White bass run is a freezer-filling fishing party
Ah, April in Arkansas. The turkeys are gobbling, mushrooms are popping and the white bass are running.
It's a line-stretching, pole bending fishing party when hard-fighting white bass make their spawning run up the tributaries of Beaver and Table Rock lakes. Word gets out quick when the white bass are biting. Fishermen make their spring pilgrimage to the region's white bass fishing hot spots.
The Twin Bridges area, where the White River meets Beaver Lake, is a top white-bass gathering place. Anglers fish shoulder to shoulder at the public access where Arkansas 45 crosses the White River at Goshen.
There's another fishing party where the Kings River meets Table Rock Lake at the Romp Hole public access north of Berryville, near the little town of Grandview.
Locals say the access got its name for a mega-sized party that took place each summer at the river. On this sunny day, April 7, the place was jumping and so were the fish when Danny Caywood of Grandview pulled his pickup into the access with john boat in tow. He was ready for an afternoon go at the white bass.
The only need for the boat was to get across the river to a long, spacious gravel bar. Around 30 fishermen stood on shore casting lines in hopes for the white-bass prize. The outlook was bright. Now and then a fisherman would move to a new spot and carry along a heavy stringer of white bass.
The daily limit here at the Kings River is 25 white bass, unlike Beaver Lake and its tributaries where there is no daily limit.
Caywood gazed into the clear water with polarized sunglasses. White bass cruised beneath his boat.
"Look at all those. You can see they're in here," he said. "Whether they'll bite I don't know."
It was 2 p.m. when Caywood made his first cast with a white minnow-like lure. He chose the afternoon because the Solunar Tables indicated a major feeding period started at 3:40 p.m. Some anglers swear by these tables, others don't.
Now and then a fisherman would land a white bass. Caywood caught a couple, plus a big warmouth. It's a tropical looking fish that's in the family that most fishermen call goggle-eye.
All went on Caywood's stringer. He was fishing for a fish-fry dinner.
Minnows or any lure that imitates one will work for white bass. And they did, to a degree, this warm afternoon at the Romp Hole.
The afternoon wore on. Fishing got better, then better still. Pretty soon anglers were reeling in white bass right and left. Looking up and down the gravel bar, rods were bent and lines were tight. It was 3:30. Everybody was catching fish.
Caywood fished next to his buddy, James Gibbons of Grandview. He had fished the Kings River white bass run for years. His favorite lures are a pink and white tube jig or a shad-colored Panfish Assassin.
"My real favorite is live bait," Gibbons said. "Funny thing though. They won't bite crawdads here, but over at the White River crawdads are the prime bait."
Another fishermen, Patrick Anderson of Fairview, Mo., had the makings for a feast of Ozark surf and turf. He found about 50 morel mushrooms that morning and reeled in a string of white bass in the afternoon.
The bite slowed at sunset. Caywood carried his stringer with a dozen white bass to the boat. He wasn't after a limit of 25. A dozen was plenty for dinner.
April is the prime month for white bass and lots more, Gibbons said.
"Son, it's good for everything. White bass, walleye, turkey hunting."
"And morel mushrooms," Anderson added.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NWAFlip