It's that time of year when I check several indicators on my phone -- the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Little Rock App and the NOAA Weather Prediction site because both will tell me the future and how to plan my trout fishing strategy for the days to come. They also gives me what I need to tell others what to expect as far as flows here on Lake Taneycomo and what fishing report to give.
The indicators, right now, tell me we're going to see heavy generation for at least a week. But with very little rain predicted, we should see lake levels dropping very soon and less generation in the near future.
We were starting to see lower flows until the area received 1 to 1.5 inches over the Beaver and Table Rock basin. Actually, Bull Shoals got more rain, and we'll see it jumping up more than the upper lakes. One inch of rain doesn't sound like a lot of rain -- plus it was a slow, steady rain over two days -- but Beaver has come up 18 inches and still is rising. Table Rock has risen 12 inches and crested. Beaver is running its turbines a full 12 hours a day (so far) and Table Rock is now running 199 megawatts or 13,000 cubic feet per second round the clock.
Now to translate all that information into a fishing plan.
The common and most used fishing pattern is drifting with the current and using live bait, Power Bait or a fly or lure. And for the most part, that technique is the most effective. The keys are -- the right amount of weight and position of the boat. That's right, it's not really what you're putting on the hook but how you're drifting that hook. If you're not putting your offering in front of or in sight of the fish, you're not going to get bites.
Getting the weight right is key. You want just the right amount of weight to get your weight to the bottom and keep it there. Yes, position of the boat is important, too -- the speed of the drift -- keeping the boat moving at the speed of the current. You should feel the weight consistently ticking the bottom. If it's not, add more weight. If it's grabbing a lot, reduce the weight.
Trick: To add weight you can add a removable split shot to the line and slide it down onto the bell weight. This allows you to change weights quickly.Where you drift in relation to the bend of the lake is vital. I tend to drift on the inside quarter of the lake. In another words, if you draw a line down the center of the lake, the bluff of the channel side is on one side and the lower bank/shallow side is on the other. I will stay on the inside half of the lake, toward the shallow side. Nothing wrong with staying dead center in the middle, but I would not go past the line towards the channel. To do that, assuming I have a trolling motor (and I strongly recommend having one in these conditions), I would point the trolling motor towards the inside bend so I can pull the boat to that side. The current will want to pull you to the outside, but keeping the method of propulsion pointed in the direction you want to go will make the operator's job much easier.
Regardless of where you drift, keep clear of the banks. Trees fall into the lake off the banks and trees eat drift rigs. Enough said. What to use? Power Bait Gulp eggs are good for fishing when the water is not running or when it's running pretty slowly. They smell good! But they're softer than Power Eggs and fall off the hook faster. Power Eggs smell, too, but not as much (just my observation), but when the egg is drifting at 5 mph, smell plays less of a part in luring the fish to bite. So I'd go with Power Eggs instead of paste or Gulp Eggs. Color? That's where you need to have all the colors and try them all. Even during the day, if they stop hitting one color, change. You'll find a favorite, probably. But even that preference will change as the sun changes the light at the bottom of the lake.
Night crawlers and minnows are other great baits. I believe you will have a better chance of catching a bigger trout using natural baits similar to what they see every day, especially minnows. But depending on their mood, being aggressive or not, you might go through a lot of minnows. My experience is that they tend to suck the minnow off the hook, assuming you're hooking the minnow in the lips. If this is the case, find the smallest minnow in the bucket and see if that helps. If they're aggressively feeding, it won't matter.
Most anglers will fish down past Cooper Creek, down past the Branson Landing, when four units are running. The water is much more manageable, slower, and there's plenty of trout in these areas to catch.
If you find a "hot spot" where you consistently catch a trout or double up in one particular area, keep motoring back up to drift through that area until the well runs dry.
Now for other methods of fishing.
Duane has been throwing stick baits and drifting crank baits on his guide trips this week and faring well. He's using the Bomber Fat Free Shad and ticking it on the bottom, catching a lot of browns up to 22-inches. He's also using the MegaBass 110+ shad and doing fair. These methods aren't for the faint at heart. They're a lot of work with less results compared to drifting bait or even throwing jigs. But you have a better chance of catching a trophy fish. Seriously, if you don't have the equipment or time to spend learning this bite, hire a guide who does have the equipment (hundreds and hundreds of dollars in equipment) and the know-how to put you on fish throwing big lures. You'll be much happier. Plus, it'll be his lures you'd lose, not your own!
We're back to using our 1/8th-ounce jigs in this fast water. And we're seeking out slower water, eddies where fish will be holding. We're fishing the inside banks, or, if we're fishing the channel, bluff banks, we're working the eddies, places out of the current and getting bit. And . . . we're losing a lot of jigs in the process.
We're also using four-pound line, too, either Vanish or Trilene XL (green or clear).
If you're not losing a few jigs, you're probably not catching very many trout. You need to be down where they are and that's usually down where there's some snags.
The darker colors are working better that white or white/gray BUT we're always trying white just in case they switch, or are starting to see shad or bait fish. If they get on white, they will be much more aggressive on the bite, in my experience. Always have white jigs in your box.
Drift a fly on the bottom in the trophy area... actually I'd drift one all the way down to Trout Hollow. A bigger scud (#12) in gray or olive, an egg fly or big San Juan Worm. Even a Mega worm. The bottom is fairly clear of moss so you'll get a clean drift this time of year. And make sure it's on the bottom.
Media Note! Between my fishing reports, if you're wanting to know what's going on here on Lake Taneycomo, tune in to our DAILY BROADCAST called One Cast. We talk about lake levels as well as who's catching fish on what. And we might catch a fish ourselves.