By Phillip Stone Stone Guiding Service www.ozarksfishin.com
“Winding down through the valleys and hollows of the Ozark Mountains, from Branson, Missouri to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, Table Rock Lake reaches out for your attention with water as blue as the sky”. Table Rock Dam is located on the White River in Southwestern Missouri eight miles upstream and Southwest of Branson, Missouri. Table Rock Lake extends 79 miles upstream along the White River and inundates areas in both Missouri and Arkansas. Built in 1959, Table Rock is operated by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers; Table Rock Lake has become a paradise for boaters, scuba divers, campers and fishermen alike.
Table Rock is a fisherman’s lake and, arguably, some of the best fishing on Table Rock is in the Shell Knob area. The convergence of the Kings and White Rivers just West of Shell Knob creates a true Mecca for fishing in this area.
When naming Table Rock as one of the Top 10 Fishing Hotspots in the U.S. in 2011, the World Fishing Network (WFN) noted that Table Rock Lake is: “A very popular choice for tournaments and is used commonly by both B.A.S.S. and FLW Tours. Part of the reason is that fishing here is good year-round and, also because it’s not just the largemouth that gets attention on this lake. Both smallmouth and spotted bass are in great abundance on Table Rock Lake, making (it) a trifecta of excellent bass fishing possibilities for this southern Missouri Lake. The lake is well known for its deep water bass fishing from the summer season right through until December”.
Line size, color and equipment are very important. The clear waters of Table Rock dictate the use of clear or green line. On your spinning reels, use 6 or 8 lb test and on your casting reels, 10 or 12 lb test. This should accommodate most any fishing situation.
Speaking climatologically, just as the Ozarks has four defined seasons, fishing also has four distinctive seasons and patterns that will almost guarantee you success on your trip.
Winter, the first season, with water temperatures in the low to mid 40’s, you will find the bass in the main lake. Black and blue Jigs fished slowly, casting spoons and drop shot rigs seem to be the most effective methods of catching bass. On sunny/warmer winter days, don’t hesitate to try a Carolina rigged lizard on the lake’s northern side points.
February throughout March, is the time many local fisherman head out in search of white bass. The most consistent lures are Road Runner type baits in white, Rapala Shad Raps, Mini Rattle Traps or minnows fished on shallow flats near creek channels. The King’s River and Roaring River areas are especially good for whites.
During this same period, the Walleye begin their run. Trolling Rapala Shad Raps or similar deep running crank baits or live night crawlers fished on Lindy Rigs seem to work the best.
In the spring, the second season, during late March and early April, as the water temperature begins to warm into the 50’s, the bass stage near main lake points and begin their migration into the creeks in preparation for their spawn, typically in late April or early May. The most consistent baits during this period are a Storm Wiggle Wart in a craw color, a jerk bait, i.e. a Rogue, Zoom Trick Worms, Zoom 6” or 8” lizards, Yamamota Senkos, a variety of tube baits, Flukes and a swimming or football head jigs rigged with a plastic trailer. During the post spawn period, bass will follow the same routes back toward the main lake.
Crappie fishing, both in numbers and size, has really improved on Table Rock in recent years. Small marabou jigs, small jigs tipped with a Bass Pro Squirmin’ Squirt, or live minnows are the most effective lures. Brush piles and standing timber are the best areas throughout the year.
There are tremendous numbers of Blue Gill in Table Rock. Good numbers of these fish can be caught shallow using live bait or small plastic baits as soon as the water temperature warms into the mid 60’s (normally early to mid June). For youngsters, this is a fairly easy fish to catch and will provide many fond memories. The Missouri Department of Conservation offers an award to youngsters commemorating their first fish: Kid’s First Fish Certificate. Fishermen 15 years of age and younger are not required to have a license in Missouri.
The third season, summer, offers you the opportunity to use a variety of lures. You are almost guaranteed to find bass staged near tapering main lake points. Fishing a jig with a plastic trailer or a Carolina rig with a lizard, Brush Hog or 6” to 8” worm will almost always get bass. The most consistent color is green pumpkin followed closely by watermelon red and watermelon chartreuse. This is also a good time to fish a drop shot rig parallel to the points. As the water temperature rises, fishing a casting spoon will also catch fish. On windy days, throw a medium running crankbait on wind-blown points. During the very early morning hours, the top water action really heats up on shallow flats near deeper water.
In the fourth season, fall, bass will follow the shad back into the coves and creeks. Spinner baits, shallow and medium running shad colored crank baits, plastic worms and lizards, flukes and chrome casting spoons seem to be the most successful lure choices.
Shell Knob is located on the quiet side of the lake. Unlike several other Missouri lakes, the Corps of Engineers has kept docks to a minimum and maximized nature on Table Rock. On any given day, you will see an abundance of wildlife. The number of larger vessels on the western side of the lake is minimal which allows for a more peaceful experience on the water. Fishermen and recreational boaters/skiers share the water respectfully making for a more pleasant experience for all. We invite you to experience Shell Knob, Table Rock and all the future memories it has to offer. We’ll see you on the water.