There are several contenders for the widely tossed around ‘pound for pound’ hardest fighting fish title with the bruiser smallmouth bass usually at the top.
HuntFishMB - Eric Labaupa
A hugely underrated scrapper, however, is the Lake Winnipeg white bass. Growing to sizes regularly exceeding 18”, their often prescribed panfish label is a definite misnomer. On light to medium tackle, these energetic game fish never give up and will continue to bulldog you right to the net.
Every spring, tributaries and connecting waterways to the southern basin of Lake Winnipeg play host to massive schools of white bass migrating upstream to spawn. Travelling in packs, these voracious predators will readily attack a wide variety of presentations both natural and artificial. Whether you are casting lures or setting bait once a school is located hang on for fish after fish action.
Popular tactics to target them include casting and retrieving jig/grub combos, spoons, or crankbaits. Jigging a salted minnow or presenting them under a float a few feet from the surface are also just as effective. In smaller creeks and rivers focus on back eddy sections and the bottom end of any rapids, falls, or faster moving water. On larger bodies of water or around the main lake, shallower areas with a good combination of gravel, rock, and sand bottom are magnets for huge schools of white bass during the spring.
On a recent excursion, we travelled to Pine Falls on the Winnipeg River. The area we focused on was the mouth of the river entering Traverse Bay searching likely areas for any bass. It did not take very long to locate some as we made contact right away fan casting 3.5” swimbaits on a shallow sandy flat coming off of a beach. A little fine tuning moving the boat along a subtle 8’ to 10’ transition helped us track down the heart of the pod. There is no mistaking it once you are on them as several times we had all four lines in the boat hooked up. Once the bite slowed down slight adjustments along the same depth contour had us on top of the fish again.
Although they can be caught all year, the time frame of mid May to mid June is primetime to target rivers and creeks surrounding Lake Winnipeg, as well as the sandy shorelines of the big lake itself. Manitoba’s healthy population of white bass are almost exclusively confined to the Interlake Region and Eastern Region which encompass ‘Big Windy’ and the northern stretch of the Red River.
The minimum Master Angler length for white bass is 15”. Well over a quarter of the fish we caught that day qualified as trophies with the biggest one measuring a whopping 17.50”. The largest females which can grow to surpassing 19” join the spawning run at its height. There is a several week window where breaking the provincial record is a very real possibility with every single cast. Once the majority of fish being caught in a tributary are smaller males and juvenile bass, this generally signifies that the run is nearing its end which is usually around mid June.