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Head to the Ozark Mountains where Missouri and Arkansas meet, and you’ll find an incredible fishery nestled among this overlooked pocket of nature. There’s a mix of world-famous fish to target: bass, crappie, bluegill, and catfish of all sizes. Yep, we’re talking about a Table Rock Lake fishing adventure!
With rods, reels, coolers, and beer loaded up, 22 members of the Fishing Club (both anglers and spouses) set out for the mesmerizing waters of this 43,000-acre reservoir to discover some of the best fishing spots in the nation. Edgewater Villa Resort in Kimberling City, Mo., (located just outside Branson) served as our home base. Now we were ready to catch us a whopper of a good time and snag that prized game fish, Kentucky spotted bass.
Chartering professional guides was the simple and stress-free way to explore and fish Table Rock Lake. They provided all the gear and knew the lake’s rules and regulations, as well as the best spots to cast our lines. The lake is nationally known for large populations of a variety of bass, each with its own distinctive habits and hangouts. When one type of bass isn’t hitting, another one often is. A nice option, since we were angling for a day full of bites.
But on this trip in mid-May, we became a bit worried. Bluebird skies, bright sun, and recent heavy rains—about the worst conditions to ask for on a clear-water lake like Table Rock. But our guides knew a lot of places where Kentucky spotted bass hang out. We just had to see if any were home.
Moments later, conditions didn’t seem so bad. Pulling up to a drop-off near a point, we lowered a drop-shot rig into the clear water. Joe Busick lifted his rig off the bottom, then let it settle back down. He felt the tug of a hefty bass. The fish fought hard for a second, straining to get into the rocks below. Then it quickly surrendered, and Joe pulled a seven-pounder to the surface. Yeah, we knew there were others out there—we just had to coax them out.
The boats were all equipped with GPS systems to help locate prime locations, but our guides preferred to fish “old school,” making runs to favorite known hot spots. But that didn’t mean they didn’t rely on electronics at all. Sonar units looked for subtle changes in the bottom, brush piles, and humps that often attract finicky bass. Kentucky spotted bass were scattered all over the lake chasing shad. We just couldn’t find many hungry enough to bite. Despite using both plastic and live bait, the steady action eluded us. A few good bites, but nothing spectacular. We snagged 18 keepers and released a bevy of smaller fish.
Our three days of fishing were a bit disappointing, but we all agreed—some days are fishing days, some days are catching days. Oh, but the stories we told about the ones that got away!