So, where should you go to catch largemouth bass in Missouri and Kansas this year? Here are my rankings, based on information from fisheries biologists, guides and fishermen.
- LAKE OF THE OZARKS: This old-timer just seems to get better with age. Last year, two 10-pound bass (one is shown here) were reeled in – or maybe the same fish was caught twice. Regardless, 2016 was an excellent year for big bass, and 2017 is already starting off the same way. Some impressive keepers have already been caught and released, and fisheries biologists indicate that the bass population is again in good shape.
- MOZINGO LAKE: This 1,006-acre lake near Maryville, Mo., isn’t on the national radar like Lake of the Ozarks, Table Rock or Bull Shoals lakes. But it should be. It continues to produce impressive bass fishing. In fact, it took a catch of five bass weighing 25 pounds to win some tournaments last year. The big ones are still in there. Surveys by the Department of Conservation showed that just over 40 percent of the 455 bass sampled measured more than 15 inches. And a few of the bass sampled weighed close to 10 pounds.
- TABLE ROCK LAKE: This Ozarks lake ranks high nationally for its bass fishing year after year. This year should be no different. The impressive year-class of bass produced in 2011 should provide plenty of quality fish in 2017. The clear-water reservoir is known for its trophy largemouths, but it also contains big smallmouths and spotted bass.
- POMME DE TERRE LAKE: Don’t overlook this southwest-Missouri reservoir this spring. The bass fishing was good there last year, and it may be even better in 2017. Surveys last year indicated that more than half of the bass sampled exceeded the 13-inch minimum size limit. And about 20 percent were larger than 15 inches.
- BULL SHOALS LAKE: The exceptional year-class of bass produced in 2011 should continue to provide plenty of keepers for fishermen in 2017. The future looks promising, too. Another big year-class of bass was produced in 2015 and should produce good fishing in the near future.
- FARM PONDS: More Master Angler bass are caught on private farm ponds than anywhere else. The ponds offer many advantages: They often are small and can be covered easily in a half day, they receive limited fishing pressure, and bass grow big if the population is kept in balance and the pond has a good mix of shallow water for spawning and deeper water for refuge from winter cold and summer heat.
- STRIP PITS: Mining country in southeast Kansas is filled with many strip pits where coal was once dug. Many of the private pits produce excellent bass fishing. In fact, the state record of 11.80 pounds was caught in 2008 from a private strip pit. But there is plenty of public water, too. The Mined Land Wildlife Area in Cherokee County contains more than 200 strip pits, some of which don’t get much fishing pressure.
- LA CYGNE LAKE: Surveys by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism indicate that the bass are still there. But fishermen indicate that the fishing isn’t nearly as good as it was several years ago. Nonetheless, the state ranks La Cygne as the top reservoir in the state for lunkers (bass 20 inches or larger) and for preferred fish (15 inches and longer).
- SEBELIUS RESERVOIR: This small reservoir in northwest Kansas is filled with bass. It leads the state in density of bass and is second in number of bass 15 inches and longer. But don’t go there expecting to catch a trophy. It just doesn’t contain many lunkers, according to surveys.
- BIG HILL RESERVOIR: The bass fishing at this 1,240-acre reservoir in southeast Kansas is mounting a strong comeback. Fishing was down for several years, but the bass are on the rebound. Surveys by the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism showed that it again has a good density of bass and plenty of keepers, too.
This is the first in a series on fishing prospects in Missouri and Kansas. Other species will be featured in posts in the next two weeks.