The first Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open heads to Table Rock Lake out of Branson, Mo., March 2-4, where anglers will compete for cash and prizes and also a berth in the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.
Feb. 24, 2017
Bassmaster Central Opens Kick Off 2017 Season At Table Rock Lake
BRANSON, Mo. — Table Rock Lake will offer the rare chance to catch a grand slam of black bass during the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open, March 2-4.
The Central Open anglers will likely bring mixed bags of bass to the weigh-in scales because Table Rock contains populations of three species of black bass — largemouth, smallmouth and spotted — along with the spotted/smallmouth hybrid known as the “meanmouth.”
“I think you might see a grand slam with a guy who has a 3-pound smallmouth, 3-pound largemouth and a spotted bass, along with a meanmouth,” Bassmaster Elite Series pro Brian Snowden said. “Those fish will be holding a lot in the same areas, deep or shallow. You will catch one smallmouth, then you will catch a largemouth and maybe then you will catch a spot.”
The 43,100-acre reservoir nestled in the Ozark highlands has been a frequent host to B.A.S.S. events throughout the years.
“Table Rock Lake offers a tremendous fishery and supports fishable populations of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, making it very diverse,” said Chris Bowes, Bassmaster Opens tournament director. “In addition, the Branson community is able to easily accommodate the 400 anglers who will attend, offering plenty of housing and dining options.”
The last Central Open held at Table Rock was in October 2015, and it was won by Missourian James Watson with 46 pounds, 4 ounces. The Rock also hosted the 2014 A.R.E Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite in April 2014, when Elite Series pro Mike McClelland of Arkansas won with a four-day total of 61-15.
McClelland won the springtime tournament by alternating a jerkbait in natural herring color with a Storm Wiggle Wart crankbait along windblown rocky banks.
A winter Snowden describes as “unbelievably mild” could have Table Rock close to the same conditions McClelland faced when he won the Elite Series event. “The water is 8 to 10 degrees warmer than it should be,” Snowden said. “It barely got below 50 degrees this winter.”
The lake is low, and a lack of rain lately has kept the water “clear to very clear,” according to Snowden. The Missouri angler, who guides on his home waters, believes it would take a 3- to 5-inch rain before the tournament for the lake to have any change in water color.
The clear water will favor finesse fishing techniques such as swimming plastic grubs or working small soft plastics in watermelon candy colors on shaky jigheads. “There will be fish caught on a variety of lures,” Snowden said. “There will be some deep fish caught still on a jigging spoon. But I think a lot of fish will be caught on jerkbaits and crankbaits.”
Standing timber in 30 to 60 feet of water will be the prime targets for tempting deep bass with a 3/4-ounce jigging spoon. Snowden noted a green pumpkin/orange football jig with a crawfish trailer has been producing well lately on the Rock.
The local pro predicts most of the prespawn fish will be in the 10- to 25-foot range where suspending jerkbaits in natural shad colors or crankbaits in natural craw hues will work best. “Due to the mild winter, the fish are real scattered, especially the shallow fish,” Snowden said. He suggests the best place to look for prespawn bass is along channel swings.
The hottest spots on the lake could be the Long Creek and Kings River arms, according to Snowden. He thinks those sections of the lake could produce best because the Central Open competitors will find the warmest and most colored water in those two tributaries.
The lake has been yielding tournament-winning weights of 18 to 22 pounds throughout the winter.
“The guy who wins will probably have 17 to 19 pounds a day,” said Snowden, who predicts the winning weight for this event will be around 56 to 58 pounds.
For information about this and other Bassmaster Opens, visit Bassmaster.com. For information on accommodations and dining in the Branson area, visit explorebranson.com.
The event is hosted by the Branson Convention and Visitors Bureau.