The second Mizzou club tournament of the year was Saturday. We put in at McCubbins Point. @Justin92297 and I ran WAY up the river in the jet. White bass were everywhere. Couldn't keep them off the line, so that was fun. caught about 50 bass. 25 white bass and we never fished for them. Saw an old timer that caught a crappie every cast for 30 minutes. I had never seen anything like it in my life and I've crappie fished a lot. He just pulled up on a brush pile and started casting a bobber and a jig and bobber and caught one every single cast. caught our bass flipping shallow wood all over the glaize but the creek was full of shorts. Ran almost all the way up to swinging bridges. We got 1st and 2nd in our club tournament. Justin beat me because he had a 4+ pound largemouth even though he only had 4 fish. I had all three species in my bag though and a 5 fish limit. Very fun day. Definitely going to try to do it again sometime. Had 14 lbs for out biggest 5.
We're headed to table rock to fish Wednesday-Sunday for spring break. Cannot wait to get back on my favorite Missouri lake.
Tight lines everybody
In 1919, Norman Rockwell painted two covers for successive issues of a magazine called The Country Gentleman. The images are now in the public domain.
The Fishing Trip
The Catch Even Norman Rockwell knew worms catch the fish. Why many people avoid using worms and insist on artificial baits would make an excellent topic for a psycho-social doctoral thesis. I won’t be writing that. Instead, this article is intended as a primer for fishing worm harnesses in Tablerock and the other White River impoundments. What I will share comes from fellow walleye fishermen who have showed me a number of tricks. In particular, I want to thank Chuck Etheredge of Holiday Island, Arkansas. Chuck holds the Holiday Island Marina walleye record at 14.5 pounds, and he is the one who taught me about his harnesses for brush fishing crawlers.
Nightcrawlers are one of nature’s perfect animals. They aerate the soil, they help break down leaves and other dead matter to soil, and they are so valuable to growing plants that people buy them to put in their gardens.
Brown trout guides below Bull Shoals dam say they use red worms because they are “more natural looking in the water.” The real reason is stocker rainbows that can’t and won’t leave the nightcrawlers alone.
In the last several years nightcrawlers have become a major farmed and/or harvested crop. Grocery stores, convenience stores, and even Walmarts sell them. Typically, the containers are Styrofoam or cardboard and are filled with potting soil or mulch. I buy at several locations and find the overall quality quite good. However, I always check the contents before I leave the store. Temperature or stock rotation disasters do happen.
Next important tip: As soon as you get home, place the worm boxes in the refrigerator and keep them there until the fishing trip. Crawlers will last several weeks if left alone in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator. If you are not the cook, label the boxes “worms” to avoid screams and other domestic difficulties.
On the day I intend to use the crawlers, I pack the boxes in an ice chest with ice. The ice will not freeze them in their containers and will keep them cool and lively. Once I am in the boat and ready to fish, I put some ice and lake water in a flat bottom plastic bowl and add four or five crawlers. The ice water plumps them up and washes the dirt off so your boat floor stays cleaner. In addition, you will be in and out of your cooler less often. When the ice melts, merely add another piece or two.
An alternative I recently learned was to bathe a day’s worth of crawlers at once, then place them in the now empty Styrofoam containers with ice.
In the event you wish to buy crawlers in bulk, they are available from several mail order sources, including Cabelas. Several chapters of the classic book, Lunkers Love Nightcrawlers, cover the long term care and feeding of nightcrawlers.
The Worm Harness
A worm harness is nothing more than one or more hooks combined with one or more devices to attract fish. The early Crème worm was a rubber worm on a primitive worm harness. I caught my first lunker bass on this rig.
Literally hundreds of commercial harness makers exist and a Ebay search for worm harness or crawler harness will prove it. Cabelas and Bass Pro each carry more than one brand and several varieties for each brand. The sheer number intimidates anglers seeking to try a new method. How can you know which ones work best?
For those wanting instant gratification, the “norm” consists of two small hooks, size 2, 4, or 6, snelled on 10 to 20 pound test line. Above the hooks, you will find 3 to 8 beads, and in front of that a size 3 Colorado or Indiana blade. The entire harness will run on a single three to four foot strand of line with a swivel or loop at the end opposite the hooks.
Variations abound including those with single hooks; Smile, Dakota, or Willow blades; and even what appears to be a wedding band in the build.
To help understand the reason for blade choices I’ve built a chart:
A variety of harness colors will work. I suppose you could catch a walleye on anything if you fished long enough with a crawler attached. However, the purpose of the harness is to attract the walleye to find the worm. Certain colors and styles tend to work more consistently.
As a side note, the common forage of walleyes in our chain of lakes explains the color choices. Walleye in the White River chain primarily feed on shad and bluegill. As yellow perch, common walleye forage in the North, become more prolific in Bull Shoals, the color choices for that lake may change somewhat.
Bodies with chartreuse, red, green, orange, pink, and white are the most commonly used. I own a box of plastic beads I bought from Cabelas for tying traditional harnesses. It contains no less than 24 different shades that are variations on all of the above except white. Traditional harnesses frequently use more than one of these colors.
Common blade colors include silver, copper, and air brushed or painted blades using the color palate listed above. While I have had some success with half silver/half gold blades, harnesses with solid gold blades have never proven successful for me. Again, the yellow perch in Bull Shoals may change that.
Copper Colorado Blade/Pink Float Beads
How and Where
In a previous article, Trolling for Table Rock Walleye, I wrote extensively about where and how to locate walleye. I urge you to read or re-read that article for location information.
Depth and speed are the other variables that combine with location to determine whether you have success. Fishermen successfully use harnesses for fish holding as shallow as 6 or 8 feet. The harnesses are equally successful on the Great Lakes at 45 feet behind downriggers. For the White River lakes I do not advise downriggers. Instead, those who target walleyes use three way rigs or bottom bouncers.
A three way rig utilizes a three way swivel. The main line attaches to one ring, 12 to 24 inches of line with a bell sinker at the end attaches to the second ring. The third ring holds the harness line.
Those who use this rig do so because they can quickly change the amount of weight or adjust the height off bottom. I suggest any who use this rig make sure that the strongest of the three lines is the main line to the reel. The second strongest should be the line to the harness. The weight line should be weaker than either of the others.
The alternative to a three way rig is a bottom bouncer.
The main line attaches at the junction of the “L.” The harness line attaches to the swivel at the end of the unweighted arm. As the boat moves forward the weighted arm tip brushes the bottom while the harness follows behind the weight and somewhat above it.
Bottom bouncers come in a variety of weights, ranging from ½ ounce to 4 ounces. What size to use? Traditionalists will tell you to use 1 ounce for every 10 feet of depth you will be fishing. That advice is accurate and useful under normal circumstances, especially when combined with the traditional advice on speed and how much line should be out.
If you search the internet for articles on using harnesses and bottom bouncers, almost all will tell you the ideal configuration will have the main line running from the boat to the bouncer at a 45 degrees or less. Those articles also suggest the bouncer should only “bounce” from time to time. These articles are absolutely correct, and professional walleye fishermen use these “rules of thumb” every tournament.
The last element of traditional harness fishing is the speed. Most days a speed of .8 mph to 1.4 mph will be the most effective. Be aware the type of blade can change the effective speed. A Willow spins far more easily than a Colorado. A Smile blade can spin with even less speed. You should go at least fast enough to spin the blade.
However, the ultimate decision maker on speed will be the fish. Sluggish fish may want a slow presentation. If so the weight will be less and the blade choice would be a Smile or Willow. On other days, hot water fish may need a fast speed to trigger bites. In that case a heavier weight and more line may be needed to reach the depth desired.
Chuck’s Secret Method
Careful readers may have noticed the pictures of my harnesses above are different from what they see in stores or some of the sketches I have drawn and inserted. The differences are only a part of the “secret” method Chuck Etheredge taught me two years ago. His method is an adaptation of the traditional ways; one that is designed for the highland reservoirs with submerged timber, brush, stumps, car size rocks, and house foundations.
Chuck wanted a harness that was less likely to sink when the bottom bouncer stalled because it hit a rock or limb. To that end he substituted floats for the glass or plastic beads. If you put one of his rigs in the water and lay the bouncer on the bottom, the blade slides down to the weight, but the floats, hook, and worm stay up.
He also experimented to see if he could avoid exposed hooks. He took from the bass fishermen the idea of Texas rigging the worm. Yes, it is a soft, real nightcrawler, but the embedded hook had to help a little. In addition, one hook point instead of two equaled half as many hang points. He found a worm hook in size 1 or 1/0 was every bit as good as the traditional two small hooks in sticking fish.
Last, to keep the float beads and blade from pushing the worm down into a wad, he made another innovation. He uses a bobber stop to hold the beads in place.
In addition to changing the harness, Chuck defies conventional wisdom as to bottom bouncer weight. He intentionally uses about half the weight considered standard. At 20 feet he will use one ounce. At thirty feet he will have on a 1.5 or 2 ounce bouncer. To reach the bottom, this means he must have out considerably more line. The change in angle between the boat and the bait is exactly the reason for his unorthodoxy. He believes the “flatter” angle aids in pulling the rig up and over limbs and logs.
The combination of differences works for Chuck. On more than occasion I have watched him fish snag filled flats and timbered channel edges with his worm harnesses. Yes he will sometimes hang up, but far less often than anyone would expect. And while he is at it, he catches fish.
The first time he showed me his ways, he tried to explain his uncanny success at staying free from hangs. In my words, he does it like this. When he feels the line begin to rub over a limb, he does not jerk. He waits until the line between the limb and harness shortens. As this happens, braid line will sing or vibrate. Quite often the rod tip will feel heavier. Just when he feels the bouncer arm contact the limb, he lifts the rod in a high arc to pop the rig and harness over the limb. He then lets the bouncer fall back to the bottom. Many bites happen on that drop.
Please note that Chuck’s method requires the angler to hold the rod and feel for the key moment. This is different from those who put the harness rod in a holder.
Every article about a fishing method should include a few pictures to vouch for the method and the author.
A Table Rock Limit from 2010 when Chuck showed me his secrets
Three from June of 2011
My personal best, 13.75 pounds, July 8, 2011, on one of Chuck’s style harnesses.
Fished upper Osage yesterday, rigging minnows in 12-23 FOW fish seemed scattered water temp 50s seen some 58 in back of a pocket. Have concealed the GPS info on pic as it might be within air gun range of a certain mechanic who frequents this site and I am kind of a dinosaur. Did encounter a school of whites and one of those mutt hybrids that Wrench refers too, Would have took pictures but it is a rather traumatic event rigging, ... have the bloody scared hands to show for it. Afterwards a friend had a limit out of one well under a slip bobber and minnow. It is getting better but this darn weather.
Lake Taneycomo is a tailwater lake below Table Rock Lake. Table Rock's dam releases water for two reasons -- flood control and generation of electricity. Recreation does not figure in to the overall plan for managing water. The U.S. Corps of Army Engineers does work with the power companies, as well as the Missouri Department of Conservation, when asked to change water flows for various, important projects. For instance, Table Rock Dam will hold generation when work is needed to be done on the lower dam at Powersite.
The dam's operation is in the hands of the US Army Corp of Engineers. The entity that controls the power generation is Southwest Power Administration.
There are four lakes in this White River Chain -- Beaver, Table Rock, Taneycomo and Bull Shoals. Each one is managed to reflect the whole chain as to water storage simply because each one has different abilities to store a volume of water. This comes in to play when heavy, seasonable rains come, normally in the spring. That's when we may see high flows from Table Rock Dam, moving rain water down the chain of lakes to prevent flooding.
Summer time brings hot temperatures and more demand for electricity. This is when we may see more heavy flows at peak times of the day, when air conditioners are running at full tilt. We also may see heavy flows after a rainy spring season, moving floods waters out of the upper lakes.
Fall is normally the time we see low flows. Less demand for electricity and drier skies means less generation most years.
Winters bring cold temperatures and more demand for power. We can see heavy generation during peak times during the mornings and less as it warms up in the afternoon.
702.0 feet -- 000 m.w. -- 0,000 c.f.s.
703.0 feet -- 010 m.w. -- < 1,000 c.f.s.
704.0 feet -- 035 m.w. -- 2,500 c.f.s.
705.0 feet -- 055 m.w. -- 4,000 c.f.s. -- 1 turbine (unit)
705.5 feet -- 075 m.w. -- 5,000 c.f.s.
706.0 feet -- 085 m.w. -- 6,250 c.f.s.
707.0 feet -- 110 m.w. -- 8,000 c.f.s. -- 2 turbines (units)
708.0 feet -- 125 m.w. -- 9,500 c.f.s.
708.5 feet -- 165 m.w. -- 12,000 c.f.s. - 3 turbines (units)
709.0 feet -- 175 m.w. -- 13,500 c.f.s.
710.0 feet -- 200 m.w. -- 14,750 c.f.s.
711.0 feet -- 220 m.w. -- 16,000 c.f.s. - 4 turbines (units)
Understand that if there's a number of units running at any one time, those units may be running at less than capacity. That's why you can't depend on flow according to the number of units reported running. You have to read the lake level and/or and cubic feet per second flow.
Flow vs Wading Below the Dam
Warning! A loud horn will sound when turbines come online. Get out of the water immediately. Do not wait until water is rising.
Warning! Water release may increase WITHOUT any sounding horn or warning!! Be watchful, and have an exit strategy in mind.
The following is a general depiction of flow conditions as to the availability to successfully wade from the shore below Table Rock Dam.
702 feet -- no generation. Wading is possible below dam.
703.0-704.5 feet -- up to 4,000 c.f.s.. Some wading on edges, at outlets, behind island across from #2 Outlet, in front of #3 Outlet and out on gravel bar, below boat ramp and above Trophy Run there's a long chute that can be good, but be careful not to get caught on rising water back to boat ramp (on foot) and Lookout Island (boat access only). The inside bend at the Lookout area along Pointe Royale's property (boat access only unless you have special access to the property, which is private).
704.5-706.5 feet -- up to 7,000 c.f.s. Wading is difficult but not impossible. Wade at the hatchery outlets and some edges, but be careful.
706.5 + feet -- Wading is restricted to the outlets only. Be very careful. Currents are strong even along the banks.
If you're wading below the dam and hear the horn blast, move to the bank immediately. Don't cast a few more times, don't try to catch that last trout, don't hesitate and get caught in rising water. Many have done it and found themselves in a dangerous situation, having to wade across fast and rising water to dry ground. Some have not made it. Be smart and get to the bank as soon as you hear the horn.
Call the automated service provided by the U.S.A.C.E. at 417-336-5083. It will give you real time information as to what the lake level is (above and below the dam), how many units are running and the c.f.s. flowing at that time.
Other useful links:
Boating up lake with different flows on Lake Taneycomo
The #1 question we get asked when it comes to boating on Lake Taneycomo is how high up lake lake can I boat? That all depends on how much water is running at Table Rock Dam.
*Zero water running, lake level 701-702 feet
If there is no water running, you're generally safe to boat up and past the mouth of Fall Creek to the Narrows. Stay middle to bluff side to Fall Creek and middle to right side past Fall Creek.
At the Narrows, you HAVE to be on the far left, "at the tips of the tree branches" in the channel. I can't express enough how narrow this channel is and how shallow the right edge will be. The gravel is generally very dark and it is hard to see the bottom there.
If there is a boat or two fishing the Narrows, don't try to be nice and go to the right of them. Excuse yourself and stay in the channel. They will understand . . . and if they don't, well, they are clueless to the lake.
There's a tree stump on its side off the bank that marks the top of the Narrows. From there, go to the right slightly and get away from the bluff bank a bit. Don't ride too close to this bank because there are big trees and rocks that will get you. Stay middle left of center all the way to Lookout Island.
You can boat more than halfway up past the island at Lookout but that's about all. The lake is super shallow all the way across -- there is no channel here. I have seen boats raise their motors up and creep past this shallow area to the Trophy Run Hole, but I wouldn't advise it. But if you do get up there, the next chute past the club house will be too narrow and too shallow to get through.
703.0 feet -- 010 m.w. -- < 1,000 c.f.s.
These produce the same conditions as if the water was not running. Not much difference in levels, just a little more current at the narrow areas.
704.0 feet -- 035 m.w. -- 2,500 c.f.s.
At the Narrows, you still should stay in the channel. The current will be a lot faster, and it will look safe, but there's not enough water to go over the bar. I have seen some people make it, but I sure wouldn't chance a prop by cutting through to save time.
At Lookout Island, if you keep your boat up on plane, you can run up by the island, staying right of center. You should be able to see the shallow flat riffling off the top of the island -- stay clear of that shallow water. There's also a couple of big logs on the right, too, but their tops should be exposed, up out of the water.
At this level, you can run up through the chute above Trophy Run. Head right straight up the "V." marking the center of the channel along the right bank. Again, don't get too close to the bank because there are a few logs and bigger rocks. Better to stay on the left side and tip the gravel if you're going to err.
At the ramp, you should be right of center. Stay there until you're at the Rocking Chair access on the left bank (road/path coming down out of the trees). At that point, you need to edge to the left and head towards the stump sticking up below the island. Some people will stop at this point, but I would miss the stump on the right and cut it hard right toward the wooden steps on the right bank. That's about where the channel is at Rebar.
When you've traveled to about mid-lake, turn up towards the dam and stay mid center all the way to the cable. You should be clear of the boulders on each side.
705.0 feet -- 055 m.w. -- 4,000 c.f.s. -- 1 turbine (unit) 705.5 feet -- 075 m.w. -- 5,000 c.f.s.
At this flow, you should be able to run over the shallow flat at the Narrows. And you should be able to run the middle of the lake all the way to the cable below the dam. But I would stay on plane over all the areas I've mentioned that are shallow.
706.0 feet -- 085 m.w. -- 6,250 c.f.s.
No worries at this point. Unless you're running too close to any bank, you should be fine boating anywhere in the trophy area.
*If there is no water running, don't assume the lake level is at "power pool" or 702 feet. There are times, although not often, that Empire Electric draws more water out of the lake than it should. Empire owns and operates Powersite Dam, the dam at the lower end of Taneycomo. If too much water is let out there, our lake level does drop to levels above Short Creek that could get you in trouble.