Top 10 Best Missouri White Bass Fishing Lakes and Rivers

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Missouri is an outdoor lover’s paradise dotted with gorgeous streams and beautiful lakes filled with fish. 

One such species is the white bass. I fell in love with this underappreciated fish when I felt the strong tug on the other end of my line.

I love white bass fishing because there’s no need to overcomplicate it. White bass are aggressive and predictable no matter what body of water you’re fishing. And they’re delicious.

I’ve fished many places for white bass (a.k.a. sand bass) throughout my years, and below, I’ve compiled a list of the best white bass fishing lakes in Missouri.

My Favorite White Bass Fishing Spots

No matter where you are in the Show-Me State, you’re not far from some incredible white bass fishing opportunities, but most of the top locations are in the state’s central and southern regions.

White bass fishing is at its best during the spawning run that often starts up sometime in March and can last well into April. However, I catch these sand bass year-round, so don’t hesitate to visit one of the lakes below, no matter the time of year.

Lake of the Ozarks

The Lake of the Ozarks is one of the best places for white bass fishing in Missouri because there are tons of spots to catch them during the spring run and into summer and fall.

Head to one of the creek or river arms in the spring, especially if they have some flowing water. Even though white bass don’t need moving water to spawn, they still prefer it. 

The best white bass spawning locations on Lake of the Ozarks have gravel or rip rap bottoms but don’t overlook laydowns and brush piles. 

Cole Camp, Indian, Gravois, and Little Gravois creeks are the best creeks on the lake’s northern side. The Osage River toward Truman Lake Dam can be excellent during the annual run.

The swinging bridges area in the Lake of the Ozarks State Park, the Big and Little Niangua rivers, and the Highway J bridge on the Little Niangua arm are the best spots on the lake’s southern end.

During the summer, trolling with crankbaits along main lake points and creek and river channels is the best way to locate and catch a hungry school of white bass on Lake of the Ozarks.

In the fall, white bass move ultra shallow as they chase shad, so finding a feeding along a shallow rocky flat or rip rap bank will lead to a lot of fun white bass fishing.

Because Lake of the Ozarks is a crystal-clear body of water, it’s best to use natural and translucent colored crankbaits, jigs, and topwater plugs. You might also need to use ultralight gear so they don’t see your line, but know that this reservoir also can find a giant largemouth bass swallowing your lure.

Stockton Lake

You’re missing out if you’ve never fished Stockton Lake in the southwestern part of the state. It’s loaded with walleye, crappie, bass, and white bass.

Mid-March to the end of April is the best time to quickly find a school of hungry sand bass in the tributaries on the lake’s southern end.

As the water heats up and summer takes hold, head for the creek channels and main lake points to find the schooling white bass. In the heat of the summer, get an early start on the flats and humps, as white bass will be feeding on shad in the early morning hours.

During the fall, the white bass will follow shad, their primary food source, back to the shallows. Bank anglers once again have a good chance of catching these feisty fish.

Because they primarily eat shad, I often use shad patterns when picking lure colors. Average water clarity is over 10 feet, so keeping your color selection as natural as possible is best.

Truman Lake

Just to the west of Lake of the Ozarks, Harry S. Truman Reservoir is home to some incredible white bass and hybrid striped bass fishing.

For bank anglers, plan your trip for the spring in the Pomme de Terre, Osage, Sac, South Grand, or Tebo creek arms. These are the lake’s major tributaries, where white bass head to spawn each March-April. 

If you have a boat, summer trolling is one of my favorite pastimes with my family. Troll along the main lake points and humps, or follow the river channel to find a hungry school of sand bass.

In the fall, shore anglers can catch white bass that have followed baitfish back to the shallows in gravel or rip rap areas.

Fishing wind-blown banks is always a good idea when targeting white bass because their food will get pushed up against the bank, making it easier for them to feed.

Truman Lake is much murkier than many other lakes on the list, so I switch to white with chartreuse or red on lures with more vibration or action, like Rooster Tails and crankbaits.

These types of lures also are bound to result in some mixed bags, including samples of Truman Lake’s excellent crappie fishing.

Pomme De Terre Lake

While muskies are a big draw to Pomme De Terre Lake, white bass are much easier to catch. 

White bass make a solid spring run up the lake’s southern tributaries. Start your search around the islands and where the rivers narrow.

The wind-blown main lake points make for excellent spots to begin white bass fishing during the summer.

As fall sets in, head back to the shallow flats and rip rap banks, as this is where feeding sand bass will have pushed the shad before winter takes hold and the water temperatures plummet. 

Pomme De Terre Lake has about the same water clarity as Truman Lake, which is murky, with 2-3 feet of visibility. I recommend natural colors with bright colors mixed in and lures that cause a greater disturbance in the water. 

Smithville Lake

Just north of Kansas City, Smithville Lake is the prime location for white bass fishing in northwestern Missouri. 

Anglers in this part of the state claim the spring run isn’t as good as the fall bite, but that wouldn’t stop me from testing some creek arms in April. 

Fishing wind-blown banks with a crankbait, jig, or spinner usually yields a few bites from hungry white bass, especially in the fall. 

With similar water clarity to Truman and Pomme De Terre, I would stick with a mix of natural and bright colors to grab the attention of hungry white bass. 

Table Rock Lake

I’ve fished Table Rock Lake several times when my family goes to Branson; I’d much rather chase fish than deal with the crowds at Silver Dollar City or Branson Landing. 

But to each their own!

The early spring is the best time to head up the creek and river arms flowing into Table Rock Lake. The James River Arm is the best and most popular, although if you want to escape the crowds, you might try another spot. 

Look for flat, narrow sections of the river or creek you’re fishing, as sand bass will congregate in these areas to spawn.

In the summer, trolling main lake points, humps, and channels is how you’ll find a hungry school. Spoons and crankbaits in silver or white work best for trolling. 

Fall is when the white bass follow their food back to the shallows, so I recommend starting on shallow rocky main lake points, where the wind will help drive the bait fish up against the bank.

Because Table Rock Lake is gin clear, natural and translucent colors work best for white bass. White and silver are my go-to colors in clear water.

My favorite lures to throw for sandies are crappie jigs, Mepps spinners, medium to shallow diving crankbaits, and small spoons.

Table Rock Lake is also among Missouri’s top-rated smallmouth bass fishing lakes.

Bull Shoals Lake

While Arkansas can claim most of Bull Shoals Lake, some of the best white bass fishing occurs in Missouri because several river and creek arms converge from the north to create the reservoir.

The spring will be the best time to fish the Missouri side of Bull Shoals Lake. I recommend starting in narrow parts of the creeks and rivers and working your way up into them, hitting the laydowns, brush piles, and flats you come across. 

Less white bass fishing will occur during the summer here because much of the main lake is in Arkansas. However, there’s always a population of sand bass that can be found by trolling the creek and river channels on the main lake and up into the White River.

When most anglers get off the water in the fall, white bass still bite in the shallows, so it’s another excellent time for bank anglers to get after them.

Since Bull Shoals is another ultra-clear body of water in the Ozarks, natural and translucent colors are what I prefer to throw here when targeting white bass.

You might catch other gamefish along the way, as Bull Shoals is a top choice for fishing for walleye, bass and other popular species.

Norfork Lake

Another impoundment primarily located in northern Arkansas is Norfork Lake. However, the North Fork River and Bryant Creek converge in Missouri at the lake’s northern tip.

This area has some of the lake’s (and some of Missouri’s) best white bass fishing in the spring when they’re spawning. Fish the narrow parts of the creek and river near deep holes and shallow flats. 

Trolling around the Highway 160 bridge, where there is a nice boat ramp during the summer should yield some excellent hauls as the fish head back downriver to the main lake.

Arkansas also stocks striped bass and hybrid stripers in Norfork, and those cousins may join the fun on the Missouri side of the line.

Norfork Lake is also a clear Ozark reservoir, so translucent and natural colors work best whether you’re throwing a Mepps spinner, crankbait, topwater popper, or jig.

Mississippi and Missouri Rivers

While the primary white bass fishing locations are in southern and central Missouri, that doesn’t mean northern and eastern Missourians are left out in the cold. The big rivers in those regions are white bass highways.

The Mississippi River has long been is full of white bass and is the close-to-home choice in the St. Louis area. The Missouri River and impoundments on its tributaries are increasingly prime spots for white bass.

Big rivers can be challenging to fish with the added element of strong current, but look for white bass around wing dikes, below dams and around locks above St. Louis, and up into various tributaries.

These big rivers are also among Missouri’s best catfishing waters.

Catch More White Bass

I’ve written about all of my favorite tactics and lures in a complete guide to white bass fishing.

I hope to see you on the water, reeling in a mess of sand bass soon!