More than one way to skin a fish

Imagine my surprise when my fishing partner Dennis Henthorne confessed to me that he had never been successful with jigs.

I could not believe that we were well into our second season of fishing together and he had not had luck with jigs. After all I have written often about jigs. I not only catch fish on them, but even make my own.

This was a challenge to me and I set out to rectify the problem. In all honesty I feel the reason Dennis was not catching much on jigs was that we mostly trolled for walleyes and jigs work better by “jigging” them around a sunken brush pile for crappies.

With this in mind I tied on a white 1/8th-ounce jig that I had decorated with shiny Flashabou. Instead of trolling I planned to find a crappie hangout and make sure Dennis caught fish.

As I steered the Barbie J out of our cove and into the main lake I knew crappie fishing would have to wait when a minnow leaped from the surface like its life depended on it. And in fact his life really did depend on that leap.

He was not alone as more minnows began leaping and the water beneath them fairly boiled as white bass slammed into a school of minnows. It was an event that I call a “jump.”

Barb and I first saw jumps while fishing Kentucky Lake, and we witnessed several on Atwood Lake. We always tried to get into casting distance of a jump as the action will be swift and short lived.

White bass travel in a school around the lake and once they have fed on a school of minnows they move on. I can’t explain why they move on, or where they go. White bass just seem to be notional.

Small jigs seem to be the key to catching white bass during a jump. I like white jigs with a little bit of flash that will imitate a minnow. Sometimes just a jig with a soft plastic grub is the preferred lure, although I really think that a white bass in a feeding frenzy will hit most any color.

Like all jumps our action was short and exciting. At times Dennis and I each had a fish on, and it was a miracle our lines did not get tangled. If they had I doubt either of us would have cared. We were having too much fun catching fish.

The jump ended as quickly as it began, but my fishing partner can no longer claim he has not caught anything on a jig. He caught plenty from that jump.

I’ve heard anglers make derogatory remarks concerning white bass, but I like to fish for them. And no one can argue that they do not put up a fight. Even a small white bass will put a bend in your rod.

It has also been said that they are not edible, but we kept a few out of the jump for me to fillet later.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that white bass as table fare does not rank up there with walleyes and perch, but they are tasty if cooked properly. We dredge ours in eggs and cracker crumbs before frying them.

White bass are often misidentified as striped bass, and it is easy to see why. Both are striped, but the lines on the striper are darker. Stripers also get much larger while white bass seldom get larger than 16 inches.Our biggest this year was 12 inches.

If you want to get close to a white bass you will find it has a heart shaped tooth patch on top of its tongue. I don’t plan to get that personal with either a white bass or a striper.

The fish we caught last week were definitely white bass, and we caught them on homemade jigs. So now Dennis can no longer claim that he has never caught fish on a jig. He also got his first taste of a jump.

I don’t know if we will see another jump on this lake, but I’ll bet my fishing partner will have at least one rod rigged with a jig. I’ll do the same. After all white bass are notional and we never know when they will provide plenty of action.


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