White Bass

little boy with a silver bassThe only member of the true bass family found in Michigan - the black bass, largemouth and smallmouth, are actually in the sunfish family - white bass are an underappreciated resource. Found largely in the southeastern Great Lakes and connecting waters, white bass are prone to roaming great distances and can be difficult to locate in open water, but are often caught incidentally by bass and walleye anglers in Lake Erie, the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair and Saginaw Bay.

During the spring spawning run, white bass can be found in upper Lake Erie and the Detroit River in prodigious numbers. They are willing biters and scrappy fighters and can be caught with a wide variety of techniques. three white bassDuring the peak of the run, which occurs in late May and early June, anglers line the Detroit River channel, fishing on or near bottom with live minnows as they would for perch. But anglers can catch them readily along the channel edges or up on the flats, often with jigs, crankbaits or swim baits.

Gathering in huge schools, white bass often herd schools of baitfish toward the surface as they go into a feeding frenzy. As such times, they can often be located by watching for feeding birds diving into the surface that's being churned up by feeding whites. At such times, virtually anything thrown into the commotion - spinners, jigs, topwater plugs, you name it - will be rewarded with a strike. During peak activity, it isn't uncommon for anglers to catch and release hundreds of white bass over the course of the day. Fly fishermen can have similar results throwing bass-size popping bugs or large streamers.

man fishing from a boatAlthough white bass are occasionally caught in the Lake Michigan tributaries and adjoining waters, they are typically only targeted in the Detroit, Saginaw and Tittabawassee rivers. They are related to striped bass - with which they have been hybridized and are sometimes referred to as "wipers" - which is a prized table fish along America's East Coast. White bass, however, are significantly smaller. In Michigan white bass average about 12 inches and weigh in the vicinity of one pound, though the state record weighed in excess of six pounds.

For more information on identifying characteristics for white bass see our fish ID page.