On September 24, “The Heartland’s White Bass Conundrum” blog was updated with a report from Joe Davis of Tulsa, Oklahoma. In an e-mail Davis wrote that he and his son fished with Jerry Kropff of Afton, Oklahoma, from 5: 00 p.m. and 8:15 p.m., and they caught at 250 white bass. That grand catch provoked the thought that Grand Lake was back to its grand and lustrous form of old.
That notion seemed to be validated again on the evening of October 15 when Davis hooked up with Kropff for another evening affair with Grand Lake’s white bass. For most of that mid-October day a five- to 10-mph wind had angled out of the east, but by 5:00 p.m., when Davis and Kropff launched their boat, the wind became calm, which is often the death knell for white bass anglers in the early fall at Grand Lake. The surface temperature was 70 degrees. Schools of shad were virtually everywhere, turning the water black in some locales. Davis and Kropff looked in vain for white bass at various rock piles and shallow flats, which typically entertain a goodly numbers of white bass in mid-October. Eventually Kropff and Davis examined a shallow cove, where a flock of gulls were dropping from the sky like softballs to forage on shad, and the white bass were foraging on the shad, too. And from 6:00 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., Kropff and Davis tangled with those white bass, catching and releasing 100 of them.
But on October 22, Kropff noted that Grand Lake’s white bass fishing isn’t as grand and lustrous as it seemed on September 24 and October 15. His level of measure of excellent white bass fish is executed with what he calls Madaline’s yardstick. Madaline is Kropff’s wife.
In autumns past, Kropff and his wife fished for white bass a lot, and on every outing, they engaged in a friendly wager, and the first one to catch and release 100 white bass won the bet. But the white bass fishing has been so sporadic and lackluster this year that Madaline hasn’t wetted a line.
Even Ivan Martin of Afton, Oklahoma, who is one of Grand Lake’s premiere multispecies guides, has acknowledged that the day in, day out fishing hasn’t been the caliber of the great white bass fishing of years past. But on days when the wind blows, he and two clients can catch their combined limit of 60 white bass in a few hours. But when the wind doesn’t blow, Martin and his clients struggle.
Kropff and his wife hope that once the water temperature begins to plummet in November and December that they won’t have to rely on the wind, and they will be afloat often, enjoying their friendly wager on who will be the first to catch 100 white bass on each outing.
Elsewhere around the great white bass triangle
Traditionally the nation’s greatest white bass fishing is encompassed within a triangle that stretches across parts of Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. And at several of the best white bass waterways in Kansas and Missouri, veteran white bass anglers have found their white bass fishing to be quite a bit more trying than what Davis, Kropff and Martin have endured at Grand Lake during the early fall of 2011.
Kansas anglers don’t have the Madaline yardstick as a level measure. Instead one of the Kansas levels of measure of what constitutes a stellar autumn white bass outing occurred on October 23, 2008, which was when two veteran and skillful anglers caught and released 205 white bass in five hours at Perry Lake, Kansas.
Since 2008, however, the white bass fishing has become more and more frustrating every fall. For instance, Clyde Holscher, a veteran and talented multispecies guide from Topeka, Kansas, says that his clients’ catches this fall have dwindled dramatically since October 6, when his clients caught 78 white bass at Melvern Lake, Kansas. Holscher noted that across the five outings from October 21 through October 28, his clients caught a total of only 214 white bass. Holscher called it the worst October in his two decades of chasing white bass in the reservoirs of northeastern Kansas.
Despite Holscher’s trying October outings, he thinks that November, which normally the best white bass month of the fall, will be more fruitful than October.
John and Roger Kehde of Sedalia, Missouri, have finally given up on the white bass at Truman Lake, Missouri, assuming that the same malady that waylaid the white bass in Pomme de Terre Lake, Missouri, in 2009, which killed the bulk of the reservoir’s white bass, has now affected Truman’s white bass. They came to this conclusion on October 25, which was when John Kehde was fishing with a friend at Truman. After a few hours of discouraging fishing, they loaded their boat onto the trailer and launched it 30 minutes later on the upper end of the Lake of the Ozarks, where they found the white bass fishing considerably better than it has been throughout 2011 at Truman. Thus, from now until shortly before Christmas, the Kehdes will spend their outings at the Lake of the Ozarks, hoping they can tangle with an average of at least 20 white bass an hour.
Rick Hebenstreit, who is a veteran and talented white bass angler from Shawnee, Kansas, says it’s unlikely that the Kehdes can consistently catch 20 white bass an hour. Hebenstreit has just returned from a week of chasing the Lake of the Ozarks’ white bass, and he says the lake’s autumn white bass fishing isn’t as easy as it used to be.
Perhaps the same malady and doldrums that have plagued the white bass anglers at the Pomme de Terre, Truman and several of the reservoirs in eastern Kansas has hit the Lake of the Ozarks, too.
Update at 6:45 p.m. November 1
John Kehde reported that he and a friend fished the Lake of the Ozarks today from 11a.m to 4:30 p.m., and they caught 87 white bass, 12 black bass, four wipers, two freshwater drum and one crappie. One of the largemouth bass looked to be a five-pounder, one of the wipers looked to weigh about eight pounds and another was a six-pounder. The bulk of the fish were caught on quarter-ounce lipless crankbaits, and the most effective presentation was to cast and retrieve these crankbaits parallel to windblown shorelines. Most of the fish were eight to 10 feet off of the shorelines.
It is interesting to note that a lipless crankbait has never been part of John and Roger Kehde’s white bass reportoire at Truman and Lake of the Ozarks until October 25. Some observers say that is another manifestation of how our white bass fishing is changing in the Heartland.