White Bass

White Bass


slab-sided, blue gray to silvery spiny-rayed fish; dorsal, caudal and anal fins slate gray, pectoral fins and belly white; dorsal fin separated into two lobes; few attain weights greater than 2-3 pounds


White Bass Distribution

Mississippi River and lower reaches of its tributaries, natural lakes in northeast Iowa


fish, insects, and crustaceans

State Record

3 pounds, 14 ounces - West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson County, May 1972 - Bill Born, Milford, Iowa

Expert Tip

try fishing white and/or yellow jigs (1/8 ounce) in tandem where you see the schools of white bass chasing minows to the surface


The white bass is common to abundant throughout the Mississippi River and in the lower reaches of its main tributary streams. Sizable populations presently inhabit the flood control reservoirs that impound the interior rivers, Red Rock, Rathbun and Coralville, which has led to a dramatic increase in white bass abundance and distribution during the past several decades. Its range also includes the Missouri River and tributaries. This species is common in many natural lakes including: Storm, North Twin, Blackhawk, East and West Okoboji, Spirit, Minnewhasta, Upper and Lower Gar and Clear lakes.

Typical white bass habitat is the deep, quiet pools of medium to large rivers and the mid-water environment of lakes and reservoirs. They are most frequently found utilizing locations with sand and gravel bottoms in clear to slightly turbid water.

The white bass is a slab-sided, blue-gray to silvery, spiny-rayed fish with slate gray dorsal, caudal and anal fins, white belly and pectoral fins. It has 5 to 7 longitudinal dark colored body stripes. Stripes on the body are usually interrupted but not as sharply broken or offset above the anal fin as other fishes in this family. The dorsal fin is separated into two complete lobes; the first contains 9 spines and the second has a single spine with 13 to 15 soft rays. The anal fin is comprised of 3 spines graduating in length followed by 11 to 13 soft rays. The mouth is slightly oblique with the lower jaw projecting slightly beyond the upper jaw.

Spawning is a spring ritual that occurs in Iowa from April through mid-June at water temperatures ranging from 58 to 70 degrees F. Sexually mature fish form schools, often unisexual groups, that move onto shoals or estuaries prior to spawning. Actual spawning commences when several males surround a female and the group swims about scattering eggs and milt near the surface. The eggs are small, averaging about .031 inch in diameter. Fecundity varies from about 241,000 to 933,00 per mature adult female, with the number of eggs produced proportional to body size. Once released, the eggs are fertilized and gradually sink to the bottom where they adhere to rocks and bottom debris and hatch in several days. No parental care is given eggs or newly hatched fry.

Growth of white bass is rapid, averaging 4 to 6 inches in the first year, 9 to 10 inches in the second year, and 12 to 14 inches by the end of the third year. Most males mature at age II, while females mature at age III. White bass seldom live beyond 4 years and few attain a size larger than 2 or 3 pounds. The largest recorded by a fisherman in Iowa was 3 pounds, 14 ounces from West Lake Okoboji.

White bass habitually forage in early morning and late afternoon, while adults are sometimes observed feeding during darkness. Their food consists of insects, crustaceans and fish, with the latter making up the bulk of the adults diet. This species is highly mobile, moving about in large schools, voraciously feeding on other schooling fish, such as gizzard shad. In Iowa, the presence of gizzard shad is a requisite for establishment of white bass in reservoirs and large rivers. White bass utilize other forage fish, particularly minnows and shiners, in the natural lakes for food.

Present in these Iowa water bodies:
Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Pool 19, Mississippi River Lee Amenities listed are at City of Ft. Madison boat ramp. Amenities vary by location in Pool 19 33500.00
Pool 13, Mississippi River Clinton Between Bellevue and Clinton, Iowa. Pool 13 Starts at River Mile 556.7 28117.00
Red Rock Reservoir Marion 4 miles north of Knoxville 15250.00
Pool 18, Mississippi River Louisa Amenities listed are for the Toolsboro Ramp. The ramp at Toolsboro is paved but the road to the ramp is gravel. There is some shore fishing along the parking area and at the outlet of Lake Odessa. Amenities vary by location in pool 18 13300.00
Pool 16, Mississippi River Scott The amenities list are for Buffalo Shores campground in Buffalo, Iowa. Amenities at other locations in Pool 16 vary by location. 13000.00
Pool 12, Mississippi River Jackson Between Dubuque and Bellevue, Iowa 12349.00
Rathbun Reservoir Appanoose 8 miles northwest of Centerville 11000.00
Pool 14, Mississippi River Scott Located between Clinton and Davenport, starts at River Mile 522.5 10291.00
Pool 17, Mississippi River Muscatine Amenities list for Muscatine City Ramp. This ramp is located in downtown Muscatine. Amenities vary by location in Pool 17. 7580.00
Big Spirit Lake Dickinson 1m N Spirit Lake 5684.00
Coralville Reservoir Johnson 4 miles north of Iowa City 5280.00
Saylorville Reservoir Polk North edge of Des Moines 4970.00
West Okoboji Lake Dickinson northwest edge of Arnolds Park 3847.00
Clear Lake Cerro Gordo south edge of Clear Lake 3684.00
Pool 15, Mississippi River Scott Between Davenport, Iowa and Rock Island Illinois. Starts at River Mile 482.9 3626.90
Storm Lake (incl Little Storm Lake) Buena Vista south edge of Storm Lake 3097.00
East Okoboji Lake Dickinson east edge of Okoboji 1835.00
Big Timber Complex Louisa Two miles south of Muscatine, IA off of X-61/Stewart Rd. 1252.00
Lost Island Lake Palo Alto 3 miles north of Ruthven 1162.00
Silver Lake (Dickinson) Dickinson west edge of Lake Park 1041.00
Lake Macbride Johnson 4 miles West of Solon 940.00
Big Creek Lake Polk 2 miles north of Polk City 814.00
DeSoto Bend at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge Harrison 5 miles west of Missouri Valley at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge 811.00
Big Lake (Lansing) Allamakee 3 m N Lansing 800.00
Little Spirit Lake Dickinson 4 miles north of Orleans 604.00
Pleasant Creek Lake Linn 4 miles North of Palo 401.00
Roberts Creek Lake Marion 6 miles northeast of Knoxville 288.00
Lake Cornelia Wright 3 1/2 miles north, 2 miles east of Clarion 243.00
Center Lake Dickinson 2 miles west, 1/2 miles south of Spirit Lake 220.00
Minnewashta Lake Dickinson 1/2 mile south of Arnolds Park 118.00
Iowa River (Marshalltown to Coralville Lake) Iowa This stretch is located in Marshall, Tama, the SW corner of Benton, Iowa, and Johnson County. A popular access is at the Hwy 21 Access, which is part of the Iowa River Corridor Wildlife Area, just south of Belle Plaine. 104.00
Sand Lake Marshall On the Northeast edge of Marshalltown 95.00
Skunk River (Coppock to Mississippi River) Des Moines Mac Coon Access is located five and one-half miles north of Lockridge just east of Willow Blvd. 65.00
Missouri River (Sioux City to Little Sioux) Harrison Chris Larsen Park: 1280 Larsen Park Road/Sioux City, IA. Located on the Sioux City riverfront along the Missouri River. Larsen Park offers 110 acres on the Sioux City Riverfront. Managed by the City of Sioux City. 64.00
Missouri River (Council Bluffs to state line) Fremont Lake Manawa State Park: 1100 South Shore Drive/Council Bluffs, IA 51501 phone: 712-366-0220. Managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Lake Manawa State Park has boat ramps on the Missouri River within the park. 61.00
Des Moines River (Stratford to Saylorville Lake) Polk The Highway 30 Access is in the middle of this river section and is located 3 miles west of Boone on the north side of Highway 30. 57.00
Cedar River (La Porte City to Cedar Rapids) Linn This stretch is located in Benton and Linn County. A popular river access is in the Dudgeon Lake Wildlife Area right of Hwy 150 on the North side of Vinton. 56.00
Cedar River (Cedar Rapids to Moscow) Cedar This stretch is found in Linn and Cedar County. A popular access is found in Palisades State Park which is on Hwy 30 between Cedar Rapids and Mount Vernon. 55.00
Missouri River (Little Sioux to Council Bluffs) Pottawattamie Wilson Island State Recreation Area: 32801 Campground Lane/Missouri Valley, IA 51555 phone-712-642-2069. Managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Wilson Island Recreation Area has 544 acres along the Missouri River near Missouri Valley Iowa. 53.00
Des Moines River (Saylorville to Red Rock) Marion A mid-section access point for this stretch of river is at the Pleasant Hill Boat Ramp. This ramp is located on SE Vandalia Drive immediately east of Highway 65. 50.00
Prairie Park Fishery Linn 1.5 miles SSE of Cargill on Otis Road, along the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids 42.00
Yellow Smoke Park Lake Crawford 2 miles east, 2 miles north of Denison 40.00
North Raccoon River (Perry to Van Meter) Dallas A mid-section access point for this section of river is at the Highway 44 Access 4 miles west of Dallas Center. 31.00
Iowa River (Columbus Junction to Mississippi R) Louisa Cappy Russell Access : West of Oakville 6444 County Road X-71, Oakville, IA 52646 30.00
Iowa River (Coralville Lake to River Junction) Johnson This stretch is located in Johnson County. A popular access is the Tailwater East Ramp located right below the Coralville Lake Dam, East of North Liberty and Coralville. 29.00
Manhattan Robbins Lake Park Linn On the Cedar River in Northwest Cedar Rapids 28.00
Gimmel Lake Allamakee 28.00
Mohawk Park Lake Linn East side of the Cedar River off J Ave. 26.00
Jay Carlson Pit (west) Boone 3 miles west of Boone 25.60
Martelle Lake Allamakee 24.00
Lake Petocka Polk northeast edge of Bondurant 19.00
Seminole Valley Park Lakes Linn Along the Cedar River in Northwest Cedar Rapids 12.00
Burlington Street Dam Johnson On the Iowa River in Iowa City under the Burlington Street bridge 12.00
Scharnberg Pond Clay 3m E Everly 10.00