Check out the background behind Larry Cloud and it is easy to see why Missouri’s Table Rock Lake holds great numbers of crappie. When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created the lake in 1958, it left all of the standing timber untouched. (Photo: Richard Simms)
Table Rock Crappie Secrets
by Richard Simms
According to Travellersworldwide.com, Table Rock Lake is the #1 lake in North America travelers should visit. The magazine writes, “It’s no wonder Johnny Morris decided to build his premier resort on Table Rock Lake. Fishing tournaments bring fishermen from all over … but one of the best parts about Table Rock Lake is its family atmosphere. Besides fishing the whole family can enjoy area theme parks, go-kart tracks, great shopping and live entertainment.”
The lake derives its name from a rock formation resembling a table at the small community of Table Rock, Missouri, on Highway 165 about a mile and a half downstream from the Table Rock dam built by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.
The lake is just a stone’s throw away from Branson, MO, a well-known hotbed for family fun and entertainment.
According to the Missouri Dept. of Conservation, crappie fishing on Table Rock Lake should be good in 2023. Biologists’ surveys in the James River arm of the lake revealed a large year class of fish should start reaching the legal-size limit of 10-inches by Spring 2023. They say crappie fishing will be best in the James, Kings, and Long Creek arms where densities of fish are higher.
“Table Rock is a good crappie lake,” said local angler Larry Cloud. “Although sometimes people who come here from other places struggle with it.”
They likely struggle with it because there is perhaps TOO MUCH structure.
“You can find plenty of structure on Table Rock Lake,” Larry Cloud said with a smile. “They didn’t cut anything when they built the lake.”
Move toward the ample shoreline in 35 feet of water or less and you will find standing timber everywhere. However, not all of the standing timber holds fish.
Cloud relies heavily on his live-imaging sonar (LIS) to locate concentrations of crappie. His LIS helps him swiftly figure which trees are holding crappie and which ones aren’t. That way he doesn’t waste time fishing dead water. However, he is not a “screen-watcher” like many LIS users.
“I mainly just use my (live imaging) to locate concentrations of fish, but then I fish them as I normally would before (LIS) came along,” he said.
If you’re looking for a guide to aid in your crappie search, Capt. Jordan Isaacs with Freedom Fishing Guide Service is listed in the CrappieNOW “Find a Guide” section.
Sixteen public campgrounds are located around Table Rock Lake. Campgrounds are managed by several different agencies and campsites range from full-hookup to non-electric tent sites. For details about each of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers parks, check out this website.
Johnny Morris, owner of Bass Pro Shops, created the massive “Top of the Rock Big Cedar Lodge” on the shores of Table Rock Lake. It is described as, “A remote haven of natural beauty spread out over 4,600 acres where rustic luxury is tucked into the rugged landscape of the Missouri Ozark Mountains. Top of the Rock features accommodations, spectacular restaurants, two full-service marinas, five golf courses, a 50,000-square-foot activity center, breathtaking spa and of course, fishing.”
You can learn lots more about the region at Visit Table Rock Lake. Two things I highly recommend are The Wonders of Wildlife Museum in nearby Springfield, MO or in Branson, MO make a stop at the History of Fishing Museum.
The area is within a one-day drive of 50 percent of the U.S. population. So, for most crappie anglers, the “too far away” excuse just won’t cut it.
Capt. Richard Simms is the Editor of CrappieNOW magazine as well as a “semi-retired,” fishing guide on the Tennessee River and owner of Scenic City Fishing Charters. Formerly he was a game warden for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency before becoming a photographer and PR guy for TWRA. That lead to a 30-year career as a broadcast journalist and freelance outdoor writer. Check out his book, “An Outdoor State of Mind.”