Outdoor Notebook, Feb. '98
Table Rock Year 'Round

by Jim Van Hook

Table Rock Lake is situated in Southwest Missouri, just minutes from Branson, Missouri, one of the countryís top tourist attractions. Table Rock is the home of a high quality, year round bass fishery. The lake is consistently ranked in the top ten bass lakes in the country and yields trophy largemouth, spotted, and smallmouth bass. An added bonus for night fishing enthusiasts is that mosquitoes are almost unheard of in the Ozarks!

Table Rock is a very popular body of water for many tournament circuits. B.A.S.S., Redman, Central Pro Am, Heartland Pro Am, Guys Ďn Gals, Champion Boats, Nitro Boats, etc. all hold competitions here. A number of boat manufacturers also shoot their catalog pictures here. The lake is controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers. It is well-known for itís James River and Kings River arms. At normal pool, the lake covers about 45,000 acres and has 750 miles of shoreline. With itís many coves, creeks, and river arms, you can almost always find a place away from the crowds and wind.

In early Spring, fishing normally heats up first in the river arms, particularly the James and the Kings. Usually starting in late February or early March, suspending stickbaits such as Rogues or Thundersticks will produce some awesome largemouths when fished in and around the standing timber. As the water begins to warm further, crankbaits such as Rat-L-Traps and Wiggle Warts in shad, crawdad, or chartreuse colors start producing well. Remember, the colder the water, the slower your retrieve should be! The closer it gets to the spawn, as the warmer water travels towards the main lake, the action heats up in the main lake coves. Grubs, hula grubs, gitzits, floating worms, split-shotting, and Carolina-rigging will all start to produce fish. At night, jig Ďn pig and large, single blade spinnerbaits will account for some of the biggest fish of the year from the main lake area. Fish up to 10 lbs., with a multitude of 4 to 7 pounders being caught.

In late Spring / early Summer, the topwater bite begins. Zara Spooks, Pop Rs, Chug Bugs, SpitFires, and buzzbaits will all take their toll on the resident bass population. As the water continues to warm, the bass move to deeper haunts and a large portion of them will suspend over treetops that come up to 20 - 50 feet below the surface. Early, and again late in the day, these fish will push shad to the surface and boil the water with their feeding frenzy! Toss your topwater just beyond the activity, start working it, and hang on! As far as the rest of the day, try dragging Carolina-rigged plastics deep along main lake points or fish vertical with jigging-spoons, grubs, or nightcrawlers. I recommend a St. Croix PC56M for spoon fishing and a model PS 60 M for grub and crawler fishing. 10 - 14 lb. line should do for the spoons and 6 - 8 lb. for the grubs and crawlers. A good flasher or LCD, such as a Lowrance 1240A or LMS350A, are a must for this type of fishing. Also, the same night patterns as Spring will still produce some nice fish.

Fall patterns will emerge late September to mid-October. The fish will make a shallow movement that usually lasts from a couple of days to a week or so. Most of the baits used in Spring will also produce now. Donít forget to look for those schooling fish feeding on the surface! Next to late Spring, this is your best opportunity for a big fish and good topwater action. Vertical fishing also produces some very nice catches.

Without a doubt, Winter is the most overlooked season for fishing on Table Rock. From mid to late November, all the way thru February, local fishermen enjoy some of the best and most consistent fishing of the year. With rarely another boat in sight most of the day, good limits of bass are caught vertically fishing a spoon or grub. The fish do not move far, so locating them on a daily basis is not a problem. The fish are schooled-up pretty tight and you can catch a bunch in a short period of time. Daytime temps of 40 - 60 degrees are common and during the extra mild days, donít be afraid to throw a stickbait or crankbait.
Jim is the owner / operator of Hookís Guide Service on Table Rock Lake. He can be reached by phone at 1-800-603-4665, or online at HOOKSBASS@AOL.Com.

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