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White Bass Over Walleyes?

Top 4 Presentations for Devils Lake, North Dakota's Giant Pelagics

White Bass Over Walleyes?

Devils Lake, North Dakota, is one of my all-time favorite fishing destinations.

As a multi-species angler, I’m always on the look-out for the best bite on any given day and body of water. Sure, at heart, I’m prone to chase walleyes because that’s what my dad and uncles fished evenings and weekends every chance they got during the early years of modern walleye fishing in the early- to mid-80s.

Sure, there were times I was bored dragging rigs and later, bottom bouncers, with these grown men intent on bringing stringers of golden-hued fish home to the table. Sure, jigging was fun, as well as watching lighted slip bobbers dunk after dark. I was also there when everybody started fishing the first run of Shad Raps to hit the scene. That was pretty exciting, too.

white bass fishing at Devils lake nd
White bass are a sporty gamefish that are often overlooked for more popular species like walleyes and bass, but they are a fine fish to catch.

After many years chasing bass, I’ve returned to chasing walleyes, hence my love for Devils Lake. The lake is literally chock full of marble eyes. According to a North Dakota Fisheries & Game study in 2022, the numbers netted have never been higher in the past 31 years, with some 35.3 walleyes per net over the average 21.5.

North Dakota Fisheries Biologist Todd Caspers reports that 15- to 20-inch “keepers” set a record at 12.3 per net in 2022, double the recent years’ average. These fish will grow—as will the 10- to 15-inchers—which averaged 16.4 per net—above the average of 10 per net. Larger walleyes in the 20- to 30-inch category showed up in average numbers, which are still high.

What’s all this mean?

It means the lake is full of quality fish. And, at over 210,000 acres, with a bountiful population of freshwater shrimp, the fish grow exceptionally bulky for their length, and many say the forage affects the taste of all the lake’s gamefish—in a very positive way.

white bass in devils lake nd
White bass are generally pretty easy to fool, and they fight hard making them perfect for anglers of all ages and experience levels.

While Devils Lake’s walleye fishing is beyond exceptional, the lake is also filled with some of the largest white bass in the entire U.S.

According to the Devils Lake Tourism web site: “In the summer 2022 test netting, white bass were present above average numbers. The nets showed 7.8 bass per net compared to the long-time average of 5.6. The real line-stretchers from 15 to 18 inches (think really big white bass) were recorded at 2.6 per net; the long-time average is .7 per net.”




I’ll get to the point.

While chasing walleyes on Devils Lake, I’m perfectly happy to switch over to the action provided by a school of ravenous white bass. While I hadn’t fished the lake in six years, I recently visited the area and had an absolute blast, not only catching walleyes, but taking several breaks to chase white bass until I had to literally set my rod down and take a rest.

Fun-fishing with Bry’s Guide Service pro, Jared Pokrzywinski, we boated countless drag-stripping pelagics on medium-light walleye set-ups. The day after, I spent some time with walleye pro Johnnie Candle to gather information for a couple In-Fisherman print Walleye Guide stories, and we ran into the same situation. On the morning of the third day, I fished a couple spots from shore, set a new walleye personal best of 29” and caught my one-day take-home limit of 20 white bass while wearing waders standing in some bulrushes some 30 feet from a highway bridge overpass. Not a bad problem to have.

Recommended


fat white bass
White bass in Devils Lake have ample forage making them some of the largest you’ll find across the country.

So, what are the Top 4 Presentations to Catch White Bass on Devils Lake, North Dakota? Here’s what we used—and at times—caught fish almost every cast. Our gear for each presentation was the same and pretty simple: a 7-foot medium-light power spinning rod, 2500 size spinning reel, 10-pound braid, and a 10-pound fluorocarbon leader.

1. Crankbaits: Shad & Minnow Profiles

White bass love crankbaits. From the coveted, now-discontinued Lindy Shadling in white that many local Devils Lake anglers love—to Shad Raps, Flicker Shads, Northland Rumble Shiners, and other shad-shaped cranks—white bass attack the profile although there are no shad in Devils Lake.

When we were fishing from shore in shallow water, jerkbaits like shorter Original Floating Rapalas, Husky Jerks, and Northland Rumble Shiners all worked well. Standout patterns were perch and whitish, minnow-looking hues.

Rumble Shad
Northland Rumble Shad
Rumble Minnow
Mimic Minnow

2. ¼- to 3/8-ounce Northland Mimic Minnow

A huge selling bait at big-box stores, there’s good reason. The Mimic Minnow is a pre-rigged paddletail on a minnow-shaped jig head that’s inexpensive, ready to fish right out of the package, and catches all species of fish.

On Devils Lake, shore anglers absolutely love the Mimic Minnow. It can be fished shallow, at mid-depth, left to sink deeper, and attracts fish throughout the water column. It looks and behaves just like what the fish are eating on Devils Lake: young-of-the-year white bass and perch, and Northland has colors available that “mimic” both.

3. ¼-ounce Chartreuse Z-Man WillowVibe w/ Z-Man Scented PaddlerZ

A miniaturized ChatterBait without a skirt, the Z-Man WillowVibe allows threading on a soft plastic like the Z-Man Scented PaddlerZ; a fluke-style, split-tail minnow-shaped soft plastic; or a curly-tail grub. The action is a similar high-speed vibration ala skirted ChatterBait—and appeals to any fish that locate prey by sound and their lateral line (most). We caught quite a few Devils Lake walleyes on the bait, but the big white bass went absolutely crazy for it. While we tried the brown and white WillowVibe, we couldn’t buy a bite. But throw the chartreuse version and it was nearly a fish every cast.

Willow vibe
Z-Man WillowVibe

In terms of cadence, we caught fish on a slow, steady retrieve, but also a pull, stop, pull, with a few handle rotations thrown in.

4. Live Target Baitball Spinner Rig

livetarget baitball spinner
LiveTarget BaitBall Spinner.

Essentially an A-Rig, we fished the Live Target Baitball Spinner Rig on a whim, knowing that white bass will shred a school of baitfish or young-of-the-year gamefish to pieces. Does it work? Absolutely. The only problem is getting the white bass to hit the one minnow on the rig with an actual hook …

The great thing about all of these baits? You’ll not only catch white bass, but walleyes, too!

To learn more about Devils Lake fishing, click here!

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