Insider tips for anglers casting their lines into one of the nation’s best bass fishing lakes
Over the years, Table Rock Lake has received national recognition as one of the top fishing lakes for bass in the US. For good reason. Through solid conservation and fisheries management practices, Table Rock has become a perennial favorite of both recreational and professional anglers. It’s also on the short list of lakes that boast largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, each in excess of five pounds. Although this isn’t an everyday occurrence, anglers will often catch all three species with the same bait in the same area. So how do you become one of those anglers? Start with these four keys to unlocking bass fishing success at Table Rock Lake.
Table Rock has clear water for half the year. From November through April, it’s common for visibility to be at least 10 feet—often even up to 20 feet—from the Kimberling City Bridge down lake to the Highway 86 Bridge at Ridgedale. That can be challenging for anglers not used to such clear depths. The key is to go small. Downsize your rod, your line and your bait. Don’t worry—many a lunker bass has inhaled a small bait.
A typical setup for Table Rock during high-visibility season would be a good spinning rod with some backbone and a fast tip, eight-pound fluorocarbon line and a one-eighth ounce shakey head/hook rigged with a five-inch finesse worm. Green pumpkin or something with a little purple it in will entice bites. A four-inch grub type bait such as a Zoom Fat Albert in salt-and-pepper or green pumpkin color will also attract a lot of bites, especially around docks or when the water temperature is below 60 degrees.
Current plays a significant factor in angling success on Table Rock Lake. Remember, you’re basically fishing a river system, even on the main lake near the dam. Water current is sort of like carry out or home delivery for fish. Baitfish such as shad—a major diet for Table Rock Lake bass—often follow the current. The moving water will also stir things up and out of hiding along the shoreline, such as crawfish—a delicacy for bass—that emerge to forage.
Anglers looking for current should check for water generation at Table Rock Dam. When the turbines are producing electricity, water is drawn through the dam, creating current for several miles upstream that in turn fires up the fish.
Wind is also a source of current at Table Rock. Many veteran, local guides will tell you that “wind is your friend” when fishing at Table Rock. Windswept banks, although a challenge to fish, will produce more opportunities for bites.
Bass are regularly caught in Table Rock at depths from two feet to well below 35 feet. Table Rock is a big lake—45,000 surface acres at normal pool—and more than 150 feet deep in many areas. This, coupled with the excellent visibility, can be intimidating. Anglers looking to catch quality fish on a consistent basis should cast a line in depths of eight to 15 feet of water.
Bass are never far from their food source and available cover, and these behaviors help determine the sweet spots. Much of Table Rock is structured like a series of rock shelves (or tables), as the name implies. The rock stair steps down, and no matter what the water level, you will notice a distinctive ledge every six to 10 feet of lake depth. Look for bigger boulders strewn along these ledges at a depth of eight to 15 feet and you will find bass year-round. At this depth, the bass are less likely to be spooked by your presence, and they find safety and food among the larger boulders on the ledges. A perfect place for an ambush.
If you’re fishing for bass at Table Rock Lake during the summer, it’s important to seek out shade. Docks, large boulders, brush piles and standing timber all provide some respite from the bright sun. Likewise, fish may seek out cooler spots by lurking in the shadows.
Focus on larger structures such as docks with vacant slips (be respectful of slip owners and always make sure there is not a lift submerged in the slip). Deep brush piles are a favorite haunt for summer bass; if you can find one near a shady bank, you can bet there will be fish around it.
Fish the eight- to 15-foot range with lighter line and smaller finesse baits. Look for current (and/or wind) and give special attention to ambush points, such as large boulders and any other type of shade. If you follow these steps, you’re sure to bring home some new fish tales from your bass fishing trip at Table Rock.