Test your mettle this year by challenging the largemouths that swim the waters of the Show Me State's bassing venues. (January 2006)
Photo by Ron Sinfelt
The popper settled quietly under the overhanging cypress tree next to the bank. I twitched it once; then, again. It disappeared in a small hole; I tightened the line. The little largemouth bass tail-walked on the surface to express its displeasure. We communicated, exchanging sweet nothings with one another via the fly line -- albeit briefly, as an even larger hole interrupted our conversation.
A big bass -- I guess it would have weighed more than 5 pounds -- grabbed the small bass, jumped once, and then headed for the base of a cypress tree in the little lake. The fight ended quickly when the big bass spit out the small bass, which was still attached to my fly. I landed the little bass, minus a few scales, and quickly released it.
Largemouth bass offer me my escape from the realities of work. When I need a break, I grab a fly rod and a box of poppers, throw my float-tube in the truck and head for the nearest community lake or a local farm pond. I know I'll have some action, and, within a couple of hours, my perspective returns.
MISSOURI'S LARGEMOUTH BASS FISHING WATERS
To fish for bass in Missouri, you don't need a large bass boat and a lot of expensive fishing equipment. A float-tube or small kick-boat opens up a world of Missouri bass-fishing opportunities. Add a casting rod or medium-action spinning rod, throw in some soft-plastic lures and a couple of crankbaits and you're in business. Or do as I do and grab your favorite fly rod and a handful of bass bugs.
C'mon! Let's go bass fishing!
Mark Twain Lake
Mark Twain Lake is an unusual beast. Its 18,000-plus surface-acres a little more than 100 miles northwest of St. Louis, the reservoir lies in east-central Missouri between the limestone hills of the Mississippi River Valley and the rich prairielands of northern Missouri. Because of the lake's location, its water benefits from rich inflows from the agricultural regions of north Missouri, which contribute to characteristically dingy, or muddy, conditions that persist for long periods in the spring. Mark Twain's geography also displays geo-physical contrasts from one lake arm to another, so fishing strategies likewise differ from one location to another.
Those conditions can be good and bad for bass fishing at Mark Twain. During the spring spawning period, dingy water isolates spawning largemouth bass and protects individual fish from angler harvest. Also, when the lake level is high, the water spreads into the buckbrush and other shrubs along the banks, improving spawning success. As a result, strong year-classes of largemouth bass drive the lake's bass population and, thus, angler success, especially for intermediate-sized and large bass.
MDC angler surveys find the lake's current bass population to be thriving thanks to a peak in spawning success five to six years ago. As a result, about three of every 10 bass in the Mark Twain Lake measure longer than 15 inches, and there are plenty of truly large bass to satisfy any basser.
Anglers can access Mark Twain Lake from numerous public parks and boat ramps maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Other access points, generally unimproved, are workable for bank-fishing, or for launching small personal watercraft. Get your maps of Mark Twain Lake by writing to the Mark Twain Lake Project Office, R.R. 2, Box 20-A, Monroe City, MO 63456-9359. For additional information and a map of Mark Twain Lake, call the MDC at (573) 248-2430.
Table Rock Lake
Table Rock Lake, one of three power-supply lakes built on the main stem of the White River, lies in southwest Missouri along the Arkansas border. The 52,300-acre lake, which has quietly become one of Missouri's premier bass-fishing lakes, hosts numerous bass tournaments each year and attracts bass anglers from all over the country.
Table Rock produced an outstanding year-class of largemouth bass in 2002 -- the largest since 1999, according to MDC fisheries management biologist Bill Anderson. It's expected that these fish will provide great bass fishing in 2006, with good numbers of bass longer than 15 inches, the lake's minimum-length limit. Surveys also show that the fertile James River and the Kings River arms support the lake's highest localized bass populations and the fastest growth rates.
The Corps maintains access points around the lake. Check out accesses on: the James River Arm at Cape Fair, Missouri, off Highway 76; Aunts Creek off Highway 13 and county road 00; and at the mouth at Joe Bald Creek, off Highway 13.
Get your map of the lake by writing to the Table Rock Resident Office, Corps of Engineers, PO Box 1109, Branson, MO 65616, or call (417) 334-4101. For additional information, call the MDC at (417) 895-6880.
Harry S. Truman Dam and Lake was completed in 1979. Since then, it has become one of Missouri's best bass-fishing lakes. When full (in its flood pool), Truman swells to more than 209,000 surface-acres; most of the time, however, it holds about 55,600.
Therein lies the secret to this great bass fishery: Truman receives inflows from three major river systems: the South Grand, Pomme de Terre and Osage rivers. These drain the agricultural prairielands of west-central Missouri and eastern Kansas such that spring rains swell the lake, flooding its large shallow flats each year.
This highly productive lake supports one of the best largemouth bass populations in Missouri. Truman's bass spawns are consistent, annually providing strong year-classes. This year biologists predict good numbers of large bass for anglers. Intermediate-sized bass are numerous and keep anglers catching and releasing fish as they seek their trophy wallhangers.
The Corps provides numerous fishing accesses around Truman Lake. In the spring, when the lake has spread out into the flood pool, you can access some great fishing from; Roscoe Access, just off Highway 82 and county road E; Berry Bend Access, off county road Z; and Osceola Access, off Highway 13. Also check out: Sparrowfoot Access, off county road T; Cooper Creek Access, off Highway 52 and Highway 13; Bucksaw Access, off county road U; Fairfield access, off Highway 83 and county road K; and Osage Bluff Access, in the Pomme de Terre Arm.
Get your map and additional information about Harry S. Truman Lake from the Harry S. Truman Project Office, COE, Route 2, Box 29A, Warsaw, MO 65355, or call (816) 438-7317. For additional information, call the MDC at (660) 530-5500.
Lake Of The Oza
Downstream from Truman Lake and Dam sits Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri's second-oldest power-supply lake (Lake Taneycomo is the oldest). Lake of the Ozarks differs from all other large lakes in Missouri because of its age and the extensive shoreline development around the lake.
Union Electric built the lake in 1931 in the Ozark hills southwest of Eldon to supply electricity to thousands of rural Missourians. It created more than 55,000 acres of fishing water, with a shoreline that stretches for 1,300 miles. The impoundment includes the mainstem Osage River Arm, Niangua River Arm, Grand Glaize Arm and Gravois Creek Arm.
Extensive development of homes, resorts and docks around the lake provides a lot of different bass habitats not found in other Corps lakes. Bass anglers can fish natural bass habitats -- bluffs, rubble, shallow bars, deep coves -- and the many boat docks and artificial fish-habitat bundles found on the lake bottom in front of and between closely spaced docks.
MDC fisheries surveys indicate that the 2001 year-class of largemouths is responsible for the heavyweight bass that continue to provide a lot of great action for LOZ bass anglers. This strong year-class has dominated the bass population for several years; individual fish will on average measure longer than 15 inches in 2006.
For maps of Lake of the Ozarks, call 1-800-769-1004 or visit
http://odd.net/ozarks/lakemap/. For additional information, call the MDC at (573) 346-2210.
About three of every 10 bass in Mark Twain Lake measure longer than 15 inches, and there are plenty of truly large bass to satisfy any bass angler.
MDC Community Lakes
The community lakes dotting the landscape of the Show Me State provide bass anglers with many opportunities to fish without having to cope with the heavy fishing pressure felt by most of our major lakes. Typically lightly fished, easy to fish and individually managed by MDC fisheries biologists, the community lakes don't require running miles upon miles in your bass boat to reach fishing areas. In fact, no-wake and/or outboard-motor horsepower restrictions are in place at many community lakes, and boating on some of the lakes is restricted to electric trolling motors only.
MDC fisheries managers tailor fishing regulations for each lake to maintain high-quality bass populations. Duck Creek Pool No. 1 isn't on the front burner for most largemouth bass anglers in Missouri. However, they could be missing a good bet. Duck Creek Conservation Area is located in southeast Missouri in Stoddard and Bollinger counties, near Puxico, in what biologists call the southern Missouri lowlands or Bootheel region of the state. This 1,800-acre lake, once part of a great cypress swamp, features four boat ramps and six fishing jetties.
As part of its fisheries management efforts, the MDC cleared numerous 20-acre holes in the extensive aquatic vegetation that's prevalent in the pool, creating small "lakes" for anglers. Surveys show that more than a third of the bass in Duck Creek Pool No. 1 measure longer than 15 inches. The aquatic vegetation makes bass fishing difficult but provides great bass habitat and allows bass to live and grow to trophy size. Anglers in the know fish the vegetation and the holes using Southern bait-fishing techniques -- large minnows fished under bobbers -- to catch and harvest those large bass.
For more information about this lake, call the MDC at (573) 290-5739. Hazel Creek Lake, in Adair County just north of Kirksville, has earned a reputation for producing large muskies. But special fishing regulations and the presence of the large toothy predator also created a lake that holds big largemouth bass. According to recent fisheries surveys, more than 40 percent of the bass measure longer than 15 inches, and 20 percent of the bass stretch to more than 18 inches long.
Both boat and bank access is easy at Hazel Creek Lake (500 acres). For more information about this lake, call the MDC at (660) 785-2420. Hunnewell Lake is a 220-acre water-supply lake for one of the MDC's warmwater hatcheries. It's in eastern Shelby County in northeast Missouri, north of Highway 36 near Hunnewell. The lake could be a sleeper in 2006 in terms of producing big bass. Fishing pressure is light.
The MDC manages the bass population, using a slot-length limit of 12 to 15 inches. About 15 percent of the bass are reported to be longer than 15 inches, with a few fish measuring more than 22 inches.
For more information about this lake, call the MDC at (573) 248-2530.
Lake Jacomo in Kansas City is the MDC's only urban community lake that I'd recommend for good bass fishing. Sited in one of the state's most populated urban areas, the lake nonetheless holds a great bass population that's regulated by the MDC's excellent fisheries management program, which has produced great bassing here despite heavy fishing pressure.
The community lakes dotting the landscape of the Show Me State provide bass anglers with many opportunities to fish without having to cope with the heavy fishing pressure felt by most of our major lakes.
Anglers can expect to catch only a few trophy bass (which is to say those larger than 8 pounds), but the lake supports good numbers of 1- to 5-pound bass. Strong largemouth bass year-classes from 2001 and 2003 supply plentiful sub-legal bass. However, about 25 percent of the lake's bass population measures longer than 15 inches.
To improve bass-fishing success at Lake Jacomo, MDC fisheries officials installed fish structures throughout the lake to concentrate forage fish as well as bass. For more information about Lake Jacomo, and to get your free map that pinpoints these habitat locations, call the MDC at (816) 655-6250.
When asked where to fish for largemouth bass, many Missouri bass anglers first think of the major lakes scattered around the state. However, Show Me State anglers catch more trophy bass from farm ponds than from any other type of bass water -- perhaps because thousands of farm ponds lie scattered across the state.
Most if not all of these ponds are privately owned, so you'll need to visit your local National Resource Conservation Service office to locate where the NRCS has built lakes near you; then, visit the owners and ask permission to fish.
Small ponds produce such great bass fishing because of their isolation, limited fishing pressure and great bass habitat. It's truly amazing how small ponds can produce large bass. Remember: The smaller the pond, the fewer large bass that it'll support. Catch-and-release is impo
rtant to the maintenance of high-quality fishing, so harvest the small bass and return the large individuals.
The availability of largemouth bass in just about all Missouri waters -- and don't forget about our rivers -- highlights the wide range of opportunities for bass fishing in the Show Me State. Take the opportunity this year to check 'em out. If you visit my office this season and find the door locked, just chalk it up to my having gone fishing.