National publicity about the recent flooding across the White River Basin in Southeast Missouri has caused much concern for fishermen planning trips to Branson and Table Rock Lake. Those who went so far as to cancel their trips because of misleading publicity have been missing out on some truly fine fishing.
Yes, it’s true that the water from the 2011 Spring storm reached the highest level ever recorded, surpassing 935 feet, and it indeed left many of the docks’ walkways under water. But for those fishermen who found a way to get on the water, the results were well worth the effort and any inconvenience.
My longtime friend, Tony Battaglia, and I fished two mornings in a row on the last days of April when the lake was at its highest. Two of our favorite guides were called on for the journeys and they turned both trips into rewarding adventures. The first morning with Buster Loving, of Rockaway Beach, we caught some 30 smallmouth, with more than two dozen qualifying as keepers. As a matter of fact, we boated 17 in a row before finally bringing in a fish shorter than 15 inches! The second morning with another of the lake’s most reputed guides--Bill Beck, of Kimberling City--wasn’t quite so dramatic, but still featured some quality smallmouth along with a number of hefty goggle eye. (Editor’s Note: We always encourage catch and release of large and smallmouth bass. If you want fish to eat, there’s hardly anything tastier than goggle eye, crappie and bluegill from the cool, clear Table Rock Lake water.)
We were fishing the Indian Point area near Silver Dollar City. The water was of good color and relatively free of any floating timber or other flood materials. The guides reported, however, that water to the south past Kimberling City, around Long Creek and other areas near inflowing streams were dealing with some muddy water and surface materials. Following the guides’ advice, we fished with tube and grub lures as crawdads are the number one source of food now for bass. The tubes were dragged slowly across the bottom, giving them a jiggle every so often. Grubs were retrieved at a faster, steady pace. On these particular days, the fish preferred tubes. Grub loving Kentucky bass seemed to still be staging in water deeper than the 18-22 feet we focused on, although we caught a few small ones. Water temperature was still around 58 degrees, low for this time of year.
Even though the dam’s turbines are working hard, it will take awhile to bring Table Rock Lake back to Guide Bill Beck and Tony Battaglia normal level. If you’re heading to the lake now as the display some Table Rock Lake bass. waters recede, it’s especially advisable to invest in one of the many good local fishing guides who know well the lake and the habits of its fish population in all conditions. They also can get their well-equipped boats and clients on the lake even during highest water levels. The money is well spent to insure a safe, fun and comfortable time on the water that usually results in good fishing success.
There are many good fishing guides in the Branson area that service not only Table Rock Lake, but Taneycome, Bull Shoals and other area waters as well. These are just four that I’ve been privileged to fish with over recent years and personally and highly recommend them to anyone looking forward to a pleasant and memorable fishing experience.