I went to Devils Lake this past week to nail down a terrific story on white bass fishing.
White bass, you see, are tremendous fun. They slash and cut at lures and do all they can to rip the fishing rod from your hand. When you find them there are usually enough of them to wear a fisherman out before they move out of an area. This, of course, remains hearsay.
Following a hot tip which was, precisely, "there was 100,000 of them out there," fishing pro Johnnie Candle and I carefully maneuvered into position where the huge school was said to be anxiously waiting for our arrival.
Candle had prepared two perfect presentations known as ultimate attractors of white bass. I checked and re-checked my camera and video recorder to be certain that I would not miss any chance of catching a whale of a white bass battle. I can tell you this, we were two well-prepared professionals - he with his fishing rods and me with my cameras.
Well, things didn't work out quite as planned. We did everything we were supposed to do, but the white bass didn't give a darn. In short order we had a limit of walleyes and had released at least as many northern pike, a few of which were in the 6- to 10-pound class. No white bass though. They gave us the slip. We looked for them, but the walleyes and northern pike kept getting in the way. It was horrible. Just awful. I'm sure you fishermen understand the pure agony this caused.
After concluding that the white bass must have moved elsewhere, we decided to move too. The white bass must have gone in the opposite direction because we kept catching walleyes and northern pike. Then it was all pike, all the time. I mean every cast when I say all the time.
I enjoy fishing pike. They are my favorite, but we were on a white bass mission. Doing our best to find those now elusive white bass, we continued to toss crankbaits into the water. It was pike after pike after pike after pike and then some more pike. We caught pike after that too.
By my estimate it was a pike apiece about 20 consecutive casts. Then, for the purpose of verification, I began counting. Somewhere in the 30s I flipped a tangled crankbait into the lake, which got hit, but did not hook a pike. I untangled the crankbait, tossed it just a few feet to straighten things out and no fish. That was the last cast I made that day without a fish.
For the next 40 minutes it was a fish on every cast. We were actually getting tired. Our hands and wrists were sore. We tried to quit a few times, but while one of us was unhooking a fish the other would cast and hook one. Finally we agreed to call it a day. Searching for white bass was wearing us out.
"We were working," said Candle, "But I don't think an observer would say that. Really, it's about how much fun you can have in the boat. That's what it's all about."
It is pretty hard to disagree with that, although I suppose a white bass would.
As for me, I'm going to go back and find those stupid white bass. I don't care if I have to go through a million walleyes and northern pike to find them either. Somebody's got to do it. It might just as well be me.