White bass are found throughout the Land of Lincoln. Whether you’re fishing bottomland lakes or big rivers like the Mississippi and Illinois, you’ll likely stumble across a school of hungry white bass.
However, finding white bass (a.k.a. sand bass) can be challenging at times because they tend to roam, and many reservoirs, lakes, and rivers are large bodies of water; this is why I narrowed down the top white bass fishing spots in Illinois to just a handful of incredible spots.
As you continue reading, you’ll find the best places to wet a line for white bass in the Prairie State.
Then stay tuned for even more white bass fishing know-how.
Top White Bass Fishing Locations
Not only do I recommend the best spots to go fishing below, but I’ll offer specific advice on when to go and how to catch white bass at each location to prepare you to catch these feisty fish.
Fox River Chain O’ Lakes
The Fox River Chain O’ Lakes offers the best white bass fishing in northern Illinois. The white bass runs in the spring are unmatched, while summer, fall, and winter white bass fishing are a favorite of many anglers.
From late April through early June, head up the feeder creeks and the mainstem Fox River to the shallow waters where white bass will spawn along gravel and rocky areas.
This latter spring period is the best time to catch lots of sand bass because they’re concentrated in a small area and feed aggressively when not spawning.
As the water temps rise in the summer, head for one of the lakes along the chain. White bass will spend most of their summer around steep drop-offs near shallow flats. I like to troll along creek and river channels near main lake points during the summer.
In the fall, white bass will follow their food, primarily shad and minnows, onto shallow flats before they head back to deeper waters for the winter. Channel Lake is a solid lake on the Chain O’ Lakes to visit during winter.
The best white bass lures are small jigs, spinners, and spoons. I’ve also caught a lot of fish using swimbaits, curly-tail jigs, and crankbaits.
Natural colors or anything shiny tend to work best. When the water is murky, I like to have a splash of chartreuse on my lure to help it stand out.
The Fox Chain O’ Lakes also offers excellent fishing for many other popular gamefish caught in Illinois, including some of the state’s best walleye fishing.
Chain O’ Lakes State Parks makes a good home base.
The Illinois River stretches across the Prairie State and is home to large numbers of white bass.
Each spring, they run up the tributaries and shallow portions of the river to spawn. You’re in the right spot when you find a shallow area with a deep pool nearby. Sand bass will use the deep pool to stage before spawning in shallower water along the rocks.
During the spring and early summer, small jigs, swimbaits, and crankbaits work very well to entice a white bass into biting. I use smaller presentations during this time of the year because their primary food source is small minnows and shad.
As the water warms, typically in July and August, I like to troll for sand bass with a crankbait or spoon up and down the river channel, where these predators will patrol deeper holes for their next meal.
During the fall, head for the shallows, as once again, white bass will follow their prey to the warmest water as the temperatures begin to drop.
Any flashy lure will attract the attention of white bass. I’ve caught these fish using spinnerbaits, Mepps spinners, and spoons.
The Illinois River also is a great catfishing spot.
About two hours southwest of downtown Chicago, this impoundment’s white bass fishing is somewhat unique because it’s a nuclear station cooling pond. This means LaSalle Lake warms faster than many other lakes in Illinois.
White bass spawn in the shallows and along the rip rap berms extending into the spring lake. I recommend using crankbaits, crappie jigs, and small spoons to catch them this time of year.
Once they’ve finished their business, sand bass will head to the deeper pools near shallow flats to spend the summer. Throughout the summer, they’ll push the minnows and small shad into the shallows to feed; during these times, a topwater lure excels and is a blast to catch them on.
Because the lake gets very hot during the summer, you’ll likely have to use deep diving crankbaits to reach the cooler water, where the fish like to be.
As fall approaches, white bass follow their food back to the warmest water, which is often the nuclear plant discharge. Fishing is not permitted during the winter.
The great thing about LaSalle Lake is how accessible it is to boat and bank anglers despite being 2,000 acres.
Hybrid striped bass are also stocked here and may school with white bass, their half-siblings. You’ll catch hybrid stripers using the same lures and colors that will catch white bass.
Touted as the best white bass fishing lake in Illinois by local anglers because it has large numbers of big fish, Lake Shelbyville is a must-visit white bass fishery.
Shelbyville is a large impoundment with many tributaries feeding into it, which means you have options come spring. During the spawn, typically from April to early June, you can catch white bass in any creeks or rivers flowing into the lake. The largest runs, however, will be up the rivers.
White bass head back to deeper, cooler water as the temps rise throughout the summer. Look for deep pools with lots of bait fish, and white bass won’t be far behind.
If you happen to find a school feeding on the surface, break out a topwater and cast it into the chaos for fast and fun catching.
I like to troll along creek and river channels, especially those near main lake points, to catch white bass during the summer. The bridges that cross the lake will act as pinch points and hold a lot of fish in the area.
As fall approaches, white bass head into shallower water to gorge themselves before winter sets in, and they move back to the deeper pools in open water.
No need to get fancy with your lures and presentations; lures with blades that mimic dying bait fish are a favorite. But spoons, crappie jigs, deep diving crankbaits, swimbaits, and topwaters all catch white bass at Lake Shelbyville.
Don’t be surprised if you catch a mixed bag of fish, including some of the better crappie fishing in this part of Illinois.
Lake Shelbyville is under an hour’s drive southeast of Decatur and a bit farther from Springfield.
Catch More White Bass
I’ve compiled my favorite white bass fishing tactics and tips into a simple how-to guide.