I recently had the opportunity to chase a fish that has captured my curiosity for as long as I can remember. White bass and hybrid (striper crossed with a white bass) are a favorite of many anglers across the Midwest, and have been on the end of my line more times than I can count. However, that line is typically wound around a spinning reel, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
This spring I began to unearth the slightest success on a fly rod, inspiring this article praising and endorsing such an impressive fish.
One of my earliest fishing memories happened years ago when I was just six or seven. My dad took me to a set of bridge piers on Truman Lake one night. He knew the hybrids were running and we just, flat, bushwhacked them. At the time I was too young to cast far so my dad would cast out, reel until he hooked a fish, and then let me play it to the boat. We caught so many fish that I remember him calling a couple of our friends out to enjoy it with us.
Every year dad and I corner massive schools of hybrid always leading to a couple days of unbelievable fishing. This spring, high water gave us the opportunity to chase them in some of our favorite holes. This was a “twice a decade” type opportunity and for the first time I began to target these incredible game fish with a fly rod.
Hybrid and white bass fishing is dependent on a number of variables. Current, water clarity, cloud cover, temperature, and even air pressure can all affect where temperate bass are and how they’re feeding. They’re typically quite aggressive and getting a strike is often as simple as getting a fly in front of them. Although, that tends to be the difficult part. When the stars align hybrids and whites may be as shallow as a couple feet which makes fly fishing as affective a technique as anything. It’s still possible to do when they suspend in five to ten feet of water but it takes a heavy sinking line and twenty seconds of waiting.
This springs those stars aligned in more ways than one. Not only did conditions concentrate shallow fish for us but they were big and more importantly hungry. On more than one occasion dad and I were treated to “every cast” type fishing. Our evenings, for more than a week were booked fighting big hybrids and whites to the boat.
The most incredible thing about this springs fishing was the size of fish we caught. For starters dad and I landed a number of two to four pound white bass while the state record is six pounds. We also netted over fifteen hybrids between five and ten pounds, several on the fly, including one of the two ten pounders.
Hooking into a large hybrid is such a great feeling that it is difficult to put into words, but naturally I’m gonna try. It begins with a strike that feels less like a traditional fish and more like the fly hit a brick wall. From that point forward the fight becomes very chaotic. Hybrid combine the size and powerful body of a striper with the fight and determination of a white bass. Their large tail propels them into fast, sporadic, and powerful runs that can break off tippets up to 20 pounds (written from personal experience).
Few other fish in freshwater fight as hard and as long as a solid hybrid. A carp’s first run is difficult to beat but they’re stamina lacks a little. Smallmouth fight like champs but it takes a true trophy to strip out more than fifty feet of line. A big blue cat can use his weight and body to muscle
anybody around but they don’t have fast line peeling take offs. Hybrids may in fact be the hardest fighting gamefish in the United States, outside of a salty flat or a salmon run.
It takes persistence and effort to find them, not to mention skill to present a fly into the optimum position. I haven’t chased these incredible, athlete like fish, enough but I certainly should. To any warmwater fly flinger I can’t think of a better quarry. Every minute of grueling fight is worth every hour of fishless hunting.