Stockton Lake becomes picturesque when fall leaves reflects on the sky-blue surface. Sailboats dot the lake, adding to calendar-like scenes that bob over moderate to heavy waves.
But my friends could care less about any lake’s Kodak moments, especially when the fish are biting.
I recently joined veteran outdoor journalist John Neoporadny and fishing guide of 31 years, Les Jarman, for a bass and walleye story on 2018’s first day of fall. Les started working topwater lures and spinnerbaits around rocky points and shorelines in shallow water. The sun had yet to illuminate the water surface where bass waited for a last meal before returning to deeper water.
Neoporadny soon hooked a 3-pound spotted bass on a spinnerbait. The bass fought well before giving up to a quick catch and release.
“Note the jaw length on this fish,” Neoporadny said. “That is a sure way to tell the difference between a spotted and largemouth bass.”
Soon Jarman caught a 4-pound bass on his topwater Pop-R just before sunlight illuminated the shoreline. The bass hit with enough energy to make a loud “plop” across the lake surface. The sun finally broke over our shade and the topwater bite ended.
“Time to catch some walleye,” Les said. “We just had a front come through this area and the bite slowed down. Let’s see if the fish are in a feeding mode again.”
Shad-colored Bandit 100 crankbaits were soon trolled after being cast about 50 feet behind the boat. The trolling was mainly around long flats between rocky points. Occasionally the trolling ran in more shallow water and each lure bumped rocks.
“Now give those lures three good jerks with your rod tip to drive them even deeper,” Les said. “That will drop them down a few more feet and that can make a difference.”
The lures wobbled down about 8 feet over 10- to 19-foot depths.
“Walleyes suspend this time of year while following clouds of baitfish like threadfin minnows and gizzard shad,” Les said. “Other fish move in too, especially white bass. But you might catch anything this time of year.”
Les proved correct when Neoporadny hooked into a good-sized white bass and then another. Moments later another fish hit the lure and immediately started pulling drag off the medium-sized spinning reel. Soon a 20-inch walleye flopped in the livewell.
A few coves away, guide Luke Jarman, Les’s son and outdoor journalist Ryan Miloshewski fished crankbaits around rocky points and hooked into several good walleyes, including a pair of 5-pounders.
“We worked our crankbaits across the rocky points on Flicker Shad lures, sometimes in 5-foot depths,” Luke said. “Walleye were there ambushing baitfish. This is an exciting time of year for anglers.”
Les and Luke’s guide service on Stockton Lake specializes in bass, walleye, crappie, white bass and catfish. Les has guided on the lake for more than 30 years and Luke has learned how to fish Stockton around the primarily rocky shoreline and lake bottom. The two work hard to make sure their clients catch fish.
Later that morning Luke and Miloshewski ran a few miles up lake to fish several crappie beds. They caught several nice fish added to a fine limit of walleye.”
“We caught fish today, but the best bite will come later when the lake cools off in the 50s and 60s,” Les said. “Then everyone will catch nice walleye and crappie. But these fronts turn off the bite here. That is exactly when you expect outdoor writers to show up, when the fish are not biting.”
No doubt about that!
Bolivar, Missouri: Want a good fishing destination while your non-fishing family has fun?
Bolivar, Missouri, is about 20 miles from Stockton and Pomme-De-Terre Lake. This progressive town located between Clinton and Springfield has taken great steps to pull in some of the traffic that generally drives past at 70 mph down Missouri 13 on the way to Branson.
The Dunnegan Gallery of Art features paintings and world-class wood carvings. Some of the carvings of people are eerily like live people, including a pretty girl that seems real. A cased letterman’s jacket made of wood looks like a real leather jacket too.
The Polk County Museum houses hundreds of objects and documents dealing with area history. The museum filled 13 rooms in the city’s original school building with a two-story log cabin that was built in 1887 originally as a country store. The most ancient man-made pieces in the museum are arrowheads, tomahawks, blades and scrapers that date back centuries, some pieces 10,000 years.
The Historic Bolivar Speedway, a 3/8-mile asphalt track has a car show, auto swap meets and weekly racing events. The car shows run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and races begin at 8 p.m.
Bolivar, too, has several walking trails through Dunnegan Park. You can find additional scenic walking trails at nearby Pomme De Terre State Park.
This amazing town is close to the lakes and attractions like Fantastic Caverns. A unique ride that explores the cave that was discovered in 1882 by an Ozark farmer, or to be more precise, his dog that crawled through a small entrance. The cave, too, was used as a speakeasy during prohibition when all alcoholic beverages were made illegal by the dederal government. This is a great chance for your kids to see stalactites and stalagmites throughout the cave.
Now for the good stuff. Bolivar has another landmark that is not historic, except for those that travel that direction many times each year. Smith’s Restaurant has some of the best tenderloin and catfish anywhere. Their sides like mash potatoes, green beans and berry or apple cobbler are legendary.
Want to fish with the Jarman Guide Service? You can contact them at 417-955-3250. To explore Bolivar, contact their Chamber of Commerce at 417-326-4118 or check their website by typing in Bolivar, Missouri. For more information about Fantastic Caverns, call 417-833-2010 or check the website at Fantasticcaverns.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 email@example.com.