By Larry Dablemont
Sometimes, to be a successful fisherman you have to become a diligent hunter. A friend and I did just that a few days ago, going up a swollen and muddy Sac River, looking for some tributaries where white bass and walleye might have moved into warming, clearer water. We found one, which had no walleye or white bass, but it was a beautiful spot with the clearer, deep water we were looking for.
It was full of bass. A few were largemouth, but most were Kentucky bass and they jumped all over spinner baits and crank-down Rapalas. In an hour or so we caught two-dozen bass or more. A dozen of them were fat, chunky, 15 to 16 inchers. That is a good size for a Kentucky, known to some as “spotted bass.”
We kept the eight biggest ones and I measured them at home. The width of several was a little more than five inches; the weight of two or three was a little better than three pounds. Of the few largemouth we landed, none were more than 12 inches. I never keep smallmouth bass, but I have always encouraged fishermen to keep the Kentuckies. They are never wormy and the filets are very, very good eating.
Kentucky bass were not native to the Ozarks and they know they are competition for native smallmouth, even hybridizing with the latter. I seriously wonder, because of that cross-breeding, if smallmouth might disappear in some of our streams someday. To be replaced by the cross, what some fishermen call a mean-mouth bass. I call them a threat to native smallmouth. I have seen Kentuckies grow to almost 5 pounds, but never caught one that big. That day, fishing light action gear, my partner and I had a ball catching and releasing most of them.
We left the Sac just after noon and went over to the Pomme de Terre River, also high and muddy, and went way up the swollen current to what was regular river water much higher than I usually fish for white bass. But we found them and caught dozens before five o’clock on the same gear we had used in those upper waters of Truman Lake. They were later than most years but scattered for miles of river and we found them where there was quieter water next to the current. This year the Pomme’s white bass were big and fat. I have seen years when you couldn’t catch a white above 10 or 12 inches in that river.
I don’t know where we will go fish- hunting this coming week, thinking that the clear waters of Bull Shoals may give us some great fishing at night under the submerged lights that draw in threadfin shad, then giant crappie, walleye, white bass, and other species. There in Bull Shoals at night, all species are of sizes you seldom see.
You can have the same thing over on Norfork Lake where I sometimes fish with Three Oaks Resort owner Don Lewallen. Don has a big well-lit dock over deep water and there you may add stripers and hybrids at this time of year, coming in beneath his dock to stuff themselves on the swarming shad.
If you stay at Don’s resort, you do not need a boat to catch fish. You just sit in a bench on his dock and catch all kinds of fish out of boat slips over 40 feet of water, using jigs. Fish all night and sleep all day! I enjoy that a great deal because I really like Don and enjoy spending time with him talking about Norfork and the fishing found there.
My latest issue of the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal, a full color, 74 page magazine is about ready to mail. If you call today, you can get one sent to you for a very economical price. Our printing company’s mail-list magazines cost only about a dollar to mail. If I mail it from my office the cost is more than $3.
When I wrote the column recently about declining turkey populations, I received more than 400 letters and emails about what has happened. Hunters are upset about the MDC refusal to change anything to help wild turkeys due to a potential loss of revenue. In my magazine you can read a bunch of those letters, reader’s suggestions, and my own suggestions about what we had better do to turn around this tremendous drop in wild turkey numbers, as much as 75 percent in some areas.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Larry Dablemont is an outdoor writer from Bolivar, Mo.