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Midwest Finesse

Recreational bass fishing: How Brian Snowden fishes Table Rock Lake from January through December

by Ned Kehde   |  December 20th, 2011 0

In the December 14 blog that focused on the recreational angling endeavors of  Edwin Evers of Talala, Oklahoma, and Ott DeFoe of Knoxville, Tennessee, we said that we would do a similar one on Brian Snowden of Reeds Spring, Missouri.

 

Snowden is one of Evers and DeFoe’s colleagues on the professional bass tournament trail.  He lives about 10 miles fromTableRockLake, where he guides.  When he isn’t on the tournament trail, working for The Bass Pros television show or guiding, he likes to fish recreationally once or twice a week on Table Rock – especially in the winter.

 

Table Rock is a highland reservoir that lies in the middle of the Ozarks and along the borders of Missouri and Arkansas. It contains 43,100 surface acres of water. Its main tributary is theWhite River. It’s also fed by a score of smaller tributaries.

 

What follows is a detailed description of how Snowden plies some of the lake’s 43,100 acres from January through December as a recreational angler.

 

In January, he relishes using a jerkbait, which has a long history of alluring cold-water bass from Ozark reservoirs. In fact, the genesis of the jerkbait phenomenon began in these waterways in the hands of anglers such as the late Jimmy Crisp. Local legends say that Crisp began wielding a No. 18 Rapala back in the 1960s while walking the shorelines of Bull Shoals Lake, which lies about 22 miles east of Table Rock.

 

Nowadays Snowden uses a variety of jerkbaits, such as the Bass Pro Shops’ XPS Professional Series Hardbait Minnow 5”, Bass Pro Shops’ Suspending Nitro Minnow 5”,   Smithwick’s Suspending Super Rogue, Spro’s Mike McClellend McStick, and Megabass’ Ito Vision 110.

 

A chrome body, blue back and orange belly jerkbait is one of his favorite color combinations. He is also fond of the Lavender Shad and Ghost Minnow hues.

 

When the water temperature is less than 50 degrees, which it is in January, Snowden places Storm Lures’ SuspenDots on the belly of the lure to add weight to the bait so that it falls one to three feet a second during every pause of the retrieve. The disposition of the bass determines the fall rate that Snowden uses. The dots are arranged so that the bait’s head and tail are inline or level when it is in a state of suspension or slowly descending.

 

From his experiences, the colder the water is the hotter the jerkbait bite. When the water is cold, ranging from 39 degrees to 42 degrees, jerk is an inappropriate word to describe the way Snowden presents these baits.  Twitch is a better word. In fact many anglers, including Snowden, around Table Rock and the otherWhite Riverreservoirs call it a stickbait rather than a jerkbait. Sometimes it is referred to as a twitchbait.

 

Snowden prefers to fish these lures in January at main-lake bluff points. At these locales, his boat floats in 30 to 50 feet of water. His casts are long, ranging from 60 to 70 feet, and they land at the water’s edge.

 

He works with a six-foot, eight-inch, medium-power, fast-action St. Croix Legend Tournament jerkbait casting rod. The rod sports a Bass Pro Shops’ Johnny Morris Signature Series Baitcast Reel with 6.4 to 1 gear ratio, and it is spooled with 10-pound-test Bass Pro Shops’ XPS fluorocarbon line.

 

He removes the split rings from the nose of jerkbaits. He attaches them to the line with a No. 2 snap.

 

After executing a cast, he reels in the slack line and then drops the rod tip, which pulls the bait several feet under the surface. Once it’s under the surface, he allows it to slowly sink, and as it sinks, he gradually reels in some of the slack line. Snowden retrieves the bait by pointing the rod tip towards the lake’s surface.  The rod’s butt is pointed at his navel.  He holds the rod directly in front of his body. The length of time that Snowden allows the lure to sink varies. At times the pause will last for five seconds and at other times it will exceed 10 seconds. There have been spells when he waited 20 seconds.  He says that determining the length of the pause is one of the critical factors in employing a jerkbait in cold-water situations.   After the lure pauses for the requisite amount of seconds, he flexes his wrist, which twitches the rod tip, causing the lure to make a delicate side-to-side roll and flutter. Sometimes he uses a triple twitch, other times it’s a double twitch and periodically he uses a single twitch. On every outing he tries to determine the best pause-and-twitch cadence.

 

Snowden finds that a cloudy day that is graced with low barometric pressure is normally a more fruitful day for employing a jerkbait than a sunny one with high barometric pressure.

 

So, on those extremely sunny and high-barometric-pressure days in January, when the jerkbait bite becomes arduous, Snowden spends time searching for suspended bass that typically inhabit middle portions of steep coves. The depth of the water in these coves can plummet into 90 feet of water. The tops of the flooded trees are covered with 30 to 40 feet of water. He usually finds the bass suspended in 30 to 60 feet of water, and most of the time, they are associated with the flooded trees and threadfin shad, but there will be spells when the bass and shad are suspended away from the trees.

 

His sonar finds the trees and shad, and his down-scanning unit pinpoints the whereabouts of the bass. He notes that this pattern can commence in December and usually last until mid-February.

 

Once he finds the bass, he employs a vertical presentation, using a 3 ½-inch Bass Pro Shops’ Tender Tube that he affixes to either a 1/2-ounce or 5/8-ounce jig. The color of the tube replicates the color of the threadfin shad. The jig is attached to either six- or eight-pound-test fluorocarbon line. He works with a seven-foot, medium-power, fast-action St. Croix Legend Tournament spinning rod. He presents the tube to the bass by holding it slightly above them, and after he holds it motionless for a spell, he delicately shakes his rod, which causes the tube to quiver.

 

In February, Snowden continues to work his jerkbaits, and he says they become especially effective towards the end of the month and into early March.

 

By mid-March, Snowden replaces the jerkbait with a Storm Lures’ Wiggle Wart.

 

Across the years, he has found that March is the best month of the year to catch big bass on  jerkbaits and crankbaits similar to the Wiggle Wart.

 

His favorite Wiggle Wart is painted in a natural-green-crayfish hue. He wields it on a seven-foot, medium-power, medium-action St. Croix Premier glass crankbait rod and a Bass Pro Shops’ Johnny Morris Signature Series Baitcast Reel with 6.4 to 1 gear ratio that is spooled with 10-pound-test Bass Pro Shops’ XPS fluorocarbon line.

 

 

He cranks the Wiggle Wart on main-lake bluff ends and slightly inside several of the lake’s biggest coves, focusing locales where the makeup of the rock formation changes, such as from boulders to gravel or from ledges to boulders.

 

He describes his favorite retrieve as a medium-paced one that is punctuated with periodic pauses.

 

As the water temperature warms in late March, his aim with the Wiggle Wart changes to secondary points – especially ones that lead the bass towards their traditional spawning grounds inside the lake’s many coves.

 

In addition to the Wiggle Wart, Snowden wields a War Eagle Lures’ half-ounce Screamin Eagle spinnerbait, which is the size of most quarter-ounce spinnerbaits. It’s embellished with two willow-leaf blades. His two favorite color combinations of the Screamin Eagle are the Blue Herring and Spot Remover. He works the spinnerbait in four to eight feet of water with a medium to slow retrieve around many of the same areas that he utilizes the Wiggle Wart.   

 

Snowden’s spinnerbait rod is St. Croix’s seven-foot, medium-heavy-power, fast-action Legend Elite casting rod, which is fitted with aBass Pro Shops’ Johnny Morris Signature Series Baitcast Reel with 6.4 to 1 gear ratio and 17-pound-test XPS fluorocarbon line.

 

He notes that wind enhances the effectiveness of his spinnerbait and Wiggle Wart fishing.

 

Around April 15, the spawning season starts to materialize.

 

Throughout the spawn, Snowden spends a lot of time dragging a split-shot rig. It consists of a Zoom Bait Company’s Fish Doctor in a either green-pumpkin or a watermelon-red hue that is affixed to a No. 1 Bass Pro Shops’ XPS Wide SuperLock hook. The sinker is a quarter-ounce XPS Finesse Weight that is positioned 12 inches above the hook. He employs this rig on a seven-foot, medium-power, fast-action St. Croix Legend Tournament spinning rod that is spooled with either six- or eight-pound-test XPS fluorocarbon line.

 

During the spawn, he also utilizes a 3/16-ounce homemade shakyhead jig with a 4/0 hook.  He dresses the jig with a Zoom Bait Company’s Finesse Worm; his favorite color is green-pumpkin to which he spikes the tail with a touch of chartreuse dye.  He works with it on the same spinning outfit that he uses with the split-shot rig.

 

During the spawn, he doesn’t sight fish for bass on spawning beds.  But he does spend his days in flat gravel pockets where the bass spawn.  In these gravel pockets, his boat floats in 10-20 feet of water. He makes long casts to the shoreline.  He retrieves the split-shot rig by slowly dragging it, and he slowly hops the shakeyhead jig and worm along the bottom.

 

As the spawn peters out in mid-May, Snowden’s rods are donned with a Heddon Zara Spook and a five-inch swimbait. The first post-spawn areas that he plies with these two baits are gravel points that are adjacent to the spawning flats.  On these gravel points, his boat floats on top of 15 to 25 feet of water. As the post-spawn season matures, he also focuses on ends of the bluffs on the main-lake, where most of the bass are caught on the first ledge or shelf of the bluff end.

 

He uses either a pre-rigged Smith Smash Swimbait or Top Shelf Swimbait in a shad color on a seven-foot, medium-heavy-power, fast-action St. Croix Legend Elite casting rod and 14-pound-test fluorocarbon line.

 

His favorite Zara Spook is called the flitter shad, but most anglers in the Ozarks refer to it as the Christmas tree. Snowden uses it on a 6 ½-foot, medium-heavy-power, fast-action St. Croix Legend Elite casting rod and 17-pound-test Bass Pro Shops’ Excel monofilament

 

In early June, Snowden begins wielding deep-diving crankbaits on gravel points that are embellished with flooded pole timber and some cedar trees. At these locales, his boat floats in 20 to 25 feet of water, and his casts and retrieves are made so that the crankbait ricochets off the trunks of the pole timber or ticks the branches of the cedar trees.  At times, he retrieves his crankbaits into 16 feet of water.

 

Across the years, he has used a variety of deep-diving crankbaits in the ghost-minnow and cooper-green-shad hues. Recently, however, he has been doing a lot of recreational fishing at Table Rock with Bass Pro Shops’ XPS Professional Series Hardbaits Deep Cranker; in clear water he opts for either the BoneXXX or AYU Shad colors, and in stained water he likes either blue back/chartreuse or black back/white.   He manipulates the deep-diving crankbaits on a seven-foot, 10-inch St. Croix Magnum Cranker rod, Bass Pro Shops’ Johnny Morris Signature Series Baitcast Reel with 6.4 to 1 gear ratio, and the reel is spooled with XPS 12-pound-test fluorocarbon line.

 

At these same locales, he also hops across the bottom a 5/8–ounce Pigsticker football jig that is dressed with either a green-pumpkin-candy or peanut-butter-and-jelly skirt and tipped with a Zoom Bait Company’s four-inch, peanut-butter-and-jelly-colored Super Speed Craw.  He works this jig combo around and in the trees.  The jig is tied to 14-pound-test fluorocarbon line. He casts and hops it with a seven-foot, medium-heavy-power, fast-action St. Croix Legend Elite casting rod

 

The deep-diving crankbait’s effectiveness begins to wane by the 4th of July as many of Table Rock’s bass move to deeper environs. Through July, August and September, Snowden focuses on depths of 30 to 35 feet, using a drop-shot rig, football jig, tube andCarolina rig.

 

He describes some of these deep bass lairs as being situated  upon offshore humps, but most of them are  situated upon vast gravel flats and lie about 50 to 80 feet from the edge of the submerged river channel. The heart of some portions of the river channel can reach depths of 80 or more feet.  The best bass lairs on these flats and humps are often as far as 200 yards from the shorelines. The bass are often associated with a stump, rock pile, brush pile or ditch. It’s a main-lake scenario.

 

His drop-shot rig consists of a  1/4- to 3/8-ounce XPS Drop Weight that is placed 12 inches below a 1/0 XPS Offset Round Bend hook adorned with a Zoom Bait Company’s Finesse Worm. The three most fruitful colors of the Finesse Worm are watermelon red, watermelon candy and green pumpkin. His rod is a seven-foot, medium-power, fast-action St. Croix Legend Tournament spinning rod that is spooled with 30-pound Bass Pro Shops’ Magibraid.  The braided line is tied to the top eye of No. 8 barrel swivel, and to the bottom eye of the swivel, Snowden affixes a 30-inch fluorocarbon leader in either six- or eight-pound test.

 

On these offshore and deep lairs, he also drags a 5/8- and 3/4-ounce Pigsticker football jig dressed with either a green-pumpkin-candy or peanut-butter-and-jelly skirt and tipped with a Zoom Bait Company’s  three-inch, peanut-butter-jelly colored  Ultra Vibe Speed Craw. He uses a three-inch Speed Craw  rather than a four-inch one because these offshore lairs entertain a significant number of smallmouth and spotted bass, and they prefer smaller baits. When he has a hankering or a possibility to beguile a lunker-sized largemouth, he will spend sometime using a jig tipped with a four-inch Speed Craw.  This jig combo is affixed to 14-pound-test fluorocarbon line and employed on a seven-foot, medium-heavy-power, fast-action St. Croix Legend Elite casting rod.

 

He also drags a four-inch Bass Pro Shops’ Magnum Flipping Tube on a 3/8– or 5/8–ounce jig. The jig is attached to either six- or eight-pound fluorocarbon line. He works the tube on a seven-foot, medium-power, fast-action St. Croix Legend Tournament spinning rod. When Snowden is concentrating on smallmouth bass or spotted bass at a deep offshore lair, he will use a tube more than a jig.

 

His Carolina rig consist of a 3/4-ounce XCalibur’s Tg Barrel Weight, No. 10 barrel swivel, 36-inch leader made of 12-pound-test green  Bass Pro Shops’ Excel monofilament, 2/0 or 3/0  XPS Wide SuperLock hook that is dressed with Zoom Bait Company’s green-pumpkin Baby Brush Hog.  The main line is 14-pound-test XPS fluorocarbon, and he uses it on a seven-foot, medium-heavy-power, fast-action St. Croix Legend Elite casting rod.

 

Besides using a drop-shot rig, Carolina rig, tube and football jig in September, Snowden likes to use a spoon around and inside boat docks. He uses his spoons on a seven-foot medium-heavy-power and fast-action St. Croix Sweeper Spinnerbait Rod and Bass Pro Shops’ Johnny Morris Signature Series Baitcast Reel spooled with XPS 17-pound-test fluorocarbon line.

 

When the bass are pernickety, Snowden employs either a 1/2-or 3/4-ounce XPS Tungsten Spoon. When they feed aggressively, he wields either a 1/2- or 3/4-ounce Bass Pro Shops’ Strata Spoon, and his mainstay is the 3/4-ouncer.

 

All of his spoons sport a split ring to which he affixes his line.

 

On sunny days a chrome spoon elicits the most strikes. On cloudy or low-light outings, a white one is his choice.

 

It’s primarily a spotted bass endeavor, but smallmouth and largemouth bass are occasionally inveigled.

 

Brian Snowden admires a spotted bass that he bewitched with a spoon at a boat dock in September of 2010

The best docks have more than 40 feet of water below some segments of them, and they are situated either on a point that is graced with a drop-off or along a shoreline that is adorned with a channel swing.  Brush piles anchored around the dock usually enhance the fishing.

Snowden's graph exhibits the fishlife around a boat dock that he fished with a spoon.

The bass suspend in 25 to 40 feet of water, and most of Snowden’s presentations are in 15 to 20 feet of water. To get a pitched or flipped 3/4-ounce spoon to fall vertically into 20 feet of water, Snowden has the spool on his reel set extremely loose, which allows the line to jettison off the spool as soon as the spoon hits the water.  As it falls, he counts to 10. He engages the reel at the count of ten and commences a slow lift-and-drop presentation, lifting the rod about two feet with a slight twitch of the wrist halfway through the lift.

 

He pitches the spoons around the corners and edges of the docks, as well as into the boat slips and even over the metal arms of the boat lifts.

 

Traditionally, boat docks at Table Rock have been a drop-shot or finesse venue. Snowden calls dock spooning a power motif.  He can dissect a dock containing 20 boat slips in 15 minutes, and on the best of days, he can catch as many as six bass from a dock.

Snowden caught this largemouth bass at a boat dock on a spoon.

Although the best dock fishing with spoons occurs in September and October, Snowden says it will yield some bass in May through August.

 

November and December are Snowden’s two favorite months of the year to fish recreationally at Table Rock.

 

In November, he brandishes a spinnerbait, working with the standard War Eagle Lures’ 1/2-ounce War Eagle spinnerbait when the bass are in shallow-water locales that are buffeted by some wind and waves.  When the bass are deeper, he opts for the 1/2-ounce Screamin Eagle spinnerbait. He uses both of them along steep bluff banks that are endowed with flooded timber.

 

In December, he primarily wields a Wiggle Wart, casting and retrieving it along 45-degree chunk-rock shorelines on the main-lake or in a major creek arm, such as theJames River.

 

Then once the water temperature becomes frosty enough, Snowden will start twitching a jerkbait again and catching suspended bass with a jig and 3 ½-inch tube.  

                                                        ####

(We will post an encore story near the end of February that details how Snowden practiced for a Bassmaster’s tournament on March 1 and 2, 2004  Readers can visit Snowden’s website at http://www.missouriangling.com/. )

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