September 30, 2010
Year after year, Truman Lake serves up some of the Show Me State's most rewarding bass fishing.
By Truman Lake standards, it had been a slow early-April morning for Jeff Hamilton and me. We’d been hammering male largemouths, some of which were comfortably over but the lake’s 15-inch minimum length, the line-stretching sows for which Truman is justifiably famous had eluded us thus far.
“Desperate times call for desperate action,” Jeff said wryly. “Just remember that if you even hint at the location of the spot I’m taking you, every member of the Truman Lake Guides Association will form a posse and track you down like a dirty dog.”
About 10 minutes later, Jeff shut off his bass boat’s outboard at the mouth of a narrow, timber-choked cove that stretched back about a half-mile from its juncture with the main channel. The slope of the cove’s banks ranged between 15 and 45 degrees, and the shore at the waterline was a mixture of gravel and broken rock. (Author’s note: I’ve led anything but a sheltered life, and I’m a hard man to intimidate. Therefore, I’m going to tell you that this cove is located west of Warsaw and east of Highway 13. So there, Jeff!)
Anyway, we started working our way down the cove’s left bank, casting Texas-rigged 6-inch soft-plastic lizards to stumps and laydowns. We hadn’t gone far when “something” tried to grab my lizard, and I responded with my famous (infamous?) super-sized hookset. Seven pounds of extremely unhappy largemouth exploded out of the water and, miraculously, came down on my side of the laydown that she’d been hiding under.
I told Jeff that I thought I’d need some help with my bass, but his affirmative reply was cut short by a grunt. “Sorry,” he said, “but I guess we’re both on our own.”
I’m not going to say how many 4- to 7-pound bass we caught in that cove; you wouldn’t believe me, anyway. Let’s just say that we could have culled quite a tournament sack and still released more bass than we kept.
Now, that stuff-of-dreams day took place several years ago, and there’s no disputing that Truman Lake has changed — some would prefer the term “matured” — in the years intervening.
For example, siltation has dramatically altered the upper ends of all of the lake’s year-round feeder creeks and rivers. Submerged channel bends aren’t as well defined as they once were, and many pre-impoundment roadbeds and field drainage ditches have disappeared entirely. From a bass angler’s perspective, siltation isn’t a good thing, but neither is it a tragedy. All the angler needs to do in order to find familiar structure types is to move farther downstream on whichever arm he’s fishing
In addition, the always difficult, sometimes impenetrable jungle of emergent standing timber has thinned to the point that virtually all of the lake is accessible to a determined angler. Uncountable tons of wood are no longer in play, having been blown onto the shoreline during periods of high water. However, even more tree trunks snapped at or a few inches below the normal lake level and sank to the bottom.
Every year, numerous newcomers and more than a few seasoned veterans are deceived by Truman’s new variety of back-breaking work — getting a heavy bass boat off a mudbar. Fortunately, virtually all such accidents can be avoided by keeping a sharp lookout — and remembering that the governor on your outboard’s fuel delivery system is a throttle, not an on/off switch.
But enough about past, present and future change above and below Truman’s surface. One thing that hasn’t changed is the lake’s bass fishery. Indeed, Truman’s largemouths may be a trifle more persnickety than their ancestors were, but the fishery still earns gold stars both for total numbers and for the percentage of trophy fish. Best of all, the period from mid-March through the end of April is one of Truman bass fishing’s prime times.
If you like to keep your bassing as uncomplicated as possible, you’ll appreciate that springtime at Truman has been called “lizard season.” At this time of the year, no other lure will produce bass more consistently than will a soft-plastic lizard; few will even come close.
For reasons known only to the bass, watermelon (dark green to us common folk) has always been the top spring color on Truman. That said, a wise angler will also carry lizards in hues including pumpkinseed, motor oil, electric blue and black. Likewise, 6-inch lizards usually outperform other lengths, but have some 4-inch and 8-inch ones ready just in case.
The time-honored Texas rig represents the “best” (i.e., least frustrating) way of working a lizard over Truman’s log-choked bottom. For best results, peg a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce slip-sinker against the hook’s eye.
Of course, no bass angler worthy of the name would leave the dock with only one type of lure on board, no matter how good that lure might be. Other spring options, more of less in order of preference, include the venerable jig-and-pig, spinnerbaits and soft-plastic jerkbaits. Hard-bodied jerkbaits and crankbaits work well in coves with relatively clean bottoms.
No matter which lure you choose, look for coves or pockets off any of the lake’s river or active creek arms. Coves that empty directly into submerged creek or river channels are preferable but not essential. It’s far more important that the cove’s bank have a moderate slope and that it be composed of gravel or broken rock.
Some local experts insist that a good spring cove must lie so as to be protected from high winds, which, in the Osage basin, usually come from the southwest or the northwest. Other equally successful anglers rank protection from high wind dead last when deciding whether to spend valuable fishing time in a particular cove.
With the normal exception of the situation in the Pomme de Terre arm, spring water clarity at Truman usually varies from dingy to thick enough to plow. Don’t let muddy water psych you out: Black bass aren’t a migratory species, and Truman’s lunkers have adapted quite well to the water conditions in the part of the lake in which they live. If it helps, keep in mind that a fish that can zero in on a black plastic worm on a dark night won’t have any trouble finding your lure, no matter how murky the water gets.
ace doesn’t permit a treatise on fishing technique here. Just keep in mind that the bass you’re seeking are in pre-spawn or spawning modes. Concentrate your efforts on shorelines that provide the best possible bottom strata and cover objects at a depth approximately twice that at which a white object can be seen from above the surface.
Now, if everybody is rigged and ready, let’s take a tour of some of Truman’s best spring bass water. It might be a good idea to have a map handy. Some of the spots we’ll visit are well known, but others are seldom mentioned in the press or around the boat dock.
Catfishermen know the boat ramp in Roscoe, but it’s rare to see a bass boat trailer in its parking lot. That’s a shame, because Coon Creek, the mouth of which is a stone’s throw west of the ramp, is home to some monstrous largemouths. Monegaw and Little Monegaw creeks empty into the Osage River a few miles upstream; Salt Creek is a somewhat shorter run downriver. Professional bass tournaments have been won in these creeks by anglers who proved that it was worthwhile to motor uplake all the way from the dam.
Osceola is another underrated Truman Lake bass fishing destination. There are several ramps in and near the city. While there are no on-the-water amenities, anglers can find lodging, food, fuel and tackle without leaving town.
Gallinipper Creek, located on the north side of the Osage River across from Osceola produces a lot of solid keeper bass, and trophies are a definite possibility. Turkey Creek is approximately three miles upstream from the Highway 13 bridge. Its entrance is tricky: Throttle back to idle and go straight ahead, and then right when the main river takes a right angle bend to the left. This is big-bass water.
Weaubleau Creek joins the Osage from the south four miles downlake from the Highway 13 bridge. This creek’s spring bass shoreline structure is subtle, but searching it out can be worth the effort. The upper third of the creek is often extremely clear.
The heart and soul of the Osage arm’s spring bass fishing begins a few miles above the Talley Bend Access and continues down the lake past the Berry Bend Access to and into Hoagles Creek.
There are simply too many short creek arms, coves and pockets in this part of the lake to list, but it’s the case that all have the potential to produce big bass. Wright Creek and Happy Hollow have been kind to me on several occasions. However, I’m by no means implying either is the best available water in this area.
The Osage Bluff Marina has the only on-the-water facilities on the Osage arm. It’s located in a cove due east from the islands off the mouth of the Pomme de Terre arm. Its ramps and a ramp located at the Fairfield Access where the Little Pomme de Terre River joins the Pomme de Terre River are the gateways to Truman’s clear-water arm.
Other than Fairfield and a few user-made access sites, there are no on-the-water facilities of any kind on the Pomme de Terre arm. That’s a subtle way of saying that you should have a full fuel tank, a tool box and other emergency equipment on board before venturing beyond the Highway 83 bridge.
While there are spots with bass potential in the lower reaches of the river, the most productive water lies between mile markers 17 and 21. Numerous steep-sided pockets and small coves in this area provide textbook largemouth spawning habitat.
Anglers who prefer clear water will feel at home in the Pomme de Terre arm. In addition, the Pomme de Terre arm is Truman’s most scenic, and that should count for something. Conversely, this arm yields fewer 8-pound-plus bass than either the Osage arm or the South Grand arm does, but it’s an excellent producer of fish in the 4- to 6-pound class.
Bass anglers don’t have to worry about getting lonesome on the South Grand arm during March and April. Part of the reason for this arm’s popularity lies in the fact that it’s easily Truman’s most user-friendly stretch of water. Clinton, which straddles Highway 13 near the upper reaches of the South Grand River and Deepwater Creek, can supply visiting anglers with anything they might need or want, and serviceable boat ramps are found off Highway 13. The Bucksaw Marina serves the middle section of the arm. Services include lodging, camping, food, a boat ramp and a full-service marina. Anglers plying the lower reaches of the South Grand or all of Tebo Creek can choose between Long Shoal Marina and Truman Lake State Park. Both operations can be accessed from Highway 7 and include boat ramps, camping and full-service marinas.
For those among us who believe that a fishing trip should include catching fish, no amount or quality of “amenities” counts for much if the area in question doesn’t offer great bass catching. Happily, the South Grand is one of those amazing places that, despite great popularity, continue to produce bass angling of notable worth year after year.
Siltation is a serious problem west of Highway 13, but Cooper Creek (Point 13, near the juncture of Deepwater Creek and the South Grand River) is a likely place for a bass angler working his way down the river to start fishing. From Cooper Creek on east, choosing where to fish is complicated by the fact that there are so many promise-filled possibilities.
If feeder creeks are your thing, don’t pass by Big and Little Otter, Hay or Pretty Bob creeks. Under no circumstances ignore the numerous coves and pockets indenting both banks of the South Grand River channel between Cooper and Pretty Bob Creeks.
Hay and Pretty Bob creeks represent an admittedly arbitrary demarcation between water more easily reached from the Clinton area and water best fished out of Bucksaw. There are fewer coves and pockets in this section, but many of them are larger than those found further up the river. Not all of these coves are especially distinguished bass habitat, but those that are produce a lot of big bass. Jackson Branch and Cedar Creek (just uplake and just downlake from Bucksaw, respectively) are both worth a look.
East of Cedar Creek, the original channel of the South Grand River snakes back and forth across a valley, creating more than a dozen large wet-weather creek channel coves that empty directly into the river. It’d be easy to spend an entire day in any one of them, but a better strategy would involve keeping on the move until a concentration of bass is located.
The just-described lake conditions remain basically unchanged to the junction of the South Grand and Osage Rivers. Point 8 serves a convenient boundary between “Bucksaw water” and “Long Shoal water,” but the two marinas are within easy boating distance in a typical bass boat.
The general (although by no means universal) feeling among Truman regulars is that Tebo Creek isn’t on a par with the rest of the lake as a
trophy-bass producer. Nevertheless, there’s some fabulous-looking spring bass water in the lower half of Tebo Creek. Either Long Shoal or Truman State Park would make a good base of operations for exploring this area.
Windsor Crossing Access provides a convenient entry to the upper reaches of Tebo Creek. The area has a campground, but no on-the-water facilities. However, food, fuel and lodging are available within a few miles.
If that’s not enough water to keep you busy for two months, please contact me privately. I’d like to learn more about your investment strategies.