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Where to Find Them Equipment Baits & Lures Angling Tips Yellow Bass Fact Sheet
Fishing for Yellow Bass
Yellow bass offer some of the fastest action of any panfish in Iowa waters. These abundant spawners produce high density populations that gather in large schools, making them available to anglers in large numbers. They thrive in some large natural lakes in northern Iowa, oxbow lakes, and large reservoirs where they often grow to angler acceptable size in three years. It is in these waters where they are highly wanted and provide a fish of the highest quality to eat.
Yellow bass usually spawn in May when water temperatures are between 60 and 65 degrees. Look for them to use a firm substrate made up of rock, gravel, or sand. Spawning mostly takes place in two to three feet of water, so seek out rocky shorelines or shallow rock reefs.
After spawning they move off shore to deeper water. They are usually found in 10 to 20 feet of water using mud flats over large areas of the main lake basin. Here they benefit from benthic invertebrates (blood worms) that thrive in the mucky bottom substrate. Schooling continues during the summer and usually when you find one, there will be others.
Yellow bass move to shallower water in the fall as water temperatures cool. In lakes with emergent vegetation, such as bulrush or cattails,look for them on the outside edge of this protective cover. Fish these areas until freeze up.
During the winter, yellow bass are usually found in 6 to 12 feet of water. They move off the shallow areas used in the fall and gather over mud flats where they once again eat bloodworms. They are most active during low-light conditions at sunrise and sunset.
Yellow bass fishing does not require a wide or expensive collection of fishing gear. Most anglers use a light-weight spinning outfit. An ultra-light to medium-light action 6 foot rod with 4 to 6 pound test monofilament line works well. Yellow bass rarely exceed one pound and most harvested fish will weigh about ½ pound, so you don’t need heavy equipment. Lighter weight line makes casting easier and will increase your casting distance.
A small leadhead jig is the most popular artificial lure used to catch yellow bass. Favorite size ranges from 1/16th ounce to as small as 1/64th ounce. Jigs can be dressed with a hair body or plastic skirt. Popular plastics are tube or twister-type bodies. Suspending the jig under a small float works or not using a bobber at all is equally effective. Other popular artificial lures include: inline spinners, jigging spoons, and beaded nymphs if you like to fly fish.
Live bait is the most popular way to catch yellow bass and there are many baits that work well. Most anglers use minnows in the spring. Small minnows, usually called “crappie minnows,” are the right size.
Once summer begins, bait favorites switch to nightcrawlers. Usually a piece of crawler about an inch long is plenty. Some anglers like to use cut bait in the summer. Cut bait is popular when action is fast because re-baiting is not needed and large numbers of fish can be caught on one piece. Belly or throat meat removed from a yellow bass seems to be the most popular.
Present your lure or bait on or near the bottom. Yellow bass feed heavily on benthic invertebrates that spend much of their life cycle in the bottom substrate. They often pick up the bait off the bottom as you search to find your depth. Keep the bait within six inches of the bottom.
Keep moving and once you find a school of yellow bass, stay with them. You will be rewarded with large stringers of scrappy fighting fish that are delicious to eat.