While Missouri may not be known for its trophy bass fishing, there are plenty of large bass around to keep an angler busy for a lifetime. In order to catch them, you will probably have to use different techniques than you use to catch smaller bass. If you are willing to catch a few less fish in search of that wall hanger, then this article is for you. First, I will share some of my favorite big bass techniques. Then I will choose a few of the best lakes and rivers in the state to find the bass of a lifetime.
This is personally my favorite way to catch big largemouth bass. The setup is very simple. I use a 2/0 plastic worm hook, a split shot, and a large bobber. I hook the bait (I prefer a green sunfish between two and five inches) in the back, just under the spine. The depth I fish depends on where I am, but generally two to four feet is best. It is important to wait several seconds after the bass strikes to set the hook. When you do set the hook, do it firmly, but not excessively. Besides green sunfish, live shad, shiners, suckers, and various other minnows work very well, fished the same way.
This is one of the best techniques for big springtime largemouth and smallmouth bass. Cast the jig into heavy cover, or near docks, let the jig sink, and jig it up and down slowly as you reel. Set the hook as soon as you feel resistance. This works well into the summer as well, but it particularly shines between March and June. My favorite jig for the method is mini-Strike King Jigs, in green and brown colors.
Plastic worms are good big bass bait from April until early November. The general rule is the bigger the bait, the bigger the bass. I prefer to Texas rig the bait, and reel in very slowly, but there are countless ways to successfully fish plastic worms, including the Carolina Rig, the Wacky Rig, and the weightless rig. My favorite big bass worm is a 7 inch Black Berkeley Power Worm. It works well for largemouth bass between two and five pounds, especially at night.
Lakes and Rivers:
Table Rock Lake
Most people would consider Table Rock the best trophy bass lake in the state. This approximately 40,000 acre reservoir is exceptionally clear and deep. The deep water is home to many smallmouth and spotted bass, and the shallower water holds mostly largemouth. Probably the number one trophy bass technique here is free lining three to five inch shiners. Other successful offerings are spinnerbaits, tube baits, crankbaits, and plastic worms. The main channel near the dam, the James River arm, and the Kings River arm are all great spots to find trophies, but the entire lake holds bass.
Lake of the Ozarks
This 55,000 acre lake in Central Missouri is very heavily fished, but somehow the trophy bass fishery remains one of the best in the state. Largemouth bass reign supreme here, although limited populations of smallmouth and spotted bass do exist in some river arms. The best trophy baits tend to be flipping jigs, spinnerbaits, and various plugs. The key to success here is to fish the many docks lining the lake, because the lake offers very little other cover. The Niangua Arm, Grand Glaize Arm, and the Osage River Channel are all good places to find big largemouth.
The Gasconade River is a world class trophy bass river. From its humble beginnings near Springfield all the way through the town of Vienna, the river is almost entirely dominated by smallmouth bass. Between Vienna and the mouth at the Missouri River, largemouth bass take there place alongside the smallmouth. Live minnows, crankbaits, tube baits, flipping jigs, and spinnerbaits work well for both species of bass found in the river.
You may have noticed in the section of this article about Table Rock Lake, I mentioned the James River arm was an excellent place to catch big bass. The fishing does not end upstream of the lake, however. All the way from upstream of Springfield downstream to where it becomes Table Rock Lake, the James River is an excellent float fishing river for huge smallmouth and spotted bass. Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, live minnows, and soft plastics are all popular.
Hopefully this article helps you learn the techniques and places to catch trophy bass here in Missouri. It may not be likely that you will catch a world record bass in Missouri, but that does not mean that fishing for them is not an exciting or heart throbbing experience.