Table Rock Lake, in the heart of the Ozarks, is always a challenging fishery. It has plenty of fish but the lake is enormous with large portions being ultra clear. With a balmy March, the majority of the lake's largemouth, smallmouth and spots began spawning. A blessing for many who are skilled at sight fishing but a curse for many others. Focusing on spawning beds is a spring time ritual. When the timing is spot on catches can be phenomenal. Tremendous patience plus keen eyes are key. If you lack either trail you're wasting your time.
|Getting ready to spawn. |
(Photos: FLW outdoors)
These are the fishing conditions anglers faced this week at this week's Walmart FLW tournament. The hot spell triggered a tremendous surge of bass towards the shoreline. With warming waters, the spawning ritual was in full spring in most sections of the lake. With so many bass being shallow, one common problem arose; bass were becoming timid. A combination of falling water levels and the onslaught of boats, bass bolted at the first poorly flung cast. Most expected this tournament to be won with spawning bass. Many boasted of the amount of fish they located but by the end of day 2, where the field is cut down to the top 20 anglers, few sight fishermen remained.
The strongest patterns seem to be two fold: stained water and transitioning bass. Unfortunately, limited areas of the lake held stained water. Bass seemed less spooky in these areas so catching them wasn't difficult once they were located.
|King is cranking.|
The other key was areas where the bass remained in deeper water. Kyle Welcher , Stacy King and day 1 leader Blake Nick focused on finding bass between the deep and spawning shorelines. As the fish moved towards the shallows, these anglers were waiting for them. Crankbaits and jerkbaits proved well along with the Alabama rig. Spence Shuffield, son of legendary angler Ron Shuffield, used a three-armed Alabama rig around standing pole timber with great results, he is in fourth position at the end of day 3. He gave his father a few pointers after day 1 but it wasn't enough to keep Ron within the top 20 cut even with his great second day catch of 19-10lbs.
Saturday, day 3, seems to have the bass in this stained water inching closer to spawning.
Interestingly, the majority of the top 10 are within the same 8 km (4 mile) section of Table Rock.
Several who focused on transitional areas faulted. Welcher, who was having amazing catches by cranking and lead on day 2, fell to fifth place. His 9-07 pounds catch was very disappointing considering he sacked 24-08lbs the day before. Day 3 leader Brent Long has been pitching. His shallower approach might be the ticket on Sunday as the bass continue to advance into spawning. It is unclear if second place angler Stacy King cranked the entire day. He is a local and adjusts well during this transition phase. He has been cranking the majority of the tournament but is skilled enough to mix in other techniques if conditions change.
Will there be enough bass to be caught by slinging Alabama rigs or cranking or have the bass passed these anglers only to be caught by anglers pitching to shoreline cover?