bobber to put your jig or bait just above the bottom. Of course,
once the early ice thickens up you can just simply walk out and drill a hole.
At other times you will find the fish shallower…especially late in the afternoon on a warm
fall day. A bit of extra warmth in the shallows…and over concrete launch ramps…often draws in
the small fry. They draw in the predators who don’t mind sharing the warmth with the little ones.
White bass have been in Utah Lake since 1956, about 4 years after the introduction of
walleyes. They adapted well and have maintained a high population most years since…providing
food for the predators and sport for anglers. They are so prolific that there has never been a limit
established on them and even with heavy angling pressure and a high harvest rate they maintain
good populations in most years. The exceptions are when there are extreme low water conditions
and low flows in the tributaries. Then there is a low success rate for spawning and numbers
decline. Fortunately, one good year can replenish the lake after several successive poor spawns.
Whities grow fast but seldom exceed 15 inches in Utah Lake. In most years the average size
is less than 12 inches. Their lifespan is usually no more than 5 or 6 years. They typically spawn in
May. By late summer the young have reached 3 – 4 inches in size…perfect fodder for big walleyes
and cats. Larger white bass also feed heavily on the smaller ones until they get too large to ingest.
White bass comprise the second largest biomass in Utah Lake…next to carp. They can be
found almost anywhere around the lake, from shallow to deep, and can be caught on almost any
bait or lure you offer them. And because there is no limit on them whities are extremely popular
with families and with “happy harvesters” who like to load up on good eating fish.
It would seem that white bass are a perfect species: abundant, easy to catch and good on the
table. They are all that. However, they can be difficult to find and catch at times. Knowing the
lake and the habits of the whities can greatly increase your odds of success on any given trip.
The following pages contain random photos of white bass, to help illustrate points made in
the preceding text and/or to show some of the various lures and colors that work to catch whities.
In conclusion, white bass are a great resource to Utahans. They are plentiful, they grow
quickly, they are fun and easy to catch and they are great eating. If you want a lot of fish for the
kids…or for the table…white bass are your best bet. Not many times or places where you won’t
find a few silly whities willing to play with you and follow you home to dinner.
Utah Lake gets a bad rap about pollution and many people are hesitant to eat ANY fish from
Utah Lake. True, it has had a bad history, especially during the time of Geneva Steel. But, this
shallow lake flushes itself pretty thoroughly every year and the water is cleaner than many other
“pristine” trout lakes in the state.
Tests during recent years have shown that carp and larger catfish CAN accumulate
undesirable levels of PCBs in their flesh. They are longer-lived than white bass. Tests on white
bass have shown very low levels of any substance that could be deemed harmful for human
consumption. They are much safer to eat than bass or brown trout from Jordanelle.
There have never been limits on white bass and there probably never will be…as long as the
federal government is working to reestablish the June sucker. Whities are notorious minnow
munchers and they do not discriminate between June suckers, baby white bass, small carp or
panfish fry. If it has fins and is small enough to swallow, it is going to get slurped up by white bass.
Walleyes probably take a greater toll on June sucker fry, and even some that grow several inches
larger. But, there are exponentially more white bass than walleyes and it is almost pointless to try
to manage a species with that kind of population potential. No limits. No problem.
On the previous page I have included a map of Utah Lake. Use it as a reference for the
venues mentioned as prime white bass spots. Let’s do a systematic tour around the lake and point
out some of the best options. As has been mentioned, you can find white bass almost anywhere on
the lake at any given time…at any depth. But, there are some places that are traditionally better at
specific times or under specific conditions.
PROVO BOAT HARBOR:
Let’s arbitrarily start here and move clockwise around the lake. Fishing inside the busy
harbor is not allowed during peak boating months but it can be great early and late in the year
when there is little or no boat traffic and fishing is permitted. You can fish off the outside rocks of
the dikes year round, and white bass seem to really like cruising next to these rocks. Jigs and
spinners are prime lures. Those who fish worms, meat or minnows under bobbers also do well.
This harbor is a fairly large harbor with a long west rock dike for protection. It typically
provides some of the earliest, longest and best ice fishing for white bass and other species. There
are several sets of docks for cover and structure…and angler access. But many of the docks are off
limits to public access so you have to wait for the harbor to freeze before fishing them.
PROVO RIVER INLET:
There are sometimes a few white bass in the lower Provo River in late winter, before ice out
and before the annual spawning run. They may be inactive and seemingly dormant, holding quietly
just above the bottom, in quiet holes. But these pokey whities will hit small jigs or a piece of worm.
As previously mentioned, white bass run up the river in May to spawn. This is after the
walleye have spawned and the closure is removed, so you can fish for white bass all up and down
the river. Some years they go further up river and/or stay longer than others.
Some white bass hang around in the lower end of the river and near the river mouth most of
the year. But during late summer they really school up in numbers. Bank fishing from riverside
spots along the rocks of the State Park can produce fishing almost equal to the fast action of the
spawn. Anglers in small boats, float tubes or pontoons can reach the schools better and often
harvest large numbers of late summer whities. It can get crowded and competitive out there.
AIRPORT DIKE ROAD:
There is a road that runs parallel to the Utah Lake shoreline, south of the Provo River
mouth to Provo Bay. It goes between the lake and the Provo airport on a raised dike. There are
not many spots where you can park and fish in the gaps in the reeds…or launch a float tube or light
boat. But there are lots of white bass here at times depending upon water levels and access.
PROVO BAY (MUD LAKE):
This is a big shallow bay during high water years…and dry ground planted in corn during
low water years. It is brushy and fertile and a great spawning and nursery area for all species.
White bass love it for foraging on the abundant fry of their own and other species. At times during
the summer high water periods you can see “boils” where whities have corralled schools of small
fish and are blasting them on the surface.
Boaters usually access this area after launching from Provo Harbor, to the north. Bank
tanglers, tubers, tooners and cartop boaters access it by driving the rutted road that goes north
from the first Springville offramp. There are a couple of canals that empty in to the bay, creating
additional attraction for white bass and other species.
HOBBLE CREEK INLET:
This area is also referred to as “Camelot” by the regulars. It’s at the SE corner of Utah
Lake has all of the things that attract white bass during different times of the year. It has both reed
growth and fresh water flow…for spawning, feeding, etc. It is also a “combat fishing” zone when
the fish are in and the fishermen are after them. It is reached from the first Springville offramp.
SPANISH FORK RIVER INLET:
This is a spot where you almost have to know it’s there to find it. It is not on a well travelled
highway and requires some driving on back roads to get there. Nevertheless, it is well known and
heavily fished by the “regulars” of Utah County. And, when the white bass or walleyes are in it will
be shoulder to shoulder with wading anglers throwing plastics, spinners or baits.
The heaviest action takes place in the early spring, during the walleye run and again when
the white bass head upstream for their spawning ritual. But, it can also be popular in the late
summer when the whities move back in close for the cooler inflows from the river. They sometimes
migrate quite a ways upstream, through the farmland flow, and can be caught a long ways from the
lake. Of course there are grundles of other whities that just mill around the area, feeding on fry
and on assorted invertebrates. Walleyes tag along and feed on the whities. Anglers in the know
pick off the occasional toothy critters that are there to eat the smaller stuff.
You can access the mouth of the Spanish Fork River by taking the 277 turnoff from the I-15
freeway…the second Springville Turnoff. Follow Hwy 77 west through a couple of turns until you
go up over the bridge on the Spanish Fork River. Turn around, come back and turn north onto
River Road. Continue through some farms and on a dirt road until it ends at the lake.
Also known as Beer Creek, this small muddy stream runs through a large area of the farm
valley and empties into Utah Lake a few hundred yards SE of the end of the Lincoln Beach boat
channel. The mouth is difficult to see from the open lake, since it flows through a lot of reeds and
brush. But, if you can work your way into it by boat or float tube you can sometimes experience
unbelievable white bass action…even in fairly shallow water.
Like most Utah Lake tributaries, this stream is closed to fishing until the first of May to
protect spawning walleyes. After that you can stop at the bridge on the way to Lincoln Beach and
fish both upstream and downstream for sometimes abundant white bass in deeper pockets along the
stream. There are lots of stories told by local farmers of great catches of big whities taken far
upstream during years of high water flows.
LINCOLN BEACH :
This area has long been synonymous with white bass…huge catches of white bass. In the
past there were several full flowing warm springs around Lincoln Point that attracted vast swarms
of whities and other species. In recent years, the flows have subsided due to lowered water tables.
They still spill a bit of water but not as much and not significantly warmer than the ambient
temperature of the lake water. Still, the whities love the rocks and reeds and there is a lot of
breeding and feeding at Lincoln Beach.
The ends of the two dikes of the boat channel attract multitudes of white bass…and white
bass anglers. At times there are buckets and coolers of whities extracted from this area by
shorebound fishermen. Ditto for the shallow bay directly south of the boat channel and shallow
beach. Some warmer flows trickle in there and there is a lot of natural food for the white bass. At
times you can catch a fish per cast in less than 2 feet of water. It is a great spot to fish at ice out
since it warms faster and draws in the fish.
White bass hang around over the flats and up into the shallow reedy waters along the south
shore for much of the year. It is a major nursery area for the young of several species and a good
place for whities to chow down. At times you can catch white bass from a foot deep out to 8 feet
deep…and at all levels in the water column. It is a good place to troll since the bottom is fairly
clean and the fish are sometimes scattered.
In late fall it can be good fishing inside the boat channel, right up at the west end near the
docks and ramp. Cast small jigs or fish them below a bobber, with a piece of crawler or
mealworms. Not only white bass, but crappies, bluegill and even walleye wander up into the
protected end of the boat facilities. As previously mentioned, it can also be great fishing over the
rocky shelves all around Lincoln Point. Whities love structure.
This low island out in the lower middle of Utah Lake is a magnet for all species, especially
during spawning times. The shallow rocky hump provides good structure and wave splashed
shorelines for fish like walleye and white bass that prefer to spawn in agitated water. And the
catfish love all the nooks and crannies in the rocks for setting up housekeeping when it is their turn
to spawn. Bird Island is a popular spot for boating anglers just about year round because there are
almost always fish hanging around it. If you fish it for the first time, try to go with someone who
knows the underwater contours. Even with good sonar you can come up on prop-eating rocky
shelves fast. And, Bird Island is a great spot for winter ice fishing…when the ice gets thick enough.
Just be sure you have a wheeler or snowmobile for the long trek.
If you continue a few miles beyond Lincoln Beach, on Lincoln Beach Road…that skirts the
lake…you will see lots of NO TRESPASSING signs. About the time they run out, you will start
noticing turnouts and rocky rubble shoreline and brush. This area closely resembles the whitie-
friendly areas across the lake, at the Knolls. When white bass are spawning…or feeding in
close…this whole stretch of shoreline has good potential. It can be especially good in the gaps
between offshore reed stands. Cast jigs, spinners or a jig or worm under a bobber.
As mentioned elsewhere, this spot along the northern edge of the westernmost arm of Utah
Lake is popular with white bass. Much of the shoreline is edged with gravel, larger rocks and/or
brush and reeds. Good habitat for spawning and feeding. It can be great for shallow fishing for
whities during the spring fling. Lots of folks drive down, park at the water’s edge and proceed to
fill buckets with white bass without having to cast far from shore.
The Knolls is another spot off the beaten path but worth the effort to get there. It is reached
by taking the turnoff from Hwy. 68 (Redwood Rd.) at Mile Marker 19…a few miles west of Pelican
Point. Drive south on the deeply rutted road to the network of dirt roads along the edge of the lake.
Find a suitable spot and let ‘er fly. There are a variety of different shoreline configurations…from
shallow muddy beach to steep rocky shoreline. The white bass can be anywhere on any given day.
This long shallow rocky protrusion on the west side of Utah Lake separates the north end
from the south end. It is here that the lake bends around to the west, toward the Knolls. The
shallow windswept rocks are a popular white bass spawning area, but can only be reached by boat
or from a pontoon with an electric motor launching elsewhere…such as Saratoga Springs Marina
or from the end of one of the dirt roads to the west. The land around the point is private and all the
roads are gated against access by anglers.
SARATOGA SPRINGS MARINA:
This is the newest developed harbor at the Pelican Bay development on Utah Lake. It is the
only public access to launch a boat on the west side. El Nautica and Saratoga Harbor are both
private. It is a part of the overall Saratoga Springs development. It is primarily for residents but
the public is allowed to launch and/or fish there. You will be charged a launch fee if you are pulling
a trailer. But tubers and bank tanglers fish free. Good potential white bass fishing inside and
outside the rock dikes and by the docks. During the winter there can be some decent ice fishing for
white bass and other species near the ramp and around the docks.
This is one of the few remaining areas where warm water springs still flow into Utah Lake.
There are springs inside the harbor, which is private with no public access allowed. But, there are
also warm springs outside the harbor that can be reached by a short hike across public land to get
to the lake. Of course you can also come in from the open lake if you have a boat, tube or toon.
During cold water periods the warm springs are a great magnet for fish of all species. White bass
love it in the cold months and when the rest of the lake is covered with thick ice.
JORDAN RIVER OUTFLOW:
As suggested before, there is an outflow channel that is controlled with metal gates just south
of the pump house. When the gates are at least partially open, and the water is flowing, white bass
swarm up there in great numbers and are easily harvested by almost anybody who can get a lure in
the water. There are some white bass here almost all the time, even when the water is not flowing.
But, if all the gates are open and the water is gushing, it is almost unfishable.
There is a fairly large area of water around the pumphouse at the mouth of the Jordan
River. Some of it is shallow and calm, but holds white bass and other species at different times.
Then there is the deeper channel in front of the control gates at the pumphouse. When water is
being sucked out of the lake by the pumps, it creates a strong current and lots of white bass stack
up in there. And, during the winter, when the gates are closed and no water is flowing, they often
come in there just for the extra depth of water. It is deeper than the main lake. To reach this area
requires a bit of a hike…either across the bridge at the end of the park…or around the pumphouse
on the north, from the parking lot north of the road. There is a well worn path to follow.
AMERICAN FORK RIVER MOUTH:
Like other tributaries to Utah Lake, this stream pours lots of water into the lake in the
spring and attracts white bass in the thousands. Since it is well known and easy to reach and fish, it
is TOO popular with local anglers. When the fish are in you will have a lot of company. Not all of
the other guys are nice people. There are some serious disputes over standing room and tangled
lines. Best fishing tactic is to cast jigs or spinners right to the edge of the “color line”…where
inflowing water makes a visible line with the water in the lake. And wear a protective helmet.
AMERICAN FORK BOAT HARBOR:
This is one of the oldest private harbors on Utah Lake, and has had some improvements over
the past few years. It is deep enough to attract all species just about any time of year, but is
especially good for white bass during the colder months and for ice fishing. You can find a few
whities “inside” almost anytime, but sometimes not in numbers high enough to make a special trip
for them. The areas around the harbor entrance and just outside can also be productive.
WASTEWATER TREATMENT OUTFLOW:
Between American Fork and Lindon Harbors there is a sewage treatment facility on the
north side of the lake. When the wind is right (or wrong) you can just follow your nose to find it.
Otherwise, look for the large flat storage tanks near the shoreline. It is not accessible by land but
you can find and fish it by boat or motorized pontoon.
The treated wastewater that flows out of the facility is clean and safe for the fish, and for
humans who eat them. As with all incoming streams, it attracts white bass most months of the year
and especially in the spring and fall. The water is shallow but white bass can be incredibly thick
and eager to pound just about any lure or bait you toss to them. It is sometimes difficult to avoid
catching one on every cast…or two if you are fishing a tandem rig.
NORTH SHORE REED BEDS:
Almost the entire northern shoreline of Utah Lake is ringed with various species of reeds.
These reeds provide spawning habitat and nurseries for multiple species of fish. White bass use
them as hunting grounds much of the year and can usually be found all along this shoreline…from
right next to the reeds out into deeper water. As always, you may have to look for them but once
you find a schooling area you can harvest a bunch.
BATTLE CREEK INLET:
Battle Creek is a small spring-fed stream that sneaks through an industrial center, passes the
waste transfer facility in Lindon, goes through a culvert under the railroad tracks and then enters
Utah Lake. You can sometimes find white bass up in the creek, upstream from the lake. But, the
best fishing is often in the deep hole right below the culvert, on the lake side of the railroad tracks.
When white bass mass there you need only drop a small jig into the water and it is instantly
attacked. Happy harvesters love this spot but closely guard their secret.
It is difficult to see the mouth of the stream from the open lake. It enters through dense
stands of reeds and brush, but does flow through the old channel. During low water years it is more
defined. In high water years the flow is dispersed and disguised from view. But, if you know where
it is and can find the channel while fishing from a boat, tube or toon you can potentially whack a lot
of whities…and walleyes.
LINDON BOAT HARBOR:
This harbor has also been around for many years. And in recent years it has had a lot of
work and improvements. Part of that work has included raising the dikes and adding a lot more
rock around the perimeter. White bass like rocky shorelines and more and more of them hang out
around the rocky rubble…inside and outside the harbor. The point at the end of the north dike is
especially productive, both from shore and from the water. There are lots of snags if you use heavy
jigs, but lots of fish if you use the right stuff and can avoid the snags.
Like most of the harbors on Utah Lake, Lindon often attracts wandering schools of white
bass inside throughout the year. You never know if you will find them but the potential is always
there. The small young whities seem to favor Lindon as a protected hangout in late summer and
sometimes boil on surface insect life early on late summer and fall mornings. That is a good time to
use small flies to harvest some great bait for cats and wallies. Even big whities eat the small ones.
Lindon is one of the best ice fishing spots for white bass most winters. This is especially so
early after first ice up. White bass swarm into the harbor in huge schools and the fishing is fast and
furious for a few days. Then the harvest and the noisy activity of all the anglers chases the fish back
out, especially if the open lake is frozen too. You can still catch them throughout the winter,
especially around docks and in the mouth of the channel, but not in the numbers of the first big run.
This spot is a leftover from the days of Geneva Steel. It was formerly a big pipe through
which the steel mill discharged the warm water used to rinse and cool equipment and product. The
warm water attracted all species to the outflow, but it also infused them with a foul taste and odor.
Controls and standards for treating wastewater were lax in those days and there were a lot of nasty
chemicals in the soup discharged by Geneva Steel. You could catch a bajillion white bass and many
big fat walleyes, but when you tried to fillet them the flesh smelled like a mix of creosote and very
bad motor oil.
The warm chemical-laden water flows stopped when Geneva Steel shut down many around
Y2K. Most of the major buildings have been torn down and there is a lot of new development on
the site. But, the old settling ponds are still there and some water still flows into the old pipe. These
days the water is simply spring water, and is usually no warmer than the main lake. But, it still
creates a flow and the moving water attracts white bass and other species.
The location is less than a mile south of the Lindon Boat Harbor and is marked with a line of
buoys stretching straight out from shore for a hundred yards or so. The depth is greatest at the end
buoy. The greatest outflow occurs around the last two or three buoys when there is water flowing
into the pipe. If there is no wind, and the water is calm, you can usually spot the water movement
on the surface or see small bubbles rising to the top.
There are almost always white bass at least somewhere along the line of buoys. Some days
they will be all over. Other days only in a small area…anywhere from shallow to deep. On still
other days they will be completely absent and you have to look elsewhere. That’s fishing. But,
when they are “in” you can catch them nonstop. It is a good place to fish from a boat, tube or toon
and is a favorite spot with dads who want to get their kids into some fast fishing. Rig up with
spinners, small jigs or a piece of worm under a bobber.
The formerly brush-choked shoreline between the Bubbleup and Lindon has recently been
cleared during shoreline restoration efforts. There is now good bank tangling for all species. It
can still be a bit snaggy from the residual roots of phragmites and reeds but if you use a bobber
you can avoid a lot of that.
As with the north shoreline, the eastern shore of Utah Lake is heavily ringed with cattails
and reeds. This makes it almost inaccessible for bank tanglers along most of the shoreline but
creates some great fishing for those who can approach the greenery from the open lake.
White bass may be found in many areas in and along the vegetation anywhere around the
lake. As mentioned, this cover becomes a nursery for the newly hatched fry of all species…during
high water times. The predators like white bass, crappies, largemouth bass, catfish and walleyes
hang around the buffet table waiting for dinner to be served. In fact, they often work their way
back into the thick stands of reeds in search of hiding prey. When they are in the cover they can be
taken by lures or baits fished right at the edges…or fished in holes and breaks in the greenery.
Well, that completes our circuit of Utah Lake, in search of the prolific white bass. Of course
there are plenty to be caught in the open water areas of the lake too. This big shallow lake is
seldom more than a few feet deep and whities roam freely in search of food…or more desirable
water temps or conditions. Some whitie chasers simply troll around with plastics, spinners or small
crank baits. And, like Forrest Gump says, “It’s like a box of chocolates”. You never know what
you are going to get. Most of what you catch will likely be white bass, but there will also be a
variety of other species.