Summer is an excellent time for bass fishing.
Captain Don House, of Ridgedale, Missouri, is a professional fishing guide in the Ozarks who has a reputation for putting clients on fish, even when the bite is tough. I did not hesitate to accept his recent gracious invitation to fish for Table Rock Lake bass.
The morning started out cool and refreshing. I took a deep breath and exhaled fresh air while watching the surface for white bass. Few were feeding so we decided to fish for our intended species – spotted and smallmouth bass.
I was prepared to fish with lateral jig tube jigs or Carolina rigged plastic worms when House pulled out a small tub of nightcrawlers.
“Are we bluegill fishing?” I asked while wondering if I had misunderstood the invitation.
“Nope, we are going to invade bass water over flats located close to deep water,” he said.
“We are fishing for bass with fishing worms,” I said in disbelief. “Won’t the bluegill take the bait every time?”
“No, most of the smaller fish don’t want to be out here,” he answered. “Most of the bluegill out here are good sized. The smaller ones are no doubt eaten by any number of fish species.”
I started considering his approach and decided that anything could happen while slow drifting nightcrawlers in productive water.
“Now hook the crawler through its head and gently let it sink to the bottom,” House said. “This medium-sized piece of split shot will hold it down as we drift. Just watch your rod tip and line for the slightest motion.”
I dropped my worm down to the bottom and brought it back up one reel turn as instructed. We drifted about a minute before the rod tip dipped. I set the hook into our first spotted bass of the day. The next fish was a good bluegill that would have been awesome on a flyrod. Problem was, our equipment was too heavy for bluegill fishing that normally are best on ultra-light equipment. I soon discovered why our rods were medium actions spinning versions.
My rod tip double again dipped and I set the hook on a good fish. I stood up on the deck as my rod bent in half under the strain of a fine smallmouth bass. This fish could have been caught on ultra-light equipment, but there was little doubt that this was easier and besides, who knew what might bite next.
I admired the three-pound smallmouth and noticed it was darker green than its cousins in the northern United States. The fish looked healthy and proved it on release by disappearing in a swirl. Now the Ozark guide had my attention.
House set the hook on a good fish that clearly was not going to give up easily. The fine bass made several deep runs before coming up for a quick hang on the scale and immediate release.
“See, I told you we would catch spots in the 3-pound range,” House said. “Fought good didn’t it?”
I muttered something back while watching my rod tip. A 3-pound spot and smallmouth in less than 10 minutes had more than grabbed my normally short attention span. Suddenly my rod tip dipped severely toward the lake surface. I set the hook and realized that this was no 3-pound fish.
My rod completely bowed toward the surface as the big fish dove under our boat. I occasionally reeled when the aggressive fish wasn’t diving for cover. To say my reel’s drag system was squealing and moaning would be an understatement. The big fish was having its way with me and I could only hold on.
I felt a bit of the tension release and realize the fine fish was surfacing. Suddenly it jumped. I had hooked a very nice smallmouth bass.
Finally, the fight was over and I hoisted up a smallmouth that tipped the scales at just over five pounds. I looked at House and he just grinned.
Table Rock Lake is deep and clear. Fishing for almost any species in over 30-foot depth is normal. Light line and medium tackle is normally required. Heavy line looks more like anchor rope in this well-fished lake where fish have seen more than their share of fishing pressure. But the fish are there if you know how to find them.
“Bass in Table Rock can be patterned by following submerged creek channels, structures like stumps and submerged bridges or other structure,” House said. “The average fisherman can easily pattern and catch bass here, but it takes knowledge of the lake that is unique because of its clear, deep water. Summer and fall are excellent times for working the flats and any type of areas like points and secondary points close to deep water.”
“I use nightcrawlers with a lot of my clients,” House said. “Most have a lot of success but on occasion it will backfire. Earlier this year two teenage boys got bored fishing. I handed them a package of nightcrawlers and soon they wanted another one. I knew they couldn’t have lost those worms to fish that quickly and expected the worse – I was right. They had hidden the worms throughout my boat. I found some, but most were well hidden. I eventually found the others a couple of days later when they started to stink.”
FISHING THE AREA: Fishing around the Branson areas is one of my favorite destinations. You can choose bass, crappie, catfish or bluegill fishing in Table Rock or brown and rainbow trout in Taneycomo. Both are within minutes of Branson.
There are a number of good streams in the area too, all within a hour’s drive. Many are in Missouri but some of the better streams run through neighboring Arkansas too. The White River is giving Taneycomo Lake a run for its money on producing the next world record brown trout. This means you have a variety of fish and to pursue in a week’s time. There are numerous streams that are perfect for floating too.
Branson is an excellent place to visit during summer and fall. Contact the Branson Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-961-1221. Want to fish with Captain Don House? You can contact him at 417-270-7157 or email him at Don@BransonFishingGuideService.com.
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.