By Marc Rogers
Fishing for bass on Table Rock Lake from early to late summer can be very frustrating for many anglers. This impoundment has very clear water and the bass seldom relate to the shallow water cover and structure this lake has. Even during the spawn bass often bed in water as deep as ten feet due the extremely clear water. It is difficult for many anglers to locate bass in Table Rock Lake because most of the bass relate to cover and structure that is away from the banks.
After fishing with a Table Rock Lake angler I have learned some tips to share on catching suspended Spotted (Kentucky) Bass when many anglers fail to get a bite most days. Neil Huskey has been fishing Table Rock Lake for the past 30 years and has competed in many tournaments on the lake. He has agreed to share his knowledge on how to better the chances of productive fishing days on Table Rock.
I have had the pleasure of being employed by the same company with Neil for several years and worked right beside him for much of the time before he retired a few years ago. Also, I had the opportunity to fish from his boat on this lake and learned enough to not have to suffer through fishless days as I did before Neil shared his techniques with me of fishing Table Rock. He can, more often than not, catch many keeper sized spotted bass by using the techniques he has shared for this article.
Neil reports he targets the suspended fish after the spawn when they have moved to deeper water to recover form the rigors of the spring ritual. The first place to look for the bass is in 15 – 20 feet around submerged trees. It is best to have a very sensitive graph to find this cover and possibly the fish around the cover. The sensitivity must be turned up high to see the detail and fish around the cover. At times the fish still will not appear on the graph display but they can still be caught by using a four inch worm or grub fished vertically around the trees. Neil says most of the time an angler will not feel the bite and recommends line watching for this technique because the only indication of a bite will be that the line stops before the lure has had time to reach the bottom.
As the summer progresses Neil suggests anglers should move out to the main lake points where submerged trees can be found at 80 – 100 feet deep with the top of the trees 20 – 40 feet below the water surface. These fish will also be hard to see with electronics because they blend in with the trees they are relating to. The most productive way to catch these bass is to make a vertical presentation with a four-inch worm just a couple feet above the top of the trees. With the sensitivity turned up the four-inch worm is visible on the graph as it falls.
Sharing the boat with Neil I have watched him just hold this worm and jig head combination still with only the movement of the boat causing any movement of the lure. When the fish are aggressive Neil says they will move towards the bait so fast it will created a line or streak on the graph display just before the bite occurs. However, many times the fish are not aggressive and will slowly move towards the bait and stay near it several minutes before finally biting. Usually when they are not very aggressive the bite is very light.
The tackle of choice for Neil is a seven-foot medium-action spinning rod with a large spool reel. He uses 6 – 8 pound test line and this rod and reel combination allow for a solid and quick hook set. He recommends the drag be set extremely tight so it doesn’t slip when setting the hook with 30 – 60 feet of line below the boat.
When fishing this way in deep water it is much better to back reel instead of relying on a drag system. Neil says “as soon as I hook a fish I bring it up about six feet and shift my anti-reverse to off in the process. When a fish makes a strong run I can back reel to keep from having the fish break off on the light line. When done properly a big fish can’t break you off in open water.”
During the middle of the summer when the water temperature on the surface is in the upper 80’s to low 90’s it is best to locate the shad that have began moving to the flats, bluff ends or channel swings. To locate productive water during these conditions Neil slowly runs his boat over these areas with the graph on looking for big schools of shad. The suspended bass will be either just under these shad or right among the school of shad feeding. There are two productive techniques for catching these fish. One is the vertical presentation with a four-inch worm or grub on a jig head and the other is using a heavy spoon. With the spoon it is best to move back from the shad and cast past them. The angler should count down the depth and use a lift and fall retrieve all the way through the area while keeping the lure at the depth the bass are holding. It is wise to use a medium heavy casting outfit with 14 – 20 pound test line when casting a spoon.