Missouri lives up to its nickname, “The Show-Me State,” when it comes to fishing.
The state boasts many nationally known reservoirs and rivers that produce trophy catches every year. Here are a few options:
1. LAKE OF THE OZARKS (55,000 acres, central Missouri): This giant reservoir is perhaps better known as a party animal. Each summer it is filled with boats and partiers. But the lake has an impressive mild side, too. It is nationally known for its spring bass fishing. Big largemouths are taken each year, especially from March to late May, in the lake’s many coves. The big lake also has impressive crappie, catfish, paddlefish and white bass fishing.
2. SMITHVILLE LAKE (7,190 acres, located about 25 miles north of Kansas City): For a reservoir located so close to a major urban area, Smithville has held up remarkably well. It is known for its impressive crappie fishing. And it produces some big bass, especially during the spring months. Combine that with a good population of flathead and channel catfish, white bass and walleyes, and you have some good fishing close to home for Kansas City-area residents.
3. MOZINGO LAKE (1,000 acres, in northwest Missouri): Mozingo has quietly become one of the best bass lakes in the state. The reservoir has good numbers of largemouths and some big ones, too. It routinely takes close to five bass weighing 20 pounds to win a tournament there. But that’s not all. Mozingo also has big crappies, walleyes and bluegills.
4. STOCKTON LAKE (24,900 acres, in west-central Missouri): Stockton is one of the most scenic reservoirs in the state, with its steep wooded shorelines, rocky points and clear water. Yet, it doesn’t get the fishing pressure that many Missouri reservoirs do. Fishermen don’t know what they’re missing. Stockton has traditionally been one of the best walleye lakes in Missouri. It also has good populations of bass and crappies.
5. TRUMAN LAKE (55,600 acres in west-central Missouri): Despite the fact that Truman’s vaunted bass fishing has gone down over the years, it still offers some of the state’s best crappie fishing. It also contains good numbers of blue catfish. You can catch white bass, hybrids and walleyes on this Missouri giant, too. And in the spring, don’t overlook a chance to catch a trophy paddlefish.
6. TABLE ROCK LAKE (43,100 acres, south-central Missouri): This big Ozarks reservoir is a bass fisherman’s dream. It contains all three species of black bass — largemouth, spotted and smallmouth — and the spring fishing is impressive, bar high water. National tournaments are routinely held here, and the pros rate Table Rock highly. The reservoir also offers outstanding paddlefish snagging in the spring, white bass, and big catfish.
7. LAKE TANEYCOMO (2,050 acres in Branson): Within ear shot of the country music theaters, Taneycomo produces some of the nation’s best trout fishing. Stocked heavily by the Missouri Department of Conservation, it offers both quality (big brown trout) and quantity (huge numbers of rainbows). This is an ideal place to get a youngster started in fishing. Almost year-round, the fish are biting.
8. BULL SHOALS LAKE (45,150 acres in south-central Missouri): This Ozarks reservoir, which straddles the Missouri-Arkansas line, has enjoyed a resurgence in bass fishing after several consecutive years of good spawns. It also is known for its big white bass, and it is regarded as one of the best walleye lakes in the region.
9. POMME DE TERRE LAKE (7,820 acres in southwest Missouri): Want a shot at a trophy-size muskie? This is your place. The Missouri Department of Conservation regularly stocks the Ozark reservoir with the sharp-toothed gamefish and trophy catches are recorded there every year. In fact, the fishing at Pomme compares well with lakes in Minnesota and Wisconsin, where the muskie is more common. The reservoir also is known for its excellent bass and crappie fishing.
10. NORFORK LAKE (22,000 acres in south-central Missouri and northern Arkansas): This reservoir, which lies on the Missouri-Arkansas border, offers plenty of options for fishermen. It is known for its excellent striper and walleye fishing. But it also contains good populations of largemouth bass, crappies, white bass and catfish.
11. BENNETT SPRING STATE PARK (trout park in south-central Missouri): Most people picture elbow-to-elbow fishermen, a common sight on opening day, when they think of Bennett Spring. Relax. It’s not always that crowded. Weekdays during the summer months can be peaceful and idyllic. And there are always plenty of trout to cast for. The Missouri Department of Conservation stocks the stream daily during the regular season.
12. LAKE JACOMO (970 acres in Jackson County): Hey, we have to throw in a local reservoir for all you Kansas City-area fishermen. Jacomo has developed into a fine bass lake, with good-sized largemouths caught each spring. It also has good populations of catfish and crappies.