Beaver Lake Fishing: Complete Angler’s Guide

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dammed the White River in 1966 to create some of the best fishing in the country for stripers, black bass, and many other species.

Located in the Ozark Mountains of Northwest Arkansas, Beaver Lake is a 28,300+ acre impoundment where something is biting almost every day of the year.

As you continue reading, you’ll learn when, where, and how to fish for each of Beaver Lake’s favorite game fish species.

Grab your favorite beverage, and let’s hit the water. 

Beaver Lake Striper Fishing

If Beaver Lake is known for one fish, it’d be the striper. This lake has produced multiple Arkansas state records and has some of the best striped bass fishing in the country.

In their native habitat, striped bass are anadromous, meaning they spend most of their time in saltwater and then travel up freshwater rivers to spawn, like salmon and some trout species.

However, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) stocks the lake with young striped bass that thrive on its abundant bait fish, particularly threadfin shad.

While the AGFC says striped bass don’t reproduce successfully in Arkansas reservoirs, they still follow annual patterns that will help you land more fish during your next visit to Beaver Lake.

Stripers attempt to spawn in early spring, and just as their instincts tell them, they head up the rivers and creeks and congregate in deep pools.

One of the best spots in early spring is the upper portion of the lake where the White River and War Eagle converge. 

Stripers are incredibly aggressive during this time of year, making the spring one of the best seasons to catch stripers.

Crankbaits, swimbaits, spoons, and any other lure resembling a shad will work well this time of year.

After the spawning run, striped bass head back to the main lake to spend their summer, fall, and winter while hunting shad. 

During the summer and fall, you’ll find stripers patrolling the river and creek channels near flats. They’ll push the baitfish onto the flats to feed and then swim back to the cooler, deeper water.

I recommend trolling with crankbaits until you find a hungry school of stripers; then, you can jig using spoons or slap some live bait on a hook. 

In the winter, striped bass spend most of their time in the deeper sections of the lake, occasionally venturing to the flats to feed during warm stretches.

Live bait works best this time of year, as they’ll be less likely to chase lures due to having slower metabolisms in cold water.

Crappie Fishing

The clear waters of Beaver Lake are home to two species of crappie, black and white crappie. Black crappie are darker and have more profound spots, while white crappie are lighter and have fewer/less pronounced spots.

The other main difference is their water clarity preferences, and since Beaver Lake tends to be crystal clear, that distinction doesn’t matter much. 

Black and white crappie have identical feeding habits. Minnows are their primary food source, so I always recommend using live minnows, no matter the time of year.

However, spring is the best time to go crappie fishing because they’re spawning near the shore along rocky banks, laydowns, timber, and other types of structures.

I love throwing a jig during the spring, but nothing can outfish live minnows. 

After spawning, crappie swim to deeper brush piles, typically in the 15-25 foot range.

As the water warms, they will likely head even deeper, staying as close to the thermocline as possible while taking advantage of the safety of brush piles coinciding with those depths.

Trolling deep-diving crankbaits during the summer is a great way to locate a school of hungry crappie when you don’t have fancy electronics on your boat.

Crappie jigs in natural colors work great once you’ve found a hungry school if you don’t have live bait. Sometimes, it helps to have a splash of pink or chartreuse to help stand out amongst the other lures the crappie see all year long.

As fall and winter take hold, crappie move back to the shallows to feed heavily before suspending around relatively deep ledges for most of the winter.

However, during warm winter days, you might find a school or two patrolling shallow flats, searching for their next meal.

Bass Fishing

Another draw to Beaver Lake is the spectacular bass fishing. Largemouth, spotted, and smallmouth bass are all present in the lake and bring many tournaments to these waters, including several major professional stops throughout the years.

This type of attention means the bass receive a lot of pressure, so you will likely need to make your lure stand out from the thousands of others the fish see each year. 

The best way to do this is to understand the bass spawning cycle. 

In mid-spring, bass move shallow to rocky, hard-bottom banks to build their nests and spawn.

Big bass are famous for aggressively protecting their nest, so if you find one, a lure resembling a crawfish or bluegill usually works very well. Bubble-gum pink worms also tend to get bites during this time of year.

Once the spawn ends, most bass head for deeper water, although others will find shallow cover. This seasonal shift means fishing ledges, brush piles, rock piles, main lake points, and creek channels will yield the most bites.

Jigs, deep-diving crankbaits, Carolina rigs, and swimbaits in natural shad or translucent colors are my go-to lures this time of year when fishing deeper. 

When targeting bass shallow, I’ll also use jigs, shallow-diving crankbaits, Texas rigs, wacky rigs, and spinnerbaits in bluegill patterns.

As fall sets in, most bass follow their food to the shallows and feed heavily before returning to deeper water to suspend for most of the winter. 

Now that we have a general idea of what black bass do throughout the year let’s talk about individual differences. Each species has preferences for where they spend most of their time and the type of cover they like to hang out around.


Largemouth bass are the dominant species of the shallows. If you catch a bass from the bank, it’s likely to be a largemouth since they can outcompete the other two species here.

Every now and then, you’ll find them suspended or in a brush pile in deeper water, 15-feet-plus, but spotted bass and smallmouth tend to dominate the depths.

Largemouth often feed on bluegill and other small baitfish, so when I’m targeting largies, I use colors that resemble bluegill.

Spotted Bass

Spots are much better suited for open water, chasing schools of shad. You’ll find spots along the main lake points and channel ledges. 

I use white, chrome, and translucent colors when targeting spotted bass since shad are their primary food source. Swim jigs, crankbaits, swimbaits, and drop shot rigs are my go-to lures for spots.

I’ll slightly downsize my hooks and lures for spotted bass if I’m getting lots of bites and not getting good hook sets.


Smallies are my favorite black bass species to catch. They fight hard and are very aggressive. 

They are most often found around offshore rock piles. They’re typically in a school, so if you get one bite, there should be another not far away. 

Since their main food source is crawfish and small bait fish, I stick with crawdad and translucent colors and mix in some bluegill colors.

My favorite smallmouth lures are spinners, swimbaits, jigs, and wacky rigs.

Walleye Fishing

While walleye are elusive, Beaver Lake is home to a healthy population of keeper-sized fish. 

Like most other fish species, the best time of year to catch walleye is spring, when they’re closest to the bank. Walleye are some of the earliest spawners and prefer rip rap banks with access to deeper water. 

Swimbaits work very well this time of year for walleye. 

Once they’ve spawned, walleye spend most of their time in deeper water, so deep-diving crankbaits and bottom bouncers are two great lures this time of year.

During low-light hours, walleye move up shallow to feed along flats, and you can break out the spoons and swimbaits to catch them.

As fall sets in, they’ll follow the food back to the shallows and feed heavily in preparation for winter, when they’ll return to the deep holes, occasionally feeding. 

Minnows and nightcrawlers are the two best live bait choices for walleye. Shad-colored lures with touches of bright pink or chartreuse work very well throughout the year.

Catfish Fishing

A favorite of anyone who likes to eat fish is the catfish. Blue and channel cats are the two primary catfish species in the lake and are stocked regularly to keep the population growing. However, don’t overlook the flathead fishing.

Catfish are one fish that’s not worth pursuing during the spawn. They solely focused on finding or making a nest and spawning. So, catfishing during late spring or early summer usually makes for tough conditions. 

However, they’re hungry and ready to gorge themselves once they’ve spawned. So, timing this just right can be the difference between not getting a bite and catching a bunch of catfish. 

The summer bite is the best on cut bait, earthworms, chicken livers, and prepared stink baits.

I typically use cut bait or live bait to target blue catfish, the bigger of the two species. I use the other baits to target channel cats. Live bait works best for flatheads, specifically bluegill.

I start my search for catfish at steep depth changes near a flat since they tend to feed along flats and use the channels to move from one place to another around the lake.

As fall turns into winter, catfish follow their food back to the shallows to gorge themselves again to make it through the winter, where they spend most of it in deep holes.

White Bass & Hybrid Stripers

A close relative of striped bass is the white and hybrid striped bass. You’ll often catch all three out of the same school of fish because they have identical feeding habits and a similar life cycle.

White bass and hybrids will make the same run up the river and creeks as stripers at about the same time. While white bass and stripers often hang out together, hybrid stripers (or “wipers”) typically come from hatcheries.

Since white bass (a.k.a. sand bass) and hybrids are smaller than striped bass, I recommend downsizing your lures when targeting these species. I love using crankbaits, spinners, swimbaits, and spoons in shad patterns (white, pearl, and chrome).

After spawning, they head back to the main lake to feed on shad for the summer, fall, and winter.

You’ll catch white bass the same way as fishing for smaller stripers, trolling along ledges and flats, then casting lures or jigging with live bait (minnows) once you locate a school.

Don’t be afraid to throw some topwater lures once you’ve fired up a hungry school. Catching these fish on the surface is some of the most fun you can have on the water.

Catch More White Bass

You’ll find Beaver Lake and more Arkansas white bass fishing hotspots in this article.

I share my favorite white bass fishing tactics and lures in this how-to guide.

Tailwater Trout Fishing

The tailwaters below Beaver Lake Dam are stocked with rainbow and brown trout because the cold water released from the dam pushed out native species.

Trout draw a large crowd of anglers eager to land these hard-fighting fish along the nearly 8 miles of river they inhabit.

Fly fishing and artificial lures are how most anglers catch trout in pools and current breaks.

There are portions of the river where live bait and scented bait are allowed. Be sure to read the regulations before heading out, as there are select portions of the river that only allow flies and artificial lures with barbless hooks.

When fly fishing, do your best to match the local hatch. 

My favorite way to catch trout is to use a spinning rod and reel and use Super Dupers, which are basically small spoons with a long U-shaped bend. PowerBait is another very effective way to catch trout if you like sitting and waiting on a bite.

Planning Your Trip

Now that you know how to catch the most popular fish in Beaver Lake, it’s time to start planning your trip. You can find the boat ramps, public access areas, and the best places to stay near the lake below. 

Boat Ramps & Public Access Areas

There are many boat ramps around the lake since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages this lake. Here’s the Corps’ list of major launch sites at their parks.

Those launch sites require a modest day-use or annual pass, unless you’ve already paid for camping.

More than a half dozen concessionaire-operated marinas are located in different Corps parks of the lake and offer a variety of supplies and services, which may include boat rentals, moorage, fuel and food.

Places to Stay

Whether you’re looking to stay at a campground, lakeside resort, or hotel in a nearby town, you’ll easily be able to find what you’re looking for.

The Corps of Engineers campgrounds are one of the most popular places to stay. You can find and reserve campgrounds through links on the Corps’ main Beaver Lake page.

There are also many highly rated cabins and bed and breakfasts near the water’s edge, plus hotels, restaurants, stores and other amenities in several nearby towns.