Missouri’s Table Rock Lake fishing offers the best chance in the Midwest for a Triple Crown catch of bass.
Table Rock Lake Fishing Overview
Several Midwestern lakes provide an opportunity to catch a couple of species of bass during a day, but Table Rock’s abundance of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass gives you the best chance to catch this threesome in the same day.
The 43,100-acre reservoir in southwest Missouri has great bass fishing year-round and is annually ranked in Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes listing. Main tributaries dumping into the lake include the White and Kings rivers and Long Creek, all flowing north from Arkansas, and the James River flowing south from Springfield, Mo.
Table Rock Lake Fishing Geography
The lake is large enough for anglers to fish three distinct sections: lower lake near the dam, middle lake in the Kimberling City area and upper lake in the far reaches of the White and James rivers. The lower lake features the clearest water and consists of pea gravel banks, rock ledges, bluffs, pole timber and cedars. The mid-lake section features the same structure and cover as the lower end but has more stained water. Spring rains tend to dirty the water in the upper lake and warm it quicker than the other sections. The upper end also features more mud banks and stump fields than the lower and mid-lake areas.
Table Rock Lake Fishing The Spawn Cycles
The prespawn and spawn stages in March and April are the prime times for a Triple Crown catch at Table Rock. Normally by the second week of March some spawning fish start showing up unless it has been a severely cold winter. By the first week of April all three species of bass will be spawning from the dam area to Baxter or Campbell Point. A full-blown spawn on the whole lake usually occurs during the full moon in the middle of April.
All three species can be taken in the same areas and on the same lures when the fish move into the shallows during the spring. Throw a suspending stickbait to catch smallmouth and spotted bass along the ledge rocks and largemouth from the bluff ends or cedar trees. Running swimbaits such as Yum Money Minnows next to the hardwood trees along points also produces all three species of bass.
When the spawn is on, look for smallmouth in the pea gravel pockets and spotted bass and largemouth in steeper pockets filled with bigger rocks and boat docks. A jig bounced along the bottom produces some fish but a local favorite setup for spawning bass is a split shot rig with a 1/4-ounce weight and a Zoom Fish Doctor or Centipede in watermelon candy or green pumpkin hues.
“Scrubbing” a grub and shaking a shaky head rig are also productive tactics for nesting bass in April. You can catch all three species on a smoke color 4- or 5-inch single-tail plastic grub with a 1/4-ounce jighead that you “scrub” (winding the lure so it continuously hits the bottom and then occasionally stopping to let it settle). The shaky head rig (a brown-and-purple 4-inch stickworm impaled on a 1/4-ounce jighead) also triggers strikes from bedding bass.
Table Rock Lake Fishing Tactics
Table Rock offers Triple Crown catches in quantity and quality during the spring. The lake will yield several 5- and 6-pound smallmouth then and some 7- and 8-pound largemouth along with an occasional 5-pound spotted bass.
Deep-diving crankbaits, Carolina rigs and live nightcrawlers on split shot rigs produce bass during summertime days. When the summertime heat is on, night fishing with spinnerbaits and plastic worms is a popular tactic for Table Rock bass. Crankbaits, spinnerbaits and a variety of topwater lures work great for all three species of bass in the fall.
Table Rock lake’s winter bass fishing sets it apart from other Midwestern lakes. During January and February you can catch all three species on jigging spoons and Rapala Jigging Raps on points and around deep standing timber.
Table Rock Lake Fishing Species
Although bass are the main attraction for anglers, Table Rock also offers some great fishing for crappie, especially in the James, Kings and Long Creek arms of the lake. You can catch plenty of 12-inch or larger crappie on 1/16- or 1/8-ounce jigs in brush piles.
Bluegill abound throughout the lake and easily fall for worms or crickets. Goggle-eye weighing 1 to 1 1/2 pounds are caught in the spring with drop shot rigs along pea gravel points and cuts.
White bass make spawning runs up the James and Kings rivers where the fish are caught on in-line spinners, lipless crankbaitsand spoons.
Spread throughout the lake are several full-service marinas where you can rent a fishing boat. Plenty of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers launch ramps in various parts of Table Rock offer public access to the lake.
For information on lodging and dining options at Table Rock Lake, check it out here!
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