I spent the week off between St. Johns River and Table Rock at a great friend’s house on Toledo Bend. I was able to do a little practicing and get some things in the office accomplished and most importantly, relax and have a great time with friends. The bass at Toledo were just coming to the beds strong and I figured the fish at Table Rock were going to be in pre-spawn pattern. The cold weather conditions most of the country was experiencing were hanging on into these early spring months. I was excited to fish a highland reservoir that has some similarities to my home Lake Amistad. Table Rock is a special lake where you can fish a main lake point and on consecutive casts you might be catching a spotted bass, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. Now that’s what I call fun!
April 3 – April 6, Table Rock Lake, Branson, MO – BASS Elite Series #3
Once again I had decided prior to my arrival to Table Rock that I would spend my time in a small area of the lake. I chose the section from Kimberling City to Long Creek. This area would offer many different types of structure and cover to fish. Once I launched my Skeeter/Yamaha on the first day of practice I was shocked the water temps were still in the high 40’s to 50 degrees! These bass were still going to be in winter patterns. There was a major shad die-off going on in parts of the lake as well! I tried to keep my focus in practice to some of the warmer water areas and away from the areas of the lake that were experiencing the shad kill. I thought it would be nearly impossible to compete with food falling in front of a bass’s mouth all day vs. trying to chase down my presentations to them.
I found the Long Creek area to be particularly productive during practice for several reasons. The first was slightly warmer water conditions by 2-4 degrees over the main lake. The second had to do with the water color as there were sections of the creek that had a fair stain to it and I felt the fish were more susceptible to my lure presentations in these areas. Finally it was pretty close to the launch area and I could spend more time fishing instead of running, Table Rock is a huge place. Most of my success came with 2 different approaches. The first were transition banks from big bluff chunk rock to pea gravel… and this change had to be one or associated with a point. The other pattern was on bluff banks that had a 45 degree angle drop with scattered laydowns. I was catching the bass with an iMA Flit 120 jerkbait on the pea-gravel points and a ¾oz spinnerbait and iMA Pinjack 200 crankbait on the bluff banks. I felt good about catching lots of fish but the 15-inch size limit was tough to overcome at times and the big fish bite was pretty random for me. I was ready to get the event start and see how I stacked up!
Event Day 1: 5 Bass / 13lbs 14oz – 22nd place of 108
The plan for the day was to fish through the points and productive stretches I had located beginning from the closest areas to the ramp and them moving gradually into Long Creek as I continued running through the progression of spots. My day began slow not catching any bass on my first two stops. There was very little wind and everything seemed to be inactive. Then the third stop about 45 min into the day I landed a small spot on the iMA jerkbait. The wind started to pick up as well and about 2 hours into the day the bite increased as I would catch a fish or 2 off of every couple stops. At approximately 10 am a huge thunderstorm hit the area and the wind became gale force and the rain and lighting came down hard and fast. Immediately the fish were biting like crazy! I put a good 10-11 lb limit in the boat and then I had the bite that was a difference maker!
Throwing a 3/4oz Bohonk spinnerbait (my buddy John Souhrada makes them in Texas) I landed a solid 3.5-4 lb smallmouth that would bump my weight up into the 13 lb+ range. Those are the fish you need at Table Rock to gain some separation from the many limits that anglers bring to the scales. I worked my tail off the rest of the day to catch another quality fish, but to no avail. The conditions after the storm changed dramatically and I never got into a new rhythm with them. I probably caught about 9 keepers and 15 shorts this first day of the tournament. I was able to catch several fish off of one particular gravel point that I was surely going to stop on first thing Day 2.
Event Day 2: 5 Bass / 12lbs 12oz – 28th place of 108
The conditions were excellent the morning of Day 2. We had lots of wind and this was perfect scenario for my iMA Flit 120 jerkbait. I ran straight to my best little gravel point from Day 1 and immediately began catching some decent largemouth. I must have caught 10-12 fish with 7 or 8 of them being keepers in the first 90 minutes.
I estimated them to weigh about 11-12lbs. I knew that was enough weight to stay in the top 50 cut so I began looking for some ways to catch bigger fish. I threw the spinnerbait for a few hours and also tried expanding some areas. I continued to catch fish throughout the day although culling up only a few ounces.
I was excited to get off to a great start but also became annoyed I couldn’t continue to capitalize on that early success later in the day.
Event Day 3: 5 Bass / 9lbs 11oz – 37th place of 108
Weather is everything on a clear lake like Table Rock and Day 3 was going to be tough in that department. The conditions were slick calm and my jerkbait doesn’t really like that. I caught 2 fish early in the day when we still had low light conditions, but as soon as the sun rose above the trees it was time to change tactics. I worked some shaky head worms and small crankbaits on that awesome little gravel point from Day 1 and 2 but nothing was working.
I had to start moving around and working different stretches to locate some fish that would bite. After very little success I finally decided to concentrate on those bluff banks that had worked for me in practice. I figured the fish would still be close by the cover if it had deep water nearby. Sure enough I worked several 45 degree banks with an iMA PinJack 200 crankbait and was able to fill out my limit a cull once or twice throughout the day… but it was a grind! Happy to have a small limit to take to the scales I survived and cashed check number 3 out of 4 events for the year!
Event Total - 15 Bass / 36lbs 5oz / 37th place of 108.
Next up… Toledo Bend… I am in a good position and feeling the momentum!
Next blog… Bassmaster Elite Series Event #4, Toledo Bend, Many, LA – May 1-4
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