Illinois River’s White Bass Run

Illinois River’s White Bass Run
Don Dziedzina

It’s said that when the lilacs are in bloom, the white bass are biting.  White bass, stripers, striped bass, give it the name you want; just don’t miss out on this exciting fishing action.

Many anglers head north to the Wolf River in Wisconsin in May for the white bass run.  There’s no doubt that the fishing is good.  Boats are as plentiful on the water’s surface as the whites are below.

When the run is on, anglers claim that you can walk from boat to boat because there are so many.  I say why go north when you can head west on I-80 for the Illinois River white bass run?

The lower Peoria pool of the Illinois River is the best place to try.  This pool extends from the Starved Rock Lock and Dam west to Henry.

Start your fishing trip by launching at the Starved Rock State Park, then head up river for the dam.

Other popular places to fish are scattered all over the river and most all will have boats on them.  So if you’re new to the Illinois River, you’ll have no problem locating places to fish; just join in with the others.

For shore anglers, the best bet is Starved Rock State Park.  Fish the wall by the visitor’s center.  Many white bass travel the channel there that goes around Plum Island.  There’s a lot of shore access by the boat ramp parking lot too.

White bass congregate by rocky shores.  Boaters should not crowd them though.  Keep your boat out from the bank so you don’t scare off the fish that are in shallow water looking for spawning grounds.

Blade baits are probably the best lures to use.  Zips, Silver Buddys, Cicadas, Gay Blades all work.  One common denominator though is that silver or firetiger are the best color patterns.

White bass respond to flash and vibration.  Blade baits give both.  But don’t discount the possibility of small white rattling crankbaits, Vibrex or Mepps spinners and other small, flashy, vibrating baits working just as well.

Early on and at the tail end of the run, live bait might be needed if the fish are a little finicky.  Big golden roaches on three-way Wolf River rigs will get the fish for you.

The window of opportunity for the Illinois River white bass run is about ten days.  The fishing goes from sporadic to phenomenal then back to sporadic again.  With weather changes it’s difficult to pinpoint the days that will be best for fishing.  But one thing’s for sure, when you start to see the lilacs in bloom; it’s time to head to the Illinois River.


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