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Devils Lake White Bass


In winter-time, 90 percent of visitors flocking to Devils Lake want to chase perch.  In the warm months, the same percentage prefers to pursue walleyes.

That means that another popular fish swimming throughout the 165,000 acre lake – white bass – are relatively untouched.  That could be why lake and state records are being set.  The lake also boasts a world record white bass. 

More on records later.  Why should a white bass quest be added to your next day on the lake?  First, they grow big with the abundant forage available.  Second, they bite readily.  Third, they fight really hard.  Fourth, youngsters can catch them easily.  Fifth, they’re mighty tasty in the pan.  The list could continue, but you get the picture. 

When fishing for walleyes, white bass interfere and hit crankbaits cast against windy shorelines or weedbeds.  Or, when trolling lures.  They gulp down jigs with minnows, leeches or plastic trailers.  They don’t mind smacking a spinner and crawler being trolled behind a bottom bouncer.  A bait dancing below a bobber entices them to eat.  That’s in open water.  White bass also feed in winter and the perch-jerkers experience a tough battle when trying to bring a bass topside. 

Summary:  They’re fun. 

The state and lake record is 4.70 pounds.  It was landed by Charlie Vang in 2012.  It beat a 4.50 pounder that held the record for 12 years.  The world record for a white bass caught on two-pound test line belongs to Blake LaFleur.  The Devils Lake resident worked on his presentation and planned his world record quest for years.

LaFleur ordered his fishing line from Italy.  It tested at 1.5 pounds, and took several times tying it without breaking the spider-web thin monofilament.  The line class world record stood at 3.50 pounds.  He finessed a monster white bass through the ice in 2017.  It measured 18.50 inches with a 16 inch girth.  On two different scales it weighed 4.27 and 4.32 pounds.  After due diligence by the record keeping authorities, it was declared official.

Fish that size are fun on any tackle, ice or open water.  In the summer 2022 test netting, white bass were present in 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. 

A few fish stories follow.  One Nebraska guest was jigging spoons in deep water near the towers.  He caught so many white bass his arm and wrist couldn’t take it anymore.  He had to sit in the boat and change his reel handle to the other side of the reel in order to keep fishing.

One day, a fisherman was jigging in 20 feet of water with a flashy silver spoon.  He caught a bass.  He lowered it and quickly set the hook into another.  Then, on the next drop he only let his spoon fall to 15 feet.  Another bass grabbed it.  The next time, he stopped his lure at 10 feet.  Bang!  Then, he let out only 5 feet of line.  The entire school rose up and were slashing and hitting anything, but especially his spoon.  It was a true boat-side feeding frenzy.

During an ice outing, an angler drilled a 4-ich diameter hole for perch.  He caught some perch, but then hooked a dandy white bass.  He could not squeeze it through the hole.  His line broke attempting to land it.

Eating Quality:  Fillet generously.  That means remove any and all red flesh just under the skin.  Remove the lateral line.  The white flakey meat will tempt any taste buds.  Try it this year.  Oh, in warm water, place bass on ice in a cooler immediately.  Clean them promptly upon returning to shore.  You will be pleasantly surprised.

White bass are also called silver or sand bass in some regions.  Here they are whiteys.  Interesting biology places them in the family Moronidae with striped bass, white perch, yellow bass and spotted sea bass.  Their shape and personality might make fishermen think they are related to largemouth bass, but they are not.  Largemouth, smallmouth bass, rock bass, crappie and bluegills are members of the sunfish family (Centrarchidae according to biologists).

When planning your next Devils Lake trip, remember white bass.  Fish like you would for walleyes.  When a white bass hits, land it and cast right back to the same area.  More will be waiting for your lure.  They school and they like to bite.  White bass make a fishing day really fishy.