Hiring a fishing guide can be somewhat intimidating for some anglers who feel like they need a certain level of skill just to launch out on the water.
But for guides on Lake Taneycomo like Bill Babler, setting guests at ease is a top priority.
“I never set any preconceived fishing goals,” Babler said Monday, “but gear everything to the client. My goal is just for everyone to have a good time, and personally, for me to pick up a tip from them – either about fishing or about life.”
As a United States Certified Coast Guard captain for 22 years, Babler knows what it takes to serve the clients and continuously updates his equipment. He was on the lakes 278 days last year and will soon be guiding out of a 2014 new 22-foot Phoenix bass boat with a 250-horsepower Mercury ProXS motor. He favors Falcon rods with Shimano reels for his four, six or eight-hour trips, but is equipped with whatever his clients need for fly or spin-cast fishing for trout on Taneycomo or for bass on Table Rock.
The big bass lake has been an angler attraction this year with the water clearer than it has been in 20-plus years. Most four-hour trips have started at 5:30 a.m. initially for the best bites, and now for the best spots on the lake amid all the boats.
“We have lost the topwater bite since the fish have moved down in the water column, and they are not as active right off the bat – but you still have to get out early to snag your favorite hotspots.”
Babler, who helps his wife, Becky, run their 10,000-square foot White River Lodge Bed & Breakfast near Blue Eye, grew up catering to guests. His parents built Pine Cove Resort in 1962 and ran it until 1976.
He really had only trout fished Taneycomo a few times before starting then School of the Ozarks in 1972, “when they became a good source of food for hungry college boys,” he said.
Bill married his sweetheart Becky in June 1977 and started with the water patrol at Lake of the Ozarks, using his recreation degree. Then he was transferred to the Missouri River area by Kansas City in 1983 when the couple also started a livestock operation with Becky’s parents.
“A year-plus was enough time for me on the Missouri since it was a lot of search and recovery,” Bill said. “ I was one of the original members of the dive team and one of the first to have a college degree.”
Meanwhile Becky continued teaching first grade, which she had started at Climax Springs. She taught for 22 years at Kearney, before retiring back to the Branson area.
Becky’s folks had inherited a lot in Shell Knob, MO, so several of the family and some friends decided to help them build a house on it in the early 1980s.
“The livestock business just wasn’t faring very well,” Babler said, “so when I ran into a buddy I had known on the water patrol, he suggested I get my guide license.”
For years Bill would commute down from Kearney weekly, then commute daily from Shell Knob over to Taneycomo to guide, as he and Becky fine-tuned their dream for a bed and breakfast.
It was in his high school drafting class where Babler initially designed a log home, always envisioning it as something to build in Colorado. But a mule deer trip to the Rockies led him to fashion the plans after a grand hunting/fishing lodge there – even though the high land prices “pointed us back here to build it.”
After looking for years, they bought their dream property in 2001 two miles off Missouri 86, just 20 minutes from Branson with “a great lakeview on some acreage with an easterly exposure,” Babler said.
Once Becky retired from teaching, they lived in the family Shell Knob home for two years while the three-story bed and breakfast took shape – one Colorado Engelmann Spruce log at a time on the 40 acres. They opened for guests in May 2005 offering not just their great hospitality, but refreshing views of Table Rock from the huge windows and decks of four private guest rooms, and a two-bedroom suite, as well as all the common areas.
All the while Becky has been the primary host, cook and housekeeper for their place and served with bed and breakfast associations, Bill has continued to build his White River Outfitters guide service. He writes monthly fishing reports on his website, whiteriveroutfitters.com, and always employs his gift for gab to engage and learn from his clients – which now have him booked though July 18.
“Being a fishing guide is kind of like being a bartender or beautician – you talk about everything when you are out on the water.”
Babler, and all other guides can be booked through Lilleys’ Landing Resort office, at 888-545-5397.