How to Catch Lake of the Ozarks White Bass

Largemouth Lures For Lake of the Ozarks White Bass

by John Neporadny Jr.

Bigger is better when it comes to luring larger white bass in the fall at Lake of the Ozarks.

I found that out years ago when we considered whites a nuisance because we were catching so many of them during our bass club tournaments in the fall. No matter what size crankbait, spinnerbait or jerk bait you would throw at windy banks, white bass would usually hammer it more often than black bass.

Since the biggest white bass, and even some smaller ones, repeatedly showed a preference for my largemouth bass lures each fall, I began throwing these larger lures specifically for whites. By casting these lures to my favorite white bass structures on my home reservoir, Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, I have taken several limits of hefty whites and hybrid-stripers over the years.

Another angler who has caught heavyweight white bass on conventional largemouth lures is Bruce Gier, a former guide and black bass tournament fisherman from Eldon, Mo. We use the following techniques to catch white bass on traditional largemouth lures at the lake.

Twitching A Jerk Bait

Several years ago, I accidentally discovered this technique while fishing in a bass club tournament during the fall. We had been catching black bass all day on medium-size Rattlin’ Rogues and it appeared the action was going to get even better when we moved to the back of a pocket where wind was blowing baitfish into the milfoil. White bass were feeding heavily in the weedy pocket and kept smashing our jerk baits, but they became such a nuisance that we had to leave the area to find more black bass.

101 Bass Fishing Tips, John Neporadny Jr.

101 Bass Fishing Tips

A couple of weeks later a similar incident occurred, convincing me that white bass seem to want a bigger bait in the fall. I was bass fishing with a friend who didn’t have much bass tackle, so I let him borrow a 4-inch Rebel Minnow to jerk around the weeds. When he caught six hefty white bass on the lure, I decided to try the jerk bait exclusively for white bass on a future trip. In less than two hours on my next outing, jerking the stick bait produced a limit of 15 white bass ranging in weight from 1 3/4 to 2 pounds.

Since then I have refined the technique and alternate between three types of jerk baits. I select the Storm Lures Junior ThunderStick and 4-inch Rebel Minnow when I want to catch numbers of good-size whites or I tie on a Smithwick Rattlin’ Rogue in the 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 inch models when I’m after trophy-size whites or hybrids. These lures seem to best resemble the size of the shad I see on my home lake during the fall. Chrome or silver and black are the best colors for the Rebel Minnow and Storm Junior ThunderStick, but I’ve also had some good catches on a Junior ThunderStick in a rainbow trout hue. The biggest whites seem to prefer a Rogue with a black back, gold sides and orange belly.

Since this technique requires a lot of rod jerking, I use light tackle to prevent fatigue in my arms and wrists. I jerk the stick bait with a 4 1/2-foot Berkley Lightning Rod and Shimano Bantam 1000 baitcast reel filled with 8-pound test line. This lightweight combination allows me to vigorously work the lure all day without wearing down.

The minnow baits have worked extremely well for me on those cloudy, windy days in late October and all through November. These lures will also take fish on sunny days, but you need a combination of wind and shade to draw strikes from white bass.

My favorite areas to throw the jerk baits are windy points, channel banks and bluffs. I’ve also caught some fish on long, shallow points with this technique, but the most productive structure features rock ledges which attract both bait fish and the white bass. When the waves crash up against the rocks, the baitfish schools scatter along the ledges. The white bass then pick off their prey by moving up into the rocks or waiting in deeper water for the baitfish to get washed off the ledges. Clear-water areas are also best since white bass feed primarily by sight.

When I find this type of situation, I throw the minnow bait up close to the bank and start twitching the lure along the ledge to the deeper water. To catch a prowling white’s attention, I jerk the minnow bait sharply to make the lure’s silver sides flash. I rapidly jerk the lure three times, then pause it momentarily before repeating the twitching process again. A lot of the strikes occur during the pause. Since I’m trying to trigger a reaction strike, I never let the lure sit still very long though. This prevents the fish from getting a goodlook at the baitfish imitator in the clear water. If I see a white bass slash at the lure and miss, I keep the lure moving at a slower pace, which occasionally draws a strike from the same fish.

When the three-count retrieve fails to produce, I vary the cadence of my jerks until I find a rhythm the white bass prefer. I also work the retrieve all the way back to me because I’ve had fish strike at the lure right next to the boat.

Chugger and Jig

A combination of a topwater lure, normally used for largemouth, and a doll-fly trailer tricks white bass of all sizes. Over the years Bruce Gier has been refining a technique he learned from a fellow angler of catching white bass on a frog-colored chugger with a trailer jig. Gier has switched to a shad-colored Rebel Pop-R or a Heddon Tiny Chugger with a white 1/16th-ounce feather jig. Since white bass tend to tear up plastic-skirted jigs, Gier prefers using feather jigs as trailers. “You catch so many fish on the chugger and jig that you’ll have to replace the plastic bodies all the time,” he says.

Gier casts his rig with a bait-cast or spinning tackle and 8- or 10-pound test. He ties an 18-inch leader of 10-pound test on the back hook of the chugger and then to the jig. He also removes the front hook of the chugger to keep the leader line from tangling up in the hooks.

In October, Gier searches for white bass along chunk rock banks. The Missouri angler also finds the fish along these banks in November if the water
temperature stays in the 50- to 65-degree range.

Casting as close to the bank as possible, Gier retrieves the chugger-and-jig combination in a popping manner. “The popping imitates another white
bass chasing a minnow on the surface,” Gier says. “The popping noise excites the fish below. They’re going to come up to check out that noise because they just can’t stand it.”

The speed of the retrieve can vary, but the action of the chugger must be a deliberate pop. “The chugger’s got to throw that water out front,” Gier says. “It’s got to look like an explosion.”

Gier jerks the chugger and reels at the same time. He also makes sure he works the rig all the way to the boat. “A lot of times, they’ll hit it right when you’re picking it up out of the water.”

Sometimes Gier catches a double on his rig. “If you ever catch one on the topwater lure, nine out of 10 times you’ll catch one on the crappie jig.” When he hooks one on the chugger, Gier lets the fish swim around until another white hits the trailer jig.

The chugger and jig technique works even without much wind. The chugging noise attracts the whites if they are in the vicinity. “Whenever the white bass are running, you can catch just as many as you want,” Gier says.

Crankbait Crazy

Big white bass also show a preference in the fall for crankbaits normally used for black bass. Shallow – and medium-running crankbaits such as the Norman Lures Little N, Bagley’s B1, Storm Lures Wiggle Warts and Bomber Model 6As have all produced big whites for me on a regular basis.

One of my most productive lures a couple of years back was the Storm Lures 1/2-ounce Thin Fin. We found white bass trapping shad in the back of a shallow pocket next to a main lake point. That fall, we caught the largest white bass retrieving the Thin Fin at a fast pace and occasionally twitching the lure to make it flash in the clear water.

For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free 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

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



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