Spring fishing in Missouri has never been better. Whether you’re angling for rainbow trout or planning on slamming walleyes, these are the best places to hit.
Rainbow Trout, MO Trout Parks
I dislike fishing around crowds so I have never experienced opening day at the four trout parks. However, lots of Missourians enjoy the tradition and festivities of opening day at Montauk, Bennett Spring, Roaring River and Maramec Spring parks. The parks are stocked daily with trout averaging about 12 1/2 inches long, but the Missouri Department of Conservation adds to the thrill of opening day by stocking more lunker rainbow and brown trout than usual for that special occasion.
Although I have never made the opener, I’ve frequently fished Montauk and Maramec Spring in March. Snow melt and early spring rains cause the streams to flow a little higher and faster, and the water has some color to it, so the trout are less line-shy than during times when the current is slow and the water clear.
My favorite tactics for the trout parks in March are bouncing 1/32-ounce marabou jigs off the bottom of deep pools or hopping the jigs at a steady pace through the shallow riffles. Running a gold Flatfish or Roostertail downstream at a steady pace also triggers strikes from aggressive rainbows.
Walleyes, Stockton Lake
This southwest Missouri reservoir contains walleyes that run up the tributaries to procreate and those that breed on the main lake. Anglers have a good chance to catch walleyes in a confined area up the feeder streams, but conditions have to be ideal — the right amount of rain and water flow — to draw spawning fish to the riffles. Plenty of spawning walleyes can be taken on the lower end during the full moon period of April.
Spots on the main lake where the old river channel swings into a pea gravel bank are ideal for spawning walleyes. Jerking suspending stickbaits along these areas in the early morning, late evening or at night works best for walleyes. If the water becomes too warm during the month, try for post-spawn fish with minnows along ledges and channel swings in the 20- to 30-foot range. Trolling nightcrawlers attached to a horsehead jig along rocky points is another effective tactic for walleyes in April. Make sure the bait bounces slowly along the bottom at depths ranging from 5 to 20 feet.
Bluegills, Table Rock Lake
Anglers throughout the Show Me State know about Table Rock Lake’s fabulous bass fishing, but only the locals and a few outsiders have discovered the impoundment’s other fantastic fishery.
I remember when I was a teenager visiting the lake during summer vacation and catching several nice bluegills, but I never had the pleasure of fishing for these hard-fighting sunfish during the spawn. Table Rock continues to yield high-quality bluegills from one end of the lake to the other, and another sunfish cousin, the rock bass or goggle-eye, has become a popular catch in May.
Table Rock bluegills tend to spawn 2 to 7 feet deep in the backs of pockets. The fish will nest on either mud or rock banks and prefer holding next to some type of wood cover or big rocks. The most popular live baits for spawning bluegills include crickets, redworms or baby nightcrawlers. Present the bait vertically to the nesting fish or cast to the beds with a slip-bobber rig. Fly rod enthusiasts can also tempt the shallowest bedding fish with a small topwater popper or Woolly Worm.
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MSRP: Pricing starts at $22,195.
The 186 VLO measures in at 18 feet 9 inches with an 89-inch beam. The boat is built on a fiberglass, foam-filled hull and weighs in at 1,450 pounds and can hold a payload of 1,320 pounds. Maximum room is devoted to rod and tackle storage and fishing deck. VLO comes with a cus-tom-built, single axle trailer with submersible lights, a swing jack and a swing-away tongue.
The YUMphibian creature bait has two small swimming arms at the top, a pair of longer curl tails at the end, and two big “flappers” at the mid-point. Pitch it, flip it, or work it deep. Customize by pinching off appendag-es to create less water disturbance for finicky or pressured fish. 4 1/2, 5 1/4 and 6 inches in 10 color options.
Suzuki’s two new four-stroke, two-cylinder portable outboards have a compression reduction system for easier starting. The 20hp tiller model weighs 97 pounds the eletric-start model weighs 106 pounds. Single overhead cam, four-valve engine with Suzuki’s Lean Burn Control and bat-tery-less electronic fuel injection. Built for running in skinny water, both motors come with five tilt pin positions and 15- or 20-inch shaft.
Shakespeare’s new Micro Series Combos provide lightweight actions and are suited perfectly for panfish. They come in spinning and spin-casting models with high-quality components and each is spooled with Stren monofilament.
Ranger Boat is introducing a line of aluminum boats called The Tourna-ment Series. There are three models:
• RT 178 sports a 17-foot, 8-inch bass configuration.
• RT 178C has a similar platform (17 feet, 8 inches) but designed for crap-pie and multispecies angling.
• RT188, an 18-foot, 8-inch bass de-sign rated for 115 horsepower.
Rapala is hoping the new Scatter Rap Series lures and their “evasive action” will be as popular as the original “wounded minnow” style action that the company is famous for. The new lure has a “Scatter Lip” that creates an evasive, erratic, aggressive sweep-ing action. Ideal for multispecies gamefish, the Scatter Rap Series is available in 14-16 classic and new color patterns. Baits 5- to 9-feet deep.
YUM’s F2 MightEE Worm is 10 1/2-inches long, has an arrowhead shaped bulge toward the end and is made for big bass. Because the worm tapers to a smaller circumference before blow-ing back out to the bulge, the tail sec-tion wags back-and-forth in the water with each breath of current.
On-the-go anglers will find a lot to like in Plano’s new Flex ‘N Go Tack-le Satchel. It features adjustable built-in storage with a deep bin on one side and framework for the pair of swap-pable Plano 3600 StowAway boxes on the other, each Stowaway held with a flexible strap.
Honda Marine’s BF250 outboard is a 24-valve 3.6-liter V6 that uses varia-ble valve timing and lift electronic control (VTEC). Programmed fuel injection delivers the precise amount of fuel and air to each cylinder for easy starts and instant throttle re-sponse. 20-, 25- and 30-inch shaft models.
MSRP, $18.95 per pair.
The original Gear Grabbar is a unique way to hold lures and tools at the ready in boats. But the new Lure Hangar is a step beyond. This is a 12- by 16 1/2-inch plate,m ade to mount on your gunwhale, that holds 16 or more lures. There’s enough room for a selection of jig, plugs, topwaters or whatever other baits you want to hang.
Triton’s 21 TrX measures 21 feet and features a 95-inch beam. The bow has a 20 percent larger fishing area than last year’s model. A bow panel is ready for flush-mount electronics up to 12 inches, and has an organizer for pliers and baits. Stows 24 rods in the bow, 10 more in the center locker and another 14 in the port side. tri-tonboats.com.
MSRP,Package of 12 Juice Worms $3.49.
Designed by Boyd Duckett, the new Havoc Juice Worm gives anglers more action which produces more strikes than any other worms on the market. The slim ribbed 8-inch body has a long, flexible ribbon tail that produces a unique swimming action. 20 colors.
G-Loomis’Jig and Worms Serie GLX rods offer sensitivity to feel the bite and the power to control the fish. GLX models feature Fuji Titanium SIC guides, along with a new proprie-tary reel seat and split-grip handle configurations.
Crestliner’s VT19 has a .100 gauge aluminum hull, is 19 feet long with a 91-inch beam. Rated for 150 horse-power and has a top speed of 60 mph. 1,085 pounds and a maximum pay-load of 1,300 pounds. An elevated starboard console has a windscreen, switch panel, gauges and in-dash Lowrance depth finder. 30-gallon aerated livewell. Motor Guide trolling motor.
If you wade when you fish, Fish-N-Hunt Pro Gear designed a Tackle Tote Vest that to keep gear accessible but dry when you’re standing in deeper waters. It’s adjustable, sturdy, has lots of pockets and a modest pricetag.
MSRP, Jacket $249.99-$269;
Cabela’s Guidewear raingear now comes in four distinct series. Bass Angler (pictured) jackets and bibs are built with the tournament bass angler in mind. Xtreme parkas and bibs will help anglers fishing Northern lakes and rivers. Tidal jackets and pants offer lightweight, waterproof and breathable protection. River Runner jackets are perfect for wading anglers.
MSRP, $18,178-$22,950, no motor, trailer.
Carolina Skiff’s DLV Series is an unsinkable, all-fiberglass, modified-V hull designed for offshore or shallow-water fishing. The series has five siz-es, from the 17-foot DLV 178 with a 90-horsepower outboard to the 25-foot DLV 258 that powers up with a 200hp. High-speed bilge pump, cush-ion seat set, built-in cooler and plenty of storage.
Abu Garcia’s Revo SX baitcasting reel is now 25 percent lighter than before. The SX frame is crafted of a strong alloy while the handle sideplate are built with weight-reducing C6 carbon. Holds 145 yards of 12-pound mono.
Anglers who use jar baits know it’s a pain to carry more than a few. Berk-ley now has two Jar Bait Folders to keep the baits at hand and make them easy to transport. Model 1170 holds 10 jars. Model 1490 holds 16. Both have various pockets and a D-ring for pliers.
Berkley says they’ve improved a classic. New Trilene XL lines are now 10 percent stronger 20 percent more flexibility then they had been. Knot strength has also improved, said the company. Trilene XL has been around since 1972.