VanDam Advises Go Big at Table Rock

Published on 05-19-2020

Historically, the Big Bass Tour has visited Table Rock Lake in the springtime – usually either March or April, occasionally in early May – and the big Missouri impoundment usually shows out in a big way. In fact, last year’s April event was the best ever in terms of big fish, with a 9.02 pound monster taking the top prize and three more over 7 pounds weighed in. It took 6.22 to squeak into the top 10, while in some years that would take home a boat. Clearly, this is a lake on the upswing.

Now competitors will face a new challenge on a familiar venue, as the 2020 iteration of the tournament will take place from June 5 to 7. The spawn should be all but over, but tournament fishing’s all-time leading money winner doesn’t think that’ll hamper the bite or the size one bit.

“The fish are going to be staging, heading for their summer patterns,” said four-time Bassmaster Classic winner Kevin VanDam. “They’re moving offshore and it’s a really good time of the year for big fish.” VanDam added “The lake has an unbelievable gizzard shad population and I know that the big largemouths focus on them.”

With that in mind, his key lures would be deep-diving crankbaits, specifically the Strike King 6XD, 8XD and especially the 10XD.

He’d also keep an assortment of other typical ledge baits on the deck of his Nitro, including a football jig, a flutter spoon, a 10-inch worm and a magnum spinnerbait, but the crankbaits would be his go-to tools, best for firing up the school and extracting the biggest specimens.

For those anglers who prefer not to fish offshore structure, VanDam noted that there should be a bite focused on the bluegill spawn as well. He’s very fond of the Strike King Sexy Dawg Hard Knock, “which has a distinctive rattle,” and he’d also keep a flipping stick in his hand. “This time of year I prefer bigger creature baits when I’m flipping, because the fish are focused on bluegills, so I’d probably use a Perfect Plastic Magnum Game Hawg.” The larger version is more likely to tempt that 5-plus-pound largemouth that will get you in the money.

Indeed, VanDam said he’d focus exclusively on largemouths. While the spotted bass and smallmouth populations are strong on Table Rock, the green fish tend to grow bigger. “The largemouth population has come back in a huge way,” he added. “There’s not one section of the lake that’s more dominant for them than another, from the dam to way up the rivers.” That should spread the field out considerably and give everyone a chance.

While he believes that there is a choice to be made between shallow and deep, VanDam noted that “Table Rock is a very condition-specific lake. If there are high bright skies, you’ll probably want to flip or go offshore, but if there are clouds and wind, a big spinnerbait or topwater can be deadly.”

He also suggested that anglers get to their best places early, because “the early morning bite will definitely be a factor and first cast for the tournament will be early this year as well.” Keep that in mind as you decide how far from the weigh-in site to run, and when to weigh in your potential check-winning fish.