By Lee McClellan

Kentucky Afield Outdoors

            This is the second installment of the “Spring Fishing Frenzy” series of articles, detailing productive fishing techniques and opportunities across Kentucky. These articles will appear on the second and fourth Thursday of the month. The series will continue until early summer.

There are old rituals each March in Kentucky. The series of prep races that culminate in the Kentucky Derby. The conference tournaments for our college basketball teams, followed by the Big Dance.

For many Kentuckians across the decades, there is another March ritual as pressing as the NCAA Tournament.

When will the white bass run?

“It should happen soon,” said David Baker, Central Fisheries District biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “They usually start about the second or third week of March.”

White Bass Fishing

White bass fishing in Kentucky goes back decades, but the big boom in popularity began with the fantastic runs in the Dix River above Herrington Lake in the 1940s through the 1960s. Old photos in Happy Hunting Ground magazine show smiling anglers wading the Dix in rubber hip boots, with a metal floating minnow bucket nearby and a stringer festooned with fat white bass. It is in our bones.

White bass attack any lure thrown near them during their spring spawning runs and leads to fish after fish, one of the reasons for their enduring popularity. Another reason people love them is egalitarian: you don’t need a boat or a ton of expensive equipment to catch them.

Bank fishing is one of the best ways to catch white bass and all you need is a spinning rod, a few lures and your feet.

The monsoon rains pushed many rivers and reservoirs to the bulging point over the past week, so the headwater areas where white bass run are high and muddy. Once these water levels drop and the forecast for the next week looks promising, the white bass runs should commence as water temperatures reach the mid-50s. The runs can start at any time.

The Salt River in the headwaters of Taylorsville Lake is one of the best bank angling spots for white bass. This area receives considerable fishing pressure from its proximity to the Louisville metro area and Lexington but keeps cranking out the fish year after year.

A weekday is the time to fish this area and a day with light rain – even better.

Taylorsville Lake
Taylorsville Lake

The productive white bass section lies mainly within the boundary of Taylorsville Lake Wildlife Management Area (WMA), so anglers don’t need to worry about access issues. The good water flows beside Old River Road, an ancient thoroughfare reached via KY 1579 (Pleasant Grove Ridge Road) and Palmer Road in Anderson County.

Anglers using Old River Road this year will find upgraded parking facilities at the junction of Palmer and Old River roads with about two dozen more parking spaces available. Parking is also available at a few gravel parking lots and pull-offs on Old River Road.

“Taylorsville is the best for numbers in our district,” Baker said. “Herrington is likely best for big white bass.” Both of these fisheries earned a “good” rating in the 2022 Fishing Forecast.

Anglers may access the Dix River upstream of Herrington Lake at the Dix River Voluntary Public Access (VPA) area at the end of Rankin Road, off KY 52 between Lancaster and Danville. The Dix River VPA gives anglers 1.6 miles of bank fishing water in Rankin Bottoms, one of the most historic fishing sites in Kentucky. This was the home of the famous white bass runs of yesteryear and still offers a solid chance at a 14-inch or longer white bass.

The headwaters of Nolin River Lake are home to arguably the best white bass run in Kentucky with many 11- to 14-inch fish available. The white bass in Nolin River Lake earned an “excellent” rating in the 2022 Fishing Forecast.

Bank anglers score white bass fishing the Broad Ford area near the KY 1214 bridge over Nolin River. There is also limited bank fishing access at the Bacon Creek boat ramp, downstream of Broad Ford.

The tailwaters below Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake offer productive bank fishing opportunities for white bass. The bank fishing infrastructure below Kentucky Dam and Barkley Dam is fantastic with paved walkways and fishing piers to accommodate anglers.

The white bass fisheries in both of these tailwaters received a “good” rating in the 2022 Fishing Forecast.

It is a mistake to overthink lure selection for white bass. A 3-inch white or chartreuse curly-tailed grub rigged on a 1/8-ounce ball lead-head rigged hook exposed still fools white bass. Anglers can work this old-school lure just under the surface, in the middle of the water column or just above bottom, giving the curly-tailed grub great versatility.

A 1/16-ounce or 1/32-ounce feather jig suspended under a pear-shaped 7/8-inch bobber is a great combination for white bass. Cast this presentation out into the current and watch the bobber float downstream. Change the depth of feather jig until the bobber disappears, white bass bite at different depths day to day during their spawning runs. Pink is a hot color as is white, chartreuse, or black.

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This is an excellent presentation for a beginning angler or a young person with a short attention span. They get to watch a bobber and react when it disappears. Live crappie minnows fished in the same manner are deadly for white bass and make a great presentation for beginners as well.

In-line spinners such as the venerable Rooster Tail from 1/16-ounce to 1/4-ounce with a silver body and silver blade, a white body and a silver blade and a pink body with a gold blade are hard to beat for white bass. Let the strength of current dictate your choice of lure weight.

Fish in-line spinners in the deeper, but flowing holes and keep them in the upper portion of the water column. If the treble hooks of these lures strike the bottom, they are likely hung for good.

Silver casting spoons make great white bass lures, especially in places such as the Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake tailwaters where an angler needs extra casting distance. Work them aggressively as they quickly sink.

 The white bass runs are on the way – get ready for some fast and furious fishing enjoyed as much today as in your grandparents’ time.

The new license year started March 1, so remember to purchase a fishing license if you plan to fish. Licenses and permits can be purchased online via and in person at various locations throughout the state.​

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