What, Where and When...

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2006

Last revision: Nov. 23, 2010

Bull Shoals and Table Rock lakes are among the most popular fishing destinations in the Midwest. Both enjoy national reputations for excellent black bass fishing, but also provide good opportunities for a variety of other fish species, including walleye, crappie, white bass, bluegill and, at Table Rock, paddlefish.

Like most large reservoirs, fishing at Table Rock and Bull Shoals can be difficult at times. Seasonal patterns, weather systems, high water and natural population fluctuations can all influence fishing success day-to-day and year-to-year. However, anglers who take the time to learn these waters and the habits of their finned residents and then master some basic techniques will, more often than not, find success.

Black Bass

Bull Shoals and Table Rock contain lots of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and spotted bass. Population surveys indicate these two lakes will provide anglers with good fishing for the next several years.

Largemouth bass, the most sought-after of the three black bass species, can be found throughout both lakes.

Smallmouth bass generally inhabit the larger, clearer portions of the lakes, such as the area below Tucker Hollow on Bull Shoals and the main stem portions of Table Rock above the dam. Anglers should begin their search for smallmouth bass by targeting pea-gravel banks where the smallmouth spawn. Smallmouth bass typically spawn in deeper water than either largemouth or spotted bass, so don’t expect to find them too shallow.

Spotted bass, commonly called “Kentuckies” or “Spots,” are found throughout both lakes as well—often near bluffs and other deep-water areas.

In the relatively clear waters of Bull Shoals and Table Rock, fish can be found in either shallow or deep areas. Therefore, anglers need to fish a variety of water depths and types to find bass. Don’t concentrate all your efforts along the banks. Outside of the spring spawning period, bass are often found in deeper water.

Points on the main lake or in the creek arms are always good places to start. The mouths of small coves and cuts or depressions along the bank are good areas because fish have quick access to both shallow and deep water in these locations.

Bluffs with or without standing timber are also productive areas. Be on the lookout for bass surfacing as they feed on shad and concentrate on these areas.

The same techniques work for all three species of bass.

Plastic grubs hooked on 1/8- or 1/4-ounce round jig heads are popular lures at the lakes. They allow anglers to fish

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