Yellow Bass Basics
Yellow Bass (Morone mississippiensis)
The average yellow bass weighs only twelve ounces. They rarely grow to more than a pound; with the record fish coming in at only two pounds.
Yellow bass are slow-growing fish. They take up to four years to reach maturity and gain any considerable size. Most of the weight they put on takes place in the first three years of life.
LC – Least Concern
Also Known As
Barfish, brassy bass, streaker, yellow jack, streaks, and gold bass are just some of the names that this bass fish is known by. They are most commonly referred to as yellows or simply yellow bass.
Yellow bass are small. They are more comparable in size to perch than they are to the wider bass family.
As the name suggests, their body is silvery-yellow in color. Like many bass species, their distinctive color is more pronounced higher along their sides and lightens towards the fish’s underbelly.
You can tell a yellow bass apart from white bass or stripers (which they are often confused for) through two distinctive features:
- They have distinctive lateral stripes that are broken above the anal fin
- The yellow bass lacks tooth patches along its tongue
The dorsal fin is technically one joined-up fin but appears as two distinct fins. The forward dorsal fin has large pronounced spines and is nearly translucent. The rear dorsal fin has many more spines, but they are much smaller, giving it a shorter and rounded appearance.
The head is pointed with two large eyes which boast yellow irises.
Yellow bass are small but have a reputation for being easy to catch and delicious to eat
A Note on Spawning
Yellow bass operate in an annual cycle that is broken down into pre-spawn and spawn. During the pre-spawn period, the fish move in large schools and are found in non-turbulent but relatively deep water. They behave like their white bass cousins, chasing baitfish to the surface or into coves to feed on.
During the spawn, yellow bass make their way into shallow waters. The females lay eggs in a broadcast fashion, with the males fertilizing them similarly. During this period, instead of being located in their usual deep channels, yellow bass will occupy shallow water for the duration of the spawn.
How to Catch Yellow Bass
Yellow bass are primarily found in rivers and lakes along the Mississippi watershed. They can also be found deep into east Texas and northern parts of Georgia. Yellow bass have a strong preference for deep waters that, at the same time, give access to shallow, sheltered spawning grounds.
The extensive, slow-moving waterways of the Red River, Mississippi River, and the Coosa River are perfect for yellow bass. They offer areas of deep water for the fish to school in while providing avenues through which the fish can travel to reach shallow spawning ground.
Favorite Feeding Spots
Yellow bass inhabit slow-moving water. Since they predominantly feed on invertebrates living on the bottom, as well as baitfish, look to target large lake flats with sandy bottoms. These areas are ideal places to find schooling yellow bass searching for their next meal.
Rivers that run through lakes or shallow flats can be found all over the southeastern United States. These are excellent places to target yellow bass.
As with plenty of aquatic life, yellow bass mate in the spring; this drives them into a flurry of activity and allows fishermen to enjoy a period of more active fishing. Spring is characterized entirely by the spawn and their strong desire for shallow water. Fishing flats, where yellow bass can broadcast their eggs without the presence of strong currents or predation, is crucial for success.
When summer arrives, yellow bass move to deeper water, and the season is characterized by furious eating and large schools of moving fish. Yellow bass can be tricky to locate, but once you have found them, they are a hive of activity. Capitalize on the summer heat by fishing drop shots close to the bottom.
During the fall, yellow bass move even deeper and start to conserve energy. Food resources become scarce as water temperatures fall and weather patterns change. Yellow bass can still be located and caught during this time, but it is more demanding due to their sluggish nature.
This sluggish sentiment continues into winter, which is especially challenging for yellow bass fishing. Late winter can bring results, though. Activity increases as the fish take on more calories in preparation for the spawn. Exploit this period by fishing slowly and close to the bottom.
The drop shot rig is great for catching yellow bass in summer
Worms presented on a drop shot rig is one of the most effective methods for yellow bass. This approach works best in shallow areas with deep water access. Yellow bass prefer sandy bottoms, so always target these areas if you can.
Minnows are devasting when used correctly. The challenge is they won’t exclusively catch yellow bass; they will also lure in crappie, catfish, and largemouth (to name a few). If you’re only out for yellow bass, you need to be very particular with how and where you fish minnows.
Live bait is generally considered optimal for yellow bass, but some classic lures can also be used to great effect. Crappie jigs are an excellent artificial option. In muddy water or on overcast days, reach for vibrant colors. Use gray or silver jigs when there is ample light penetration or if the water is clear.
Fish crappie jigs close to the bottom and in the same areas that you would fish live bait. Don’t forget to give the jig some life by popping it up a few inches before letting it fall back down.
Small crappie jigs are fantastic lures for yellow bass
Fishing close to the bottom with a drop shot rig is the most popular and effective method for catching yellow bass; especially when paired with minnows or worms.
Other methods will also get yellow bass on the bank. Targeting chokepoints with crappie jigs, beetle spins, jigging spoons, and other soft plastics can produce results.
Top Tips for Catching Yellow Bass
Tip 1: Use A Depth Finder
A depth finder is an essential item if you’re looking to target yellow bass. They allow you to map depths and analyze lake bottom topographies easily. Yellow bass are generally found in areas where the bottom is free from obstructions and at depths between 10-20 ft – a depth finder makes locating these feeding grounds simple.
A depth finder is an essential piece of kit for the yellow bass angler
Tip 2: Use Slip Bobbers
Consider using a slip bobber in your setup. Slip bobbers allow you to have a clear strike indicator and set the depth at which you are fishing. Often, yellow bass will be located in areas with vegetation on the bottom. This can cause problems with snags when using a classic drop shot rig. A slip bobber gets around this problem by ensuring your rig stays close to the bottom, but away from any debris.
Tip 3: Live Baits Are Best
Only revert to artificial baits if you have to; yellow bass will nearly always prefer live bait.
Additionally, fishing off the bottom in areas they typically inhabit makes using artificial lures challenging. Put simply, always go with live bait if you can.