Yellow Bass: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

by Thomas on July 22, 2011

Outside Iowa® & Midwest Iowa Outdoors®

With Thomas Allen

(July 18th, 2011)

As Iowans we are blessed with many diverse fisheries across the state.  The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has effectively managed our lakes to the point where trophy fisheries exist in most of our systems for nearly all species.

Yellow Bass have found their way into many of our lakes by either chance or by underground stocking efforts.  Yellow bass are an invasive species that certainly have long-term detrimental affects on habitat and forage.  While the ugly truth about these fish is the negative impact they can have on Iowa lakes, yet they present an excellent opportunity at good fun and valuable efforts to improve the future health of the system.

Yellow bass will take over the spawning grounds of other species such as crappies, bluegill, even walleye and largemouth bass.  They reproduce rapidly and are very aggressive feeders consequently they add tremendous pressure and competition on the forage base.

There is no current daily bag limit on yellows and in fact, if you catch yellow bass its best to not even put them back in the water.  For the angler whose ‘bread and butter’ is catching bucket loads of fish that fight hard and taste great, yellow bass fishing just might be your bag.  I have seen the effects these little yellow fish can have, but I’ll be honest, they are a lot of fun to catch.  They will eat jigs, crankbaits, spinners, and just about any livebait presentation you can come up with.

Recently, I spent some time on the water with good friend and legendary walleye pro, Tommy Skarlis.  We were working on putting together some work to promote Iowa’s walleye resource and decided Clear Lake was the best place to accomplish our goals.  We spent the day trolling small cranks on flat lines and planer boards and while we managed to connect on a few ‘eyes, but we could hardly keep the yellow bass off the lines.

As it so often happens on outdoor adventures, our intentions changed as we filled the livewell with a pile of yellow bass.  Early in the season during the spawn these fish can be caught by the hundreds along rocky hard bottoms, shallow weed flats, and other standard spawning locations.  However, as summer progresses, they tend to spread out but still staying in smaller, more concentrated schools.  If you hit one, others are near by.

If you are a summertime crappie angler you know that they tend to suspend in open water, yellow bass do the very same thing as they chase pods of baitfish around.  In comparison, the yellows will typically suspend below where the crappies prefer to be.

When trying to catch open water suspended fish, the best plan of attack is often trolling small cranks like the Salmo Hornet.  These small baits only dive a few feet, but they are absolutely dynamite on fish of all types, especially yellow bass.  In Iowa an angler is allowed to have two rods out at a time.  With two anglers in a boat, set two flat lines out the back of the boat and two planer boards out the side of the boat.  All rigged with different colored Hornets until you find the pattern.  It can be quite the circus when all the rods load up at the same time!

You can catch yellows from shore just as easily.  Focus on all obvious structure, especially docks, brush, and rock jetties.  Yellow bass are easy to catch, love to fight, make great table fare, and by removing them you are helping the future of the fishery.  But, above all else they present a great opportunity to introduce a new or young angler to the sport of fishing.

Good luck and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments.

Live it Up!

(Thomas resides with his wife and two children in Guthrie Center, Iowa.  He is a professional outdoor writer, photographer, videographer, and outdoor talk radio show host; for more information visit  If you have questions or comments feel free to email Thomas at

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