Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series profiling 2014 Elite Series locations.
The Bassmaster Elite Series pros should have little trouble catching limits of bass when they venture to Table Rock Lake in early April. It took less than 27 pounds to make the Top 12 cut when Todd Faircloth won an Elite tournament here in 2006, but Table Rock has come around in a big way.
This scenic 43,100-acre Ozark Mountain reservoir supports strong populations of largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. The largemouth succumbed to a virus in 1999 that drastically depleted their numbers, points out Michael Allen, a fisheries biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
“The largemouth fishing is getting better,” Allen says. “We’re seeing more and bigger largemouth bass in our sampling.”
High lake levels over the past several years have boosted the largemouth recovery, Allen adds. Flooded bushes and terrestrial vegetation have made for ideal largemouth spawning habitat. The cover also ensures high survival rates for the bass fry.
“The spawn in 2008 was very good,” Allen says. “Those bass will weigh 2 pounds or more by next April. We’re also seeing bigger bass being caught.”
The most recent Bassmaster tournament at Table Rock, a Bass Pro Shops Central Open, was encouraging. Kansan Casey Scanlon won that event in late April 2012 with a 3-day total of 49 pounds, 4 ounces. His most productive pattern was running a Strike King 6XD crankbait over brushpiles and points near spawning pockets 13 to 20 feet deep.
Those were likely postspawn bass. The timing for the 2014 Elite tournament should make for a prespawn slugfest, believes Elite Series pro Brian Snowden. He lives minutes from Table Rock and has fished and guided here for years.
“At that time of year, the bass are normally prespawn,” Snowden says. “The spawn usually happens the second or third week in April. Of course, that’s dictated by how cold the winter is.”
The bass cover at Table Rock is predominantly rock, stumps, standing trees, laydowns and whatever shoreline cover is flooded should the water level be high. Snowden believes most of the bass will be caught no deeper than 15 feet.