The best show in Branson is bass fishing on Table Rock Lake

Keith Greenough, a guide on Table Rock Lake, knows the best is yet to come for Kentucky bass fishing: He says late fall and early winter are the best times to snag a big one.
Keith Greenough, a guide on Table Rock Lake, knows the best is yet to come for Kentucky bass fishing: He says late fall and early winter are the best times to snag a big one. bfrazee@kcstar.com

When tourists go fishing with guide Keith Greenough on Table Rock Lake, they often ask for his advice on which show in Branson he would recommend.

Invariably, they get the same answer.

“I tell them, ‘The best show is right here on this boat,’ ” he said with a smile. “Fishing on Table Rock is the best entertainment in Branson.”

Greenough was only half kidding. He has been guiding on the big Ozarks reservoir for 18 years, and he takes pride in the fact that he has gotten many newbies hooked on fishing.

Table Rock Lake is known nationally for bass fishing, offering strong populations of largemouth, smallmouth and Kentucky bass. Each has its own distinctive habits and hangouts. When one type of bass isn’t hitting, another one often is.

That’s a nice option for a guide, whose job is getting his customers some bites. But on this trip in mid-September, Greenough was a bit worried.

“Bluebird skies, bright sun, middle of the day — about the worst conditions you could ask for on a clear-water lake like Table Rock,” said Greenough, 57, who lives in Ozark. “But I know a lot of places where they hang out. We’ll see if they’re home.”

Moments later, the conditions didn’t seem so bad. Greenough pulled up to a dropoff near a point and lowered a drop-shot rig, which features a weight tied to a line and a hook and lure tied about a foot above it, into the clear water.

He lifted the rig off the bottom, then let it settle to the bottom. When he did, he felt the tug of a hefty bass.

The fish fought hard for a second, straining to get into the rocks below. But it quickly surrendered, and Greenough pulled a 13-inch Kentucky bass to the surface.

“Chunky little guy,” Greenough said before plunking it back into the water. “He’s healthy.”

There were others where that one came from. Greenough made a “milk run” to some of his favorite spots and found Kentucky bass (a smaller cousin of the largemouth) at each one of them. Using first plastic baits, then live night crawlers, he and I enjoyed steady action.

We caught and released five keepers and a bevy of smaller fish.

“I’m just point-hopping today,” Greenough said. “These Kentuckies are scattered on these points right now, chasing shad. I’m just looking for the fish that are hungry.”

Greenough has a GPS system on his boat to help him locate spots he has found over the years. But he admits he seldom uses it. He prefers to fish “old school.”

“I’ll line up landmarks on the bank, and I know I’m in the right place,” he said. “I probably have 50 to 60 spots that I’ll fish. And I can find most of them without even turning my GPS on.”

But that doesn’t mean Greenough doesn’t rely on his electronics at times. He uses his sonar units to look for subtle changes in the bottom, brush piles and humps that often will attract the finicky bass.

The depths at which the Kentucky bass can be found can change with the seasons. Lately, Greenough has been zeroing in on the 25-foot range. The bite has been steady, but not spectacular.

But Greenough knows the best is yet to come. Table Rock is famous for its late fall and early winter Kentucky bass fishing. In addition to a drop-shot rig, Greenough will use jigs, crankbaits such as Wiggle Warts and tube baits to lure the fish.

“Late November, December and early January are a great time for catching the big ones,” Greenough said.

Even the ones that get away are impressive, he says.

“I tell people that I’ve never lost a small fish here at Table Rock,” Greenough said, tongue in cheek.

Brent Frazee: 816-234-4319, @fishboybrent

Contact info

For more information on Table Rock Lake’s fall bass fishing, contact guide Keith Greenough at 417-693-0298.

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