It's the kind of secret that folks who only want something pulling on their line will find fascinating.
It's the kind of secret that folks who only want to eat fresh fish will find flavorful.
It's the kind of secret that folks who want to go catching rather than fishing will find fits their fancy.
And it's the kind of secret that can't stay secret much longer the way Lake Ferguson fishing guide Terry Bates has been whacking on the white bass the last few years.
With 25 years of experience fishing Lake Ferguson right next to his home in Greenville, Bates (662-390-3886) has discovered that, as good as the white bass fishing is, not very many people know about it.
"Either that or they do but just don't care to catch them," he said. "I guess not a lot of folks want to eat them so they just don't bother fishing for the whites.
"But Ferguson - all the river lakes like Whittington and Lee - have tremendous populations of white bass in them."
The white bass population in Lake Ferguson is so good that Bates, once he pinpoints their location, routinely catches up to 100 a day without much difficulty. They may not be the sexiest fish in the lake, but they are really easy to catch and good table fare as long as the fillets are not frozen.
Bates noted that, like largemouth bass, white bass have had a really good spawn the last two or three years because of recent high-water springs. Higher-than-normal water levels allow fish the opportunity to get large before they have to go out in open water and fend for themselves.
"Add to that the fact that Ferguson is so fertile because it has a continuous rise and fall from the Mississippi River and all the forage they have to eat, and it's no wonder we've got a great white bass fishery," Bates said.
Even though Lake Ferguson fishes more like a lake than a river, Bates contended that white bass locations during June would be closely affected by the level of the Mississippi River.
Any Mississippi River level over 40 feet at the Greenville gauge, causes Bates to look for white bass over hard substrate like a rock or sandy bottom. He even finds them over flooded roads, submerged boat ramps and parking lots when the river is high.
"When it's high like we've had the last three or four years, white bass like to get on some kind of hard surface," he explained. "Anywhere you know there's some good gravel, sand or a ramp - they school up on those types of places, and that's what makes them easy to catch."
Bates recalled a white bass trip a few years back when he took a fellow fishing when the water was high. He tied up to a pecan tree next to a submerged boat ramp, and they sat there and caught white bass until they both gave out.
Anglers unfamiliar with Lake Ferguson should head to some of the Internet satellite imagery, such as that found at Google Earth. These applications allow anglers to locate spots that will hold white bass once they are flooded.
"I go to Google Earth all the time if I'm going to a strange lake," Bates said. "With the technology being what it is, you can find a ditch, parking lot or any other kind of strange structure, and you get a waypoint on it. Plug that point into your GPS, and you can go straight to it.
"The aerial view you get on these Internet images is a lot better than the eye-level view you get if you go in unprepared. You won't see nearly as much stuff (from the ground)."
In particular, Bates pointed out an area called the Sand Bars, which is a group of sand islands about a mile south of the ramp at Greenville as you head south toward the river.
As far as white bass are concerned, sand is just as good as gravel, and the fish can be found lots of times around these sandy humps.
The upper part of Lake Ferguson turns on for white bass once the river gauge gets down to about 30 feet. There is a big ledge that runs across the lake up around the area locally known as the Chute where the lake is shaped like the letter Y.
"The Chute is a narrow area that goes up through a group of trees and opens up into what we call the upper lake," Bates explained. "That ledge along there: I've seen thousands of white bass out there schooling at one time.
"There will be schools all over the place where the fish are busting shad."
Bates said this area features a big flat that runs out and falls off into pretty deep water. White bass just kind of hang out there, where the shad are congregated, as long as they can before they move out into the open lake.
What makes both the hard bottom and upper chute area really turn on is a slow to medium fall of the Mississippi River. Bates said he likes anywhere from a 0.2- to 0.7-inch fall per day.
"It's really best after it's been on a fall for about three or four days," Bates said. "That gives the white bass time to concentrate up in these areas."
Once he locates a good school of fish, Bates has several lures he fishes to get them in the boat. All of them mimic small baitfish like shad, and most of them will work from top to bottom.
"If the whites are in less than 10 feet of water, I throw a small Rat-L-Trap or a medium-running crankbait," Bates said. "Both those baits make it easy to find and catch the fish, but once I find them I switch to a pearl grub because it's got only one hook.
"They're a lot easier to get off a single-hook grub than they are either of the crankbaits."
If he has novice anglers in his boat, Bates ties on Little George tail spinners for them to fish. Both the 1/4- and 1/2-ounce models can be cast a long way, and they sink to the bottom very quickly with a self-imparted action. All the novice anglers have to do is pump the rod and crank the reel a little bit.
Two other baits that work well on the white bass are 1/8-ounce slab spoons with a bucktail trailers and small spinnerbaits. Bates says any little 1/8-ounce spinnerbait can be good, but he particularly likes a 1/2-ounce model with two small blades on it that War Eagle makes.
"And when they're up top schooling, which they will be doing a lot during June, I like to throw a Pop-R on them," Bates said. "You can have a blast doing that," Bates added. "A Crazy Shad will work, too - nothing too large, though, because these are not large fish."
Bates fishes all these baits with medium- or light-action equipment because he doesn't want to overpower the fish. Most of his rods and reels are of the spinning variety, but he keeps several spincast rigs ready if anybody in his boat isn't a very accomplished angler.
And although he typically fishes 8- or 10-pound line, 12-pound-test line is the heaviest he would recommend for white bass. The light line and light action rods allow him to get as much enjoyment as possible out of catching these smallish fish.
The average white bass in Lake Ferguson weighs about a 1 to 1 3/4 pounds, but Bates regularly catches them as big as 2 pounds and as light as a half pound.
If he's looking for anything bigger than that, Bates will wait until later in the summer and fish the Mississippi River when it gets down below 22 or 23 feet.
"There are endless rock dykes out there that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has put out to divert the river channel current and make it go where they want it to go," Bates said. "You can go out there and crank those jetties with a crankbait when it's really low.
"Man, I have caught some monster white bass out there up to 3 pounds, which is a huge white bass."
And no matter if you head out this month to catch numbers of white bass or wait a few weeks and get in on the bigger fish in the river, Bates noted that there is really no need to get out there at daylight: He's caught just as many in the afternoon as he has in the morning and, even if they do stop biting up shallow later in the day, they bite just as well when they move out to deeper water.
"If you've been fishing for them up shallow on a drain or rocky bank, and they quit on you, all you've got to do is move out," Bates said. "I've been catching them in 5 or 6 feet of water and have them stop on me many times.
"All I do is back out and find them in my electronics as deep as 25 feet where they just moved off the bank."
At that point, it's just a matter of adjusting your approach.
"When you find them like that, you can drop small baits in there and you can catch them just as good as you did when they were up feeding," Bates said.
So if you would rather go catching than fishing this month, head to Lake Ferguson for some action that's so good you won't be able to keep the fact that you whacked the white bass under wraps.