I jigged the spot for about an hour with no bites, sticking to small, slow motions rather than jerking the baits all around. After I reeled in to add a couple fresh Crappie Nibbles to my VMC Hot Skirts Jig and a Marabou jig I had rigged above it, I dropped the lure down to about 15 feet and suddenly felt a big thud on the other end of my Sufix 832 Ice Braid main line. I yanked back and first thought I was snagged in a submerged tree, but soon felt some movement on the line and began reeling quickly. I saw a flash of white from the side of the fish as it dove and at first thought I’d hooked into a 13- or 14-inch crappie because of the fight it was putting up, but it soon surfaced and I saw that it was actually a nice white bass.
It was the first time I can remember catching a white bass, though I suppose it’s possible I did when I was crappie fishing with my dad when I was younger and forgot. I got excited and jumped up off the bench I was sitting on, inadvertently knocking over my Aqua-Vu camera. The case containing the video screen fell off the bench, where I had been watching for fish, and fell into the water. If you haven’t figured it out by now from reading my past columns, I’m notoriously accident prone.
Luckily, the cord that attached the camera to the video screen was wrapped around the railing and kept the bulky screen from immediately dropping 20 feet to the bottom of the lake, but I had a dilemma. On one hand, I had my first white bass on the line and was worried if I tried to flip the fish up over the railing and onto the dock that it would get off. On the other hand, my expensive camera was about to be lost forever.
I took a chance and flipped the white bass up and the line held strong. With the ultra-light ice fluorocarbon line I had been using previously as a leader, it likely would have come off, but I upgraded to Yo-Zuri fluorocarbon before I left the house and that likely saved my fish. Then, I reached down and grabbed the camera, which no longer was broadcasting the bottom of the lake but instead was a dark black, powerless screen. Though the camera itself is 100-percent waterproof, the viewing screen didn’t appear to be.
After all the excitement, I grabbed the white bass and wrenched the hook out of its lip. The dock has a few rulers on the walls to measure the fish, and it measured out to 11 inches. Being a white bass novice, I wasn’t sure how good that was, but I know if I caught an 11-inch crappie out of the heated dock I’d be pretty ecstatic. I also had to check its mouth to make sure it wasn’t a wiper, which are a hybrid between a white bass and a striped bass and typically grow much larger than white bass. You can tell by the tooth patch on the back of the tongue — a white bass has a single tooth patch while a wiper or striped bass (also known as striper) has two patches. White bass are typically more deep-bodied like crappie, while wipers are more black bass-shaped.
I fished the spot a little while longer, and was surprised to see about six crappie swimming just under the surface of the water, occasionally taking big gulps as they apparently ate plankton or some sort of water bug near the surface. I tried fishing topwater with a floating fly but they had no interest. I could also see a huge school of big shad swimming just below the crappie, which was a pretty cool sight.
As for the camera, I took it home and placed it in a Ziploc bag that I filled with uncooked quinoa — I bought it like two years ago to try and never actually got around to making it — since I didn’t have any rice on hand. A couple days later, I took it out of the bag and opened it up, and the Aqua-Vu started up just like normal.
Which is good, because that would’ve been the most expensive white bass in history.
Topeka resident Jay Junghans submitted a great photo of his bird dog, Reilly, with a limit of quail he shoot earlier this month in northeast Kansas.
Junghans, who said he mostly hunts in Marshall County, reported seeing good numbers of birds during the hunt.
“Six coveys that day,” Junghans said.
Check out the photo on the bottom of the Outdoors page in the “Keeper Corner,” where I will feature submitted photos from local hunters and anglers of their big days in the field, or on the online version of this column at CJOnline.com.
To submit a photo for the “Keeper Corner,” send me an email at email@example.com with your name, photo and some background information about your hunting or fishing trip. I’d love to hear all about it.