Category Archives: Bass

Tablerock Lake, Missouri

tablerock lake largemouth bassBack to my roots.  A last minute decision sent me packing back to the homeland to chase largemouth bass on Tablerock Lake with my Dad.  His good friend Sam had to cancel on the annual trip this year, so the old man was thinking of going by his lonesome anyway, just to get away and enjoy the outdoors and lake life.  Well, being the good son I am and not wanting Dad to go it alone, I less than slyly suggested he help me-meaning buy me- with a plane ticket so I could come down a fish with him.

tablerock lake missouriDad’s a great sport, and fell for the ploy hook line and sinker, setting up a killer fishing adventure for us based out of Lunker Landing in Shell Knob, Missouri.  Located on the northern bank of the King’s River arm of Tablerock Lake, Lunker Landing’s accomodations are comfortable; small town friendly; and steps away from the boat slip. Walking down to the water at sunrise, we see the mist rising off the lake, hear the blue jays’ sharp cries of the day, smell the green and lush scents of the oak forest, and spot local largemouth guarding spawning beds in the shallows near the docks.

tablerock lake bassWhich get us into the fishing.  Late April/early May is prime time for the largemouth’s pre-spawn here on Tablerock: clean water and a warming 61 to 65 degree water temp brings the fish up from deeper water and into the spawning regions of the lake.  Protected coves, gravel beaches falling to dropoffs, and woody banks were our focus for finding bass staged up before the spawn.  With Dad Fitzpatrick’s lifetime of knowledge of Tablerock and a steady foot on the trolling motor, we found feeding fish in all his favorite haunts.

tablerock lake bassFor three days we worked up and down Tablerock, usually fishing the nearby King river arm but also travelling down past the James river and into the White.   Our usual tactic is a spin rod with a plastic worm rigged Texas style with a bullet weight, which is cast to the bank and retrieved slowly-and I mean S-L-O-W- back to the boat. Jigging plastics in deep timber proved effective as well, especially later in the mornings and afternoons when the bass moved deeper to escape the bright angle of the sun.  The take is subtle, and one must be very patient to let the fish take the bait, but once a good bass locks on the line starts to move and the tug gets heavy, you give her the mustard!  Every fish we stuck came straight up and taildanced with fury, throwing their heads with open mouths and flared gills.

flyfishing tablerock largemouth bassOn the final day of our trip, I had yet to stick a bass on a fly rod.  Deep holding fish are tough on the fly, and the shallow spawners weren’t interested in my quick moving Clousers or crawdad imitations.  Trolling along a gravel beach early in the morning, a few bass finally showed themselves chasing shad minnows near the bank.  Big smacks to the surface and minnows hurling erratically showed me a target some fifty feet away, so with a quick rod switch (the XP #9 was rigged and ready from day one) and a long double haul, I airmailed a Montana tied frog pattern within a couple feet of the last explosion.  One twitch and it was lights out for that poor frog.  With a huge gulp and boil, said frog vanished and up came a flaring pissed off largey, hooked on a 9 foot 9 weight Sage.

flyfishing tablerock largemouth bassOur week flew by too quickly: just when I was adjusting to nightly ribeyes and cocktails at noon, I had to hop on a plane back to Montana.  This trip reminds me how much I love warmwater fishing, and the bucket mouthed largemouths that inhabit those waters.  Our Montana rivers and lakes hold bass as well, down in their lower stretches where temps allow these fish to exist.  When the time is right this summer, we’ll certainly pay a visit or two to some of these haunts, throwing plastics and stripping topwater flies to fish rarely targeted by Montana folk.  Back to my roots, full circl

Lower River Pike Fishing


Chris_Rockhold_photo_31-16Adventure is what we all really live for around here.  After you’ve thrown a million dry flies to hapless cuttys and river rainbows, it’s time to go check out some other fisheries that Montana provides.  These rivers get warm, eventually: somewhere down the system temps become too high for the trout, but perfect for smallmouth bass and pike.

loaded upWith two days and eighteen miles of enormous river, Chris and I had plenty of time and equipment to seriously check out this piece of water.  Two 9 weights, two sevens, four spinning rods and baitcasters combined, we were straight loaded to reek havoc on this river.  Sloughs right off the bat held pike and largemouth, while midriver structure supported smallie hangouts:  everywhere you fish is a different setup.

pikeSlipping into slackwater sloughs we hunt pike, hanging in the deep mossbeds; way trickier than you think on a fly rod but way worth the effort and the steel leader.  Largemouth hang on the edges in the tules and right up into the shoreline, killer fighters and a blast to cast big flashy articulateds to.  We fish late into the evening  as the bass get going well past dusk.

Chris_Rockhold_photo_31-4Miles upon miles we travel on this quest of ours, awed by the size of the river system down here and the variety of structure.  We figure out our location to the takeout, finally, and decide keeping a few smallies would be a good idea.  Last night we ate one on the weber grill we packed along, and it was clean and fresh like the fish I remember as a kid.  Loading up a stringer from just one hole of thirty or so fish cruising around, we stung enough bass to feed the masses and pulled anchor for home.