▪ BEST BET: Mozingo Lake doesn’t have the name that Lake of the Ozarks or Table Rock do, but it certainly has the bass. The 1,006-acre lake in northwest Missouri has quietly become one of the state’s best bass lakes. Consider that it takes five bass weighing 25 pounds or more to win some tournaments there. Then consider that surveys by the Missouri Department of Conservation last year showed that half of the bass sample measured 15 inches and 10 percent exceeded 18 inches in length. With its mix of timber, weeds, brush and rocky points, it has the look of a good bass lake. And looks aren’t deceiving.
▪ BEST OF THE REST: Table Rock again should produce the type of bass fishing that has brought it national attention. Surveys in 2015 found a very high number of bass in the 14- to 16-inch range, the result of successful spawning in the high-water year of 2011. …Pomme de Terre also is poised for a good year. Surveys last year showed that 40 percent of the largemouth population exceeds the 13-inch minimum size limit.…Others to try: Bull Shoals, Lake of the Ozarks, Paho, Smithville, and Mark Twain.
▪ BEST BET: If you live in the Kansas City area and you’re up for a road trip, it might be worth your time to head to Sebelius Reservoir in northwest Kansas. The prairie reservoir is loaded with bass. Surveys by Wildlife, Parks and Tourism shows that it has the highest density of largemouths 12 inches and over in the state. That’s no fluke. It also leads Kansas in the three-year average of bass densities. It doesn’t have a lot of giant fish, but the bass aren’t stunted, either. It’s a great place to get a bunch of bites.
▪ BEST OF THE REST: LaCygne again leads the state in big bass. It rated at the top of the list in the number of number of fish surveyed that were 20 inches or longer. There’s only one problem: Despite surveys that show the fish are still there, many fishermen have complained that the fishing has steadily gotten worse.…Another reservoir that should produce some good fishing this year is Big Hill. Surveys rank it as having the third-highest bass densities in the state. …Others to try: Toronto, Milford, Perry, and Cedar Bluff.
▪ BEST BET: A special management area on the Big Piney River has turned the Ozarks float stream into a great place to fish for smallmouth bass. With its restrictive size and length limits and great habitat, smallie populations are thriving there. Fishermen report catching large numbers of bass from 12 to 15 inches, with a few as big as 20 inches.
▪ BEST OF THE REST: With their towering bluffs, gurgling riffles and clear water, the Ozarks streams are a picture-perfect place to fish for smallmouth bass. And there is no shortage of places that fit that description. The stretch of the Gasconade River that flows through Laclede Couty should provide excellent fishing this year. Surveys found the highest number of smallmouths in this stretch of the river since 2002.…Others to try: The middle stretch of the Current, Big River, the Eleven Point, the Jacks Fork, and the North Fork of the White.
▪ BEST BET: Coffey County Lake at the edge of the Wolf Creek Generating Station is smallmouth-bass heaven. With its miles of riprap and rocky shorelines, it has plenty of habitat for the hard-fighting gamefish, and they thrive there. That’s obvious by looking at this year’s fisheries surveys. Coffey County leads the state — and by a large margin — in quantity and quality of fish. Biologists predict excellent fishing there this spring.
▪ BEST OF THE REST: With its abundance of rocky reservoirs, Kansas has other places that sustain good smallmouth bass populations. El Dorado is rated second in the state by Wildlife, Parks and Tourism in densities of fish, though it does haven’t many lunkers.…Glen Elder, Milford and Melvern are well-known for their spring fishing, and surveys indicate that should continue this year. …Others to try: Wilson and Big Hill.
▪ BEST BET: If fisheries surveys are any indication, this should be a great year at Pomme de Terre Lake. Fall samples indicated that crappie densities have increased dramatically compared to recent years. About 50 percent of the fish surveys were greater than the 9-inch minimum size limit, and 30 percent exceeded 10 inches. The future also looks good. Biologists collected a large number of crappies produced during the high water of 2015.
▪ BEST OF THE REST: Expect big at Lake of the Ozarks this year, too. Fall surveys showed that 85 percent of the crappies sampled on the lower end of the lake were equal to or greater than 9 inches. …Truman Lake also should shine this spring. Fall surveys found large numbers of crappies between 7 and 11 inches at Truman. Biologists look for those fish to grow to 9 to 12 inches this year.…Others to try: Smithville, Mozingo, Thomas Hill, Mark Twain and Jacomo.
▪ BEST BET: John Redmond isn’t normally considered a premier crappie lake in Kansas. With its siltation problem, which has led to a large dredging project, much of its quality spawning habitat has filled in. But its creek and river arms still have plenty of brush and big crappies.That’s why John Redmond is ranked at the top of the state’s density rankings for the second year in a row. As was the case last year, Redmond leads Kansas reservoirs in all categories this year — density, preferred fish and lunkers.
▪ BEST OF THE REST: Two reservoirs in southeast Kansas — Toronto and Elk City — rank second and third respectively in the state’s density rankings. Both have good numbers of keeper fish, though Elk City doesn’t have as many lunkers (12 inches and larger) as some reservoirs.…LaCygne also has good numbers of crappies and some big ones, too. …The Kansas City area has two reservoirs — Hillsdale (sixth) and Pomona (10th) in the Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s top 10 in the density rankings.
▪ BEST BET: Stockton Lake is making a comeback as a walleye lake, thanks to an aggressive stocking program by the Missouri Department of Conservation. Walleyes have been stocked in each of the last five years (as opposed to every other year before that) , and fishermen have noticed the difference. In an electrofishing survey last year, 76 percent of the fish sampled were 15 inches or longer.
BEST OF THE REST: Smithville Lake also has developed an impressive walleye population. A survey in 2015 found that 45 percent of the fish samepled exceeded 20 inches in length.…The walleye population at Bull Shoals Lake is rebounding after a 2011 fish kill.…Good news for Kansas City-area fishermen: Walleyes numbers at Longview have increased to levels similar to the early 1990s.…Others to try: Norfork, Pomme de Terre, Table Rock, Truman, Lake of the Ozarks and the Black River downstream of Clearwater Lake.
▪ BEST BET: Cedar Bluff and Wilson reservoirs stand out as the best walleye reservoirs in Kansas this year. Cedar Bluff has the highest density of walleyes and also ranks first in fish in the preferred range (20-inch range). But Wilson also has an impressive population of fish and should produce good fishing.
▪ BEST OF THE REST: El Dorado is another reservoir that has developed a good walleye population. It has produced good fishing in recent years, and biologists expect more of the same this year.…Traditional Kansas hot spots Glen Elder, Kirwin, Cheney, Marion and Milford also have good populations and should produce plenty of bites.
▪ BEST BET: This should be a good year for white-bass fishermen at Truman Lake. Fish numbers have increased dramatically over the last three years, biologists say, and big fish are showing up more frequently than in recent years. With a good number of fish coming on from 2015, the future looks good.
▪ BEST OF THE REST: Pomme de Terre has recovered nicely from a white bass dieoff in the fall of 2009. A dramatic increase in numbers of fish was seen in 2015.…There is another great year-class of white bass coing through the system at Smithville.…Biololgist anticipate excellent fishing at Mark Twain, which will have good numbers of whites exceeding 12 inches in length.… A few other places worthy of your casts: Pomme de Terre, Stockton and Lake of the Ozarks.
▪ BEST BET: Pomona and Cedar Bluff are at the top of the heap in Kansas this year. Pomona has the quantity, leading the state in density of white bass. Cedar Bluff has the quality, ranking No. 1 in lunker fish (15 inches and longer).
▪ BEST OF THE REST: Kanopolis, the oldest reservoir in Kansas, still has plenty of life. It ranks third in the state in white-bass densities.…Three Kansas City-area reservoirs —Perry, Melvern and Clinton — are in the top 10 in the state white-bass density rankings.…Others to try: John Redmond, Cheney, Kirwin and Elk City
▪ BEST BET: The water above and below Truman Dam is about as good as it gets for hybird fishermen. Below the dam, fish from Lake of the Ozarks swim upstream when there is current and often concentrate in the swirling current. Above the dam on Truman Lake, good numbers of hybirds often mix with schools of white bass and provide good fishing off points, humps and areas such as KK Island and the weir above the dam.
▪ BEST OF THE REST: Excellent fishing is predicted by biologists at Long Branch Lake, where the Department of Conservation has stocked hybirds in recent years.…Blue Springs Lake is stocked with more than 7,000 hybrids annually and has developed a high-quality fishery.…Others to try: Thomas Hill and Norfork.
▪ BEST BET: Sebelius Reservoir in northwest Kansas is the class of the state when it comes to wiper fishing. It consistently ranks at or near the top of the state in the density ratings based on fisheries surveys. And this year is no different. Sebelius dominated most categories and produced the biggest fish sampled in the state — a 14.67-pound fish that was weighed and measured, then released.
▪ BEST OF THE REST: Milford and El Dorado also are known for theit wiper fishing, though surveys indicate they don’t have the size of fish that Sebelius does. Others to try: Marion, Kirwin, Cheney and Cedar Bluff. Close to Kansas City, Clinton and Pomona should offer the best fishing.
▪ BEST BET: The ol’ Missouri River is still the place to go. Yeah, it’s muddy, its shorelines are often within a cast of urban blight, and it looks like more like a ditch than a river. But oh, how looks are deceiving. Every year, the Muddy Mo produces giant blues exceeding 100 pounds — and some of them not far from downtown Kansas City.
▪ BEST OF THE REST: Truman Lake and Lake of the Ozarks have good populations of blue catfish, though the big ones are often hard to come by.…Surveys in 2015 indicated good numbers of blue catfish in the middle section of the Mississippi River, many in the 20- to 30-pound range.…The Platte River also produces some good blue-cat fishing, especially in the last 10 miles of the river. Fish exceeding 40 pounds are fairly common.
▪ BEST BET: The Kansas side of the Missouri River and the Kansas River near Kansas City contain some river monsters. The Missouri yielded a 102.8-pound Kansas state-record blue cat in 2012. The Kaw also produces many fish over 50 pounds each year. The key? Hitting it when there is normal flow, not high water.
▪ BEST OF THE REST: Kansas has become recognized for its excellent reservoir blue-cat fishing. Milford Lake has opened eyes in recent years with its trophy catches. Melvern Lake also is coming on, producing some big fish of its own. …Others to try: Coffey County, El Dorado, LaCygne, and Tuttle Creek.